ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Clay Buchholz allowed three hits over five innings in his first start since early June and the AL East-leading Boston Red Sox beat the Tampa Bay Rays 2-0 on Tuesday night.
Buchholz (10-0), sidelined by a strained neck, hadn’t pitched in the majors since beating the Los Angeles Angels on June 8. The right-hander, who made three rehab starts in the minors, struck out Jose Molina with two on to end the second.
Jonny Gomes and Jarrod Saltalamacchia both drove in a run for the Red Sox, who extended their lead over second-place Tampa Bay to 8 1/2 games in the East. Craig Breslow, Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara finished a four-hitter. Uehara got the final four outs for his 19th save.
Reigning AL Cy Young Award winner David Price (8-8) lost his third straight start despite giving up just two runs and three hits in eight innings. The left-hander struck out nine.
The Rays, 4-12 since August 25, are leading the race for the second AL wild-card spot.
Price retired 12 in a row before Mike Napoli doubled off the center field fence to open the fifth. Gomes followed with a single that drove in Napoli to put the Red Sox up 1-0.
Gomes, who has 15 RBIs over his last 17 games, scored to make it 2-0 later in the fifth on a sacrifice fly by Saltalamacchia that required a leaping catch near the wall by center fielder Desmond Jennings.
Saltalamacchia threw out a runner attempting to steal second in both the third and fourth innings.
Uehara replaced Tazawa after Yunel Escobar hit a two-out double in the eighth. The Red Sox closer ended the threat by getting a foul popup from Wil Myers. The right-hander has retired the last 31 batters he has faced.
The announced crowd was 18,605. Tampa Bay started the day with the majors lowest home attendance average at 18,719. ... Boston 2B Dustin Pedroia hit leadoff for the first time this season and singled in four at-bats. Manager John Farrell didn't rule out Pedroia staying in the role until OF Jacoby Ellsbury returns from a foot injury. ... Ellsbury missed his fourth consecutive game and will not resume baseball activites for at least the next few days. ... Tampa Bay reliever Jesse Crain (strained right shoulder) had his second bullpen session and could throw batting practice within the next week. ...The Red Sox reinstated Buchholz from the 60-day disabled list and designated RHP Jose De La Torre for assignment.