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.