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Red Sox 7, Rays 3

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP)

The Boston Red Sox are happy with their post All-Star game start.

Josh Beckett overcame early struggles to pitch six effective innings, Will Middlebrooks drove in a pair during a tiebreaking three-run fifth, and the Red Sox beat the Tampa Bay Rays 7-3 on Sunday.

Boston took two of three from the Rays after dropping six of seven before the All-Star break.

''We've got to win series now,'' Beckett said of the Red Sox, who are 45-44.

Beckett (5-7) allowed three runs - all in the first - and eight hits. The right-hander, 5-0 over his past eight games against Tampa Bay, struck out seven and walked two in stopping a personal six-start winless streak.

''He's battling this flu a little, and I think he just had to get his feet on the ground a little,'' Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said. ''But did one heck of a job, putting those goose eggs up. He's a great competitor. He wasn't going to let that game get away him.''

Boston went ahead 6-3 during the fifth when Daniel Nava homered and Middlebrooks had a two-run single off James Shields (8-6), who has allowed double-digits hits in four consecutive starts.

''We need to get some momentum going in this second half,'' Middlebrooks said.

Boston closer Alfredo Aceves, in a non-save situation, loaded the bases on three walks in the ninth, but retired Hideki Matsui on a high fly to right to end it.

Shields lasted just five innings, giving up six runs and 11 hits. He is 3-6 over his past 12 games.

''I'm just not making my pitches,'' Shields said. ''That's all. I've got to do a better job of making my pitches. Of course it's frustrating. I'm not doing my job right now. The bottom line is I've got to get better.''

Cody Ross made it 7-3 on a sixth-inning sacrifice fly.

''I like the way we're coming together,'' Valentine said.

Adrian Gonzalez put the Red Sox up 1-0 on a first-inning RBI single. Mike Aviles' two-run homer tied it at 3 in the second.

Ben Zobrist had a run-scoring infield single that went off Beckett's glove, and Desmond Jennings hit a two-run single during the bottom of the first.

The Red Sox return home Monday night for a four-game series against Kevin Youkilis and the Chicago White Sox. Youkilis was traded from Boston to the White Sox last month.

Valentine questioned Youkilis' commitment to the game during a television interview early in the season and later apologized to him a day later.

''I think the comment that I made early, he made a big issue out of and I don't think he wanted to get over it,'' Valentine said.

Notes: After the game, Valentine said that LF Carl Crawford (left wrist) will rejoin the team on Monday. He had been rehabbing this weekend at Triple-A Pawtucket. ... Boston DH David Ortiz walked in his ninth consecutive game. The DH also has a 10-game hitting streak. ... Tampa Bay 3B Evan Longoria, out since May 1 with a partially torn left hamstring, took grounders. ... Boston OF Ryan Sweeney (left hamstring) didn't play for the second straight game, but could return soon. ... Boston placed RHP Scott Atchison on the 15-day disabled list with a right forearm strain and recalled pitcher RHP Junichi Tazawa from Triple-A Pawtucket.

Tagged: Red Sox, White Sox, Rays, Josh Beckett, Kevin Youkilis, James Shields

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