All-Star David Price pitched six solid innings and Ben Zobrist hit his fifth career grand slam, helping the Tampa Bay Rays tighten the AL East standings with a 9-6 victory Friday night that snapped first-place Boston’s six-game winning streak.
Price (9-7) allowed five hits — three of them solo homers — while striking out seven and walking one in his first outing since giving up Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit at Yankee Stadium last week.
The 25-year-old lefty skipped Tuesday’s All-Star Game because of a turf toe injury, helping manager Joe Maddon set up Tampa Bay’s pitching rotation the way he wanted to begin a crucial stretch starting the second half of the season.
The switch-hitting Zobrist homered from the right side off Andrew Miller (3-1) in the second, breaking the franchise record for grand slams he shared with Carlos Pena. Zobrist drove in a fifth run when he drew a bases-loaded walk from the left side of the plate against reliever Alfredo Aceves, making it 7-2 in the third.
Casey Kotchman hit a two-run homer and B.J. Upton and Sam Fuld had RBI singles for the third-place Rays, who continued a stretch in which they’re playing 10 consecutive games against the Red Sox and second-place Yankees, the teams they’re chasing in the AL East.
The victory trimmed Tampa Bay’s season-high six-game deficit in the division to five. Kyle Farnsworth retired all four batters he faced, earning his 18th save in 20 opportunities.
Darnell McDonald, Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia homered off Price for the Red Sox, who lost for just the second time in 12 games. Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis singled for the other hits off the Rays ace, who’s given up five homers in three July starts — one of them a solo shot for Jeter’s 3,000th hit last Saturday.
Marco Scutaro’s two-run homer off Joel Peralta trimmed Tampa Bay’s lead to 9-5 in the seventh. Youkilis added an RBI single off Juan Cruz in the eighth.
Boston’s David Ortiz remained in the lineup after appealing the four-game suspension he received for his part in a bench-clearing melee with the Baltimore Orioles last week.
The All-Star slugger was suspended Thursday, along with Orioles pitchers Kevin Gregg and Mike Gonzalez and Baltimore manager Buck Showalter. Ortiz answered questions from reporters, but declined to specifically address the discipline before going 0 for 4 with two strikeouts against the Rays.
”I can’t really talk about it now, but at one point I will,” Ortiz said. ”I’ll tell you what I was thinking. I’ll tell you what I thought was right.”
Miller, who won his first three decisions after being promoted from the minors to fill a spot in Boston’s injury-riddled rotation, allowed seven runs and five hits in 2 2/3 innings. Besides yielding the first-pitch grand slam to Zobrist, the lefty hurt himself with five walks.
NOTES: The Rays lead the season series 4-2. … Miller was a third-round draft pick of the Rays in 2003, but didn’t sign with them. … Red Sox manager Terry Francona said RHP Josh Beckett (left knee soreness) will make his scheduled start on Sunday. … Boston LHP Jon Lester (strained back muscle) is expected to throw off a bullpen mound Monday. … Red Sox LF Carl Crawford (strained left hamstring) began a two-game minor league rehab assignment at Triple-A Pawtucket and barring any setbacks will rejoin the team Monday. He played five innings Friday night, going 1 for 2 with an RBI single and a walk against Durham.