BOSTON - What would a Tampa Bay Rays-Boston Red Sox game be without a little drama? Without a questionable call? Without rain at Fenway Park? And without a moment or two for fans of both sides to debate until, well, until the teams meet again? The American League East rivals were at it again Monday, playing the makeup for Thursday's rainout that extended the Rays' 10-game road trip by a day and forced them to make a return trip to Boston. It rained of course, and the eighth-inning delay played as much of a role in the outcome as David Price's pitching, Joe Maddon's decision, Sam Fuld's throw to the plate, Daniel Nava's base running and umpire Jerry Meals's call, all of which unfolded within minutes.
In the end it was a 2-1 Rays victory that pushed them ahead of the Red Sox and back into first place in a game that will be talked about for some time. "Huge," Fuld said when asked to describe the win, which put Tampa Bay ahead by a half-game in the division. "It's one of those wins that feels like three wins, but we have to remind ourselves it's only one win. "Obviously it's a pretty emotional win to come to a city for one game and win it." Especially when that city is Boston and that win came against the Red Sox. The victory was the third in four games for the Rays at Fenway Park during an 8-2 road trip. "This game is about winning, and that's what we did," Price said. "This was a huge win for us." The game turned on a double play that ended the bottom of the eighth. Fuld, who entered the game that inning in place of left fielder Matt Joyce, had misplayed a ball off the wall by Ryan Lavarnway that turned out to be a one-out double for the Red Sox catcher. Daniel Nava ran for Lavarnway, and got a bad read on Stephen Drew's line drive that sailed over the head of Wil Myers in right field and had to hold at third despite the fact Drew reached second for a double. That loomed large when Joel Peralta, who replaced Price with one out in the inning, got Brandon Snyder to fly out to Fuld. With Nava tagging, Fuld fired the ball home. Jose Molina caught it after two hops, dropped his leg to block the plate and tagged Nava. Meals, the home plate umpire, called Nava out, touching off a celebration on the Rays' side of the field and an argument from the Red Sox that led to manager John Farrell's ejection. "There was no doubt. I knew I was safe," Nava said. "I wouldn't try and sell it. On replay you'd see that I was safe. So I knew that I was safe. Unfortunately, that was the situation, and obviously that was the call, but at the same time, I probably should have been there the at-bat before." After the game Meals told a pool reporter he missed the call. "What I saw was Molina blocked the plate and Nava's foot lifted," Meals said. "But in the replays you could clearly see Nava's foot got under for a split second and then lifted, so I was wrong on my decision. "From the angle I had, I did not see his foot get under Molina's shin guard." Fuld saw the replay and agreed, but wasn't going to argue. "I went from feeling really crummy to feeling really, really good in about three minutes," Fuld said. The rally-ending double play was the second questionable decision of the inning. The first occurred when Rays manager Joe Maddon let Price return after the 39-minute rain delay. Price, who needed 97 pitches in a complete-game victory against the Red Sox last Wednesday, was dominant again. He held them to a pair of hits through seven innings - a second inning double off the Green Monster by David Ortiz and a Brandon Snyder home run off the famed Pesky Pole in right field - in the sixth inning. "John Pesky made himself present," Maddon said. "I thought that really was a bad moment, the fact he showed up. I really didn't like that." Price had thrown only 82 pitches when the rains came. He spent the rain delay applying heat backs to his arm and shoulder and was able to talk Maddon into letting him return to the mound when play resumed. Maddon said that went against his better judgment. Price fell behind Jonny Gomes 3-0 but came back and got the former Ray looking at a called third strike. Maddon then popped out of the dugout and called for Joel Peralta. "I didn't like it," Maddon said. "I was really almost kicking myself watching the first three or four pitches he threw. He came back and got the strikeout, I understand that, but I didn't like it. "That was my mistake to do that in the first place. I listen to our guys and I believe our guys and our trainers, but I didn't like what I was seeing, and this is July 29 and there's so much baseball left to be played. To play the rest of the season without David would be very difficult. To jeopardize his career for the greed of one night isn't worth it." Price was upset when he left the game. "I was a little bit," he said. "That's Joe making his decisions. He's won the Manager of the Year however many years he's won it. He makes decisions like that. Thankfully we came out on top. Sam's throw, everything, it was a team win." Those second thoughts Maddon had of sending Price back out were reinforced when Price began warming up on the mound. "It wasn't the same kind of zip they had earlier," Maddon said. "I take responsibility for that. He should not have gone back out there." The Rays stranded 10 runners and were 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position. A little better job in clutch moments earlier in the game likely would have taken everyone off the hook at the end. Sean Rodriguez drove in the first run with a fourth-inning double. The Rays made it 2-0 an inning later when Evan Longoria scored when Myers hit into a fielder's choice. "We had plenty of opportunities," Maddon said. "We were so good at getting guys on base, we just could not finish it off." Fernando Rodney pitched the ninth inning for his 26th save. He converted his 17th straight save opportunity, but even that had a little drama. The Red Sox had runners on second and third when Rodney struck out Mike Napoli to end the game. The Rays have won 10 of their last 12 games and 22 of their last 26. The game was considered a series, so the victory extended the Rays' streak of consecutive series won to 10. The biggest numbers were 8 and 2, the total of wins and losses in the road trip that began the second half of the season. "A 10-game road trip like that and to come out of it 8-2 against any division, that's remarkable," Price said. "We never give up. We have the right leaders in this clubhouse. Our manager runs the team the right way. That was a good win.".