Tampa Bay Rays
Rays take series with 5-3 win over Red Sox
ST. PETERSBURG - It was loud. You can say that about Carl Crawford's home run in the sixth inning Sunday night. It sent a charge through Tropicana Field, and through the Tampa Bay Rays dugout. Probably through the Boston Red Sox dugout, as well. Heck, throw in the playoff picture, too.What was looking like a win the Red Sox desperately needed to stay in the postseason hunt turned into another win for the Big Ray Machine, and it all turned on Crawford's blast. "Carl's home run really flipped everything," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. The blast to right-center field tied the score as the Rays rallied for a 5-3 win in front of 23,438 at the Trop and an "ESPN Sunday Night Baseball" audience. The win enabled the Rays to remain tied with the Yankees atop the American League East for a seventh straight day. "Hey, that's just the way it is," Maddon said. "I expect it to be the same kind of September." It also dropped the Red Sox to 6 1/2 games back in the AL Wild Card standings. "They're still not going anywhere," Maddon said. "I'm not counting them out." The Rays took two of three from the Red Sox by winning the last two games, overtaking Boston leads in both. "I think going into September that's a big series to win right there," said James Shields, who pitched into the seventh inning to win his third straight start. Shields also passed Scott Kazmir for the franchise lead in career wins (56) and starts (145). On Saturday, it was Dan Johnson who provided the excitement with a walk-off home run in the ninth inning of the Rays' 3-2 win. Johnson drove in the winning run Sunday, but not before Crawford's home run, which also held some historical significance. It was the 100th home run of his career, making him only the eighth player since 1900 to have at least 100 home runs, 100 triples and 400 steals. Crawford, who has exactly 100 triples and 403 steals, joins Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Lou Brock, Frankie Frisch, Kenny Lofton, Paul Molitor and Tim Raines. That's pretty good company for the left fielder. Crawford also moved past Fred McGriff and into third place on the Rays all-time home run list. "I'm not trying to classify myself as a power hitter, but it's nice," Crawford said. "The best part of it was that it came at an important part of the game." Until then, Boston starter John Lackey was in control, having allowed just three hits through five innings. One of those hits was a solo home run by Carlos Peña in the fourth inning that opened the scoring. The Red Sox took a 3-1 lead with two runs in the fifth and one in the sixth. But like it has done for much of the season, the Rays offense came to life in the middle innings. Ben Zobrist reached on a one-out single in the sixth and scored on Crawford's homer. "The momentum was on their side. When Crawford hit that, the momentum jumped back into our dugout," Shields said. Evan Longoria followed Crawford's blast with a double. After an intentional walk to Peña and a walk to Matt Joyce that loaded the bases, Johnson singled up the middle to score Longoria to give the Rays a 4-3 lead. Peña tried to score from second but was thrown out at the plate by Red Sox center fielder Darnell McDonald. It was the second straight game Johnson beat the Red Sox with a hit. How long before he's known as "Danny 'Bleeping' Johnson" in New England? "I would like that for the fact that I'm doing something good," Johnson joked. The Rays added an insurance run in the seventh when Longoria singled home John Jaso, who beat out a ground ball to short with one out. "Since I've been here that's kind of how we do it," Johnson said of the Rays' habit of waiting a few innings before coming to life at the plate. It doesn't matter how pretty it is as long as we win." Shields left with two outs in the seventh, and from there, the bullpen brought it home. Randy Choate retired his only hitter and Joaquin Benoit pitched a perfect eighth. Rafael Soriano closed out the ninth for his major league-leading 39th save. "We win one-run ball games, two-run ball games this whole season," Shields said. "Our team does a great job of scoring runs late, and the back end of the bullpen does a phenomenal job of holding them there." NOTEWORTHY The Rays have won 11 of their last 15 and are 36-18 since June 30. ... They are 10-5 against the Red Sox to clinch the season series, their third in 13 years. This is also the second time they beat the Red Sox 10 times in one year. The first was in 2008. ... Peña has 23 lifetime home runs against Boston, 18 since joining the Rays. ... Longoria's double was his AL-leading 42nd ... Soriano also leads the majors with a 95.1 save percentage. ... Jaso hit leadoff for the 25th time as a catcher. Only four catchers have batted leadoff that many times in a season since 1901 - Jason Kendall (five times), Paul LoDuca (2001), Butch Wynegar (1980) and Rollie Hemsley (1939). ... It was the first ESPN Sunday Night Baseball game at the Trop since April 9, 2000, a 17-4 loss to the Indians. The last time the Rays and Red Sox played a nationally televised Sunday night game at the Trop was Game 7 of the 2008 American League Championship Series.