ST. PETERSBURG -- Prior to Thursday night's Red Sox-Rays contest at Tropicana Field, Rays manager Kevin Cash stressed the importance of the series, even if it was just July.
The Rays responded in typical Rays fashion by mixing quality pitching with a healthy dose of the long ball to take a 4-1 win and move to 4 1/2 games behind the American League East-leading Red Sox.
"Obviously a big win," Cash said. "With all the hype this series is getting, this is the way to start it off. Probably went up against baseball's best in Chris Sale, and he made it very challenging."
And the Rays' hitters more than earned the victory, somehow finding a way to top Sale, who struck out 12 in seven innings but came away with his fourth loss of the season.
Peter Bourjos homered on an 0-1 pitch from Sale to lead off the fifth and give the Rays their first lead. Wilson Ramos then added a two-run homer in the sixth to push the lead to 4-1. The four runs Sale allowed were his most since May 30, against the White Sox.
"It started out pretty good," said Sale. "Middle innings got me. It's that sixth inning, that home run really sucked the energy out of us. It's easier to fight down one than down three. I just put my guys in a bad spot."
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Rays starter Jacob Faria gave up a sacrifice fly to Deven Marrero in the third that put the Red Sox up, 1-0. The rookie right-hander then notched three additional scoreless innings to come away with his sixth quality start in six Major League starts, earning his fourth win against no losses on the season.
"They make you work and force you into the strike zone," Faria said. "I wasn't in the strike zone very much early on in the game, so it was kind of a struggle there. Just attacking with whatever was working."
Rays relievers Brad Boxberger and Tommy Hunter added scoreless innings to successfully bridge to closer Alex Colome, who got the final three outs to preserve the win and earn his 23rd save of the season.
Colome's outing snapped a streak of appearances in which he allowed a run at five; he gave up two runs or more in four of those outings.
"I'm happy to get it done," Colome said. "The last three outings, I haven't been that good, but my confidence is still the same. It's like great. Bad games happen to pitchers, and position players, too. You have to just stay with it."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Bourjos has a blast: Sale had struck out nine Rays when Bourjos led off the fifth. With the count 0-1, Bourjos fouled off an 85-mph changeup. Sale then came back with a 78.3-mph slider. Bourjos swung and connected, depositing his fourth home run of the season into the left-field stands to put the Rays up, 2-1.
"I was just looking for something over the plate and to not do too much with it," Bourjos said. "Fortunately, I got the barrel to it, and it went out."
Ramos pulls Rays away:Evan Longoria was standing on second with one out when Ramos stepped into the batter's box to face Sale in the sixth with the Rays leading, 2-1. Ramos, who hit an RBI double off Sale in his second at-bat, turned on the first pitch Sale threw, connecting on a 94.2-mph two-seamer for a 415-foot homer. Ramos' third homer of the season, a barreled ball, had a 107.7-mph exit velocity and 32-degree launch angle. Once it landed, the Rays had some separation, with a 4-1 lead.
"Right now I feel a lot better at the plate," Ramos said. "I'm happy that I'm getting my timing back." More >
"You rarely see good pitches go that far. I haven't checked, and I probably won't, so I can sleep tonight. It stinks. You don't want to do that." -- Sale, having no doubt that his homer pitch to Ramos was mislocated
"They rarely swing at balls out of the zone and really make you work. I think [Faria] realized that and knew that he had to find a way to get in the zone early and find a way to get some early outs, and he did." -- Cash
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Faria is the first pitcher to begin his career with six consecutive quality starts since Masahiro Tanaka started his with 16 in 2014. Faria's stretch is the longest by a Ray since Chris Archer strung together eight from Aug. 28, 2016, to April 8, 2017.
Sale's 178 strikeouts are the most any MLB pitcher has had in the first half of a season since Curt Schilling recorded 186 for Arizona in 2002.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
In the bottom of the eighth, Logan Morrison belted a double to right, but the Red Sox thought they might have gotten him on the throw to second. Boston manager John Farrell asked for a challenge, but the call stood after a review of one minute and 33 seconds.
Red Sox: Left-hander Thomas Pomeranz will try to continue his recent roll when he takes the ball on Friday night at 7:10 ET in the second game of this four-game series. Pomeranz has given up two earned runs or fewer in his last four starts.
Rays:Jake Odorizzi will get the nod on Friday night in the second game of a four-game series against the Red Sox at Tropicana Field. Odorizzi has allowed a home run in 12 straight appearances, the longest streak in club history.
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