ST. PETERSBURG -- Xander Bogaerts could have just tried to move the runner over when he came to the plate in a key spot in the ninth inning on Wednesday night, the game tied and J.D. Martinez at second with nobody out.But manager Alex Cora motioned to the right-handed hitter
ST. PETERSBURG -- Xander Bogaerts could have just tried to move the runner over when he came to the plate in a key spot in the ninth inning on Wednesday night, the game tied and J.D. Martinez at second with nobody out.
But manager Alex Cora motioned to the right-handed hitter that he wanted something more, and Bogaerts obliged, placing a double into the left-field corner on a one-ball, two-strike cutter by Rays closer Alex Colome that helped lead the Red Sox to a 4-1 victory at Tropicana Field.
"We were talking about it, there are certain situations, man on second, no outs, they feel like they have to play for the team and just go the other way," Cora said. "And sometimes for me, playing for the team is looking for a pitch to drive. He's hitting fifth for a reason.
"I appreciate the effort, don't get me wrong, I'm never going to get on a player trying to advance a runner because he feels like it's what he's supposed to do. But at the same time, there are certain spots I want them to look for a pitch and drive it. He got a pitch. A little bit out in front, but he was able to pull it. It was good to see. That was good for him."
And just like that, Bogaerts snapped out of an 0-for-13 drought with a hit when his team needed it most.
"I looked in the dugout, Cora was like, 'Swing the bat,'" Bogaerts said. "I'm trying to get him over the first two pitches, but I have two strikes now, I have to protect now. He throws a lot of cutters, so hopefully I don't beat one into the ground at third base."
Tampa Bay aided Boston several times during the game-deciding rally. The inning started with shortstop Willy Adames -- playing in his second Major League game -- one-hopping the throw to first on a routine grounder by Martinez for a two-base error. Colome also uncorked a wild pitch that put Bogaerts at third to set up the sacrifice fly by Eduardo Nunez. A passed ball by catcher Jesus Sucre allowed Rafael Devers to score and make it 4-1.
"We started putting up better at-bats in the last third of the game," Cora said. "Games like that, it seems like the door opens always with a mistake, and we took advantage of it."
David Price was outstanding for the second start in a row for the Red Sox, who increased their Major League-leading win total to 34 while expanding the lead over the Yankees to 1 1/2 games in the American League East with a fourth straight victory. The lefty allowed just one run on three hits while notching a season-high nine strikeouts over six innings.
The key to Price's turnaround over his last three starts, in which he is 2-0 with a 2.21 ERA, has been an improved pitch mix. Against the Rays, he threw 47 fastballs, 23 changeups, 16 cutters and four curves.
"I felt good with everything I was throwing, especially commanding my fastball," Price said. "That was two straight starts I felt like I've had my good changeup and throwing cutters into righties and backdoor to righties, and I mixed in a couple of curveballs as well."
Chris Archer, Price's former teammate and good friend, turned in a fine performance for the Rays, holding Boston to four hits and one run over six frames.
"Yeah, it doesn't matter if you know him or not," Price said. "Whenever you get in those type of games where it's going pretty fast, you can stay in a rhythm, and that's fun to be a part of it. It's even more fun when you come out on top like we did today. So it was a good win."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
After allowing a walk to Denard Span and a game-tying double to C.J. Cron to open the sixth, Price did what he needed to for the rest of the inning, striking out Daniel Robertson on a two-seamer, inducing Matt Duffy into a groundout and Adames on a flyout to right. At 90 pitches, Price would have gone deeper into the game in many cases. But considering that Price threw a complete game last time out, Cora opted to go to his bullpen, and it got the job done, capped by Craig Kimbrel recording his 15th save and second in as many nights.
"He was dotting everything," Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez said of Price. "Every pitch was working today: changeup, cutter, two-seam fastball. That's David."
Price has owned the Rays at Tropicana Field since getting traded by Tampa Bay in 2014. As a visitor at the Trop, Price has a 2.19 ERA in eight games (seven starts).
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
When Jackie Bradley Jr. belted a double to the gap in left-center in the fifth, Nunez roared around the bases and third-base coach Carlos Febles waved him around. But the Rays executed the play perfectly, with Johnny Field making the relay to shortstop Adames, who fired home, where Nunez was tagged out. The big mystery is this: Why didn't Nunez slide? The reason is that Sucre created confusion by raising his arms up, signifying that a throw would not come home. That gesture deked Vazquez, who told Nunez to stay up rather than slide.
"I saw Sucre with the hands up and I went and did the same thing," Vazquez said. "I was not expecting that throw. But we win the game, that's all that matters."
Right-hander Rick Porcello will try to keep his solid start to the season going when he pitches the finale of this three-game series against the Rays on Thursday. Porcello has already faced Tampa Bay three times this season, going 2-0 with a 3.10 ERA. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET.
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.