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Saturday, September 17, 2011
Rapid reaction: Rays 4, Red Sox 3

By Gordon Edes

BOSTON -- Well, you never thought they would go away quietly, did you?

The long-shot Tampa Bay Rays gave themselves a puncher's chance Saturday with a 4-3 win over the Red Sox, whose lead over the Rays is back down to 3 games with 11 to play.

The Rays beat Sox left-hander Jon Lester for the second time in six days and showed off the newest dynamic arm in their seemingly endless supply of same: rookie left-hander Matt Moore, who was billed as the best pitching prospect in the minors and didn't shy away from the big stage Saturday afternoon, striking out Dustin Pedroia on three pitches with the tying run on third base in the seventh.

That's not all. Rays manager Joe Maddon then sent Moore out for a third inning of work, the eighth, which Moore navigated with great aplomb, striking out Adrian Gonzalez, keeping David Ortiz in the yard on a deep fly and retiring pinch-hitter Conor Jackson on a pop fly.

Lester pitched much better than he did last Sunday in the Trop, when he lasted just four innings, but for the second straight night the Rays jumped ahead on a two-run home run in the first, Ben Zobrist reaching the first row of the Monster seats. Lester wild-pitched a run home in the third, and the Rays scored a fourth run on singles by rookie Brandon Guyer, B.J. Upton and Evan Longoria.

The Sox managed just four hits in five innings off Rays starter Jeff Niemann, which is one fewer than the five they collected in his two previous starts against Boston, in which he held the Sox to an .089 average (5 for 56). Mike Aviles doubled home one run and Jacoby Ellsbury's sacrifice fly scored a second in the third inning, but Ellsbury was picked off second by Niemann with Pedroia at the plate to end the fifth.

The Sox put the tying run on base in the ninth on a two-out single by Aviles, and pinch runner Joey Gathright stole second against Joel Peralta, but Longoria threw out Marco Scutaro to end it.