Manny ends RBI drought with two in first inning as Red Sox roll Rays

BOSTON (AP) -- Manny Ramirez finally ended his longest RBI drought since joining the Red Sox.

Ramirez singled in two runs in the first inning to end his longest RBI drought since 1997, and Josh Beckett pitched eight innings to help the Red Sox beat the Tampa Bay Rays 12-4 on Saturday night.

A quick look at Ramirez's numbers so far this season makes the drought hard to fathom. Ramirez entered the game hitting .321 with six homers and 20 RBIs -- hardly a rough start.

"You keep playing him and he'll have good numbers," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "That's a given."

Tampa Bay's Carlos Pena understands it's just Manny being Manny.

"Stuff like that happens," said Pena, who played with Ramirez for about a month in 2006. "He might get a couple of RBIs in a series, then get 15 in a homestand. He understands you stick with a plan and good things happen, and he's been doing it a long time."

Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz each had three hits and Jason Varitek drove in three runs for Boston, which has won four of five after a five-game losing streak.

The Red Sox can complete the three-game sweep -- like the Rays did to them last weekend in St. Petersburg, Fla. -- Sunday afternoon when Tampa Bay's Scott Kazmir is scheduled to make his first start of the season.

Gabe Gross hit a two-run homer and Akinori Iwamura also connected for the Rays, who lost for just the third time in 11 games.

Beckett (3-2) allowed four runs and seven hits, struck out five and walked one.

"They picked me up today," Beckett said. "Offensively, obviously, with the number of runs and hits we had, but there were three or four great plays out in the outfield."

Ramirez threw out Pena trying to score on a flyball, ending a fourth-inning rally.

James Shields (3-2) tossed a two-hit shutout in his previous start Sunday against the Red Sox, but he gave up three runs before retiring a batter Saturday night. He lasted only 3 2/3 innings, giving up seven runs and 10 hits, never looking like the pitcher that baffled Boston last week.

"He just wasn't comfortable," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. "He just didn't appear to be. That would be the best word. From the side, you look at the velocity readings, they were normal, but overall command."

Jacoby Ellsbury and Pedroia singled in the first before Ortiz hit an RBI double off the Green Monster. Ramirez appeared to ground out when third baseman Evan Longoria fielded his slow roller down the line and threw to first. But plate umpire Bill Welke ruled the ball foul and sent Pedroia back to third from near the dugout. Ramirez came back down into the batter's box and grounded the next pitch up the middle for a two-run single.

Ramirez had gone 12 games without an RBI since hitting his 496th career homer on April 19, his longest run-producing drought with the Red Sox -- where he signed as a free agent in December 2000 -- and the second-longest of his career. He had previously gone 12 games twice with Cleveland, the last in June 1997.

Gross homered about eight rows into the right-field seats for his first of the season in the second, but Pedroia had an RBI single in the bottom half.

The Rays cut it to 5-3 on Longoria's run-scoring single in the fourth, but Beckett escaped a bases-loaded jam on Ramirez's throw and Varitek's tag.

Game notes
Francona said after the game that OF Brandon Moss was undergoing an appendectomy at Mass. General Hospital. ... Boston RF J.D. Drew was back in the lineup after missing the previous three with a tight left quadriceps. ... Red Sox INF Alex Cora, on the 15-day disabled list since April 16 with a sprained right elbow, took batting practice and threw. ... Rays CF B.J. Upton, who missed his first game of the season Friday night after leaving Thursday's with a strained left shoulder, took some swings, but Maddon elected not play him.