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Zobrist homers off Lester to beat Boston 4-3, keep Rays' wild-card hopes alive
BOSTON (AP) ' Ben Zobrist hit a two-run homer off Jon Lester on Saturday to lead the Tampa Bay Rays to a 4-3 victory over the Red Sox and trim Boston's lead in the AL wild-card race to three games.
Jeff Niemann (11-7) pitched five solid innings for Tampa Bay, which has won seven of its last eight against Boston. The Red Sox have lost 10 of their last 13 games since Sept. 3, when they led the wild-card race by nine games.
Joel Peralta pitched the ninth for his fourth save.
Lester (15-8) went just four innings against Tampa Bay last Sunday, giving up four runs but throwing 111 pitches to lose for the first time in six starts. He was better this time, allowing four runs on five hits and four walks and striking out five in seven innings.
But the result was the same.
For the second straight night, the Rays got to Boston's starter in the first. Desmond Jennings walked to lead off the game and scored on Zobrist's homer off the top of the Green Monster. Tampa added another run in the third when Jennings doubled and, after moving up on a groundout, scored on a wild pitch.
The Red Sox made it 3-2 in the bottom half when Mike Aviles hit an RBI double and scored on a sacrifice fly, but Evan Longoria's run-scoring single in the fifth made it 4-2.
Carl Crawford singled to lead off the seventh against reliever Matt Moore and scored on Jacoby Ellsbury's groundout to cut the deficit to 4-3, but Moore fanned Dustin Pedroia with Ellsbury on third to end the inning.
David Ortiz hit a long fly ball off Moore in the eighth, but B.J. Upton caught it at the warning track in front of the Boston bullpen.
Aviles had three hits, including a single up the middle with two out in the ninth. But Peralta got Marco Scutaro on a grounder to third to end the game.
Boston is batting just .123 against Niemann, who gave up four hits in five innings, walking two and striking out six.
NOTES: Red Sox RHP Clay Buchholz, who hasn't pitched since June 16 because of a back injury, threw 30 pitches off a mound and said he would still like to return this year if Boston makes the playoffs. ... RHP Bobby Jenks said his pulmonary embolism is being treated with medication and he expects to be ready for the start of spring training. ... Boston INF Kevin Youkilis missed his second straight game with a sports hernia. ... Longoria has 12 RBIs in five games. .... Zobrist has 10 RBIs in 10 games after getting 1 in his previous 12. ... David Price (12-12) faces Tim Wakefield (7-6) in the finale on Sunday. Wakefield is coming off his 200th career victory. He has 186 wins with the Red Sox, second to Roger Clemens and Cy Young, who are tied with 192.