ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Charlie Morton struck out 11 over seven innings and the Tampa Bay Rays avoided a three-game sweep by beating David Price and Boston 3-2 in a game that the Red Sox protested on Wednesday.
Confusion reigned in the top of the eighth when a series of defensive changes involving reliever Adam Kolarek prompted Boston manager Alex Cora to protest the game due to the placement of subs into the Rays lineup after the designated hitter was removed.
Kolarek replaced Morton and retired pinch-hitter Sam Travis on a pop fly. The left-hander then shifted to first base when Rays manager Kevin Cash brought in reliever Chaz Roe, who got a fly ball from Mookie Betts.
After Kolarek then returned to the mound and Nate Lowe entered to play first base, Cora met with the umpires, which prompted around a 15-minute stoppage as the umpires discussed the matter.
After the protest was made and the game resumed, Kolarek got a first-pitch grounder from Rafael Devers.
An unhappy Cora again talked with the umpires after the third out, which delayed the start of the bottom on the eighth.
Morton (12-3) allowed two runs and five hits in lowering his AL-best ERA from 2.61 to 2.60. Emilio Pagán pitched the ninth for his seventh save.
Price (7-4) went six innings, giving up three runs, four hits and two walks while striking out eight.
The Red Sox slipped back into third place in the AL East as they face the Yankees in a pair of key four-game series on consecutive weekends.
Tampa Bay took a 3-2 lead in the fifth when left-handed hitting Joey Wendle, who got the start at shortstop in place of slumping Willy Adames, lined an RBI single to center off Price and scored on Guillermo Heredia’s double.
Tommy Pham got the Rays’ first hit on a homer leading off the fourth.
Devers put the Red Sox up 2-0 with a well-placed opposite-field single in the third. He has 29 RBIs this month.
Brock Holt flared a single to left and went to third on Betts’ double. Both scored when Devers beat an infield-in shift by slapping his hit through the vacated shortstop position.
Morton retired 14 of his final 15 batters after Devers’ single.
Rays: Cash said CF Kevin Kiermaier (sprained left thumb) will need a short minor league rehab assignment before returning. The defensive standout, hurt last Saturday diving head-first into first base on an infield single, is hopeful of being back in the next couple of weeks. … Reliever Jose Alvarado (right oblique strain) expects to have his first bullpen session next week
Red Sox: RHP Rick Porcello (8-7, 5.61 ERA) and Yankees RHP Masahiro Tanaka (7-5, 4.00 ERA) are Thursday night’s scheduled starters in the first of four games in Boston. It’s the first game between the teams at Fenway Park this year.
Rays: Start a three-game series Friday night at Toronto.