Phew! Rays sweat one out vs. Sox

Phew! Rays sweat one out

BOSTON -- There's nothing like the ninth inning at Fenway Park.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Rays survived in the series finale to take a 6-5 win over the Red Sox in front of a crowd of 36,413 to avoid a three-game sweep. But it didn't come easy.

Al Reyes, who blew his second save of the season in Tuesday night's 2-1 loss, took the mound in the ninth trying to protect a 6-4 lead. But the Rays closer got into trouble immediately when Coco Crisp bunted for a leadoff single.

Julio Lugo then worked Reyes for 10 pitches before hitting the 11th pitch for an RBI double to cut the lead to 6-5.

Reyes did not wilt, striking out the next hitter, Dustin Pedroia, on four pitches before falling behind 3-0 to Kevin Youkilis. Again, Reyes continued to compete and struck out Youkilis.

Manny Ramirez strolled to the plate after David Ortiz drew a walk to put the potential winning run aboard.

With the Fenway faithful trying to will another come-from-behind win, Reyes struck out Ramirez to preserve the victory and earn his 18th save of the season.

"I tried to go with a fastball, elevated up and in," Reyes said. "I wanted him to chase something up."

Rays manager Joe Maddon said that he could finally breathe again once he got back to the clubhouse with a victory in tow.

"The interminable ninth inning at Fenway. It's always like that," Maddon said. "If you have the lead, you are never comfortable. [We] got to give Al a lot of credit [for] the way he pitched to the front part of that batting order. After he got within one run with a runner on second base, that was an excellent job, just shows a lot of professionalism on his part ... the ability to maintain his composure under those circumstances and make pitches to those guys. That was a great job."

Though the situation in the ninth looked dire, Maddon felt that the key to the win came in Pedroia's inability to move Lugo over to third base.

"If he moves the runner, then the runner is on third base with one out, and everything in the world changes at that point," Maddon said. "You got to pull your infield in ... it's different and a much more stressful moment on the pitcher at that juncture. So by the runner not advancing, to me, that was a big play."

Carlos Pena has been struggling as of late, but on Wednesday, he got back on track in his hometown with three RBIs.

Pena, who graduated from nearby Haverhill High School in 1995, drove in the Rays' first run when he grounded out to first base to score Akinori Iwamura. The veteran first baseman then doubled with the bases loaded to drive home two more runs in the Rays' four-run fourth.

Brendan Harris tripled to lead off the sixth, and he later scored on Dioner Navarro's sacrifice fly to give the Rays a 6-0 lead. All six runs came against highly touted Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Andy Sonnanstine started for the Rays and cobbled together 6 2/3 scoreless innings before Mike Lowell's infield single started a three-run rally. The big blow came on Jason Varitek's two-run homer. But in the end, the rookie right-hander claimed his second win of the season, thereby ending a run of eight consecutive losing decisions. And the win came in his first career start at Fenway.

"This is my first real big venue, and I'm just happy with the way I performed," Sonnanstine said.

After struggling in his last couple of starts, particularly when trying to keep his breaking ball down, Sonnanstine relied mostly on his fastball on Wednesday afternoon.

"I tried to do that in my last start, and I wasn't 100 percent committed to it," Sonnanstine said. "I felt like I was really committed to it today. And the slider, the first one I threw, struck out Youkilis. And that gave me a lot of confidence."

Red Sox manager Terry Francona came away impressed with Sonnanstine.

"I know he wasn't ahead of every hitter, [but] it sure seemed like it," Francona said. "He threw strike one. We didn't hit in a lot of hitter's counts. He's got some deception to his delivery. But I think the biggest thing was throwing strike one."

The Rays finished their road trip to Detroit, Texas and Boston with a 4-6 mark. Carl Crawford had 19 hits during that span to tie his own team record for the most hits during a 10-game road trip.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.