Result familiar despite strong effort

Result familiar despite strong effort

BOSTON -- Matt Garza certainly pitched well enough to win Sunday, but according to Rays manager Joe Maddon, the club's "Groundhog Day" continued as the offense went silent in a 3-1 loss to the Red Sox in the first game of a doubleheader with 38,228 watching at Fenway Park.

Garza "pitched really well," Maddon said. "It's difficult to win when you score one run. We are definitely in mid-production of 'Groundhog Day Part II' or the sequel. Every game is pretty much that game -- save for what you saw yesterday. Otherwise, that's the game we've been playing for the last two weeks."

Dustin Pedroia's two-run homer with one out in the bottom of the eighth broke a 1-1 tie to lead the Red Sox to victory and hang a 10th consecutive loss on the Rays. Not since Sept. 2 against the Red Sox at Tropicana Field has Tampa Bay claimed victory. The losing streak is the Rays' second-longest under Maddon since an 11-gamer from June 25-July 5, 2007. During the slide, Tampa Bay has scored a total of 23 runs (2.3 runs per game).

By losing, Tampa Bay fell further out of the American League Wild Card race to where it now trails Boston by 11 1/2 games. In addition, the Rays are two games away from being eliminated from the AL East race a year after they were AL champions.

Pinch-hitter David Ortiz doubled off Garza to start the Red Sox's eighth. Joey Gathright was inserted as a pinch-runner and moved to third on Jacoby Ellsbury's sacrifice bunt to bring Pedroia to the plate with the potential winning run at third. The 2008 AL MVP swung at a 2-0 Garza offering and deposited the pitch into the visitors' bullpen in right for his 13th homer of the season and a 3-1 Boston lead.

"They were shading the right fielder way in, for obvious reasons, because of the sac fly. They were going to throw away [to Pedroia] and try to cut the runner at the plate," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "So, off the bat it looks good, we're going to get the run, but it just kept going."

Garza felt as though Ortiz had been sitting on the 3-2 breaking ball he threw him. However, Pedroia caught him off guard.

"Pedroia was the one who surprised me," Garza said. "He really doesn't have much power going the other way. You just tip your cap. He adjusted before I did. It was a four-seamer away. Force him away and try to get a weak fly ball. It was just funny how that ball took off and [a ball hit by Evan Longoria] just went dead. What are you going to do?"

Garza dropped to 7-10 on the season while remaining winless in his past nine starts, going 0-3 with a 4.23 ERA over that stretch. He has posted quality starts in each of his past two outings, going 0-1 with a 1.88 ERA. It was Garza's first loss to the Red Sox since June 3, 2008, at Fenway Park, a span of seven starts against Boston during which he went 3-0.

Clay Buchholz started for the Red Sox and held the Rays to one run on five hits in seven innings. The Boston right-hander said he got up for his matchup with Garza, which he has done before, pitching well when matched up against Toronto ace Roy Halladay.

"Before the game, you know who you've got and you know it's going to be a well-pitched game," Buchholz said. "It makes you concentrate a little bit more, maybe going out there and telling yourself, 'OK, let's make some pitches here, because that guy flat out doesn't give up many runs every time he goes out there.'"

Hideki Okajima pitched a scoreless eighth to stake claims to the victory, and Jonathan Papelbon came on to pitch the ninth to preserve the win and earn his 36th save of the season.

The Rays' offense has generated a total of eight runs in the team's last six games. Twice they scored two runs in a game and four times they scored just one.

During this losing streak, Tampa Bay lost AL home run leader Carlos Pena for the season when he had two fingers broken on his left hand during an at-bat against the Yankees' CC Sabathia.

Without "Carlos in the middle of lineup, we're having to set things up differently," Maddon said. "There's no doubt we're missing him. But we have to figure it out some other way, and we have to keep pressing forward.

"We just haven't been able to put it together. There's no blame. The work's good, the grinding it out. We're just not getting any results right now."

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