BOSTON — One bad pitch and a baserunning blunder had the Tampa Bay Rays doing a lot of second guessing.
Mired in the AL East basement, the Rays blew an early three-run lead — that could have been more if Tim Beckham hustled home — when Boston’s Hanley Ramirez hit a grand slam. Aaron Hill later sliced an RBI single to break an eighth-inning tie on Wednesday, helping the Red Sox beat the Rays 8-6.
“Difficult loss. We get out to an early lead, have some real good at-bats against a good pitcher that’s having a good year,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “A walk here and couple of hits, then the big home run by Hanley really killed us.”
The Rays opened a 4-1 lead in the fourth on Kevin Kiermaier’s RBI single, but he was cut down trying to stretch to a double and Beckham didn’t hustle to the plate, nullifying another run.
The biggest mistake: Kiermaier or Beckham?
“Definitely the not hustling,” Cash said. “That’s required of us and probably the easiest part to do in baseball.”
Kiermaier had three hits for the Rays, and Logan Forsythe and Logan Morrison each homered in the first four innings against Steven Wright.
Boston took the lead in the fifth after Drew Smyly loaded the bases on two hits and a two-out walk.
Ramirez hit the next pitch over the Green Monster for his 19th homer of the season.
Smyly was keeping Boston’s hitters off stride for most the early innings with good off-speed pitches, but elected to try a fastball against Ramirez.
“In my mind I was thinking: ‘Be careful,'” Smyly said. “He jumps on the first pitch. It definitely makes you second guess the pitch selection. I threw it and left it over the middle. I was convicted to throwing it, it just leaked back over the middle.”
Jackie Bradley Jr., who had three hits, and Xander Bogaerts each homered for the Red Sox. Dustin Pedroia had three more hits for Boston, which had lost five of its previous seven games after moving into a tie for first place in the AL East.
Pedroia has 15 hits in his last 20 at-bats and is batting .463 since moving into the leadoff spot on Aug. 10.
Junichi Tazawa (3-2) earned the victory despite allowing a two-run single after Boston took a 6-4 lead on the homers by Ramirez and Bradley. Craig Kimbrel closed for his 24th save.
Erasmo Ramirez (7-10) gave up Hill’s single and an RBI double by Bradley in the eighth.
Red Sox: RP Brad Ziegler was unavailable with the flu. Manager John Farrell said he would fly on his own to the West Coast “to keep him away from others … being so contagious.”
The Rays finished August at 14-15 and haven’t had a winning month since last August.
Tampa Bay is 0-5-1 in its last six road series.
Rays: Off Thursday, home against Toronto on Friday with Alex Cobb making his 2016 debut against Francisco Liriano (7-12).
Red Sox: Off Thursday, at Oakland on Friday with David Price (13-9) against Andrew Triggs (1-1).