ST. PETERSBURG — In his third game back from the disabled list, Brad Miller provided a huge lift for his team heading into the All-Star break, smashing a two-run homer off Joe Kelly that snapped a tie and led the Rays to a 5-3 victory over the Red Sox on Sunday.
“I knew when I hit it that it had a chance to go,” Miller said. “So that felt pretty good.”
“It was not a bad curveball,” said Kelly, who admitted he wanted to throw it a tad lower. “It doesn’t bounce, which was the worst part, but he’s a good hitter. The stats might not show it this year, but he hit 30 home runs last year. He stayed back pretty well and … he put a good swing on it.”
The Rays took three out of four in the series. They now trail the Red Sox by just 3 1/2 games in the American League East, and are in a tie with the Yankees for second place.
“That felt good,” Miller said. “Obviously huge series win to keep it from 2-2 to 3-1 right there against a team we’re looking up at. So that was a lot of fun.”
David Price, pitching against his protege and former teammate Archer, turned in another strong effort for the Red Sox. The lefty held the Rays to five hits and two runs over six innings, walking two and striking out five. It was the fourth consecutive quality start for Price and another encouraging sign that he’s over the left elbow strain that forced him to miss the first two months of the season.
“Archer threw the ball extremely well,” Price said. “Whenever you give up crooked numbers and the opposing pitcher is throwing the ball he was, it makes it tough for your offense. Just a good baseball game and we didn’t come out on the upper end.”
The All-Star Archer allowed three earned runs on eight hits over 6 2/3 innings and struck out eight. Both pitchers took no-decisions, as this game came down to the bullpens.
After Pedroia’s go-ahead homer, the Rays came right back to tie on a sacrifice fly from Corey Dickerson.
“You know what, we got a team win,” Archer said. “I threw the ball pretty well. I gave up two homers. The team picked me up.”
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Benintendi catches foul fly, Rays tie it: With runners at the corners and one out, Dickerson hit a foul ball to medium-depth left field that left Andrew Benintendi with a decision: Let the ball drop in foul territory so a run doesn’t score, or take the out. Benintendi took the out, and Mallex Smith tagged up and beat the throw home to tie it.
“There’s no thought in my mind about dropping it,” Benintendi said. “If i drop it, someone else could hit a home run. It never crossed my mind.”
Red Sox manager John Farrell said Benintendi made the right decision.
“Not in the seventh inning,” Farrell said, when asked if a case could be made for Benintendi letting it drop foul. “We’ve got two more shots and if the throw is on line he probably throws him out. As good an arm as Benny’s got, that’s a play that if you don’t make, you might be inviting even more trouble. No question Benny’s attempt to catch the ball and get an out at home plate.”
Dickerson makes great grab, doubles off Hanley: With Hanley Ramirez on first and one out in the sixth, Jackie Bradley Jr. smashed one to deep left and Dickerson raced to the wall, timed his leap perfectly and made a great catch. Not only that, but Ramirez strayed too far from first and was doubled off to end the inning.
“We’re in first. I feel like we still haven’t fully blossomed. I think we still have a long way to go. When the time gets ready, I think we’ll be right where we need to be.”
“Curveball. Fastball was 102 [mph], so I did not see that one. I mean 102. That guy is nasty.”
— Miller, when asked about the pitch he hit for a home run
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
• Betts has started the last 85 games, the longest streak by a Red Sox player since Pedroia started 94 straight in a stretch that went from 2011-12.
Miller’s home run was his first since May 9 against the Royals, but he’d only played in 10 games (eight starts) since then. It was the third time in his career he’s hit a go-ahead homer in the eighth inning or later.
“Brad Miller’s had a long season to this point, with injuries,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Probably not performing to the standard he set last year. But wow. It was a pretty big hit. It might have been as big as any in his Rays career.”
Red Sox: Left-hander Drew Pomeranz, who closed the first half on a strong note, is slated to start the opener of a four-game series against the Yankees on Friday night at Fenway Park. Pomeranz has pitched well against New York over the years, going 2-1 with a 2.40 ERA in six appearances. The game starts at 7:10 p.m. ET.
Rays: Jacob Faria will get the nod when the Rays open the second half in Anaheim against the Angels in Friday’s 10:07 p.m. ET contest. The right-hander has six consecutive quality starts since joining the team June 7.