ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -When Kevin Youkilis limped off the field and into the Boston clubhouse, he just as well could have taken David Ortiz, too.
With the Red Sox cleanup hitter out of the game because of pain in his right ankle, Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon decided that under no circumstances would he give the other slugger in Boston's injury-riddled lineup a chance to beat the Rays on Tuesday night.
``That was a fortuitous moment for us,' said Maddon, who ordered Ortiz walked three times intentionally - once putting the potential tying run in scoring position - on the way to a 3-2 victory at Tropicana Field.
``That was very unfortunate for them,' Maddon added. ``But once that occurred, I said: 'Ortiz is done.''
Jeff Niemann (7-2) limited the Red Sox to four hits and an unearned run over six innings, and Tampa Bay's bullpen shut down Boston for the second day in a row.
Niemann walked three and struck out five to win for the first time since a complete game shutout against Toronto on June 8. After winning his first six decisions of the season, the 6-foot-9 right-hander went 0-2 over four starts.
Jason Bartlett drove in Tampa Bay's first run with a third-inning single off Felix Doubront (1-1), a 22-year-old left-hander filling in for injured All-Star pitcher Clay Buchholz. Sean Rodriguez tripled and scored on John Jaso's grounder, giving the Rays a 2-1 lead in the fifth.
Carl Crawford's solo homer off Hideki Okajima added an insurance run in the eighth.
Daniel Nava drove in Boston's first run with a fourth-inning single off Niemann. Four Rays relievers held the Red Sox to one hit until Bill Hall walked and scored on Eric Patterson's two-out triple in the ninth off Rafel Soriano.
Soriano, who earned his 23rd save in 24 chances, walked Ortiz intentionally before getting Youkilis replacement Niuman Romero to ground out to end the game.
The Rays also walked Ortiz with two outs in the seventh, moving the possible tying run into scoring position before Romero - who went 0 for 4 - grounded out against Lance Cormier.
``It's part of the game,' said Ortiz, who has been walked intentionally four times in the first two games of this three-game series. ``You have to do what you have to do to win.'
The victory was the fourth straight for the Rays, who have won six of seven to move ahead of Boston into second place in the AL East.
``Listen, I don't take anything for granted, man,' Maddon said of his strategy. ``It just falls under the category of it was the right thing to do at that moment. There's no other way to look at it as far as I was concerned.'
Youkilis was removed from the game in the fourth inning because of pain in his right ankle. X-rays were negative, and he said there's a chance he may play in Wednesday's series finale.
``I wish I could tell you what happened. Just basically out in the field and felt like I had a cramp in my ankle, which is the most strange thing ever,' Youkilis said. ``Somehow I irritated the capsule, so my ankle locked up. I'll be good to go tomorrow.'
Youkilis was on his way to the plate to lead off the inning before stepping away from the batter's box, leaning over and clutching his foot. He sat on the ground while a trainer examined him before getting up and limping to the dugout on his own power.
``I don't think that changes the whole game. There's other opportunties and other players on the team that can do stuff,' Youkilis said. ``You don't win or lose by one player on the team.'
Doubront, who beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in his big league debut at Fenway Park on June 18, allowed two runs and five hits over 5 2-3 innings. He struck out three and walked four - three in the fifth inning - before turning a bases-loaded jam over to reliever Scott Atchison.
Tampa Bay's bullpen held the Red Sox scoreless over the last five innings of a 6-5 Rays victory on Monday night. It was equally effective Tuesday, with Soriano becoming the first Tampa Bay pitcher to earn a save on four consecutive days.
``I just think we're getting proverbial mojo back,' Maddon said. ``We're playing better. We feel better about ourselves. The confidence is coming back and we're winning some close games.'
NOTES: Boston RHP Josh Beckett, on the disabled list since May 19 with a strained lower back, could rejoin the rotation in just over two weeks. Beckett threw 65 pitches over four innings in a simulated game against Red Sox minor leaguers and is scheduled to pitch for Triple-A Pawtucket on Sunday. ... Red Sox OF Jacoby Ellsbury (broken ribs) has resumed throwing and might rejoin the team this weekend to continue his rehab program.
The Associated Press News Service
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