ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) - Andrew Miller and the Boston Red Sox would love to forget their first game after the All-Star break.
David Price pitched six solid innings and Ben Zobrist hit his fifth career grand slam, helping the Tampa Bay Rays tighten the AL East standings with a 9-6 victory Friday night that snapped first-place Boston's six-game winning streak.
``We put ourselves in a hole early against a tough pitcher,' Red Sox outfielder Darnell McDonald said. ``We battled back, gave ourselves a chance to win the game. But for the most part, we played a sloppy game.'
Miller, who won his first three decisions after being promoted from the minors to fill a spot in Boston's injury-riddled rotation, allowed seven runs and five hits in 2 2-3 innings. Besides yielding the first-pitch grand slam to Zobrist, the lefty hurt himself with five walks.
``Fell behind in counts and threw pitches up in the zone,' Miller said. ``You can't be successful that way.'
Miller (3-1) made 85 pitches and matched his career high for runs allowed.
``The walks really hurt,' Boston manager Terry Francona said. ``Just a tough way to pitch. ... His pitch count was so high.'
McDonald, Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia homered off Price for the Red Sox, who lost for just the second time in 12 games. Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis singled for the other hits off the Rays ace, who has given up five homers in three July starts - one of them a solo shot for Derek Jeter's 3,000th hit last Saturday.
This time, Price (9-7) allowed three solo homers while striking out seven and walking one.
The 25-year-old lefty skipped Tuesday's All-Star game because of a turf toe injury, helping manager Joe Maddon set up Tampa Bay's pitching rotation the way he wanted to begin a crucial stretch starting the second half of the season.
``Our offense did a great job,' Price said. ``It was a good start to the second half.'
The switch-hitting Zobrist homered from the right side off Miller in the second, breaking the franchise record for grand slams he shared with Carlos Pena. Zobrist drove in a fifth run when he drew a bases-loaded walk from the left side of the plate against reliever Alfredo Aceves, making it 7-2 in the third.
``The right pitch, but not the right location,' Red Sox pitching coach Curt Young said of the changeup to Zobrist.
Casey Kotchman hit a two-run homer and B.J. Upton and Sam Fuld had RBI singles for the third-place Rays, who continued a stretch in which they are playing 10 consecutive games against the Red Sox and second-place New York Yankees, the teams they are chasing in the AL East.
The victory trimmed Tampa Bay's season-high, six-game deficit in the division to five. Kyle Farnsworth retired all four batters he faced, earning his 18th save in 20 opportunities.
Marco Scutaro's two-run homer off Joel Peralta trimmed Tampa Bay's lead to 9-5 in the seventh. Youkilis added an RBI single off Juan Cruz in the eighth.
Boston's David Ortiz remained in the lineup after appealing the four-game suspension he received for his part in a bench-clearing melee with the Baltimore Orioles last week.
The All-Star slugger was suspended Thursday, along with Orioles pitchers Kevin Gregg and Mike Gonzalez and Baltimore manager Buck Showalter. Ortiz answered questions from reporters, but declined to specifically address the discipline before going 0 for 4 with two strikeouts against the Rays.
``I can't really talk about it now. But at one point I will,' Ortiz said. ``I'll tell you what I was thinking. I'll tell you what I thought was right.'
Notes: McDonald has three homers this season, two off Price. ... Ellsbury became the third left-handed hitter to homer against Price. ... Miller was a third-round draft pick of the Rays in 2003, but didn't sign with them. ... Francona said RHP Josh Beckett (left knee soreness) will make his scheduled start on Sunday. ... Boston LHP Jon Lester (strained back muscle) is expected to throw off a bullpen mound Monday. ... Red Sox LF Carl Crawford (strained left hamstring) began a two-game minor league rehab assignment at Triple-A Pawtucket and barring any setbacks will rejoin the team Monday. He played five innings Friday night, going 1 for 2 with an RBI single and a walk against Durham.
The Associated Press News Service
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