ST. PETERSBURG, FL - APRIL 01: Pitcher David Price #14 of the Tampa Bay Rays pitches against the Baltimore Orioles during the Opening Day game at Tropicana Field on April 1, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
Photographer: J. Meric/Getty Images
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BOSTON - David Price struck out a season-high 13 and Jeff Keppinger hit a three-run homer as Tampa Bay beat the Boston Red Sox 5-2 on Tuesday night, extending the Rays' winning streak to six and keeping their playoff hopes alive.
Tampa Bay entered the day three games behind Oakland for the AL's second wild-card spot and has only eight games remaining, making a loss to the struggling Red Sox in the two-game series especially costly.
The Rays got to Boston starter Clay Buchholz (11-7) quickly on Keppinger's three-run homer in the second and Price (19-5) was able to preserve the lead despite balking with a runner on third to pull Boston within 3-2.
Price pitched his second complete game of the season, scattering seven hits and walking none. He tied his career high with his 19th win and is scheduled for one more chance to reach 20 for the first time in his career.
Boston has lost five of six and 19 of 26.
Tampa Bay pulled away with two runs in the sixth when Jose Molina hit a line drive to left-center that wound up only being a single because he pulled up limping at first base with a strained right quad.
Keppinger scored easily from third on the hit and Carlos Pena, who avoided a double play when Buchholz was pulled off the bag on shortstop Jose Iglesias' throw from second on a fielder's choice, came all the way around from first. Daniel Nava misplayed the bounce off the wall in left and was charged with an error for allowing Pena to score and put the Rays up 5-2.
Buchholz got himself in trouble in the second when he walked Evan Longoria and Luke Scott to start the inning. Keppinger was up next and jumped on the first pitch he saw from Buchholz, a fastball redirected for a shot over the Green Monster.
Buchholz lasted six innings, allowing eight hits and five runs, four earned. He struck out five and walked two.
Cody Ross led off the second for Boston with a single and scored on Danny Valencia's single to cut the lead to 3-1.
Price allowed a run when he balked with Nava on third and Dustin Pedroia on second after a two-out double in the third. Home plate umpire Mike Everitt halted play and signaled Nava to come home as the PA system played "Free Ride" by the Edgar Winter Group.
Price needed just one more pitch to strike out Ross and end the inning.
Boston's Pedro Ciriaco led off the third with a single and went to second on Nava's single, but was thrown out trying to steal third.
Notes: Boston plays its home finale Wednesday when LHP Jon Lester (9-13) is scheduled to face Tampa Bay RHP Alex Cobb (9-9). ... Manager Joe Maddon said the Rays are shuffling their rotation, moving up RHP Jeremy Hellickson's start to Friday and pushing back LHP Matt Moore to Saturday at Chicago. Maddon said the move was about setting up the Rays should they remain in contention for the playoffs. "I don't even care if he tells them in advance what he's throwing. He could actually stand on the mound and say here comes my fastball and I still think he can be successful," Maddon said. ... Boston manager Bobby Valentine said injured CF Jacoby Ellsbury, who missed his fifth straight game, could return Wednesday. ... The Red Sox paid tribute to the 2004 World Series championship club with a pregame celebration with former players including Kevin Millar, Pedro Martinez and Jason Varitek riding around the field in a mini parade of duck boats. Former manager Terry Franconia was on the first boat and received the loudest cheer when he was introduced.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.