Rays' struggles at Fenway continue
Iwamura, Pena go deep, but Garza can't hang onto lead
BOSTON -- All season long, the Rays have experienced one growth moment after another, riding the momentum of their many accomplishments to a position atop the American League East.
Unfortunately for the Rays, to date, there have been no growth moments at Fenway Park, only growing pains.
On Tuesday night, the Red Sox handed the Rays a 7-4 defeat in front of a crowd of 37,823 at Fenway Park, suffering their fourth loss of the season in the four games they have played at the baseball landmark that has haunted them for so long.
Since Tampa Bay's inaugural season in 1998, it has amassed 65 losses in 88 games at Fenway Park. Tuesday night's loss snapped the Rays' three-game winning streak and reduced their lead over the second-place Red Sox in the American League East to a half-game.
A back-and-forth contest came undone for Tampa Bay in the sixth, when Matt Garza hit the leadoff hitter, Kevin Youkilis, before Rays shortstop Jason Bartlett booted Manny Ramirez's grounder to put runners at first and second with no outs and the Rays protecting a 4-3 lead.
Jason Varitek singled home Youkilis to tie the game before Coco Crisp added a double that drove home two. Jacoby Ellsbury hit a sacrifice fly to round out Boston's scoring.
"To win in this league, you have to win at this ballpark," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "They're 22-5 here. They're difficult, they're very difficult. But we have to get it done here. At some point, we've just got to make that leap. We had a great opportunity tonight. We just kept giving up leads. And part of that was our fault. Part of it's to their credit. So yes, we need to get on the Red Sox in Boston at some point."
Akinori Iwamura hit the third pitch of the game over the Green Monster in left field to give the Rays a 1-0 lead in the first inning.
But the Red Sox -- without David Ortiz, who went on the disabled list -- answered in the second when Ramirez led off the inning with a single off Garza, and Mike Lowell followed with his eighth home run of the season on an 0-1 Garza offering to put the Sox up, 2-1.
Carlos Pena's RBI double scored B.J. Upton in the fourth, but J.D. Drew answered with a solo home run for the Red Sox in the bottom half of the inning for a 3-2 Boston lead.
"They hit good pitches," Garza said. "I left a couple of pitches up and they made me pay for it. [My] slider to Lowell was up and over the plate. And [the] changeup to Drew was a good pitch. The guy is hot, what can you say? He drills a pitch into right field."
Upton and Pena got after it again in the sixth when Upton led off with a single and Pena followed with his 11th home run of the season to give the Rays a 4-3 lead.
"Up and down, I saw better at-bats," Maddon said. "We just have to pitch better. We kept catching leads and then giving them back up. You have to beat them by not putting them right back up."
Upton stated the obvious about the Rays' ongoing saga at Fenway. They aren't the only team that loses while in Boston.
"It's tough to beat them at home," Upton said. "It's tough to beat us at home at the same time. In order to get to where we want to be, we have to be able to beat these guys at their place. I'm sure by the end of the season, if we do end up in the playoffs, we'll probably run across these guys and we'll have to play them here. I mean, Joe said it earlier. To win championships, you have to be able to beat these guys here. So that's what we're going to have to do."
Garza allowed there are reasons why the Red Sox win at home.
"They know their dimensions of the field," Garza said. "They know what they're getting. Just like every other home team. You know what you've got. That's why it's called home-field advantage. They're a great team wherever they play. That's why they were World [Series] champions last year, you know. ... That middle of the lineup is still dangerous without Ortiz."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.