Monday July 16, 2012

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- The Boston Red Sox are happy with their post All-Star game start.

Josh Beckett overcame early struggles to pitch six effective innings, Will Middlebrooks drove in a pair during a tiebreaking three-run fifth, and the Red Sox beat the Tampa Bay Rays 7-3 on Sunday.

Boston took two of three from the Rays after dropping six of seven before the All-Star break.

"We've got to win series now," Beckett said of the Red Sox, who are 45-44.

Beckett (5-7) allowed three runs -- all in the first -- and eight hits. The right-hander, 5-0 over his past eight games against Tampa Bay, struck out seven and walked two in stopping a personal six-start winless streak.

"He's battling this flu a little, and I think he just had to get his feet on the ground a little," Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said. "But did one heck of a job, putting those goose eggs up. He's a great competitor. He wasn't going to let that game get away from him."

Boston went ahead 6-3 during the fifth when Daniel Nava homered and Middlebrooks had a two-run single off James Shields (8-6), who has allowed double-digits hits in four consecutive starts.

"We need to get some momentum going in this second half," Middlebrooks said.

Boston closer Alfredo Aceves, in a non-save situation, loaded the bases on three walks in the ninth, but retired Hideki Matsui on a high fly to right to end it.


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Shields lasted just five innings, giving up six runs and 11 hits. He is 3-6 over his past 12 games.

"I'm just not making my pitches," Shields said. "That's all. I've got to do a better job of making my pitches. Of course it's frustrating. I'm not doing my job right now. The bottom line is I've got to get better."

Cody Ross made it 7-3 on a sixth-inning sacrifice fly.

"I like the way we're coming together," Valentine said.

Adrian Gonzalez put the Red Sox up 1-0 on a first-inning RBI single. Mike Aviles' two-run homer tied it at 3 in the second.

Ben Zobrist had a run-scoring infield single that went off Beckett's glove, and Desmond Jennings hit a two-run single during the bottom of the first.

The Red Sox return home tonight for a four-game series against Kevin Youkilis and the Chicago White Sox. Youkilis was traded from Boston to the White Sox last month.

Valentine questioned Youkilis' commitment to the game during a television interview early in the season and later apologized to him a day later.

"I think the comment that I made early, he made a big issue out of and I don't think he wanted to get over it," Valentine said.