BOSTON — The Rays weren't particularly pleased to be walking back into Fenway Park on Monday afternoon, extending an already long road trip and giving up an off day at home to play a makeup of Thursday's rainout.
But they couldn't have been more enthused when they left, taking a 2-1 win that was both emotional and eventful — including an admittedly blown call and another rain delay — and reclaiming first place from the Red Sox in the American League East.
"It's one of those wins," outfielder Sam Fuld said, "that feels like three wins."
One actually was good enough, as the Rays capped their rugged post All-Star break trip to Toronto, Boston, New York — and back to Boston — with an 8-2 record, extending their sizzling run to 18 of 21 games and 25 of 31.
Much of the focus was on the 82 pitches a once-again sharp David Price made before the 39-minute rain delay then the eight he made after before manager Joe Maddon pulled him, saying he realized immediately he erred in letting Price resume. "My mistake," Maddon said.
But the most important throw was made by Fuld, the Rays' third leftfielder of the night. Fuld caught Brandon Snyder's fly and flipped himself forward with momentum and fired home to nail pinch-runner Daniel Nava, who was blocked off the plate in what Maddon called "textbook" style by Jose Molina — at least, that was how home plate umpire Jerry Meals saw it initially — to end the eighth and protect the 2-1 lead.
The Rays celebrated the play — "That was awesome to see," Molina said — and the Red Sox protested, manager John Farrell getting ejected.
Meals admitted after watching the replay he was wrong: "What I saw was: Molina blocked the plate and Nava's foot lifted. But in the replays, you could clearly see Nava's foot got under for a split second and then lifted, so I was wrong on my decision. From the angle I had, I did not see his foot get under Molina's shin guard."
Tweeted Red Sox owner John Henry: "A 2-game impact."
That wasn't even all the drama.
Closer Fernando Rodney allowed a leadoff single then a one-out stolen base in the ninth but came back to get Dustin Pedroia to ground out and, after intentionally walking David Ortiz then throwing a wild pitch that moved the runners to third and second, striking out Mike Napoli.
"That," Price said, "felt like a playoff game."
Much seemed to be conspiring against the Rays, even after they took a 2-0 lead and Price, for the second time in six days, shut down the potent and patient Sox to improve to 5-1 with a 1.68 ERA in six starts since coming off the disabled list from a triceps strain.
There was a Sox homer off the Pesky pole in short rightfield, a Rays homer denied thanks to the short bullpen fence then the rain that looked to end Price's night after seven innings.
He talked Maddon into letting him continue, but when he started with three balls to Jonny Gomes, Maddon knew he had erred and — determined to not jeopardize the future — pulled Price after the at-bat.
"I did not like it," Maddon said. "Watching him throw those first three-four pitches, I knew I did the wrong thing."
Price didn't agree at the time, especially when the next two hitters doubled off Joel Peralta — though without a run. That set up Fuld, who hadn't realized Nava was running for Ryan Lavarnway, for his acrobatic play — "the Fuld flop," he suggested — and the dramatic finish.
"It worked out," Price said. "That was a huge win for us."
Back in Cy form
David Price has been extraordinarily sharp since his stint on the disabled list:
|July 2||Astros (W)||7||0||10||0|
|July 7||White Sox (W)||9||1||5||0|
|July 12||Astros (L)||9||2||3||0|
|July 19||Blue Jays (W)||7||4||5||1|
|July 24||Red Sox (W)||9||1||4||0|
|July 29||Red Sox (W)||7.1||1||8||0|