ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Jacoby Ellsbury homered and drove in three runs, Aaron Cook stopped his five-game losing streak and the Boston Red Sox beat the sliding Tampa Bay Rays 5-2 on Monday night.
Tampa Bay, coming off a 1-5 road trip to Baltimore and New York, fell 5½ games behind the AL East-leading Yankees. The Rays started play four games back of the Orioles — who were at Seattle later Monday night — for the second AL wild-card spot.
Ellsbury hit a two-run homer in the sixth and added an RBI single during a three-run seventh for the Red Sox, who were eliminated from playoff contention Sunday. Cook (4-10) allowed one run and five hits over six innings in his first win since Aug. 6.
Rays slugger Evan Longoria was out of the starting lineup because of what manager Joe Maddon called heavy legs. Maddon expects the third baseman, who missed 85 games earlier this season due to a partially torn left hamstring, to be back in the lineup Tuesday.
Tampa Bay starter Alex Cobb (9-9) allowed one baserunner — a two-out walk in the second to Jarrod Saltalamacchia — through five innings. The right-hander made a nice defensive play to end the second, grabbing a hard grounder by Ryan Lavarnway and throwing the catcher out at first.
Jose Iglesias was hit by Cobb’s pitch with one out in the sixth and scored on Boston’s first hit of the game, a two-out, two-run homer by Ellsbury that put the Red Sox ahead 2-1.
Cobb was pulled after James Loney singled and Saltalamacchia walked to start the seventh. Boston loaded the bases with no outs when Lavarnway reached against Burke Badenhop after shortstop Ben Zobrist misplayed a grounder.
After pinch-hitter Mauro Gomez hit a two-run single off J.P. Howell, Ellsbury made it 5-1 with a run-scoring single against the Tampa Bay left-hander.
Cobb, who had won five consecutive decisions, gave up four runs and two hits in six-plus innings.
Tampa Bay took a 1-0 lead in the fifth when Luke Scott scored from third on Ryan Roberts’ sacrifice bunt. Zobrist had an RBI grounder in the ninth.
NOTES: The announced attendance was just 11,722. ... Ellsbury has seven RBIs over his last nine games. ... Tampa Bay OF Sam Fuld, who left Sunday’s game with a strained right hamstring, is expected to be out several more days.