Trade-deadline pickup Mike Aviles broke a fourth-inning tie with his first homer since joining the Red Sox and Boston beat Tampa Bay 4-3 on Friday night to hold off the charging Rays and extend its lead in the AL wild-card race to four games.
Josh Beckett (13-5) returned from a skipped start for another strong outing against the Rays, who trailed Boston by nine games on Sept. 3 and had a chance to catch them with a sweep in Fenway. It was Boston’s second win in nine games and its first in seven tries against the Rays.
Jonathan Papelbon pitched the ninth for his 30th save — his first since Aug. 18 — striking out Evan Longoria with a runner on second to end the game.
James Shields (15-11) lost for just the second time since July. Longoria homered for the second straight night, and Desmond Jennings had three hits for the Rays.
Boston ace Jon Lester faces Jeff Niemann on Saturday.
In two previous starts against Tampa Bay this season, Beckett pitched 17 scoreless innings, allowing just a pair of infield singles. But he ran into trouble early on Friday when Jennings led off the game with a bunt single and took second on Beckett’s throwing error; two batters later, Longoria homered off the top of the Green Monster.
Beckett, who left his previous start with a sprained ankle and skipped his next turn in the rotation, allowed three runs — two earned, giving up seven hits, an intentional walk and a hit batter while striking out seven.