ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays lost their ace in the third inning and saw their six-game winning streak snapped in a 9-2 loss to the Red Sox on Wednesday night at Tropicana Field.
David Price started for the Rays and looked sharp in the first two innings, bringing to mind the pitcher who claimed the American League Cy Young Award last season.
"I thought he was throwing the ball really well tonight," manager Joe Maddon said. "The velocity was good. He threw some good breaking balls. I thought it looked pretty well tonight."
Price walked Stephen Drew to start the third and Jacoby Ellsbury followed with a single through the middle. One out later, Dustin Pedroia singled to right to drive home Drew, and David Ortiz followed suit with a single that scored Ellsbury.
After throwing the pitch to Ortiz, Price motioned to the Rays' dugout. Pitching coach Jim Hickey, Maddon and head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield met with Price, and after conferring for a couple of minutes, the southpaw's night was over after just 57 pitches due to left triceps tightness.
"Just felt a little tightness in my triceps on a couple of fastballs," said Price, who allowed four runs on five hits over 2 1/3 frames.
He will be re-evaluated Thursday, but according to Maddon, the chances of Price making his next start on Monday are "unlikely."
Jamey Wright took over for Price, surrendering an RBI double to Mike Napoli and an RBI single to Jonny Gomes. Jarrod Saltalamacchia drew a walk to load the bases, and then Drew hit his second career grand slam, which cleared the wall in right-center field.
"Finally, we broke out with the eight runs in one inning," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "Gave us some cushion to allow [starter] Jon [Lester] to go out and pitch. More than anything, for our guys to go up and swing with some freedom, take some at-bats with some confidence. A good night offensively, particularly in the one inning."
Wright made no excuses for his 1 1/3 innings.
"I just stunk tonight," Wright said.
"I threw two sinkers right down the middle. One got hit for a double and one got hit up the middle. Then a cutter into Drew, I tried to go up and in and I threw it right down and in right into his swing path. He hit a home run. It was awful. I didn't do my job out there today -- especially with the winning streak and things are going good."
The Rays got two back in the bottom of the third when Desmond Jennings hit an RBI triple and scored when Ben Zobrist grounded out to cut the lead to 8-2.
Lester had a lot to do with the Rays' inability to mint scoring opportunities.
"We've been playing great," Maddon said. "We kept fighting. We just couldn't get the hit tonight. Lester kept us off-balance. He was able to throw a variety of pitches for strikes, and he didn't walk people. He had zero walks. That was the thing that stood out to me."
Price's early departure prompted some overtime from the Rays' bullpen, which normally doesn't get busy until at least the sixth inning. On Wednesday night, the situation became all hands on deck.
Cesar Ramos took over from Wright and allowed just one hit while striking out two in three scoreless innings. Kyle Farnsworth and Josh Lueke covered the final 2 1/3 innings.
Maddon saluted Ramos' work for helping to save the bullpen for Thursday's series finale.
Ramos "saved a lot of lifting at the end of the game by the other guys," Maddon said. "Kyle only had to get four outs and Josh had to get only three outs because of the work Cesar did in the middle. So that was outstanding.
"The bullpen situation for tomorrow is not awful, really, because of what Cesar did. I'm sure Farnsworth will be fine tomorrow, Lueke will be fine tomorrow, and I would bet Wright will be fine tomorrow. Probably the only guy who won't be available tomorrow is Ramos."
"Playing the game hard" is Maddon's mantra. If his team embraces that philosophy, he feels the wins will come. Despite taking the starch-filled punch to the nose in the third inning, the Rays continued to fight hard until the last out. Once the bats were finally sacked, Maddon tipped his cap to the effort his troops.
"I loved the fight," Maddon said. "I loved it. I absolutely loved it. We were a hit away from getting back in the thing. The runners were on base and we were working good at-bats. ... We did really well offensively getting things started. We just couldn't finish it off."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.