BOSTON (AP) While Tampa Bay's string of six straight winning seasons is over, the Rays staved off finishing with a losing record at least one more day with a rally that couldn't have come much later.
Ben Zobrist's two-out double in the eighth drove in Tampa Bay's first two runs of the game and started a five-run rally for the Rays in a 6-2 win over the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday night.
Zobrist entered the game just 4 for 38 against Boston starter Clay Buchholz and nearly doubled his total with three hits.
''Zo had had no luck against him,'' said Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon, who planned to give Zobrist the night off until learning Kevin Kiermaier couldn't play because he was ill. ''I was going to give him the day based on what I just said, but Kiermaier had the vision to be ill and that put Zo back in the lineup. Better manager than me.''
Matt Joyce added a solo homer in the ninth and Alex Cobb pitched seven strong innings for Tampa Bay. The Rays entered the series between the bottom two teams in the AL East two days after their 81st loss, a total that guaranteed Tampa Bay will not finish with a winning record.
Cobb (10-8) kept the Rays' slim hopes for a .500 finish alive, holding Boston to one run on five hits despite struggling through early control issues with his fastball.
''The one thing I've started to learn as I've gotten more experience is I can go out and battle when I don't have my best stuff,'' said Cobb, who struck out three and walked one.
Daniel Nava had an RBI double in the fourth for the Red Sox. It stood as the game's only run until Tampa Bay got to Boston starter Clay Buchholz in the eighth.
Buchholz (8-10) entered the game on a streak of 22 straight innings against the Rays without allowing a run. He had a shutout going through seven, but a leadoff walk and hit batter cost him in the eighth when the Rays rallied with two outs.
''Obviously you never want to give up any runs whenever you get that deep into a game,'' Buchholz said. ''It's tough to swallow - giving up five in one inning late in the game.''
Zobrist doubled with two on to drive in the first two runs and scored on a single by David DeJesus. Buchholz hit Evan Longoria with a pitch and was replaced by Tommy Layne, whose wild pitch allowed both runners to advance and score easily when James Loney added a single.
All five runs went to Buchholz, who allowed eight hits over 7 2-3 innings. He struck out six and walked one.
Cobb has won at least 10 games for three straight seasons. He had been stuck on nine wins since a victory over the Tigers on Aug. 21 and said he was a little surprised his to pick up No. 10 on Tuesday.
''Location for the first few, maybe four innings was really bad,'' Cobb said. ''I was able to control my body a little bit better and get better results later on.''
Rays SS Yunel Escobar left the game after spraining his left knee while attempting to slide into home in the third inning. Escobar's front foot got caught in the dirt and locked up his leg as Boston catcher Christian Vazquez made the tag.
''The rule that's supposed to be in place to protect the catcher can affect the baserunner. Boom, that's what happened,'' Maddon said.
Rays: Maddon said Escobar is likely done for the season.
''I don't think it's anything serious, but enough to keep him out for any week of the season,'' Maddon said.
Red Sox: 3B Will Middlebrooks (sprained right hand) and SS Xander Bogaerts (stiff neck) were both in the original starting lineup but were late scratches after batting practice. Both are considered day-to-day, Boston manager John Farrell said.
Rays: RHP Jake Odorizzi (11-12, 3.98 ERA) allowed just one run over six innings against the Yankees on Wednesday in his last start.
Red Sox: RHP Anthony Ranaudo (3-3, 5.29) will make his seventh major league start and try to finish the season with a winning record. Ranaudo has picked up the loss in his last three starts.