BOSTON Pinch-hitter Dan Johnson homered off Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth inning to tie it, and Dioner Navarro doubled in the go-ahead run Tuesday night as the Tampa Bay Rays rallied past the Boston Red Sox 5-4 to snap a four-game skid and extend their lead in the AL East.
The Rays had lost six of seven games and the Red Sox had won six of seven, including a 3-0 victory in the series opener to cut the cushion from 5 1/2 games to just a half-game. With a victory Tuesday, the Red Sox could have moved into first place for the first time since June 28; instead, the Rays are 1 1/2 up and assured of leading the division when they leave town Wednesday.
Boston holds a six-game lead in the AL wild-card standings over Minnesota, which beat Kansas City.
Tampa Bay took a 3-1 lead in the fourth and still led 3-2 with two outs in the eighth when Dan Wheeler (4-5) walked Kevin Youkilis and then Jason Bay barely cleared the Green Monster to give Boston the lead. Bay, acquired at the trade deadline, homered for the third straight game.
But Papelbon (5-4) blew a save opportunity for the fifth time this season.
Johnson, scratched from the starting lineup because he began the day in Triple-A and didn't get to the ballpark in time, hit one over the Red Sox bullpen in right to tie it. One out later, Fernando Perez doubled and Navarro did the same to make it 5-4.
Troy Percival pitched the ninth for his 28th save. Wheeler earned the victory despite coughing up the lead, allowing two runs in the eighth inning.
The Rays stranded 12 in the first eight innings, going 0-for-14 with runners in scoring position before Navarro's double in the ninth.
Scott Kazmir allowed two runs and struck out four before leaving with a 3-2 lead after six. Daisuke Matsuzaka needed 102 pitches to labor through five innings, allowing three runs on eight hits and four walks while failing to record his 17th win.
Matsuzaka loaded the bases in the third on a bunt single and two walks, then hit Cliff Floyd with a pitch to give up the Rays' first run. Willy Aybar's sacrifice fly made it 2-1, then Matsuzaka got Eric Hinske on a liner to second and Navarro on a grounder to first to end the threat.
The Rays made it 3-1 on Jason Bartlett's double in the fourth. Boston cut the lead to one run in the bottom half on Mike Lowell's homer his first at Fenway Park in three months.
Kazmir, who hadn't allowed a run in his previous two starts, gave up one in the first on Youkilis' double.
BLUE JAYS 3, WHITE SOX 1; BLUE JAYS 8, WHITE SOX 2: At Chicago, the Toronto Blue Jays are on such a good run they think they can make the playoffs. Marco Scutaro hit a leadoff homer, Scott Rolen and Vernon Wells went deep and the Blue Jays beat the Chicago White Sox 8-2 to complete a day-night doubleheader sweep Tuesday and extend their winning streak to 10. Besides the sweep, the White Sox also got a big scare. Paul Konerko was helped off the field in the top of the fifth inning of the nightcap with what the team called a mildly sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee.
YANKEES 7, ANGELS 1: At Anaheim, Calif., Johnny Damon homered twice, Alex Rodriguez added a three-run shot and the New York Yankees kept the Angels' AL West title celebration on ice.
The Angels' loss left their magic number at two for clinching their fourth division crown in five years. They can pop the champagne corks Wednesday with a victory in the series finale and a Texas loss at Seattle.
TWINS 7, ROYALS 2: At Minneapolis, the Minnesota Twins started a must-win series against Kansas City in convincing fashion. Denard Span had three hits and scored two runs and Justin Morneau homered to lead the Twins.
INDIANS 6, ORIOLES 1: At Baltimore, Jeremy Sowers pitched eight innings of four-hit ball, Travis Hafner had two singles in his long-awaited return from the disabled list and the Cleveland Indians beat the Baltimore Orioles. Sowers (3-8) gave up one run, struck out seven and walked one. The left-hander was 1-5 with a 7.43 ERA in nine road starts and 0-2 with a 9.50 ERA in four career appearances against the Orioles.
RANGERS 7, MARINERS 3: At Seattle, Marlon Byrd and Taylor Teagarden both had two-out, two-run doubles and drove in three runs.
ATHLETICS 3, TIGERS 2: At Detroit, Emil Brown's sacrifice fly capped Oakland's two-run eighth inning that gave the Athletics a 3-2 victory over the Detroit. Rajai Davis had two triples for Oakland, which has won three of four. Edgar Renteria drove in both runs for Detroit, which had its three-game winning streak snapped. Down 2-1, the Athletics tied it on Davis' second triple, which came off Fernando Rodney (0-5) and scored pinch-runner Eric Patterson from second. He was running for Jeff Baisley, whom reliever Bobby Seay walked to lead off the inning. Patterson stole second as Cliff Pennington was called out on strikes and Rodney replaced Seay.
DODGERS 6, PADRES 2: At San Diego, Andre Ethier drove in four runs, Manny Ramirez quieted the boos with a line-drive homer to extend the Dodgers' NL West lead to 2 1/2 games.
CARDINALS 4, CUBS 3: At St. Louis, Albert Pujols homered for the third straight game and pinch-runner Brendan Ryan slid in just ahead of the tag on a ninth-inning grounder against a drawn-in infield in St. Louis' victory over the faltering Chicago Cubs. Aramis Ramirez had three hits and two RBIs for the Cubs, who have lost eight of nine while scoring three runs or fewer six times. Ryan Theriot, a late addition to the Cubs' lineup after reporting Tuesday with lingering effects from dizziness and dehydration that forced him out of Sunday's game, had two hits to begin rallies in the first and third.
ASTROS 9, PIRATES 3: At Houston, Lance Berkman hit a three-run homer and Randy Wolf shut down Pittsburgh after a shaky first inning as the Houston Astros continued their second-half surge. Berkman had an RBI double and scored three runs for the Astros, who have won four straight and 12 of 13. Houston's 34-16 record is the best in the majors since the All-Star break. Wolf (10-11) allowed four hits and struck out four in seven innings to improve to 4-1 in nine starts since the Astros acquired him from San Diego on July 22. The Astros have won eight of the nine games Wolf has started for them.
BRAVES 5, ROCKIES 4: At Atlanta, Taylor Buchholz balked in the winning run, allowing pinch-hitter Kelly Johnson to score from third, and giving Atlanta a victory over Colorado in 10 innings.
METS 10, NATIONALS 8: At New York, Carlos Delgado hit two impressive homers for the second straight game, Carlos Beltran had a go-ahead shot to reach 100 RBIs and the New York Mets increased their NL East lead by beating the scrappy Washington Nationals 10-8 Tuesday night. Ryan Church also homered, Jose Reyes snapped an 0-for-15 slide with two hits.
MARLINS 10, PHILLIES 8: At Philadelphia, Jorge Cantu, Mike Jacobs and Cody Ross homered and the Florida Marlins held off the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies fell 2 1/2 games behind the NL East-leading New York Mets. Ryan Howard hit his major league-leading 41st homer, but Philadelphia, which trailed 9-1, couldn't overcome a terrible outing by Kyle Kendrick (11-9), who allowed seven runs and six hits in 1 1-3 innings.
GIANTS 5, DIAMONDBACKS 4: At San Francisco, Eugenio Velez singled home the winning run with one out in the ninth. The D-backs' fifth straight loss matched their season high, also done from May 26-30. Arizona also has a nine-game road skid, the club's longest since also dropping nine consecutive contests away from Phoenix from Aug. 29-Sept. 18, 2004.
REDS 5, BREWERS 4 (11): At Milwaukee, Brandon Phillips hit a go-ahead single with one out in the 11th inning. The Brewers missed a chance to gain ground in the playoff race.