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TB@BOS: Escobar launches a go-ahead solo shot in 9th

BOSTON -- When a team walks 17 batters in a doubleheader and the starting pitchers each last just 4 2/3 innings, there's a pretty good chance the outcome is not going to be pretty.

Despite achieving those oddities, the Rays reluctantly played two at Boston's historic Fenway Park on Thursday and came away with the first doubleheader sweep in franchise history at the Fens. In the afternoon, the Rays won, 2-1, before taking the nightcap in come-from-behind fashion, 6-5.

The win in the opener snapped a three-game losing skid for the Rays. The win in the second game moved the team to 13-16 on the season and 3-4 on its current 10-game road trip.

All this after the Rays' request to play just one game on Thursday and make up Wednesday night's rainout later in the season was denied.

"We had vociferously fought for just one game and for a lot of obvious reasons," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "I'm not going to hide from the reasons, of course.

"We have a lot of guys injured. We had a lot of very difficult games recently. So we wanted one game and pick it up later when we're at greater health and it just did not work out that way. Thus, our players came out and made a statement today, and I kind of enjoyed it."

Not since the Pirates swept the Marlins on Aug. 18, 1995, has a team issued 17-plus walks and turned the trick. And the Red Sox were the last team to win twice in a day despite not having a starter go five-plus innings, which they accomplished on Oct. 2, 2004, at Baltimore.

And there was Rays closer Grant Balfour, who came away with two saves in the same day, making him the first to do so since Kansas City's Greg Holland accomplished the feat at Detroit on Aug. 16, 2013.

In the ninth inning of the first game, Balfour insisted he pitch to David Ortiz rather than intentionally walk him. He then retired the Red Sox slugger on a groundout back to the box for the final out of the game. When the end of the second game rolled around, Balfour needed everything he could muster from his reserve of "Aussie Rage" to claim the save and preserve the win.

Protecting a 6-5 lead, Balfour entered the game in the bottom of the ninth and surrendered a leadoff double to Shane Victorino. Ortiz then grounded out to first, allowing Victorino to advance to third with one out.

Balfour struck out Mike Napoli for the second out before he walked Grady Sizemore to put the potential winning run aboard with Xander Bogaerts stepping to the plate.

The count reached 2-2 when Bogaerts watched an 84-mph slider cross the plate for strike three to end the game.

"I mean, it's awesome [to get two saves in one day] in any stadium," Balfour said. "But, yeah, definitely [getting them] against a team you're fighting against in your division, it's huge. ... They're a great team. You know they're going to be there until the end. These one-run games are huge, you know."

Boston brought in closer Koji Uehara to start the ninth, and Yunel Escobar greeted him with a blast that cleared the Green Monster with plenty to spare to give the Rays a one-run lead.

"He's a very good relief pitcher and it's a very uncomfortable at-bat," said Escobar with bench coach Davey Martinez translating. "He got a splitter up and I just tried to get good wood on the ball and was able to hit it out."

Early in the game, Chris Archer appeared to be in the driver's seat, needing just 51 pitches to navigate the first four innings without allowing any runs. Meanwhile, James Loney's RBI single in the second and Desmond Jennings' second home run of the season in the third put the Rays up, 2-0.

Inexplicably, Archer lost his command in the fifth when the right-hander used 33 pitches and got just two outs. Before the inning had run its course, five Red Sox had crossed home with all of the runs charged to Archer. Like Cesar Ramos, who started the first game, Archer completed just 4 2/3 innings.

Archer "just lost command," Maddon said. "Just lost the strike zone. He was going along really well, great pitch numbers, good stuff, good fastball, saw a lot of 94s and 96s, heavy fastball. They had some bad swings against his slider. But he just lost the zone, plain and simple."

Sean Rodriguez, who had three hits on the night, answered for the Rays with a two-run homer off Felix Doubront in the sixth to cut the lead to 5-4. He added a double in the eighth against Junichi Tazawa, and Loney singled him home to tie the score, paving the way for Escobar's heroics in the ninth.

"Guys that have been extremely dependable for us," said Boston manager John Farrell, addressing Tazawa and Uehara not getting the job done Thursday. "Rodriguez has never faced him before. He gets a 1-0 fastball that he doubles off the wall. Loney gets a pitch up on the plate. Within two pitches, they've tied the score with two quick outs.

"A split that stays up to Escobar from Koji, who had come in and pretty much dominated in the number of at-bats he's had against him. Timeliness, more than anything tonight."

The Rays used five pitchers along the way to claim the opener, which featured a critical call at the plate in the seventh inning that prevented Dustin Pedroia from scoring the tying run.

The Red Sox asked for a review, but the call stood.

David DeJesus provided the offense for the Rays. In the third, he homered off Red Sox starter Jake Peavy, curling a blast around Pesky's Pole in right. DeJesus added an RBI in the fourth when he drew a two-out, bases-loaded walk to put the Rays up, 2-1.

Maddon was asked if Thursday's sweep can serve as a turning point for his team.

"We're going to find out," Maddon said. "You always look at these moments, sometimes it's a bad moment, you wonder if it's going to take hold in a negative way. All I want us to do is go out tomorrow and play another really good game of baseball."

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