ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Jeff Niemann pitched six strong innings and Tampa Bay’s bullpen shut down Boston for the second day in a row, leading the surging Rays to a 3-2 victory over the Red Sox on Tuesday night.

Niemann (7-2) limited the Red Sox to four hits and an unearned run. He walked three and struck out five to win for the first time since a complete game shutout against Toronto on June 8. After winning his first six decisions of the season, the 6-foot-9 right-hander went 0-2 over four starts.

Jason Bartlett drove in Tampa Bay’s first run with a third-inning single off Felix Doubront (1-1), a 22-year-old left-hander filling in for injured All-Star pitcher Clay Buchholz. Sean Rodriguez tripled and scored on John Jaso’s RBI grounder, giving the Rays a 2-1 lead in the fifth.

Carl Crawford’s solo homer off Hideki Okajima added an insurance run in the eighth.

Daniel Nava drove in Boston’s first run with a fourth-inning single off Niemann. Four Rays relievers held the Red Sox to one hit until Bill Hall walked and scored on Eric Patterson’s two-out triple in the ninth off Rafel Soriano.

Soriano, who earned his 23rd save in 24 chances, walked David Ortiz intentionally before getting Niuman Romero to ground out to end the game.

The victory was the fourth straight for the Rays, who have won six of seven to move ahead of Boston into second place in the AL East.

The injury-riddled Red Sox suffered another blow when first baseman Kevin Youkilis was removed from the game in the fourth inning because of pain in his right ankle. There was no immediate word on his status for Wednesday’s series finale at Tropicana Field.

Youkilis was on his way to the plate to lead off the inning before stepping away from the batter’s box, leaning over and clutching his foot. He sat on the ground while a trainer examined him before getting up and limping to the dugout on his own power.

The team later announced he departed with “right ankle pain.”

Doubront, who beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in his big league debut at Fenway Park on June 18, allowed two runs and five hits over 5 2-3 innings. He struck out three and walked four — three in the fifth inning — before turning a bases-loaded jam over to reliever Scott Atchison.

Tampa Bay’s bullpen held the Red Sox scoreless over the last five innings of a 6-5 Rays victory on Monday night.

It was equally effective Tuesday, justifying the faith manager Joe Maddon showed by intentionally walking Ortiz to put the potential tying run in scoring position with two outs in the seventh.

Lance Cormier ended the threat by getting Romero, who entered the game as Youkilis’ replacement, to ground out.

Notes: Boston RHP Josh Beckett, on the disabled list since May 19 with a strained lower back, could rejoin the rotation in just over two weeks. Beckett threw 65 pitches over four innings in a simulated game against Red Sox minor leaguers and is scheduled to pitch for Triple-A Pawtucket on Sunday. … Tampa Bay CF B.J. Upton was back in the lineup after not starting the series opener because he doesn’t hit Red Sox RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka well. … Boston OF Jeremy Hermida (broken ribs) took live batting practice for the first time and could start a minor league assignment right after the All-Star break. … Red Sox OF Jacoby Ellsbury (broken ribs) has resumed throwing and might rejoin the team this weekend to continue his rehab program.


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