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Kazmir, Rays bullpen shut down Red Sox

BOSTON -- Scott Kazmir recalled being in the Tampa Bay Rays clubhouse at Fenway Park last year, watching the plastic go up to protect the lockers from champagne. The AL championship was within reach.

The bubbly never flowed that October night when the Boston Red Sox rallied from nowhere to win Game 5 of the ALCS.

The outcome was better on Wednesday night when Kazmir pitched six strong innings, reliever Grant Balfour escaped a bases-loaded jam in the eighth and Tampa Bay beat Boston 7-2.

"I remember sitting right there on that couch" in the middle of room, Kazmir said, recalling the night he left with a 5-0 lead that the bullpen turned into an 8-7 loss. "[I was] watching them putting things up and getting ready for a celebration and then watching them take it down."

Winning the second game of the season certainly isn't cause for celebration. But it was satisfying to Kazmir (1-0), who didn't make his first start last year until May 4 because of a strained elbow. That was also at Fenway Park. And he lost.

"Is that right? I had no idea," he said. "I like pitching here. The adrenaline gets going. It's only fitting that I start out at Fenway."

Kazmir allowed one run and five hits in his 11th start at Fenway since 2005, the most by any opponent. His 2.88 ERA at the park is the best by any opposing pitcher with a minimum of 50 innings there.

"I thought his last few outings in spring training were very good," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. "I really thought he was going to carry it over, and he did."

Carlos Pena hit a two-run homer after striking out in his first five at-bats this season and Evan Longoria hit a solo homer.

Jon Lester (0-1), who lost Game 7 of the ALCS to Tampa Bay, allowed five runs in five innings.

"The biggest thing for them is they make adjustments from at bat to at bat," he said. "I didn't make the right adjustments to follow."

Tampa Bay bounced back after losing Tuesday's opener 5-3 to Josh Beckett, who struck out 10 in seven sharp innings.

Lester's 16-game regular-season unbeaten streak at home ended with his first loss since April 9 against the Detroit Tigers. He also lost Game 3 of the ALCS at Fenway.

Tampa Bay scored four runs in the fifth when the first four batters reached base.

Gabe Kapler walked and took third on Akinori Iwamura's hit-and-run single that went through the shortstop hole vacated by Jed Lowrie, who ran to cover second. Kapler scored on Jason Bartlett's safety squeeze bunt down the first-base line just in front of home plate.

"That was probably the biggest play of the inning," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "Then Pena hits the home run. That's the backbreaker."

Carl Crawford singled, loading the bases, and Iwamura scored on Longoria's double play. Pena then hit his first homer to straightaway center field.

Longoria homered in the eighth and Crawford singled in a run in the ninth.

Kazmir had an outstanding changeup and left with a 5-1 lead. Dan Wheeler relieved Kazmir and pitched a perfect seventh, but J.P. Howell put the Red Sox in position to tie the game in the bottom of the eighth.

David Ortiz singled, took second on Kevin Youkilis' single and scored on Jason Bay's double. Howell then hit Mike Lowell with a pitch, bringing up Lowrie as the potential tying run.

Balfour came in and ended the threat on Lowrie's swinging third strike and pitched the ninth for the save.

"This is not an easy place to pitch," Balfour said, "but I was locked in and didn't hear anything."

The Rays went ahead 1-0 in the third after Iwamura led off with a double. He stayed at second on Bartlett's infield single to shortstop then scored when Youkilis made a diving stop of Crawford's grounder but threw wildly to second.

The Red Sox tied it in the bottom half. Dustin Pedroia doubled and scored on Youkilis' single to center. In the first, though, they wasted two walks.

"I really felt good. Got myself in a little but of trouble in the first inning and worked out of it," Kazmir said. "It feels good to get the first win out of the way."

Game notes
Ortiz is 7-for-39 (.179) against Kazmir after going 0-for-2. ... Lester allowed five runs or more in only five of his 33 regular-season starts last year. ... Outfielders Kapler of Tampa Bay and Rocco Baldelli of Boston made their first starts of the season, both against their former teams. ... Through 1½ innings, only three of the 13 batters put the ball in play. Seven struck out and three walked.