Boston  Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz follows through on a three-run homerun against the Tampa Bay Rays during the fifth inning of their American League MLB baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts  June 29, 2010.

Oh my, how times have changed for the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays.

Back on June 1st, the Red Sox found themselves in fourth place in the AL East, trailing the first place Rays by five games, the second place New York Yankees by 2½ games and the third place Toronto Blue Jays by a ½ game.The Red Sox came into last night’s game in second place trailing the Yankees by two games and one game ahead of the Rays.

And with the Rays in town for a two-game set, the Red Sox could pick up two more games on the Rays and hope the Yankees lose.

Well that perfect scenario happened last night when Cliff Lee’s complete game beat the Yankees and the Red Sox held on for an 8-5 win over the Rays.

With James Shields and John Lackey trading zeroes over the first four innings, the game took a dramatic turn in the bottom of the 5th inning for the Red Sox.

David Ortiz came to the plate in the fifth inning with runners on second and third and two outs. With first base open, Shields and skipper Joe Maddon had the option to walk the hot hitting Ortiz. Instead they decided to pitch to him, essentially trying to unintentionally walk him with the hopes Big Papi might chase something.

But this isn’t the same Ortiz they saw in April, this was Ortiz who was player of the month in May and the one who’s had a good month of June. So when Shields left his first pitch fastball out over the plate, Big Papi planted it in the bleacher seats over the Rays bullpen to put the Red Sox out front 3-0.

And just like that, the Red Sox were out front. That’s all John Lackey would need as he scattered eight hits and two walks over seven innings while allowing one run in the 7th on an Evan Longoria single. Lackey did get insurance runs off the bats of Daniel Nava and Jason Varitek and Bill Hall made it 8-1 with a two-run homer in the 7th to put the game out of reach or so we thought.

Hideki Okajima allowed a pinch-hit two-run homer by Willy Aybar in the 8th and left the game with B.J. Upton on third after a pinch-hit triple. But Daniel Bard came in and bailed him out in his league leading 39th appearance of the season.

The bullpen duo of Scott Atchison and Dustin Richardson weren’t better as Atchison was charged with the two runs Richardson allowed on the inherited runners. But fortunately for them Jonathan Papelbon was on top of his game as he struck out Aybar to give the Red Sox a win.

The bad news yesterday for the Red Sox came when it was announced that Victor Martinez had to go on the disabled list with a broken thumb suffered in Sunday’s game. He was replaced on the 25-man roster by Gustavo Molina (no relation to the famous catching trio of Molina’s), who will most likely be Tim Wakefield’s personal catcher until VMart returns.

So now as we close out the month of June tonight, the Red Sox find themselves sitting in second place behind the Yankees by just one game, leading the Rays by two games and the Blue Jays by seven games.

We’ll be back later with tonight’s lineups, batter/pitcher matchups, news and links from the day.

For more slices of Red Sox goodness, head over to the Boston Globe, Boston Herald, ESPN Boston, NESN, Providence Journal and WEEI websites.

And if you must see what the enemy papers are saying, head over to the Tampa Tribune and St. Petersburg Times websites.

Photo credit: Reuters Pictures