Now the Red Sox will try to keep up in one of baseball's toughest division at least temporarily without their center fielder, who finished second in last year's American League Most Valuable Player Award voting.
Boston won the series opener, 12-2, Friday for just its second victory of the young season. Tampa Bay has lost three of its last four after sweeping the Yankees in a three-game series to open the year.
The Red Sox will turn to right-hander Clay Buchholz in an attempt to win two consecutive games for the first time this season. He was shelled to the tune of seven runs in four innings against the Tigers last Sunday.
"I felt really good," Buchholz said afterward. "It's just a matter of wanting to keep the ball in the park, because the wind was blowing out, and I did that, but it just seemed that every time they made contact, the ball either found a hole or was just out of the reach of somebody in the infield. It's not the way you wanted to start."
The Rays will counter with young Jeremy Hellickson, who has a spotless ERA after firing 8 2/3 shutout innings against the Yankees on Sunday.
"Overall," manager Joe Maddon said, "he pretty much knew in the back of his mind, 'I have to challenge these guys, keep my fastball in the zone, and if I do that, [I'm] going to get a lot of bad swings, or chases, off [my] changeup.'"
Buchholz has a 1.81 ERA (10 earned runs in 49 2/3 innings) against Tampa Bay in eight career starts, his lowest ERA against any AL opponent. He has allowed three earned runs or less in all eight career outings against Rays. Hellickson is 2-1 with a 4.21 ERA in his career against the Red Sox.
Red Sox: Crawford in Boston, prepping for action
Left fielder Carl Crawford was in Boston on Friday because some recent left elbow trouble has kept him out of extended spring games in Florida, but general manager Ben Cherington said Crawford could return to Fort Myers, Fla., by the end of the weekend.
"This was the week I was scheduled to play [extended spring] games," Crawford said. "Just a little setback, hopefully I'll catch up. I'm guessing I'll be playing games next week, hopefully."
Ellsbury was injured sliding into second base to break up a double play in the fourth inning, when Rays shortstop Reid Brignac landed on Ellsbury's shoulder.
"I saw the shortstop come down on his shoulder," said Sox manager Bobby Valentine. "It looked very sore. He was in a lot of pain when I got there. I don't think a shoulder looks sore, does it?"
Ellsbury, who was 2-for-3 with a run and an RBI on the afternoon, hit .321 with 32 homers, 105 RBIs and 119 runs in 158 games for Boston last year.
Rays: All at once
Tampa Bay's 12 runs allowed against the Red Sox on Friday was by far a season high. The Rays averaged just 4.33 runs allowed per game heading into the series opener against Boston.
Hellickson has held Dustin Pedroia to a .200 batting average (10 at-bats), Kevin Youkilis to .143 average (seven at-bats) and Adrian Gonzalez to .222 average (nine at-bats). David Ortiz is hitting .400 against the young right-hander in 10 career at-bats.
Kelly Shoppach's sixth-inning stolen base Friday was his first in the pros since 2002, when he was with Class A Sarasota.
Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria were a combined 1-for-8 for the Rays on Friday, but they still are both hitting .400 on the young season.
Buchholz's first start this year snapped a steak of 42 consecutive starts since the beginning of 2010 that he had not allowed more than five earned runs. It was the longest Red Sox streak of that nature since Roger Clemens did it from May 1985 to May of 1987 (53 games).