ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Alfredo Aceves had another successful spot start.

Aceves threw six solid innings, Daniel Nava homered and the AL East-leading Boston Red Sox beat the Tampa Bay Rays 2-1 on Wednesday night.

“Ace gave us a huge lift today,” Boston Manager John Farrell said. “He did an excellent job, and the bullpen came in and was stellar. This was a very good series to win here, and Ace had a lot to do with that.”

Boston won two of three in the series, which dropped the fourth-place Rays five games behind the Red Sox.

“They did a nice job against us because we’ve been scoring a lot of runs,” Tampa Bay Manager Joe Maddon said. “They’ve gotten us this year in a lot of close games and we have to figure out a way to beat them.”

Aceves (3-1), recalled before the game from Triple-A Pawtucket, allowed one run, four hits and four walks. This is the right-hander’s third stint with the Red Sox this season.

Aceves allowed one run over six innings in another spot start on May 27, a 9-3 win over Philadelphia.

Nava put the Red Sox up 2-0 on a third-inning, two-run homer off Chris Archer (1-2), who gave up two runs, four hits, four walks and struck out seven over four innings. The Rays rookie right-hander exuberantly left the mound after striking out Nava with the bases loaded to end the fourth.

“He was into the game just as we were into the game,” Nava said of Archer. “I just saw him jump up and down after that. Obviously it was just emotional. He’s just out there competing, wanting to win. I get that. It threw me off guard, that’s all.”

Archer was making his third start this season, and appearing in ninth career big league game.

“I was pretty amped,” Archer said. “I was just competing and I wasn’t holding anything back.”

Evan Longoria got the Rays within 2-1 on a solo homer in the sixth. He has gone deep in three consecutive games after homering just once over his previous 26.

Andrew Bailey, the fourth Boston reliever, pitched the ninth for his seventh save in nine opportunities. After Craig Breslow allowed a two-out double in the eighth, Koji Uehara entered and struck out Longoria.

Jacoby Ellsbury extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a single and scored on Nava’s two-out shot in the third. He also stole two bases, giving him 29 for the year. Ellsbury has scored a run in 10 consecutive games, and has stolen a base five straight games.

Tampa Bay loaded the bases by drawing three walks from Aceves in the second, but failed to score when Yunel Escobar hit an inning-ending grounder.

Aceves worked out of a two-on, no-out jam in the third by striking out Johnson and getting a double-play grounder by Longoria.

NOTES: Red Sox RHP Clay Buchholz played catch for the first time since leaving his start last Saturday with neck stiffness. He might return to the rotation Sunday or Tuesday. … The Red Sox optioned RHP Jose De La Torre to Pawtucket. … Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy threw the ceremonial first pitch. He was first scheduled to do it May 25, but was delayed that day getting to the ballpark due to a minor vehicle accident.