Both the Red Sox and the Rays came into their last series of the season looking like teams that had finally moved into the final stage of grief.

The possibility of Tampa Bay exacting some revenge after bowing out to Boston during the Sox’ run to the World Series last fall had long since died. So had the possibility of the Red Sox returning to the postseason, let alone the World Series.

They had moved past the early season denial as things malfunctioned around both teams. Past the anger as they both struggled to string wins together and the bargaining at the trade deadline, and onto the acceptance of lost seasons.

Typically, when they’d faced each other in the fall, there was something on the line. Either they were roadblocks in the path to the postseason or they met head-on in the playoffs.

But for the first time since 2006, neither team is in playoff contention. The pitchers’ duel between the Red Sox’ Clay Buchholz and the Rays’ Alex Cobb that lasted seven innings Tuesday night was a low-stakes affair. Tampa Bay, on the strength of a five-run eighth, cashed in with the 6-2 victory.

Cobb (10-8), who leads the majors with a 1.49 ERA since the All-Star break, muzzled the Sox, allowing five hits and two walks, while striking out three.

“Any time that they roll Cobb out there, you know it’s going to be a low-scoring affair,” said Buchholz. “I’m not really worried about anything other than going out there and making pitches.”

The only time the Sox were able to get to Cobb was in the fourth, when Daniel Nava tagged him for a double off the Green Monster …read more