Rays 8, Red Sox 5
The Red Sox' lead in the wild card race has reached a new low: two small games.
The most recent entry in this ongoing collapse comes thanks to Tim Wakefield, who helped to remind Red Sox Nation that, as nice as it was to see him pick up his 200th career win, he's not a particularly good pitcher anymore.
While some friendly scorekeeping kept the knuckleballer's earned run count to just two, the Rays just had baserunner after baserunner after a 1-2-3 first. The second inning opened with Casey Kotchman reaching on strike three--the nature of the knuckleball would rear its ugly head time and again Sunday--and then scoring on Johnny Damon's gapper to right after a passed ball. A one-out single and hit batsmen scored Johnny Damon and put two more men on, and a bloop single to right capped off a three-run frame for the Rays.
Tampa would add another in the fourth, but saw their lead cut in half when Darnell McDonald knocked in two men who had reached to start the inning off of David Price. Unfortunately, though, as has so often been the case this year, as soon as the Red Sox offense put up a couple of runs, the pitching and defense gave them right back. The first run was one of the ugliest you can see: a Desmond Jennings single followed by a stolen base, a wild pitch, and a passed ball on consecutive pitches. The second wasn't much better. With two outs and two men on, Mike Aviles threw very wide of first base, allowing Evan Longoria to cross home plate and rebuild their lead to 5-2.
Had it not been for Andrew Miller, the Sox may have even had a chance later in the game. But Miller did enter the game in the seventh, and the Rays did get two more runs. So when Mike Aviles clubbed a three-run shot in the bottom half of the inning, the Sox only crawled back to within three runs--a deficit they proved entirely incapable of overcoming in the last couple of frames.
Three For The Road
Schedule Lightens Up
The good news is this: the Sox are going to have a two-game lead with the worst of their schedule out of the way. While they still have to head to New York for three games, the other seven games are against the Baltimore Orioles. The Rays, on the other hand, have seven against the Yankees, and three against the Blue Jays. Unless the Yankees are about to let up late, then the Sox should have a good shot at holding that lead.
Unfortunately, right now they're playing like the Orioles would be expected to, so...
It's becoming increasingly apparent that Tim Wakefield is reaching the end of the line. His consistency has lied only in allowing runs in start after start, and while the Sox don't have any better answer for this year, it's easy to imagine that the knuckleballer will be retiring sometime shortly after the season ends.
An 0-for-4 day for Adrian Gonzalez means an 0-for-12 series for the big-hitting first baseman. While the Rays did walk him a few times, the Sox need a lot more out of the man who is expected to be the core of their offense on any given day.
The good thing is that Gonzo is a streaky player. If this is his bad streak, then maybe the good streak will be just in time to wake the team up for the playoffs.
Up Next -- Monday, 1:05 p.m. vs. Baltimore | Kyle Weiland (0-2, 7.58 ERA) vs. Jeremy Guthrie (8-17, 4.22 ERA)
In the first half of their double-header, the Sox will see a sight for sore eyes: The Baltimore Orioles. Unfortunately, though, they'll have to face off against Jeremy Guthrie, who has been pretty strong against them this year, and will need to do so with Kyle Weiland on the mound. With the young prospect having yet to prove his MLB readiness, the Sox could be looking at a serious let-down game.