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The Red Sox fell 1-0 to the Tampa Bay Rays on Patriots' Day, but it was a game that could have been very different if not for some bad calls--one by Bobby Valentine, and three by home plate umpire Larry Vanover.
For the first six innings of the game, the Sox and Rays were locked in a scoreless tie as Daniel Bard and James Shields kept the lineups in check. While Bard was struggling with his fastball command throughout, his slider had enough punch to keep the Rays guessing and striking out. James Shields, on the other hand, was just plain dominant.
The seventh inning is where things changed. Already with a ton of pitches on his arm, Bard got the first two batters out, and then fell behind to three straight batters, surrendering a walk to Sean Rodriguez, a hit to Desmond Jennings, and a walk to Carlos Pena. Bobby Valentine inexplicably didn't leave the pen once, and even after the walk to Pena loaded the bases, was content to let Bard pitch to Evan Longoria. The four-pitch, go-ahead walk that followed was the obvious outcome.
The Red Sox would eventually get themselves a chance to win this game in the ninth, when Dustin Pedroia walked and the Rays decided to intentionally walk David Ortiz with two outs rather than pitch to the big-hitting lefty, but Fernando Rodney either had some dirt on Larry Vanover, or Mr. Vanover had to be somewhere in a hurry, because with the Rays' closer throwing five straight balls to Cody Ross, Vanover decided to call three of them strikes, ending the game in a horrible show of umpiring.
Bobby Valentine Costanza: Seinfeld fans will fondly remember George's attempt to get himself fired from the Yankees, including eating strawberries in an old Babe Ruth jersey and driving around the parking lot, dragging a World Series trophy behind his car while hurling abuses at the front office.
One wonders if perhaps Bobby Valentine is doing the same right now. First the Youkilis comments, which really serve no purpose other than to create difficulties in a clubhouse that doesn't need them. Now the disaster in the seventh. This is the second time he's had to admit to a terrible decision during post-game interviews, and we're just ten games in! What on Earth is he thinking?
Larry Vanover Is Blind:
(via Brooks Baseball)
Nine games into the new season, and the Bobby Valentine era may already be headed for disaster. The new skipper of the Red Sox left many (like Kevin Youkilis) shaking their heads after his latest comments.
It's Patriots' Day in Boston, which means a day off, a marathon, and a very early baseball game.
For today, it also means the Sox are looking for their first sweep of the season with Daniel Bard on the mound against James Shields and the Rays. A tough matchup to be sure, but given the way Daniel Bard pitched last time out, if the Sox can get a little more defensive behind him, it's actually doable.
To that end, Nick Punto will be starting at third. Hopefully he does a better job of it than he did at short last week.
We'll keep you up-to-date as the action progresses at Fenway Park.
Rays 1, Red Sox 0, Final -- The Red Sox rallied in the ninth for what seems like the tenth time this year, but couldn't finish the job thanks to home plate umpire Larry Vanover turning five straight balls into a 2-3 strikeout to Cody Ross.
A frustrating loss for the Sox, who saw their manager throw the game away, and then had the umpire take their last chance.
Rays 1, Red Sox 0, Mid 9th -- Matt Albers gets himself into a first-and-third situation, but keeps it a 1-run game for the ninth. James Shields is back out, and the Sox are down to their last three.
Rays 1, Red Sox 0, End 8th -- If the Red Sox are gonna pull off a win here, they're going to have to get something done in the ninth. The good news is that they'll have the better part of the lineup in to do it. The bad news is that James Shields might be coming back out for the complete game with 103 pitches on his arm through eight.
Rays 1, Red Sox 0, Mid 8th -- Is Justin Thomas the new bullpen ace?!
No, but he got through the eight with a little help from Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who caught Ben Zobrist trying to steal second base. A strikeout of Reid Brignac put the cherry on top of a decent appearance for the man at the back end of the pen.
Rays 1, Red Sox 0, End 7th -- Cody Ross worked a very nice at bat to reach base, but was thrown out trying to steal when Shields got Sweeney to look at a called strike three on the inside corner. A good pitch, a good throw, and a good tag.
Rays 1, Red Sox 0, Mid 7th -- Let me paint a picture for you: your reliever-turned starter is in the middle of a 0-0 game where he's been effective but wild. In the seventh, he gets two outs, then gives up a walk, a single, and another walk, falling behind each batter and having the last walk come on four pitches with little even being close.
So, now, a question: how do you leave that starter in the game for the bases loaded situation?
Answer: By having Justin Thomas and Matt Albers warming up behind him!
Bobby Valentine, ladies and gentlemen! The result was predictable, as Bard gave up another four pitch walk to bring the run in. The real shocker is that Justin Thomas actually managed to get the out when he came in without giving up any more runs.
Rays 0, Red Sox 0, End 6th -- So much for that. Both Mike Aviles and Dustin Pedroia get good contact, but with Joe Maddon playing Aviles to pull, Jeff Keppinger was able to run his soft liner down past second base, leaving just Dustin Pedroia on base, and making Adrian Gonzalez' grounder the third out.
Rays 0, Red Sox 0, Mid 6th -- Bard gives up a leadoff blooper hit to Luke Scott, but erases it by striking out Zobrist on a nice slider and getting Matt Joyce to ground into a double play.
Rays 0, Red Sox 0, End 5th -- James Shields just keeps powering through, stranding Ryan Sweeney at fifth after a one-out walk. The Sox have the top of the order up in the next inning, however, so maybe they can finally get something started.
Rays 0, Red Sox 0, Mid 5th -- A scary inning for Daniel Bard, who gave up his first legitimate hit in what seems like the whole game and added on a two-out walk to Carlos Pena for good measure. Falling behind Evan Longoria 2-1, it seemed like the Rays could be set to go ahead, but Bard got him to swing on a good slider that dipped out of the zone, and then blew him away with a fastball up-and-in for the strikeout to end the threat.
Rays 0, Red Sox 0, End 4th -- James Shields is doing his thing against the Red Sox, and seems ready to do so for the full nine innings at this pace. While Adrian Gonzalez managed to hit one off the Monster, with his speed being what it is, the result was just the one base. With David Ortiz grounding to second behind him, it was an easy inning-ending double play for the Rays.
Rays 0, Red Sox 0, Mid 4th -- It's starting to look like Bard is having issue finding his release point on the fastball, but he's still making due on the mound. After walking Ben Zobrist, Bard got a ground ball up the middle which Dustin Pedroia made a diving play on, but could not quite get the ball to second in time for the out. It wouldn't make much of a difference, however, as Bard would get Jeff Keppinger to tap the ball back to him on the mound. While Bard's throw to second was terrible and in the dirt, Mike Aviles made a great pick, tapped second, and got the ball to first in a hurry for the inning-ending double play.
Rays 0, Red Sox 0, End 3rd -- Unfortunately, after Shields got past the first half of the lineup, the fight has gotten much easier. Shields needed just 22 pitches to get through the last couple innings--seven batters in total--with Mike Aviles taking 6 of them himself. That means the bottom six averaged some three pitches per plate appearance. Not what you're looking for against a guy like Shields who you need to chase from the game as soon as possible.
Rays 0, Red Sox 0, Mid 3rd -- Daniel Bard's slider is really unfair sometimes, and today seems like one of those days. While Bard would need 18 pitches to get through the inning, walking Desmond Jennings in the process, he would end up striking out the side--including Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria--with each K coming on a slider.
Rays 0, Red Sox 0, End 2nd -- The bottom of the lineup is not a pretty bunch today with Youkilis out and no relief in the outfield yet, but Nick Punto 7th? That's a tough one to swallow. After Cody Ross lined one up the middle and off of James Shields' glove for an infield single, a wild pitch moved him to second, but the Sox would get nothing more. Ryan Sweeney couldn't turn his defensive success from the top half into offensive success in the bottom, grounding out weakly, and Nick Punto couldn't even get the ball past James Shields, though the pitcher's throw was low enough to make Sox fans hope for a second before Pena managed to pick it for the out.
Rays 0, Red Sox 0, Mid 2nd -- It wasn't as clean of an inning as the first, with two men reaching, but Daniel Bard is out of the second unharmed all the same.
The first runner came when Daniel Bard tried to bring a fastball down-and-in against Ben Zobrist. Unable to really control it the way he'd want, however, the ball ended up bouncing in the dirt and off of Zobrist's foot for a very light HBP. The second was again a matter of fastball control, with Bard losing Jeff Keppinger after counts of 0-1 and 2-2.
With two men on and two out, Jose Molina hit a flare out to right that didn't seem like it was going to be much trouble off the bat, but ended up heading straight for the gap. Ryan Sweeney, however, was up to the challenge, running the ball down and making a diving grab to save at least one run.
Rays 0, Red Sox 0, End 1st -- No baserunners for the Red Sox, but they're still making the pitcher work for his outs, which is a very good sign. Shields needed eight pitches just to retire Aviles, matching Bard's total for the whole top of the first. Both Pedroia and Gonzalez would fall behind 0-2, leaving them swinging at some unfortunate pitches for outs, but still building Shields' count up early.
Rays 0, Red Sox 0, Mid 1st -- Daniel Bard is off to a very nice start in Fenway, throwing a perfect 1-2-3 first inning. Desmond Jennings went down on three straight strikes, taking a good slider for the last one. Carlos Pena made some good contact, but Adrian Gonzalez made a better snag at first to keep him off the base. Evan Longoria fared no better, swinging at a 1-1 fastball and lifting a routine fly ball to center for the out.
The Red Sox will go for a Patriots' Day sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays Monday, sending Daniel Bard to the mound for his second career start against the Tampa Bay Rays and their ace James Shields. First pitch is at 11:05 a.m. EST, with broadcasts on NESN and WEEI.
Meanwhile, however, the plot surrounding Bobby Valentine and Kevin Youkilis thickens, as the Red Sox' third baseman is taking a seat just one day after his manager questioned his investment in the game. We could take this as a sign that the rift is growing, or we could take it to mean that Kevin Youkilis has a .522 career OPS against James Shields in some 52 attempts.
I'm going to go with the second one.
Nick Punto will take over at third base, hopefully solidifying the infield defense that so failed Daniel Bard in his first time out. Cody Ross, riding a recent power surge, moves up to fifth in the lineup, though he's not nearly so impressive against right-handed pitchers like Shields. The bottom of the lineup...it's not pretty.
Boston Red Sox (4-5)
The Boston Red Sox defeated the Tampa Bay Rays, 6-4, on Sunday in game three of the four game series at Fenway Park. The Red Sox lead the series 3-0 and will go for the sweep on Monday at 11:05 a.m.
Boston jumped out a 3-0 lead in the second inning and extended it to 4-0 after four innings, but gave it away in the top of the sixth inning. The Red Sox would promptly retake the lead in the bottom of the sixth and add an insurance run in the 7th inning.
Cody Ross did the bulk of the damage for Boston with 3 RBI on his 2nd inning homer. David Ortiz went 3-4 at the plate and drove in the game-winning run with a double in the sixth inning. Kelly Stoppach and Mike Aviles also had an RBI for the Red Sox with a solo homer in the 7th. Carlos Pena had 2 RBI for the Rays.
Felix Doubront got the start for Boston and pitched 5 innings. He allowed nine hits, four runs and a walk while striking out seven batters. His counterpart Matt Moore went six innings for Tampa Bay. He allowed eight hits, six runs, while walking four and striking out five. Moore took the loss for the Rays. Vicente Padilla got the victory for the Red Sox after going 1.2 scoreless innings in relief. He allowed only one hit and struck out two batters. Alfredo Aceves got his second save of the season after coming on in the 9th to slam the door on Tampa Bay. Aceves struck out one and allowed no hits.
The Boston Red Sox jumped out to a 4-0 lead on the Tampa Rays in Sunday's series finale, but the Rays tacked on three in the fifth to tighten the lead. Luke Scott then tied the game at four with a solo shot in the sixth.
Facing arguably the top pitching prospect in all of baseball, young Matt Moore, the Sox put up a three spot in the second inning on a Cody Ross bomb. Impressively, Moore has settled down since then. He gave up another run in the fourth, but didn't let his first career start at Fenway Park or the three run second inning rattle his composure.
Moore just sat the Red Sox down in one, two, three fashion in the fifth inning. He's gone five solid innings, allowing four runs, walking one and striking out five.
Carl Crawford has not appeared in a game for the Red Sox this season. He had surgery to repair a bum wrist and suffered a few setbacks since then. The good news is, Bobby Valentine expected Crawford to play in his first extended Spring Training game on Tuesday, according to Brian MacPherson of the Providence Jorunal.
Carl Crawford will fly back to Fort Myers, Fla., on Monday and "more than likely" will play in his first extended-spring-training game on Tuesday, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said.
"He'd like to play at least by Tuesday," Valentine said.
The 29 year old outfielder will look to bounce back from the worst season of his Major League career, in year two of his contract with the Boston Red Sox. He hit a career low .255 last season, along with his lowest stolen base total since 2002.
The third game of a three game series against the Tampa Bay Rays is underway, as the Boston Red Sox look to polish off a sweep. The Sox offense has shelled Rays pitching in two games, to a tune of 25 total runs on 31 hits. They put up five runs against Jeremy Hellickson on Saturday and three on David Price.
Sunday's starting lineups are as follows:
Boston Red Sox (3-5)
Tampa Bay Rays (4-4)
According to Alex Speier of WEEI, the Red Sox have made a few minor league moves on Sunday morning:
Spears and Repko up; Bowden, Exposito designated for assignment; Lin optioned— Alex Speier (@alexspeier) April 15, 2012
Nate Spears is a 27 year old second baseman/outfielder. He hit eight home runs and stole 13 bases in triple A last season. In 2010, he hit 20 bombs and stole 13 bases in double A.
Michael Bowden is sent down after pitching three innings in the big leagues this season, with a 3.00 ERA and three strike outs. He pitched 20 innings out of the Sox' bullpen last season, with a 4.05 ERA.
The Red Sox overcame an early 4-0 deficit, backing up Clay Buccholz with thirteen runs and five homers as they left the Tampa Bay Rays in their wake Saturday afternoon.
While Clay Buchholz got off to a terrible start, allowing a three-run shot to Luke Scott as part of a four-run first inning, the Red Sox' third starter would end up having a promising game after finishing with six strong innings. After his disaster in his debut, having such a terrific finish allows Red Sox fans to hope that what they saw in the latter innings was the real Clay Buchholz come back to them.
The Sox' offense, meanwhile, was more than up to the task of recouping his losses. Jarrod Saltalamacchia quickly brought in two runs on a massive home run to center field in the second, and Dustin Pedroia responded to another Luke Scott RBI with a Monster shot. Then, in the fifth, it was David Ortiz dropping a two-run shot of his own into the bullpen in right to bring the teams equal.
The tie would only last a couple innings, with Mike Aviles taking Burke Badenhop deep in the seventh to make it 6-5. Cody Ross would end up bringing another pair of runs in with a bases loaded double off the wall to end the seventh with an 8-5 lead.
Then, just like on Friday, the Sox would really close it out in the eighth. Once again it was David Ortiz and Cody Ross providing the big hits, with Ortiz clearing the bases with a double, and Ross bringing himself in along with Ortiz on the fifth homer of the day. With Franklin Morales and Alfredo Aceves finishing the final two innings in quick and dominant fashion, the Sox left with their third win of the year.
Encouraging Performances: From Kevin Youkilis (two walks and the hardest contact he's had all year--a ringing wall ball) to Mike Aviles (3-for-5 with a homer and a double) to Cody Ross (2-for-5 with a homer and a double), the Sox had strong outings from a number of players very much in need of them. And that's not even considering...
Clay Buchholz (After The First): While he started with a bad inning where he could only find the plate with middle-high fastballs, Clay Buchholz managed to get his off-speed pitches working, located his fastball better, and worked in an exceptional cutter to turn a bad day into a terrific six inning finish. After Beckett's strong outing, Sox fans have reason to be encouraged by their rotation.
Jeremy Hellickson Takes His Licks: Eventually when you're falling behind, walking batters, and not striking guys out, it's going to come back to haunt you. This is especially true when facing a team capable of as much raw power as the Red Sox are with players like Jarrod Saltalamacchia and David Ortiz taking big hacks. Ironically, however, it may have been Dustin Pedroia who had the longest shot, turning on one of those high-inside fastballs like only he can.
Anyone remember that MLB: The Show commercial? Shows what they know.
So Do The Rays: They started off in much better shape, but after allowing 25 runs in two games, suddenly the Rays are right around the bottom of the barrel for runs allowed in the MLB. Meanwhile, the Sox have crept up to within a game of their biggest A.L. East competition, making this slow start a lot easier on the eyes.
The Red Sox are looking to make it a winning streak, the Rays are looking for revenge, and Sox fans are looking for answers.
The questions? Simple: how will the Red Sox survive without Jacoby Ellsbury? They will have to for at least the next month if not longer after his collision with shortstop Reid Brignac on Friday. Can Cody Ross play center field? Can Mike Aviles lead off? Probably not, but it can't hurt to try, I suppose.
Clay Buchholz, meanwhile, just wants things to go better than they did in his debut, when he offered up seven runs in four innings. If they don't, chances are the Sox aren't going to be able to provide another double digit offensive effort in support against the likes of Jeremy Hellickson.
We'll keep you up to date here as all of the action goes down in Fenway Park.
Rays 5, Red Sox 13, Final -- Alfredo Aceves wraps up a very nice win for the Red Sox by striking out two batters in a perfect ninth inning. The Sox now sit at 3-5 after establishing their first winning streak of the season.
Rays 5, Red Sox 13, End 8th -- Once again the Sox have taken a decent lead and made it untouchable with a big eighth inning. After Josh Lueke suffered the brunt of Friday's barrage, it was Dane De La Rosa taking it on the chin this time. The Sox would load the bases before recording an out, but have the Rays quickly record two and prevent the run as Adrian Gonzalez grounded into a double play.
Kevin Youkilis would reload the bases by drawing his second walk of the game, setting up David Ortiz with the chance to put the game away. Putting a good swing on a 2-2 slider, he would do just that, dropping a long fly ball into left just past the glove of a diving Elliot Johnson. Cody Ross would put an exclamation mark on the assault, once again connecting with his big pull swing and finding the parking lot past the Monster with a 2-run shot to leave the Sox up by 8.
Rays 5, Red Sox 8, Mid 8th -- Franklin Morales continues to be an anchor for this scattershot bullpen. Striking out Elliot Johnson to start the inning, Morales would get quick ground balls from Ben Zobrist and Luke Scott to get the Sox to within one inning of their first winning streak of the year.
Rays 5, Red Sox 8, End 7th -- From down 4-0, the Sox now find themselves with an 8-5 lead after getting to Burke Badenhop and J.P. Howell for three big runs.
While the baserunners would be provided by the likes of Adrian Gonzalez (double off the wall), Kevin Youkilis (walk) and David Ortiz (shift-beating single to left), the actual run production would come from unexpected places. Mike Aviles got things started before the big three in the middle of the order, launching a solo shot into the Monster seats to give the Red Sox the lead. Then, with the bases loaded and one out, Cody Ross finally found the swing Sox fans were expecting to see result in wall ball after wall ball. With two runs coming across on the double, Ross found some level of redemption and the Sox found a fairly comfortable lead.
Rays 5, Red Sox 5, Mid 7th -- Clay Buchholz likely caps off his day with an excellent final act, inducing a pop-up and ground ball from the top two batters in the Rays lineup, and then sending Evan Longoria to get his glove with a nasty cutter that left the third baseman swinging at air.
Rays 5, Red Sox 5, End 6th -- Burke Badenhop effectively stalled the momentum of the Red Sox, sandwhiching a routine fly ball from Jarrod Saltalamacchia between a pair of strikeouts to give the Rays a clean inning.
Rays 5, Red Sox 5, Mid 6th -- Three weak ground balls to the left side--all right to Youkilis or Aviles, luckily--and Clay Buchholz has his first clean inning of the game. He's just getting stronger now, though he might have just one inning left on his arm, if that.
Rays 5, Red Sox 5, End 5th -- And we're all the way back from 4-0, courtesy of David Ortiz!
While it seemed like the middle of the order was ready to let the inning go by the wayside, with Dustin Pedroia being called out on strikes as Hellickson painted the outside edge and Adrian Gonzalez fell behind 0-2 before popping up, Kevin Youkilis finally showed some of his old offense with a big hit off the wall in left. While it would only result in one base, that wouldn't matter given what David Ortiz did at the plate. Working the count full on six pitches, Ortiz forced Hellickson to put one over the plate or risk the walk. Hellickson opted for the former, and Ortiz got all of the middle-high fastball, depositing it into the bullpen for a game tying two-run shot.
Rays 5, Red Sox 3, Mid 5th -- Clay Buchholz has settled down nicely since the first, finishing up the fifth inning with 88 pitches on his arm after it looked like he might not escape the second or third. Despite giving up another hit in the fifth, this one coming on the ground, Buchholz managed to strike Evan Longoria out to start the inning and retire Ben Zobrist and Luke Scott without too much hassle to finish it.
Rays 5, Red Sox 3, End 4th -- The Sox have Jeremy Hellickson's pitch count very high, but just wasted a big opportunity, leaving the bases loaded in the fourth. David Ortiz started the attack with a line drive to right. Cody Ross would nearly follow suit, but unfortunately had his rocket go right to Desmond Jennings in center. Ryan Sweeney would give the Sox two men in scoring position with a double off the wall in left, and after Jarrod Saltalamacchia flew out to shallow left Darnell McDonald would load the bases with a walk, but Mike Aviles' fly ball died in right field, allowing Hellickson to escape unscathed.
Rays 5, Red Sox 3, Mid 4th -- Clay Buchholz escapes the inning unharmed despite a leadoff single from Jose Molina. After Kevin Youkilis made what might be his first good defensive play of the season to field a bunt, Buchholz would get Jennings to fly out to right, and struck out Carlos Pena trying to check his swing.
Rays 5, Red Sox 3, End 3rd -- The Rays add to their lead, Dustin Pedroia takes it right back. Taking one of his all-or-nothing swings, Pedroia got into Hellickson's 1-1 fastball like only he can, launching a shot clear over the Monster in left and almost out of the parking lot behind it. A very, very big homer from the diminutive second baseman.
Rays 5, Red Sox 2, Mid 3rd -- More control struggles for Clay Buchholz in the third, as he surrendered his third walk of the day to Matt Joyce and then gave Luke Scott a pitch to hit. He obliged, connecting with an RBI double to put the Rays back up by three.
Rays 4, Red Sox 2, End 2nd -- The Red Sox have life yet, after a two-run shot from Jarrod Saltalamacchia cut the Rays' lead in half in the second. After offering up a two-out walk to Ryan Sweeney, Hellickson managed to get Salty to swing at a pitch low and out of the zone, but the Sox' catcher simply crushed it, putting enough of a charge in the ball to send it well over the wall in dead center.
Rays 4, Red Sox 0, Mid 2nd -- It's hard to call an inning where the pitcher drops the ball behind him trying to throw to first an improvement, but somehow that's what the second inning was for Clay Buchholz, who escaped with just a single to his name.
Rays 4, Red Sox 0, End 1st -- The Sox showed signs of coming out strong against Jeremy Hellickson to start the inning. Not so much to finish it. Mike Aviles' hard hit grounder was stopped by Carlos Pena, making a great diving play, but Aviles still managed to beat out the throw. With Dustin Pedroia getting ahead 2-0, things were going well.
Then Hellickson threw to first and Aviles fell on his face, leaving him picked off in pathetic fashion. Pedroia started swinging at bad pitches, flew out, and while Adrian Gonzalez would end up reaching first with a walk, Youkilis hit a ground ball right to short to end the inning.
Rays 4, Red Sox 0, Mid 1st -- Clay Buchholz did not get off to the start he was hoping for, clearly. Falling behind 2-0 to Desmond Jennings, Buchholz would eventually allow a leadoff walk, and then serve up a fastball to Carlos Pena for the first pitch of the at bat. Pena would not waste the opportunity, driving the ball all the way to the bullpen wall for an RBI double.
For a minute, it seemed as though Buchholz was ready to settle down, getting Evan Longoria to ground out and striking Matt Joyce out. But it was not to be. With Buchholz surrendering a second walk to Ben Zobrist, Luke Scott walked to the plate to a chorus of boos, worked the count full, and then took a chest-high fastball and knocked it past Pesky's Pole in right for a three-run shot.
The Red Sox will go looking for their first winning streak of the season Saturday afternoon against the Rays as they send Clay Buchholz out for his second start of the season against Jeremy Hellickson. First pitch is at 4:05 p.m. EST, with broadcasts by NESN and WEEI.
Bobby Valentine has unveiled his first attempt at reforming the Red Sox' lineup without Jacoby Ellsbury, deciding to turn back to a plan that he both tried and decided against in spring training, batting Mike Aviles in the leadoff spot. Given the righty on the mound, Ryan Sweeney seems like the obvious choice, but perhaps it's best not to mess with the outfielder's success through these early days of the season, especially given how many players the leadoff spot seems to have messed up over the years in Boston.
For his part, Sweeney will get the nod in right field, with Cody Ross taking over center. It's not at all an ideal situation, but if they've got the lead late, then newly called-up Che-Hsuan Lin is a defensive monster who can run down anything hit anywhere near him.
Boston Red Sox (2-5)
Tampa Bay Rays (4-3)
The Red Sox have won their home opener Friday afternoon 12-2 behind a dominating performance from Josh Beckett and an eight-run eighth off of Joel Peralta and Josh Lueke.
Getting the start for the Red Sox, Josh Beckett had an odd sort of game. While the Rays seemed ready to hit him hard in the first, with Desmond Jennings lining out to left and Carlos Pena doubling off the wall, Beckett would turn things around in a hurry. The Rays did grab a run in the second inning thanks to a defensively absent Kevin Youkilis allowing a ground ball to skip past him into left, but from there Beckett kept the runs off the board. Taking advantage of an ultra-aggressive Rays lineup, Beckett would get ahead in the count without throwing too many dangerous strikes, and let the Rays get themselves out through poor contact on good pitches. He would only record the one strikeout all game, but it was enough to keep Tampa Bay down for eight innings.
The Red Sox' offense, meanwhile, got back to its old ways of working the count and making David Price throw a lot of pitches. Through five at bats, Price already had thrown 35 pitches. With Price tiring early, the Sox managed to load the bases in the third, and then push three runs across on a single, a sacrifice fly, and--of all things--an "excuse me" swinging bunt from David Ortiz down the left field line. They would reload the bases, but Cody Ross' double play let Price off easy.
Wade Davis managed to hold down the fort for a few innings after Burk Badenhop allowed a fourth run to score in the fourth, but with Joel Peralta coming into the game in the eighth, all bets were off. The Sox chased Peralta with a pair of doubles and a pair of walks, and Josh Lueke played the sacrificial lamb for the Rays, being left in to surrender six more hits as the Sox ballooned their lead to 12-2.
Only a leadoff home run from Ben Zobrist off of Mark Melancon in the ninth marred the performance. Well, than and...
Pyrrhic Victory: The Sox may have won the game, but it looks like they've lost Jacoby Ellsbury in the process. Sliding into second to break up a double play, Ellsbury had shortstop Reid Brignac come down knee-first on his shoulder. Ellsbury stayed down in obvious pain before being replaced by Ryan Sweeney. There's no word yet on if he'll be out or for how long, but Bobby Valentine is expecting to have another outfielder in Boston for tomorrow's game.
Big Day For Backups: Kelly Shoppach and Darnell McDonald each deserve some major credit for their contributions to this game. After getting plunked by David Price in the third (his third hit by pitch of the year), Kelly Shoppach picked up two doubles and a single--off righties no less--while Darnell McDonald played tremendous defense in left and made his way on base a couple of times as well.
Oh, Cody: Cody Ross, on the other hand, didn't have a very good day at all, and is in the middle of a very bad start to the season. While he managed a walk and sacrifice fly against the inept pitching in the eighth, his GIDP could have cost the Sox big on another day. Right now, he's looking like the designated rally killer.
Ellsbury's injury occurred when he tried to break up a double play attempt. Ellsbury slid hard feet first into second base and then collided with Rays' second baseman Reid Brignac. Brignac fell on top of Ellsbury's right shoulder after following through on his throw to first base.
Watch the play which caused the injury to Ellsbury here (via Rays Index).
The 28-year-old 2011 AL MVP runner-up left the field holding his right shoulder. Ellsbury was 2-3 with an RBI and a run scored in the game before the injury. For the season, Ellsbury was hitting just .192 with 3 RBI, four walks and three strikeouts.
Jacoby Ellsbury left his team's game against the Tampa Bay Rays in the fourth inning after a collision with infielder Reid Brignac, who landed on Ellsbury's right shoulder while he was sliding into second base during a routine double play. Ellsbury was diagnosed with a "right shoulder injury" by the team and will be re-evaluated later.
Ellsbury remained on the ground for several minutes after Brignac made impact and was clutching his right shoulder. He was helped up and walked back to the clubhouse. Cody Ross moved to center field and Ryan Sweeney moved to right following Ellsbury's injury.
Unfortunately, this is not the first bout with injury for Ellsbury, who missed a significant portion of the 2010 season (he only played 18 games) after colliding with then Red Sox third baseman Adrian Beltre during a game against the Kansas City Royals on April 11. Ellsbury, then playing left field, collided with Beltre's knee and fractured four ribs.
Ellsbury was batting .192 with zero home runs and three RBI entering Friday's game.
Jacoby Ellsbury left the Boston Red Sox's home opener during the fourth inning on Thursday after trying to break up an inning-ending double play.
Ellsbury slid hard into second base feet first in an effort to disrupt Tampa Bay's shortstop Reid Brignac. After the two collided on the clean slide, Brignac landed on Ellsbury's right shoulder. Ellsbury walked off the field under his own power, but was holding his right shoulder.
The 28-year old finished second in the 2011 AL MVP voting behind Detroit's Justin Verlander after a breakout campaign. The centerfielder batted .321 while establishing career highs with 32 home runs and 105 RBI, winning both the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger at his position.
The severity of Ellsbury's injury is unclear at this time, but any extended absence would be a big blow to the Red Sox order.
The ceremonies are done with, Josh Beckett has received a mix of boos and cheers, and now all that's left is to play some baseball as the Sox and Rays face off in Fenway Park's 2012 home opener.
It's been rough going for the Sox so far, of that there's no doubt, and it's going to be hard to turn things around against David Price and the Rays. The Sox will need some strong pitching from Josh Beckett and positive performances from their right-handed platoon hitters if they want to have success.
Still, the Rays' lineup is quite thin after you get through the first half, and home cooking is often exactly what is called for to turn this sort of slump around. It was, after all, the home opener against the Yankees which got the Red Sox their first win in 2011.
We'll keep you up to date on all the action as it happens in Fenway.
Rays 2, Red Sox 12, Final -- Mark Melancon just couldn't avoid giving up the home run, could he? It came off the bat of Ben Zobrist, thus keeping his from possibly gaining some confidence or instilling some in Bobby Valentine, but at least it came in garbage time.
The Sox win, Beckett was good, and the lineup was back to looking like the Red Sox' lineup--even before the big inning they were working counts like the good old days.
Red Sox win!
Rays 1, Red Sox 12, End 8th -- So, a lot happened that inning.
It would take forever and a day to narrate it all, so let's just go with this:
The Sox sent 14 batters to the plate, resulting in three doubles, two walks, five singles, a hit batter, and a sacrifice fly.
Cody Ross, Ryan Sweeney, and Kelly Shoppach recorded the three outs. They also had a walk, a single, and a double respectively, however, so it's not all bad.
With eight runs scoring, this one is well and truly over.
Rays 1, Red Sox 4, Mid 8th -- Josh Beckett has his strikeout streak in tact, finally recording one in the eighth inning against Carlos Pena, who may not have seen a single fastball in the whole at bat.
It was another 1-2-3 inning for Beckett, who received some help from Darnell McDonald, who made a diving grab behind him to keep the leadoff runner off. It's been a very good day in left for McDonald, who has tracked back and come forward as needed to grab a good few hard hit balls. Perhaps the shade of the monster is all he needed?
Rays 1, Red Sox 4, End 7th -- Wade Davis strikes out Dustin Pedroia, gives up a hit to Adrian Gonzalez, then strikes out Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz. At this rate he's going to save the Rays bullpen for tomorrow's game.
Rays 1, Red Sox 4, Mid 7th -- Josh Beckett is through seven innings now on just 81 pitches against an ultra-aggressive Tampa Bay team.
So far, Beckett hasn't recorded a single strikeout, but with the Rays swinging early in every at bat that's not a huge surprise. He's allowed some decent contact along the way, but on some level that's just a matter of how many balls the Rays are putting in play--plenty more have been weak grounders or routine fly balls, and he's only rarely ever seemed in danger.
It's a good bounce back for Beckett after what happened in Detroit. Now he just has to keep it going for as long as he's asked.
Rays 1, Red Sox 4, End 6th -- The Sox didn't score any runs despite some lucky baserunners in the form of Mike Aviles (reached on an error) and Kelly Shoppach (single through a largely vacated right side of the infield), but they did get some much needed comic relief as Kelly Shoppach took off on a delayed steal of second. The best part? The slide, where Shoppach went down to one knee a few yards out, got back up, then lunged forward to complete the steal.
Y'know what? Just wait for the .gif. It really needs to be seen.
Rays 1, Red Sox 4, Mid 6th -- Evan Longoria gave one a ride to the triangle, and Matt Joyce managed to reach base with a line drive single, but the Sox are out of another scoreless inning, and Josh Beckett has needed just 75 pitches to get through six of them. Even if the strikeouts aren't there, it's an encouraging day after what happened in Detroit.
Rays 1, Red Sox 4, End 5th -- Wade Davis responds to Beckett's half inning by throwing a clean eight-pitch inning against the middle of the Red Sox order. The good news? Kevin Youkilis actually had pretty decent contact on his ground ball out.
Rays 1, Red Sox 4, Mid 5th -- There's not much Josh Beckett can do to alleviate the panic that is currently seizing Red Sox Nation, but he did the best he could, throwing just seven pitches to record three outs and send the Sox back to the plate.
Rays 1, Red Sox 4, End 4th -- The Red Sox have added a run, but at a high price, as the inning ended with Jacoby Ellsbury down at second base clutching his right shoulder.
The damage was done when Ellsbury attempted to break up a double play that his stolen base attempt likely caused. After Ellsbury had singled in Kelly Shoppach, on base via a leadoff double off of Burke Badenhop (David Price is done for the day), Dustin Pedroia knocked a ground ball up the middle, where Reid Brignac was covering the base as Ellsbury attempted to swipe second. Brignac's throw to first was in time for the second out, but as he went to the ground he seemed to come down on Jacoby Ellsbury's right shoulder. Now the center fielder is out of the game.
Rays 1, Red Sox 3, Mid 4th -- It wasn't the cleanest inning of all time for Josh Beckett, but the Sox leave it with their lead intact all the same.
Cody Ross is partially to thank for that, trying to make up for his inning-ending double play by making a diving grab in right field to rob Matt Joyce of a leadoff single. Ben Zobrist would reach base with a walk, but with neither Jeff Keppinger or Stephen Vogt capable of reaching base, Beckett escaped none the worse for wear.
Rays 1, Red Sox 3, End 3rd -- It's been a tough day for David Price, and the third inning has proved the hardest, as the Red Sox find themselves in the lead after the top of the order went to work against the young lefty phenom.
Kelly Shoppach led the inning off by doing what he does best: getting plunked. He has now been hit three times on the season in limited appearances. Jacoby Ellsbury followed up by reaching out and blooping a double to left, and Dustin Pedroia drew a walk to load the bases with no outs.
Price seemed to find his stuff with Adrian Gonzalez at the plate, and after a couple bad swings it looked like he might be ready to start another masterful escape. But with the count at 1-2 Gonzalez managed to muscle a ground ball through the infield and the Sox had tied the game. Kevin Youkilis would bring another run in on a sacrifice fly.
Then came the small miracle. Falling behind 1-2 like Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz tried to hold up on a 97 MPH fastball, but couldn't get the bat back in time, dropping an excuse me swinging bunt down the third base line. But of course, with Ortiz at the plate, that side of the infield was vacated, giving Ortiz an RBI infield single to make it 3-1. Darnell McDonald kept the inning going with a walk to load the bases, but Cody Ross couldn't pull through, grounding into a double play after getting ahead in the count 3-0.
It could have been a bigger inning for the Red Sox, but for now, they'll take what they can get.
Rays 1, Red Sox 0, Mid 3rd -- The third inning was what the second inning should have been, with Beckett inducing poor contact from the top of the Rays' order, and the defense actually making the outs they're supposed to behind him. Good stuff from the man who couldn't keep the ball in the park in his first outing.
Rays 1, Red Sox 0, End 2nd -- If the bottom of the lineup--the "lefty mashers"--want to keep that designation, they're going to have to start doing something sometime soon. After Kevin Youkilis blooped one to center field and David Ortiz walked to start the inning, Darnell McDonald struck out on three pitches, Cody Ross on four, and Mike Aviles reached way out to send a weak grounder to second to end the inning.
To be fair, David Price pitched masterfully to McDonald and Ross, but it's still just ridiculous how inept they've been so far this year.
Rays 1, Red Sox 0, Mid 2nd -- The second inning was better pitched by Beckett, but worse played by the Red Sox. It's starting to be a liability to be a ground ball pitcher on this team, at least against righties. A leadoff single up the middle off the bat of Ben Zobrist was a decent piece of hitting, but when Jeff Keppinger followed it up with a ground ball just to Kevin Youkilis' right. It should have stayed in the infield, if not gone for an out, but instead it skipped right past the aging third baseman into left field for an RBI double.
Rays 0, Red Sox 0, End 1st -- Well, it's another 1-2-3 inning for the Boston offense, but at least this time they look a bit like the Red Sox. That's because, for perhaps the first time this year, the Sox made a pitcher work for his outs.
Jacoby Ellsbury's at-bat was the shortest, with Price needing five pitches to induce a 2-2 groundout. Dustin Pedroia would hang on for eight, battling with a full count before flying out to left. Adrian Gonzalez would get ahead in the count 3-1 before swinging through two straight 97 MPH fastballs, leaving Price with 19 pitches on his arm despite a clean inning.
Rays 0, Red Sox 0, Mid 1st -- It was a scary start to the inning, but Josh Beckett is through one inning of scoreless baseball in Fenway Park.
The first two batters, Desmond Jennings and Carlos Pena, had some strong contact off of Beckett. Jennings led the game off with a line drive rocket to left off a 1-1 fastball that stayed over the plate, but Darnell McDonald was able to track back on for the out. McDonald could not, however, climb the wall when on a 3-1 pitch Pena clubbed a double off the top of the scoreboard.
From there, however, Beckett seemed to settle down. Evan Longoria lifted a routine fly ball to left, and mixing some nasty pitches in to Matt Joyce, Beckett made sure the Tampa Bay left fielder followed suit.
Fenway Park will open its doors on Friday afternoon for the first Red Sox home game of the 2012 season, but despite the team's poor start and recent track record, Opening Day this year is about more than the team.
Just two days after the same lineup was shut down by southpaw ace Ricky Romero, the Red Sox will trot out a group full of lefty-mashers Friday night as they face off against young lefty David Price in Fenway's home opener. First pitch is at 2:05 p.m. EST after about a half hour's worth of ceremonies, with coverage on NESN, MLB Network, and WEEI.
While the likes of Darnell McDonald, Cody Ross, Mike Aviles, and Kelly Shoppach were only capable of pushing across the one run on Wednesday, these games are the reason the Sox have them on the roster. With David Price featuring some pretty large splits himself, it's possible that this bunch turns out to be the Sox' saving grace today.
Perhaps most important, however, will be whether or not Kevin Youkilis can contribute to the Boston attack. Through one week of baseball it's been a real struggle for Youkilis not just to put the bat on the ball, but to make any sort of decent contact doing so. Once one of the best hitters in the game, especially off of lefties, Youkilis has looked a shell of his former self, tapping weak ground balls to infielders when he's able to do anything at all.
The Sox will just have to hope for more today.
Boston Red Sox (1-5)
Tampa Bay Rays (4-2)
The Red Sox prepare to open the gates at Fenway Park for the first time in 2012 for a series against the rival Tampa Bay Rays. Josh Beckett will take the mound against David Price, hoping for better results than he saw in Detroit.
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