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A late meltdown from Andrew Bailey prevented the Red Sox from securing a series win over the Tampa Bay Rays, who stormed back from three down in the ninth to walk off 7-4 over the Red Sox.
For there to be a ninth inning collapse, of course, the first eight innings have to go reasonably well. The Clay Buchholz that took he mound tonight was one who'd been on the verge of disappearing over the last few weeks. After an amazing run had him looking like a legitimate ace again, Buchholz had been wavering, putting up mediocre results and even when runs weren't scoring not really looking dominant.
Against the Rays he was as good as can be. By all rights, he should have carried a no-hitter into the fifth. The only thing preventing that was Pedro Ciriaco looking entirely out of place in center, surrendering a pair of doubles that would be called errors if official scorers ever gave outfield errors on anything other than scooping ground balls or making throws.
Desmond Jennings would break up the unofficial no-no with a line drive single in the fifth, but Buchholz didn't let that slow him down. He would work through seven shutout innings, allowing just the one other hit, and could have come back for more had Bobby Valentine not made an early move to the pen.
The Red Sox, meanwhile, had managed to do just enough damage against David Price. After being held off the board for the first five innings, Jose Iglesias would spark their first rally with a leadoff single. The next two Boston batters would end up being retired, but Cody Ross managed to find the gap for an RBI double, and then scored on a hard single off the bat of Ryan Lavarnway to make it 2-0.
Ryan Lavarnway was again involved in a scoring effort come the eighth, but this time it was him coming around to score courtesy of a Mauro Gomez triple.
The truly surprising run, however, would be the fourth. With the first two-hit game of his career already in the bag, Jose Iglesias got a sinker over the plate from J.P. Howell and killed it. The long drive found its way well into the seats in left field for Iglesias' first career home run, putting the Red Sox ahead 4-1.
In the end, though, eight good innings were not enough to overcome the late struggles. After Mike Aviles giftwrapped a run for the Rays in the eighth by completely misplaying a ground ball to third, things really fell apart in the ninth. Andrew Bailey would allow the first two batters of the inning to reach on singles, and while he managed to get Luke Scott for the first out, Carlos Pena hit a line drive to left and stood on first as the tying run. Rich Thompson would pinch run, steal second, and then come in to score when Desmond Jennings added another hit to tie the game. Bobby Valentine finally went to the pen for Vicente Padilla, but that only served to make it an emphatic loss, as the beleaguered reliever offered up a three-run shot to B.J. Upton to end it in dramatic fashion.
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The Red Sox and Rays are set to wrap up their four game series as Clay Buchholz takes on Price. We'll keep you up-to-date with live inning-by-inning updates on all the action in Tropicana Field.
Red Sox 3, Rays 1, End 8th -- Clay Buchholz gets the surprisingly early hook from Bobby V before the eighth starts, but that's not what causes the run to come in. Instead it's an awful bit of defense from Mike Aviles, who allows himself to get completely eaten up by a routine ground ball to third. For some reason, Jennings is credited with a double, causing the run when it eventually comes in on a sacrifice fly to count against Junichi Tazawa. Make that three free doubles offered up by the defense/official scorer to the Rays.
Red Sox 3, Rays 0, Mid 8th -- Some extra base power from the big guys in the lineup gets the Sox another run, as Ryan Lavarnway doubles and Mauro Gomez triples of all things to give the Sox some extra insurance.
Red Sox 2, Rays 0, End 7th -- A one-out double from Luke Scott proves that there's some level of mortality left in Clay Buchholz today, but he finishes off the inning without damage to prove that level is very low.
Red Sox 2, Rays 0, Mid 7th -- A leadoff single is all the Sox manage as Price returns for another inning of work. The good thing is that right now it doesn't look like they'll need to add on any more the way Buchholz is rolling.
Red Sox 2, Rays 0, End 6th -- Clay Buchholz responds to Price's difficult frame by shutting the best part of Tampa's lineup down on nine quick pitches, highlighting the 1-2-3 frame with a strikeout of Evan Longoria.
Red Sox 2, Rays 0, Mid 6th -- Jose Iglesias, miracle of miracles, has two hits in one game! This time it's a leadoff, first-pitch single through the left side of the infield. While Dustin Pedroia tests the outfield defense with a long drive to right, Matt Joyce is able to make the running grab for out number two. Cody Ross, however, is not to be denied. Finding the gap with a deep fly ball to left-center, Ross doubles Pedroia home, and then comes in to score on a hard shot off the glove of Ben Zobrist courtesy of Ryan Lavarnway, making it 2-0. The Sox manage to load the bases before the inning ends, but Daniel Nava grounds out to end the frame.
Red Sox 0, Rays 0, End 5th -- A weight comes off Pedro Ciriaco's shoulders, as a two-out Desmond Jennings single means Buchholz would not have had a no-hitter but for the infielder-turned-outfielder's mistakes. It does end up putting runners on first and third for the Rays, but Buchholz gets the fly ball from B.J. Upton to end things in the fifth.
Red Sox 0, Rays 0, Mid 5th -- Mike Aviles leads off the inning with a single into right field, but a strike-'em-out, throw-'em-out combo helps David Price get through the inning with the minimum number faced.
Red Sox 0, Rays 0, End 4th -- Clay Buchholz is pitching about as well as he ever has this year. Six pitches get him through another 1-2-3 frame, and but for two errors-called-hits in the outfield, this is a no-no through four. Jacoby Ellsbury is in the game now for Pedro Ciriaco, so that experiment is over early.
Red Sox 0, Rays 0, Mid 4th -- Ryan Lavarnway and Mauro Gomez put on some decent battles, but at the end of the inning that's all they have to show for their three outs.
Red Sox 0, Rays 0, End 3rd -- Pedro Ciriaco's debut in center is not going well at all. This time it's a relatively routine fly ball to center field that he either loses in the roof or simply freezes up on, letting it drop in front of him and giving B.J. Upton a two-out double. Clay Buchholz is able to overcome the mistake again, but the Sox can't keep giving away free doubles and expect to survive.
Red Sox 0, Rays 0, Mid 3rd -- Shockingly, it's Jose Iglesias who gets the first base hit of the night for the Red Sox, grounding a single up the middle and into center field with one out. The top of the lineup does nothing with the opportunity, however, producing two quick unproductive outs to end the top of the third with the Sox still searching for out number one.
Red Sox 0, Rays 0, End 2nd -- Trouble comes for Clay thanks to some outfield miscommunication by Daniel Nava and Pedro Ciriaco, inexperience at their current positions of right and center respectively showing through. An Evan Longoria fly ball is hit right between the two, and Pedro slows up as Nava makes an awkward attempt to pull in the out. Instead, it falls to the ground, and Longoria reaches second. Buchholz manages to retire the next two batters before giving up a two-out walk, but he gets Carlos Pena to swing through a 3-2 fastball to end the frame, no damage done.
Red Sox 0, Rays 0, Mid 2nd -- Price rolls right through the 5-6-7 spots in the Red Sox' lineup without breaking a sweat. Even at their best the Sox are hard pressed to score against Price. With this lineup...who can say?
Red Sox 0, Rays 0, End 1st -- Weak contact marks the inning for the Rays against Clay Buchholz. Three straight groundouts, with even the one back up the middle not nearly fast enough to even test Jose Iglesias. Mauro Gomez gloves the last one at first, taking it to the bag himself to end the frame.
Red Sox 0, Rays 0, Mid 1st -- David Price is the best the Rays have offered the Sox this series, and so far he looks it. While Price doesn't get a 1-2-3 first, it's only due to a two-out swinging bunt that David Price has bounce weakly off his glove, allowing Cody Ross to reach on an error. Ryan Lavarnway goes down on strikes, however, and the extra out needed only pushed his pitch count up to 16.
The Red Sox will once again go for the series win Thursday night as they wrap up their four-game set against the Tampa Bay Rays. First pitch is at 7:10 p.m. EST with broadcasts on NESN and WEEI.
Pedro Ciriaco will get the start in center field--a promising sign for his future with the team. While he hasn't necessarily played himself into the starting shortstop role for 2013, he's shown enough speed and defense that the Sox have to be interested in keeping him on in some position next season. If he can play center field, that would make him a very useful super utility player.
He'll play in place of Jacoby Ellsbury, getting the day off, and leaving the finally settled lineup a bit of a jumble again. Mike Aviles and Daniel Nava will also see time at third and in right respectively, with Cody Ross taking up the DH role.
Boston Red Sox (68-82)
Tampa Bay Rays (79-70)
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|WP: Chris Archer (1 - 3)
LP: Daisuke Matsuzaka (1 - 6)
The Red Sox fell to the Rays in convincing fashion Wednesday night as Daisuke Matsuzaka and the bullpen suffered a middle-innings collapse of epic proportion leading to a 13-3 rout.
While the Red ox took the lead in the first on a pair of hits from Pedro Ciriaco and Jacoby Ellsbury and Daisuke worked through a scoreless frame, things would change before long. Daisuke was up to his old tricks in the second, walking in a run before getting an opportune double play to escape a bases loaded situation, leaving the game tied through two.
The Sox would regain the lead in the third on a walk and two singles to start the frame, with Pedro Ciriaco and Jacoby Ellsbury again doing the work, but that was the last time they would have momentum on their side. The rest of the game was all Rays.
After getting one run back in the bottom of the third, the Rays exposed Daisuke in the fourth. Three hits, including homers from Jeff Keppinger and Carlos Pena, quickly made it a 5-3 game in favor of the Rays. Daisuke would stay in to give up another double before being pulled, still with no outs in the inning.
While Alfredo Aceves would manage to hold the line in the fourth, and then again in the fifth, it would all come crashing down in the sixth. Coughing up a walk, single, and triple-turned-homer by an errant throw into third which allowed Desmond Jennings to scamper home, Aceves quickly saw three runs come in. Like Matsuzaka before him, Aceves was left in to allow another double before Daniel Bard was called upon
Bard, unfortunately, proved no less broken then he had in any other recent game, giving up three walks, a single, and a sacrifice fly. Even the usually solid Andrew Miller could not slow the bleeding, walking in two straight runs. Amusingly, Scott Atchison would finally put an end to it with just one pitch, getting a double play ball with his first offering of the night, but only after seven runs were in, making it 12-3 Rays.
That was only the sixth inning, but it would be all she wrote, more-or-less. The Rays added another run as each side made wholesale substitutions, and the Sox left after nine thoroughly beaten.
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The Red Sox turn to Daisuke Matsuzaka to get them a series win against a free-falling Rays team Wednesday night. We'll keep you up-to-date on all the action as it goes down in Tropicana Field.
Rays 12, Red Sox 3, Mid 8th -- Nothing doing for the Triple-A lineup now in the game, as the Sox go in order again. Nearly through with this blowout.
Rays 12, Red Sox 3, End 7th -- Both teams make wholesale substitutions with the game decided. Atchison, meanwhile, picks up another 1-2-3 frame.
Rays 12, Red Sox 3, Mid 7th -- This game is, thankfully, being quick about hurtling towards its inevitable conclusion now that the Sox are in an impossibly bad position. They go 1-2-3 in the seventh, leaving them three outs away from defeat.
Rays 12, Red Sox 3, End 6th -- Well, that happened. Alfredo Aceves dispels any hopes of such a "strong finish" by coughing up a walk, single, and triple-turned-homer by an errant throw into third which allowed Desmond Jennings to scamper home, making it three runs in off the long reliever with not an out recorded. Aceves was left in to allow another double before Daniel Bard was called upon to perform his little sideshow act of the Broken Man, giving up three walks, a single, and a sacrifice fly. Even the usually solid Andrew Miller could not stop the attack, walking in two straight runs.
The sheer volume and length of the attack made the eventual conclusion all the more amusing, as Scott Atchison threw one pitch and got a double play ball to end the inning.
Rays 5, Red Sox 3, Mid 6th -- 1-2-3 go the Sox in the sixth, with nothing to show from the middle of the order.
Rays 5, Red Sox 3, End 5th -- Alfredo Aceves continues to record outs, allowing just an Evan Longoria walk. This was the role where he was so strong last year, though he's likely forced his way out of Boston with his antics this season strong finish or not.
Rays 5, Red Sox 3, Mid 5th -- Chris Archer has settled in well enough since his early struggles. A Jacoby Ellsbury single is all the Sox get in another scoreless inning, leaving their deficit stuck at two.
Rays 5, Red Sox 3, End 4th -- The good news is that Daisuke won't be here next year. Sandwiched around a Matt oyce base hit, long balls from Jeff Keppinger and Carlos Pena leave the park before an out is recorded, and with Jose Molina adding a double that missed being a third homer by inches, Matsuzaka is unceremoniously yanked from the game. Alfredo Aceves finishes the inning without further incident, but the damage is done.
Red Sox 3, Rays 2, Mid 4th -- Daniel Nava draws a two-out walk--his first in 33 AB dating back to late July--but it's the only baserunner hey manage in their least threatening offensive inning thus far.
Red Sox 3, Rays 2, End 3rd -- Nothing is ever easy with Daisuke. Jose Iglesias makes a good play just to get to a well-placed ground ball from Desmond Jennings, but his leaping throw to first arrives late, giving the Rays a leadoff baserunner. Jennings quickly steals second, and with one down is driven in by a sharp hit from Ben Zobrist, leaving the Sox' lead at just the one run.
Red Sox 3, Rays 1, Mid 3rd -- The weak Sox lineup continues to give the strong Rays rotation fits, and it's really a glorious thing to watch. This time it's a Jose Iglesias walk, of all things, that starts it off. Pedro Ciriaco picks up his second hit behind Iglesias, and Jacoby Ellsbury knocks one run in with a ball back up the middle. The Rays fail to turn two on Dustin Pedroia's ground ball, allowing a second run to come in the back door, and the Sox head to the bottom of the inning with a 3-1 lead.
Red Sox 1, Rays 1, End 2nd -- Here's Daisuke! In the prototypical Matsuzaka frame, the control-free pitcher surrenders the tying run before escaping by the skin of his teeth. After three straight singles start the frame and load the bases, Matsuzaka gets to his real comfort zone and walks the run in. He does manage to get Carlos Pena swinging, however, making Jose Molina's double play ball to third an inning-ender.
Red Sox 1, Rays 0, Mid 2nd -- Another strong start leads to another weak finish for the Sox, but this time without the benefit of the run. After James Loney and Jarrod Saltalamacchia led off the inning with back-to-back walks, Ryan Lavarnway could only hit a ground ball, leading to a double play that put an end to the Sox' momentum in the second.
Red Sox 1, Rays 0, End 1st -- Things go smoothly for Daisuke Matsuzaka in the bottom of the first. Despite throwing most of his pitches for balls, the Rays let him off the hook with a relatively aggressive approach, leading to two fly balls on a combined 3-0 count to help him through a 1-2-3 frame.
Red Sox 1, Rays 0, Mid 1st -- A strong start for the Red Sox doesn't lead to a big inning, but it does get them on the board. Pedro Ciriaco starts the game by slapping a single into right field to give the Sox a leadoff baserunner, and then steals second to get into scoring position for Jacoby Ellsbury. The center fielder leans across the plate to put the bat on a pitch low-and-away, and manages to drop it into left field for the base hit that gets the Sox on the board. Ellsbury ends up getting picked off and caught in a rundown, but the Sox are at least ahead early rather than behind.
The Red Sox will look to make it a series win against the Rays as they send Daisuke Matsuzaka to the mound against Chris Archer Wednesday night. First pitch is at 7:10 p.m. EST with broadcasts on NESN and WEEI.
The Sox seem to have learned not to mess with success--at least not too much--as they keep their lineup largely similar for yet another game. The only difference tonight will be the presence of Daniel Nava in left field. Scott Podsednik has been getting the starts there of late, but with just one hit in his last 19 at bats, his contributions to the cause will hardly be missed.
Boston Red Sox (68-81)
Tampa Bay Rays (78-80)
There's been rampant speculation in the media that Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine would be fired at season's end, and CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman wrote Wednesday that is also the near unanimous belief among people in Major League Baseball. Heyman writes that "everyone in baseball seems sure Valentine is a goner." The skipper has had a tumultuous inaugural season with the Sox, and the poor record combined with his divisive personality make it more than likely that these will be the final two weeks for him in the Boston dugout.
Marc Normandin of Over The Monster addressed the report from Heyman, and while Valentine's precarious status doesn't come as a surprise, he opines on what the rough Red Sox season could mean for first-year GM Ben Cherington. Heyman wrote that Cherington is safe, and Normandin argues that's rightfully so:
[Heyman] also says that first-year general manager Ben Cherington "isn't in any peril" though you wouldn't expect him to be, given he didn't dislocate Jacoby Ellsbury's shoulder, break Will Middlebrooks' wrist, or damage the Achilles of David Ortiz.
You could complain and say he didn't bring in enough pitching, but the Adrian Gonzalez/Josh Beckett/Carl Crawford trade goes to show you how little wiggle room they had left to do that. Judge him on the upcoming winter more than the one behind us when it comes to adding pitching, as that will likely be a priority. Besides finding a new manager, of course.
Mathematically eliminated from the postseason, the Sox have just 13 games remaining before the 2012 campaign is over.
The Red Sox survived the Felix Doubront meltdown and did good work against Jeremy Hellickson and the Tampa Bay bullpen to take their second straight win over the Rays Tuesday night, 7-5.
After a couple of scoreless innings from each starter, Felix Doubront's regularly scheduled middle-innings came a bit early. Offering up three straight one-out walks to load the bases in the third, Doubront would give up a single to Ben Zobrist to plate a pair, and then a sacrifice fly to Evan Longoria to make it three runs in. Jeff Keppinger would end the threat there with a ground ball out, but three runs allowed against this lineup was an unimpressive feat.
Luckily for Doubront, the Red Sox were up to the task of recovering and then some over the next four innings. It started with a pair of leadoff hits in the fourth; a double from Cody Ross setting up James Loney for an RBI single to make it just a two-run deficit. Then, in the fifth, the Sox got to Hellickson for three quick baserunners on a walk and two ground balls, and just like that he was gone. Now trailing just 3-2, the Sox would get a sacrifice fly from Pedroia to even things up before the inning ended.
They did not stop there, however. Back-to-back singles off of Kyle Farnsworth gave the Sox a pair of chances with one out in the sixth, and while neither Jose Iglesias nor Pedro Ciriaco were fully up to capitalizing, Sean Rodriguez threw away the latter's ground ball, allowing the go-ahead fourth run to come home.
One inning later came the death blow. Rallying with two outs off a suddenly struggling Wade Davis, the Sox got a pair of walks, a single from Jarrod Saltalamacchia to score one, and then a double to the gap in deep right field to make it 7-3 in favor of Boston.
The Rays would make it interesting, loading the bases against Clayton Mortensen before getting a two-run single off of Junichi Tazawa in the bottom half of the inning, but that was as close as they would get. Andrew Bailey closed out the ninth, and the Red Sox left victors.
The Red Sox are out to make it two straight against the Tampa Bay Rays as they send Felix Doubront to the mound against Jeremy Hellickson and the Rays. We'll keep you up to date on all the action as it goes down in Tropicana.
Red Sox 7, Rays 5, End 8th -- Vicente Padilla comes in to face Jeff Keppinger, surrenders a single, and then is unceremoniously yanked for Craig Breslow, who does a much better job of things. Two ground balls give the Sox two shots to turn the double play, and on the second attempt they succeed, ending the inning with their two-run lead intact.
Too many instances of two to count there.
Red Sox 7, Rays 5, Mid 8th -- A one-out walk from Jacoby Ellsbury combined with a wild pitch put some pressure on the Rays, but Dustin Pedroia can't bring the run in, leaving the Rays still just two runs back headed to the eighth.
Red Sox 7, Rays 5, End 7th -- Clayton Mortensen suffers a two-out meltdown much like Davis', loading the bases and forcing the Sox to turn to Junicihi Tazawa. Tazawa can't get the out immediately, surrendering a two-run single to Ben Zobrist, but he does manage to at least maintain the lead, inducing a ground ball from Evan Longoria to end the frame.
Red Sox 7, Rays 3, Mid 7th -- For a series where it was supposed to be nearly impossible to score, the Sox have really done a pretty good job of putting runs on the board. Wade Davis gets unsettled with two outs on the board, offering up back-to-back walks to Cody Ross and James Loney, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia shoots a single through the left side to plate a fifth Red Sox run. Ryan Lavarnway gets hold of a fastball behind him, launching it deep into the gap for a double, bringing home two more.
Red Sox 4, Rays 3, End 6th -- Doubront likely ends his night strong with another 1-2-3 frame. Given the 101 pitches on his arm, that'll probably be it for him today.
Red Sox 4, Rays 3, Mid 6th -- More defensive troubles for the Rays leave the Red Sox ahead in the sixth. With two down and two on by way of ground ball singles, Pedro Ciriaco hits a ground ball to Sean Rodriguez at third, who just can't make the throw. The ball goes skipping past Jeff Keppinger at first and into first base coach Alex Ochoa. Ryan Lavarnway is able to score, but Ochoa getting in the way knocks the ball down for Keppinger, who throws out Scott Podsednik trying to score a fifth run. Still, it's enough for the lead.
Rays 3, Red Sox 3, End 5th -- Doubront gives up another walk and a line drive, but the latter goes for an out and he manages to get through the inning in four at bats. It would be nice to put this together with his last outing and call it progress, but watching it happen it doesn't really look like any actual progress has been made. He's just facing a weak lineup tonight.
Rays 3, Red Sox 3, Mid 5th -- And there's the sustained offense, not only disrupting Hellickson, but knocking him out of the game. Jose Iglesias leads off the inning with a walk, and after two quick singles Joe Maddon decides to go the conservative route and lift him. A sacrifice fly is good to bring in the tying run, though Jake McGee gets the three outs the Rays need before the Sox can really capitalize on the situation.
Rays 3, Red Sox 1, End 4th -- Doubront bounces back with a strong fourth, striking out two batters although it took him a while (and a fair few balls) to do so. Jose Iglesias adds the other out by starting it off with a pretty bit of defensive work to get Ben Francisco.
Rays 3, Red Sox 1, Mid 4th -- A leadoff double from Cody Ross and follow-up single from James Loney puts the Sox on the board in the fourth, but they're going to need a more sustained attack to disrupt Hellickson's rhythm.
Rays 3, Red Sox 0, End 3rd -- It's becoming downright unconscionable to keep pitching Doubront. That he's already pitched more innings than ever before in his career and many more than he managed in 2011 is bad enough when you don't consider the fact that, due to his lack of efficiency, his arm has had to endure the workload of something like 30 extra innings on top of that. Losing control of the zone yet again, Doubront offers up three straight walks to load the bases with one out, gives up a single to Ben Zobrist to make it 2-0, and then a sacrifice fly to make it three runs in the inning. This time it doesn't even wait until he's at 50 pitches. It's getting worse.
Red Sox 0, Rays 0, Mid 3rd -- Things get dangerous for Jeremy Hellickson when a high throw to first allows Jacoby Ellsbury to reach base, and then an errant pickoff play lets him move all the way to third. This comes with two outs, however, making Dustin Pedroia's fly ball to center an inning-ender.
Red Sox 0, Rays 0, End 2nd -- The Rays get a walk from Ben Francisco, giving them their first baserunner of the night. But it comes with two outs and, in the end, does little more than build the old pitch count up a bit.
Red Sox 0, Rays 0, Mid 2nd -- The Sox mount the first real threat of the night, with Cody Ross getting a leadoff single over the head of Ben Zobrist at short. The next two batters go down in short order, but Ryan Lavarnway manages to work a walk to extend the inning for another batter before Scott Podsednik goes down looking at strike three.
Red Sox 0, Rays 0, End 1st -- It's unusual that Felix Doubront emerges from the first the more efficient pitcher, but he's managed that tonight. Getting his first out on one pitch, Doubront ends the 1-2-3 frame with just 13 on his arm.
Red Sox 0, Rays 0, Mid 1st -- The Sox go down in order, but it's not a completely unproductive first inning against Jeremy Hellickson. Needing ten pitches to strike out Pedro Ciriaco and Jacoby Ellsbury, Hellickson would likely have preferred a quick at bat against Dustin Pedroia. Instead, even though he eventually gets the ground ball out to third, he needs to throw 12 pitches to get their, leaving his pitch count nice and high through one. This is someone the Sox would be glad to have out of the game nice and early.
Nelson Figueroa and the Pawtucket Red Sox (PawSox) square off against Trevor Bauer and the Reno Aces in the 2012 Triple-A National Championship Game on Tuesday night in Durham, NC (7:05 p.m.; NBC Sports Network).
The Red Sox will look to make it two straight against the Tampa Bay Rays Tuesday night as they send Felix Doubront to the mound against Jeremy Hellickson.
With the righty on the mound, the Sox will once again keep their lineup in order--an all-too-rare occasion so far this year. The odd-man-out for much of this has been Mike Aviles, with this being his third straight game out of the starting lineup. But after his strong start, it's hard to say he's earned any sort of playing time with almost no production coming from him since April.
Pedro Ciriaco hasn't been doing any better of late, but if it's enough to get him intentionally walked by Joe Maddon to set up Jacoby Ellsbury, why not give the Rays the opportunity?
Boston Red Sox (67-81)
Tampa Bay Rays (78-69)
The Red Sox turned a no-hit attempt from Alex Cobb into a comfortable 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays Monday night, helping to knock the Rays further from a wild card berth.
Alex Cobb was dominant early. Aside from a single walk to Jarrod Saltalamacchia, he kept the Red Sox off the bases all the way through the end of the fifth, relying on ground balls and weak contact by-and-large. The Sox' weak lineup could not do anything against him, and while there were signs of decline later in the game, with a couple of line drives finding gloves, he still did not break.
Aaron Cook had been much the same, albeit with a couple more hits to his name, but his shutout could not survive the fifth. A pair of ground balls got through, and all that was needed to push a run across was a safety squeeze. The Rays went up 1-0, and against Alex Cobb it was entirely possible that would be enough.
It ended up not even being enough to last them an inning. With one down in the sixth, Jose Iglesias was hit by a pitch, giving the Sox just their second baserunner of the game. One out later, and Jacoby Ellsbury was launching a fastball over the plate over the wall and into the stands in right, making it 2-1 Red Sox.
Alex Cobb would quickly find himself out of the game after allowing the first two baserunners to reach base in the seventh, and that opened the floodgates. Burke Badenhop's one-batter effort was wasted by Ben Zobrist, failing to convert a ground ball from Ryan Lavarnway and letting the Red Sox load the bases, and J.P. Howell gave up a single to Mauro Gomez to bring two more runs home. After a Jose Iglesias sacrifice bunt, the Rays made the curious decision of intentionally walking Pedro Ciriaco to get to Jacoby Ellsbury. The center fielder made them pay with another single, and just like that it was 5-1.
The Rays would get one back on a single, steal, wild pitch, and ground out in the ninth, but that was the only offensive attack they would mount in the last three innings, leaving them losers in game one, and giving the Red Sox their third win in four games.
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The Red Sox and Rays are set to kick off their four-game set in a sparsely populated Tropicana Field. We'll keep you up-to-date as all the action goes down in St. Pete.
Red Sox 5, Rays 1, End 8th -- Another inning, another pair of strikeouts. That's just how Junichi Tazawa works.
Red Sox 5, Rays 1, Mid 8th -- Bobby Valentine doesn't pinch-hit for Jose Iglesias with two on and two outs, and what does it get him? Two stranded baserunners, that's what! No, seriously, though, I bet Daniel Nava was waiting with helmet and bat prepared.
Red Sox 5, Rays 1, End 7th -- Rich Hill replaces Aaron Cook and the Rays struggle against the sudden appearance of swing-and-miss stuff, giving Hill a pair of strikeouts in a 1-2-3 frame.
Red Sox 5, Rays 1, Mid 7th -- The floodgates open. A single up the middle and a walk quickly send Alex Cobb back to the dugout, bringing Burke Badenhop into the game. He quickly gets a ground ball from Ryan Lavarnway, but Ben Zobrist can't make the play, allowing the catcher to reach, loading the bases. Mauro Gomez pinch hits for Scott Podsednik against J.P. Howell and singles a pair of runs in.
Jose Iglesias follows up by bunting him to second and Lavarnway on to third, provoking one of the more bizarre moves you'll ever see in a baseball game: the call from Joe Maddon to intentionally walk Pedro Ciriaco to get to Jacoby Ellsbury for the lefty-lefty matchup. The move gets not the result it was intended for, but the result it deserved: a line drive single that brings home a fifth run. Brandon Gomes is able to end the inning without further damage, but it's hard to see this one going back to the Rays any longer.
Red Sox 2, Rays 1, End 6th -- Cook stays staunch in the sixth, with a well-turned 3-6-1 double play erasing a leadoff single from B.J. Upton.
Red Sox 2, Rays 1, Mid 6th -- And one swing of the bat undoes the no-hitter, the shutout, and the Tampa Bay lead. Cobb gives up just his second baserunner of the night by hitting Jose Iglesias, giving the Sox enough life to extend the inning into the best part of the lineup. Jacoby Ellsbury steps up to the plate, gets a 3-1 fastball that stays over the plate, and turns on it, launching a two-run shot into the right field stands making it 2-1, Boston.
Rays 1, Red Sox 0, End 5th -- The Rays finally find a couple of holes with their ground balls, and it's good for what is so far the only run of the game. After a pair of singles, a safety squeeze from Ryan Roberts is enough to get the run in, with Loney charging and firing home in vain too late to keep Luke Scott from scoring.
Red Sox 0, Rays 0, Mid 5th -- The no-hitter continues, though there's some more decent contact to go around, to the point where it's hard to imagine Cobb going all the way.
Red Sox 0, Rays 0, End 4th -- Wrapping up what may be the quickest first half of a game so far this year, the Sox get around an infield single from B.J. Upton to start the inning with a pair of ground balls--the first of which erases Upton as the lead runner, the second of which starts a double play that gives them back the out he'd cost.
Red Sox 0, Rays 0, Mid 4th -- The best contact the Sox have managed so far comes from Jacoby Ellsbury in the fourth, but the ball is unfortunately placed, letting B.J. Upton glove it for the out.
Red Sox 0, Rays 0, End 3rd -- A great bit of defense starts the inning off as Jose Iglesias makes a leaping over-the-shoulder grab on a line drive from Ryan Roberts that should, by rights, have been a base hit. Cook makes quick work of the next two batters, and we're headed to the fourth inside of an hour.
Red Sox 0, Rays 0, Mid 3rd -- If fly balls were runs, the Red Sox would have two now! Unfortunately, they are not, and even as Cobb gives up his first pair of balls in the air, he gets his first pair of outs on them as well in a 1-2-3 third.
Red Sox 0, Rays 0, End 2nd -- Nine pitches are all Cook needs to get through the second, though he's not managed to keep the ball as consistently down as he might hope. Only time will tell if that's a sign of impending doom, or if the Tampa lineup is too weak to take advantage.
Red Sox 0, Rays 0, Mid 2nd -- Cobb is 6-for-6 on keeping balls in play on the ground, and the defense is 6-for-6 in turning them into outs. He does surrender a two-out walk to Jarrod Saltalamacchia to get the Sox their first baserunner of the game, but so long as he keeps it to one baserunner an inning he's not going to have problems.
Red Sox 0, Rays 0, End 1st -- One good bit of contact gets Ben Zobrist a line drive and single off of Cook, but generally speaking it's a good start for the ground ball specialist, complete with a rare leadoff strikeout against Desmond Jennings.
Red Sox 0, Rays 0, Mid 1st -- The Sox suffer their first 1-2-3 inning of the series, and frankly against this pitching staff they should get used to it. While decent at bats from Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia keep Cobb from having an incredibly fast inning, it doesn't make it any less easy. One, two, and then three ground balls lead to three easy outs, even if Pedro Ciriaco was beaten by just half a step.
The Red Sox will open a four-game set against the Rays Monday night as they once again try to play spoiler in the AL East. First pitch is at 7:10 p.m. EST with broadcasts on NESN, the MLB Network, and WEEI.
The Sox seem to have settled into a usual lineup of late, and with it staying the same against the right-handed Alex Cobb, perhaps it will remain the same for most of the rest of the year. It gets at bats for players like Pedro Ciriaco, Ryan Lavarnway, and Jose Iglesias, and keeps the middle of the order as strong and as deep as possible.
Of course, it's still quite weak, but the same can be said of Tampa Bay's. But they have the pitching.
Boston Red Sox (66-81)
Tampa Bay Rays (78-68)
The Red Sox will try to play spoiler against the Tampa Bay Rays in a four-game set, but to do so they'll have to overcome Tampa's unbelievable pitching.
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