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Red Sox 4, Rays 2: Boston Wins Rubber Match Despite Clay Buchholz' Early Exit

The Red Sox won the rubber match in their series against the Rays 4-2 despite having Clay Buchholz leave after only five innings with lower back tightness.

From the beginning, it was clear that David Price was not quite the same David Price who has shut down the Red Sox time and again. Sam Fuld had to make a leaping grab at the track to save what would have been at least a leadoff double from Darnell McDonald. It wasn't a one-off fluke, either. Dustin Pedroia worked an 8-pitch walk, and then advanced to third on Adrian Gonzalez' double down the line in right. 

Tempers flared a bit and warnings were handed out when David Price hit Kevin Youkilis to load the bases, but any questions of whether price was wild enough to hit him accidentally were dispelled when he went from an 0-2 count to David Ortiz into an RBI walk. 

Price escaped further harm in the inning (with Jed Lowrie leaving the game after wincing in pain on a bad swinging strikeout) but gave up another two in the second thanks largely to three straight hits from Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Darnell McDonald, and Dustin Pedroia. Still, the Red Sox were wasting opportunities to put the game away, leaving the bases loaded once again.

Sam Fuld doubled home B.J. Upton in the second inning to make it 3-1, but other than that, Clay Buchholz had been throwing a fairly good game against the Rays through five innings, which made it quite the surprise when Alfredo Aceves entered the game in the sixth. Lower back tightness was the explanation from the Red Sox--not a good sign given the problems he's had with the back so far this year.

If it wasn't bad enough to be down their starter in Buchholz, Aceves was miserable in replacement. Matt Joyce nearly took him long on a middle-in fastball after four pitches up around the letters, and Evan Longoria stung a hard line drive to left that ended up being hit straight to Carl Crawford for the out. So when Casey Kotchman knocked the second pitch he saw from Aceves out of the park, it wasn't terribly surprising.

Still, Aceves got his three outs, and then two more in the seventh to set up the Daniel Bard - Jonathan Papelbon combo. Bard got the final out of the seventh on one pitch, and then went 1-2-3 in the eighth. The Sox added a fourth run in the ninth thanks to Adrian Gonzalez' fourteenth homer of the season. 

The bottom of the ninth, on the other hand ran, proved a bit of trouble. After Casey Kotchman laced a leadoff double to right-center off of Jonathan Papelbon, B.J. Upton legged out an infield single, bringing the tying run to the plate with nobody out. The Rays couldn't keep things rolling, however. Elliot Johnson was called on to pinch hit for John Jaso, but his bunt attempt proved disastrous as Kevin Youkilis made a terrific diving play in foul territory despite having tweaked his ankle earlier in the night. That seemed to fire up Papelbon, too, as he turned around and struck out Justin Ruggiano on three pitches, and then sat Sean Rodriguez down to close out the game and give the Sox the series win.