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.