The Red Sox are set to start the second half of the Rays, hoping that an increasingly healthy team will help propel them through a difficult stretch of games leading to the deadline.
The bad news for the Red Sox is that there's already been a bit of a wrench thrown into their plan, as Adrian Gonzalez is still not feeling at 100% and has been replaced in tonight's lineup by Mauro Gomez.
We'll keep you up-to-date on all the action as it goes down in Tropicana Field.
Red Sox 3, Rays 1, Mid 9th -- The Sox squander a leadoff double from Mike Aviles, with Jacoby Ellsbury striking out with one down and Aviles at third before Cody Ross hit a fly ball to end the frame. They'll have to hold the two-run lead in the bottom of the ninth.
Red Sox 3, Rays 1, End 8th -- Ryan Sweeney comes up huge in the eighth inning, saving the Red Sox at least a run and possibly a disaster inning. After a leadoff double from Ben Zobrist off of Vicente Padilla, B.J. Upton hits a line drive into right that seems destined to get down. Sweeney, however, has another story to tell, going into a slide and picking the ball cleanly in the air before surging to his feet and starting the relay to third to get Zobrist as he tried to tag up. An infield single prolongs the inning, but a strikeout of Sean Rodriguez sends things to the ninth.
Red Sox 3, Rays 1, Mid 8th -- Kyle Farnsworth has an easy time in the eighth, picking up a 1-2-3 inning and striking out Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ryan Sweeney to keep this game nice and close headed to the bottom of the eighth.
Red Sox 3, Rays 1, End 7th -- Watching Matt Albers this year has been surreal. He just throws, and guys get out. This isn't like 2011, where he pitched legitimately well for the first half and then fell apart. Instead, he's just kind of throwing balls over the plate and opposing batters are letting themselves fall behind, or hitting hard balls that end up in gloves.
After another 1-2-3 frame from him has brought the Sox to the eighth, I'm convinced he has surpassed baseball. He is playing on a different plane. He understands the hitters, he knows their motivations and their dreams, and he convinces them to simply not succeed.
However he does it, though, this team will take the outs gladly.
Red Sox 3, Rays 1, Mid 7th -- A large chance goes by the wayside for the Red Sox, and once again it's Mauro Gomez who simply should not be hitting cleanup.
The Sox get off to a quick start in the seventh thanks to who else but Pedro Ciriaco? Adding to his resume of one seeing-eye and one infield single, Ciriaco bloops one between three fielders to reach for the third time tonight. With Hellickson now out of the game, Jacoby Ellsbury squeezes a ground ball through the right side for a single of his own, and while Daniel Nava strikes out swinging, the Rays again elect to intentionally walk David Ortiz, loading the bases for Mauro Gomez. It only takes three pitches, however, for the replacement infielder to ground out to Jeff Keppinger, who starts the inning-ending double play.
Red Sox 3, Rays 1, End 6th -- The Rays get one back with Scott Atchison in the game thanks to a poor throw from Mike Aviles.
The mistake comes against the first batter of the inning, with Aviles letting Ben Zobrist reach second by throwing well over the head of Mauro Gomez at first. Atchison manages to get the next two outs by knocking down a comebacker and striking out Jeff Keppinger with a great pitch that dots the outside corner, but can't quite escape unscathed, as a Sean Rodriguez ground ball shot down the third base line goes for two bases and the RBI.
Bobby Valentine elects to go to Andrew Miller despite the fact that Atchison was actually throwing pretty well, and the result is an infield single, prompting him to turn to Matt Albers, leaving the Sox with scant few pen options. Albers does the job, however, getting Jennings to look inexplicably at waist-high strikes before chasing a third fastball low for the strikeout.
Red Sox 3, Rays 0, Mid 6th -- Jeremy Hellickson works around a one-out single dumped into right-center by Jarrod Saltalamacchia to earn his fourth straight scoreless inning since falling behind 3-0 out of the gate. The Sox probably would've hoped for more after that start, but at least for now they'll gladly take the three-run lead in a low-scoring game.
Red Sox 3, Rays 0, End 5th -- A one-out double serves to once again put Franklin Morales under pressure, but the young lefty bounces back in a big way, striking out both Elliot Johnson and Carlos Pena to end the threat.
Red Sox 3, Rays 0, Mid 5th -- Jeremy Hellickson gets out of another inning, but not without some trouble this time around. A leadoff infield single for Pedro Ciriaco is erased by Jacoby Ellsbury, who grounds into a double play in what is becoming an increasingly forgettable return game. Still, with two outs Hellickson walks Daniel Nava, then gives David Ortiz some serious respect by intentionally walking him with the man already on first. The unonventional move pays off, however, as Mauro Gomez grounds out to end the frame.
Red Sox 3, Rays 0, End 4th -- Franklin Morales seems to completely lose it in the fourth, but still manages to emerge unscathed thanks in large part to one Luke Scott.
While the first two outs come without any difficulty for Morales, facing the next three batters he just can't find the zone. Falling behind 2-1 to the first two batters and then 3-0 to Sean Rodriguez, Morales offers up three straight walks to load the bases with Scott coming to the plate. There, the Tampa DH decides to help Morales out, offering at a high fastball to turn a possible 3-1 count into a 2-2. Two pitches later, and Morlaes goes right back up high, striking Scott out to end the inning without damage.
Red Sox 3, Rays 0, Mid 4th -- The bottom half of the lineup provides Hellickson with no more challenge than the top half. Since getting knocked around in the second, Hellickson has retired eight straight batters to quiet the Sox.
Red Sox 3, Rays 0, End 3rd -- Another 1-2-3 inning has Franklin Morales into the fourth with just one hit against him. His pitch count isn't exactly low given the limited damage, but it's certainly a lot healthier than Hellickson's, and he's on pace to go into the seventh, which is about all the Sox can hope for right now.
Red Sox 3, Rays 0, Mid 3rd -- The Rays will be happy to see that Hellickson is finding his stride. While he struggled heavily with his control in the second, he finds a rather generous strike zone with regularity in the third, throwing 9-of-14 pitches for strikes, getting a pair of Ks on Mauro Gomez and Will Middlebrooks in a 1-2-3 frame.
Red Sox 3, Rays 0, End 2nd -- Franklin Morales enjoys a 1-2-3 second, striking out Sean Rodriguez and getting a pop-up from Luke Scott to end the frame in much cleaner fashion than the first.
Red Sox 3, Rays 0, Mid 2nd -- For once, Jeremy Hellickson is being held accountable for his walks. After getting Will Middlebrooks looking at strike three, Hellickson surrenders three baserunners with a pair of walks and a hit batter in Mike Aviles to load the bases. Once again put in position to build his sudden and surprising reputation for clutch performances, Pedro Ciriaco came to the plate and took advantage, bouncing a seeing-eye single over the bag at second to score two for the Sox.
Red Sox 1, Rays 0, End 1st -- The Sox are made to endure some tense moments in the first. After an easy ground ball and strikeout gave Franklin Morales two outs, the Rays got a baserunner on a Ben Zobrist double down the line in left, and while a ground ball to Will Middlebrooks seemed ready to end things, Mauro Gomez could not catch the throw, with the ball apparently breaking through the loose or weak webbing on his glove. It's one of the stranger errors you'll ever see, but luckily not a costly one, as Morales quickly picked B.J. Upton off to end the inning.
Red Sox 1, Rays 0, Mid 1st -- David Ortiz helps the Sox get the second half started on the right foot. After a couple of quick outs from Daniel Nava and the returning Jacoby Ellsbury, who hit a bit of a soft liner to left that ended up in Desmond Jennings' glove. Ortiz would get ahead in the count 3-0, and with only Gomez behind him it seemed like pitching around him made too much sense. Hellickson, however, had other ideas, getting the call on a borderline strike one before challenging Ortiz with pitch five.
Big mistake. Papi took a huge swing, then turned and flipped his bat almost dismissively as the ball sailed into the back rows in dead center to make it 1-0, Red Sox.