The Red Sox and Rays are ready to decide their series Sunday afternoon as Josh Beckett takes on James Shields in the rubber match.
We'll keep you up-to-date on all the action as it goes down in Tropicana Field.
Red Sox 7, Rays 3, Mid 9th -- Wade Davis strikes out the side in order. Included in the process is Brent Lillibridge, in for Adrian Gonzalez. There will be time to worry about what that means for Gonzalez and his back after the bottom of the ninth, however.
Red Sox 7, Rays 3, End 8th -- Mark Melancon has been nigh-untouchable since making his return to the majors, but he needs a little help from Pedro Ciriaco, who makes an excellent diving grab to pick a low line drive off the ground, robbing Jeff Keppinger of a leadoff single in a 1-2-3 eighth.
Red Sox 7, Rays 3, Mid 8th -- Jacoby Ellsbury's third hit of the day is wasted as David Ortiz grounds into an inning-ending double play behind him. But with a 7-3 lead and just two innings to go, they won't weep for the lost opportunity just yet.
Red Sox 7, Rays 3, End 7th -- A dangerous situation is diffused by a great defensive play from Mike Aviles. After Carlos Pena started the inning with a single against Junichi Tazawa, in to replace Josh Beckett, a Ben Zobrist line drive that dropped into right was set to put runners on the corners with nobody out. Mike Aviles, however, leapt high to cut off the throw to third, and fired on to first where Zobrist had made a too-wide turn. The tag was applied, and the danger was largely averted, with Mark Melancon coming in to strike out B.J. Upton and get a ground ball from Hideki Matsui to end the frame without even letting the runner from third come in to score.
Red Sox 7, Rays 3, Mid 7th -- Burke Badenhop enjoys a quick 1-2-3 seventh, getting Will Middlebrooks out for the first time on the night.
Red Sox 7, Rays 3, End 6th -- Josh Beckett finished up his night with a scoreless sixth inning, despite Pedro Ciriaco falling asleep on a line drive and allowing Elliot Johnson to simply take second base on what should have been a single, falling in front of Cody Ross in right. Beckett will leave with just a typical quality start, but were it not for that one check-swing call back in the first, who knows what he could have done?
Red Sox 7, Rays 3, Mid 6th -- The Red Sox don't exactly make the best of another bases loaded opportunity in the sixth, but a sacrifice fly from Cody Ross is enough to build their lead up to a sizable four runs before the inning comes to an end.
Red Sox 6, Rays 3, End 5th -- Just as Shields has his worst frame, Beckett has his best in the fifth, striking out B.J. Upton and Hideki Matsui before getting a lazy fly ball to end his first 1-2-3 frame of the night.
Red Sox 6, Rays 3, Mid 5th -- James Shields' struggles come to a head in the fifth, as the Sox put up a big three-run inning to seize the lead for the first time since the top of the first.
The lead comes quickly for the Sox when Shileds leaves a changeup thigh-high over the plate to Daniel Nava. The left fielder had been slumping of late, but catches all of this one, sending a no-doubter to right field to put the Sox up 4-3. Things just get worse from there for Shields, however, who gives up singles to David Ortiz and Cody Ross before walking Jarrod Saltalamacchia to load the bases with one out. Will Middlebrooks steps to the plate, and continues his torrid day by lacing a low line drive past a diving Elliot Johnson at short, bringing two more runs in to score before Shields manages to escape against the bottom of the order.
Rays 3, Red Sox 3, End 4th -- Josh Beckett still can't get a 1-2-3 inning, as he surrenders a one-out single to the same Will Rhymes who kept the Sox from scoring in the top of the fourth, but he's got his breaking stuff working now, and it's shining through, with curveballs and changeups carrying the load in strikeouts of Elliot Johnson, Carlos Pena, and Ben Zobrist.
Rays 3, Red Sox 3, Mid 4th -- A big chance goes by the wayside for Boston after a leadoff double from Will Middlebrooks and bunt single from Mike Aviles puts men on the corners with not a single out on the board. Pedro Ciriaco, however, falls victim to a strikeout, bringing Jacoby Ellsbury to the plate. While Ellsbury hits a quick ground ball up the middle, Will Rhymes makes an impressive stop at second base, tossing to Elliot Johnson for one, who fires on to first to complete the inning-ending double play.
Rays 3, Red Sox 3, End 3rd -- Josh Beckett enjoys his best inning despite a leadoff walk, getting three fly ball outs to end the frame without any real threat of damage for once.
Rays 3, Red Sox 3, Mid 3rd -- The 3-4 combo get good contact for the Red Sox, but while Gonzalez finds the hole on the left side of the infield for a base hit, Ortiz' line drive goes right to Elliot Johnson at short for the out, keeping the Red Sox from putting together a real scoring threat in the third.
Rays 3, Red Sox 3, End 2nd -- Another sketchy inning for Beckett ends without damage this time thanks to a good throw from Jarrod Saltlamacchia and tag by Mike Aviles, which just barely catches Elliot Johnson trying to steal second after a leadoff single. With a walk and bloop double following later in the inning, the fine defensive effort turns a potentially big inning into a scoreless one for Tampa.
Rays 3, Red Sox 3, Mid 2nd -- Back-and-forth this unusual game goes, with the Red Sox jumping right back in to tie things in the second thanks to a hit that's something of a sight for sore eyes.
Actually, both of the hits involved fall into that category, because the first came from Will Middlebrooks on a changeup. Pitchers had been getting Middlebrooks out left and right by pulling the string, so to see him stay back on a decent offering from Shields and send it hard to left for a base hit is a very encouraging sign.
The second hit was rather louder, however, and much longer in coming. Getting an 89 MPH pitch floating over the inside part of the plate, Mike Aviles took a big hack and sent the offering a long way to dead center, over a leaping B.J. Upton and out of the park for his first shot in nearly a month. Not that unusual a wait for a middle infielder, but after the pace he set to start the year, it seems like it's been forever.
Rays 3, Red Sox 1, End 1st -- Josh Beckett wastes no time at all in giving up the lead, surrendering back-to-back line drive hits before he's even thrown five pitches. A seven-pitch battle against Ben Zobrist follows, complete with a call that may have changed the game, as Zobrist clearly seemed to break his wrists chasing a low pitch, but was given ball three instead of strike three. On the next pitch, Zobrist lined a ball back to Beckett, who put a glove on it but could not recover in time to keep the runner at third or get Zobrist at first.
Strikeouts to B.J. Upton and Hideki Matsui would make the bad call even more impactful, as Beckett could have been out of a scoreless first had the umps gotten it right. Instead, he ended up hitting Jeff Keppinger and surrendering a single to Desmond Jennings that brought two more runs in, leaving the Sox in a 3-1 hole.
Red Sox 1, Rays 0, Mid 1st -- The Sox get to James Shields early in an inning that saw the Tampa Bay ace look less than his best.
The problem for Shields lay largely in his ability to command the strike zone in the first. After getting a fly ball out from Jacoby Ellsbury to start the game, Shields put four of his next five pitches out of the zone to Daniel Nava, who as usual did a good job of not bailing out a wild pitcher. While Shields was better against Ortiz, he still ended up surrendering a free pass to the designated hitter, putting two on and one out as Adrian Gonzalez stepped to the plate for the first time in a week. Trying to avoid another walk, Shields tried to bring a late-tailing fastball across the outside corner, but caught too much of the plate, allowing Gonzalez to slap it into left field for an RBI base hit.
Unfortunately, an inning that could have led to a crooked number stayed at just the one inning, as David Ortiz was thrown out at third trying to advance on the throw home, leaving Cody Ross' strikeout an inning-ender.