Red Sox Live Blog: Jonathan Papelbon Blows Save, Rays Rally to Complete Red Sox Collapse

Red Sox Live Blog: Jonathan Papelbon Blows Save, Rays Rally to Complete Red Sox Collapse

12:06 a.m.: One thing is for sure. You will never forget this night.

And if you are a Red Sox fan, that means you will be tormented forever.

Sorry, folks, but your team just finished the biggest collapse in baseball history and it occurred in the most stunning fashion ever.

You don’t need me to say anymore, but if you want to get more reaction please check the site throughout the night/morning. Thanks for following along.

12:01 a.m.: At the stroke of midnight, Papelbon blew the save, and two minutes later, the game was lost.

We are now watching the Rays game to see what happens, but the Sxo are 91-71.

Papelbon allowed a double after striking out the first two. He then gave up a tying double to Nolan Reimold and then a base hit to Robert Andino that hit off the glove of Carl Crawford (naturally).

It’s over, folks, but we have to wait until the Rays-Yanks game is complete before we really know how this plays out.

Mid 9th, Red Sox 3-2: Both teams have just killed themselves with bad outs and rally-killing DPs and all kinds of crap like that.

It was Boston’s turn again in the top of the ninth, but give Baltimore credit for escaping the jam.

The Sox had runners on first and third with nobody out and David Ortiz up. He hit a ball about one foot in front of the plate that died. Matt Wieters pounced on it and got the force at second.

The O’s elected to walk Adrian Gonzalez (third intentional BB of the game) and then got Ryan Lavarnway to ground into a 6-4-3 double play.

Lavarnway is 0-for-5 with nine left on base.

End 8th, Red Sox 3-2: Daniel Bard was taken to the track twice in the eighth, but it doesn’t matter all that much if they end up in someone’s glove.

They do, and we’ll get Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth against the 6-7-8 hitters.

Mid 8th, Red Sox 3-2: There have been a ton of outs made on the bases tonight, and the Sox have had some bad ones, as is their way.

They stink on the base paths, have all season, and it will kill them some day.

In the eighth, Marco Scutaro singled and then watched as Carl Crawford’s drive to left-center got down beyond a Nolan Reimold dive.

However, Scutaro thought he caught it and stopped between second and third. He then had to get going again once he realized it was past Reimold, and probably should’ve been kept at third, especially with one out.

Instead, Tim Bogar sent him and the relay was perfect. Second out. The third would come moments later.

Daniel Bard is on for the eighth. Yanks and Rays go to the 11th.

End 7th, Red Sox 3-2: Somehow, Alfredo Aceves just keeps getting outs. It’s almost absurd how many times he has come up big.

Aceves hit two batters in the first three pitches he threw (the second was an out). In typical fashion, he struck out Robert Andino and then got J.J. Hardy to ground weakly to third.

Opponents are 2-for-30 (.067) against Aceves with runners on first and second. That’s astounding.

Pedro Strop, who has had some good innings against the Sox of late, is on to pitch for the O’s.

10:59 p.m.: We have resumed play at Camden Yards under very different circumstances. And Alfredo Aceves just hit Mark Reynolds with the first pitch he throws.

Uh-oh.

10:50 p.m.: As the Rays have tied it (what, you didn’t hear?), we have learned that the Sox and O’s will start again at 11 p.m.

10:17 p.m.: As the minutes tick away toward midnight, the Rays are attempting to mount a rally in the eighth. You can follow the action in that game right here.

9:36 p.m.: For those of you wondering, Jon Lester was going to come out anyway. Alfredo Aceves is in the dugout and was prepared to go out to begin the bottom of the seventh.

Also, saw some questions as to how they will handle this. As far as I know, MLB will handle the call here. It has the same rules in effect as any other game in terms of postponements and what not, but they will wait until 2013 to finish this. If the Rays lost and saw the Sox get a 3-2 rain-shortened win when the hosts have three at-bats and the visitors just two, it would be bedlam in….Bradenton (only “B” town I could think of near St. Pete).

Mid 7th, Red Sox 3-2: It is impossible to revise history and predict what Adrian Gonzalez would’ve done with runners on the corners and one out, but that mistake by Ortiz. Oh goodness that was bad.

All it takes is one swing for the Orioles to tie this. You can’t be doing stuff like that.

And with that, the tarp is coming onto the field. Rain delay!!!!

9:28 p.m.: We may have just had one of those plays that you look back on and say, “If that didn’t happen, we win.”

“We” being the Red Sox, for it was their mistake in the top of the seventh that could prove huge.

With Dustin Pedroia on first and one out, David Ortiz lined a hit to left-center field. Pedroia had third all the way and would be there with one out with a great chance to get a fourth run in.

But Ortiz, who doesn’t hustle when he should and does when he shouldn’t, broke for second and was an easy second out. That just kills the run-scoring opportunity, or at least makes it such that you require a hit.

After an intentional pass to Adrian Gonzalez, Willie Eyre will face Ryan Lavarnway.

End 6th, Red Sox 3-2: As I warned you in the last post, this was danger time for Jon Lester, but his defense just bailed him out big time.

I don’t know how all of you take in your Red Sox action throughout the course of a game, but if you don’t have TV now but will later, make sure to catch the double play turned by Marco Scutaro and Dustin Pedroia in the sixth.

Lester opened the frame by walking the first two men he faced. As the bullpen stirred, up stepped Vladimir Guerrero with an opportunity to alter the game in a major way. He smacked one up the middle that looked as if it was ticketed for center and what would’ve been an RBI single, but Scutaro made a great stop on the run, somehow flipped to Pedroia at a very difficult angle and saw Pedroia make a wonderful relay.

Now, if it was anyone but Guerrero running, we’re talking first and third and one out. Instead it was two outs and a man on third. Lester walked the next man he faced, his third of the inning and fifth in the game. It seemed like a great time to yank him, but Francona stuck with his lefty and it paid off when he fanned Adam Jones to end it.

Jones swung at ball four. The Orioles are doing plenty to help out the Sox tonight, let’s be honest.

Mid 6th, Red Sox 3-2: Because the Orioles got all their runs on one swing and because the Sox have outhit them 7-4 and because the Sox have scored in a variety of ways and because the Rays are getting crushed, this just seems like such a positive night.

But it’s still a one-run game and Jon Lester, on three days’ rest, will begin the bottom of the sixth with a pitch count of 70. He will be facing the heart of the order, including J.J. Hardy, who is 2-for-2 with a double and a homer.

Huge inning right here.

End 5th, Red Sox 3-2: A saying among old baseball types (I’m one) is that you have to be strong up the middle.

So much of what transpires in a game is rooted in the play of your batter, your second baseman and shortstop and your center fielder.

The Sox are strong up the middle tonight, with all those players doing the job on offense and defense.

Marco Scutaro, whose dance off third forced a balk and the second Red Sox run a couple of innings ago, just nailed Mark Reynolds at home plate on a grounder to a drawn-in Scutaro.

Reynolds had doubled to lead off the inning and moved to third with one out. He was off on contact on Nolan Reimold’s tapper, but an easy out once Ryan Lavarnway applied a strong tag.

Mid 5th, Red Sox 3-2: Personally, I think Dustin Pedroia should still be in the MVP talk. Even when he slumped a bit earlier this month, he still did so many little things that made the difference.

And now that he’s scorching hot again and doing everything in a must-win regular season finale, it seems he deserves consideration.

It won’t happen because his numbers aren’t gaudy, but he truly is one of those guys you appreciate the more you see him. I’ve seen him play 180-something games since the start of March, and my appreciation is still growing.

Anyway, that’s my two cents on Pedey, who’s been the difference so far.

The one thing to watch for here in the bottom of the fifth is whether a long wait effects Jon Lester.

8:39 p.m.: Alfredo Simon looked as strong as he had all night in blowing away Jacoby Ellsbury to begin the fifth.

Apparently he emptied the tank.

Dustin Pedroia followed up the Ellsbury K with a long home run to left to snap the tie. It is the 21st of the year for Pedroia, who has done it all tonight.

The blast occurred at almost the exact same time that Mark Teixeria homered against the Rays, who are down 6-0. It’s looking more and more like a trip to Detroit or Texas is in the cards. A lot still has to happen, but if the scores hold that’s what we are looking at.

David Ortiz singled off the wall in right to chase Simon. Troy Patton, who sounds like a rodeo rider, is on in relief.

End 4th, 2-2: As Jon Lester flies through the fourth, a quick glance at the Rays-Yankees box score shows New York on its third pitcher. It’s only the third inning.

And still they hold a 5-0 lead. Incredible. People have used the choke word to describe the Red Sox, but getting spanked by the Yanks on a night like this, with David Price on the mound no less, would amount to one for Tampa Bay.

Mid 4th, 2-2: All kinds of wacky plays turning things in the Rays and Sox games the last two nights.

There was the triple play that Tampa Bay turned that helped them rally last night. Then, Ben Zobrist boots a routine grounder to give the Yankees an early run in tonight’s meeting.

And now we have the old walk with a man on third. Marco Scutaro stayed hot with a double, moved to third and then danced enough to get Alfredo Simon to move, apparently. I didn’t see a hair move on him and the replay didn’t show much, but the O’s never argued so something happened.

That was all Scutaro, and he took that straight from me. It was 1992, the season opener against Champlain Valley Union High School. One of our good hitters led off the last half of the seventh (we only played seven) with a hit and I went in to pinch run.

Stolen base, advance on a grounder to the right side and then dance like you have ants in your pants off third. The CVU kid couldn’t hack my moves, flinched and I scored the game-winning run without ever picking up a bat.

I hit .160 that year.

End 3rd, Orioles 2-1: Jon Lester came out of the gate throwing hard and attacking, but there were some chinks in the armor.

He gave up a double in the first, a deep fly to right and a single in the second, and when he walked Chris Davis, a left-handed hitter with 10 free passes all season, to begin the first, you started to wonder.

Lester actually battled back to get a pair of outs, but left a fat fastball over the plate that J.J. Hardy belted over the wall in left. It’s Hardy’s 30th (like you care about Orioles milestones) and it is the third straight start that has seen someone take Lester deep — the lefty had given up only one home run in eight starts before that.

Mid 3rd, Red Sox 1-0: It bothered me that everyone was hinting that the Rays winning tonight was an absolute, hence my 6:28 p.m. post.

Please read that and know that the formula therein is working so far. 5-0 Yankees.

Still a lot of time for that to turn around, and you figure the regulars will be out after two at-bats or so. That makes Dustin Pedroia’s RBI single in the top of the third a big one.

Mike Aviles had walked and Jacoby Ellsbury singled (36-game hitting streak against the Orioles) before Pedroia knocked the first pitch he saw back up through the box.

Pedroia has been hot here at the end of the season. He has hit in 11 straight games and with that RBI reaches 90 for the first time in his career. Has a pretty good playoff beard, too.

End 2nd, 0-0: I have to pick sock lint out of my son’s toes now, so all I can tell you is Adam Jones had a one-out hit but was erased when Mark Reynolds hit into a double play.

Mid 2nd, 0-0: J.D. Drew has done just fine since coming back. He is now 4-for-12 since his return after a one-out single in the second.

There was a time when it appeared as if Drew might not have enough time at the end of the season to prove he’s ready for October (if/when), but he’s your right fielder for as long as this team survives.

That’s all the Sox can muster as Alfredo Simon gets two quick outs after Drew’s base hit.

End 1st, 0-0: Jon Lester came out aggressive, just like you would want to see. There was a one-out double by J.J. Hardy that might’ve caused a few uh-ohs to be uttered, but Lester schooled Nick Markakis with a three-pitch strikeout and got Vladimir Guerrero to ground to third.

And you probably already know but the Yankees took an early 1-0 lead in the unlikeliest of ways. Rays second baseman Ben Zobrist, one of their many steady defenders, booted a routine inning-ending grounder, allowing a run to score.

Mid 1st, 0-0: If John Hirschbeck is going to have a strike zone the size of a diamond (voice of Cameron from Ferris Bueller), it could spell trouble for Jon Lester, who throws his share of balls to begin with.

Alfredo Simon got the first two outs in a jiffy before going ahead of David Ortiz 0-2. He then dropped in a perfect breaking ball that Hirschbeck deemed a ball, for reasons we will never understand.

Ortiz battled back to work a walk before Adrian Gonzalez hit into a force play.

We will see if the zone remains tight or if that was just a one-pitch kind of thing.

7:10 p.m.: Alfredo Simon, the guy nobody has even mentioned when it comes to the fortunes of the Red Sox, has started this one off with a 97 mph strike to Jacoby Ellsbury.

Simon threw a career high-tying eight innings his last time out.

6:38 p.m.: An update to the previous post: Alex Rodriguez has been scratched from the Yankees lineup. So David Price’s night presumably just got a bit easier.

6:28 p.m.: In addition to rooting for the Red Sox, here’s what else you need to hope for.

You need to hope for Dellin Betances to do something special for the few innings he’s in the game in St. Pete. There’s precedent for this. Young pitchers with great stuff, great upside and nothing to lose very often shut down opponents who have never seen them.

The Rays saw Betances for a brief relief appearance last week, but he’ll still be relatively new.

And if Betances makes a good impression with three or four scoreless, you have to hope that New York’s lineup does damage early. The batting order has a Jeter and a Cano and a Teixeira and a Granderson and a Rodriguez and a Swisher. But it will have a lot of Dickersons and Romines and Lairds as the game hits the middle innings.

If David Price is locked in by the time those guys arrive, it could be lights out.

The odds are the Rays will win. But it’s not a guarantee if some of the scenarios play out in a certain way.

5:49 p.m.: For obvious reasons, nobody can talk about anything but the September collapse.

If you back up just a bit, though, you realize that the only way the Red Sox are in this position right now is because of their amazing July, or because of other hot stretches.

One way or another, for 162 (161 in this case) you play your way into a position. Whether that position is one in which you wanted to be or not, that remains another thing. It doesn’t much matter how you got here, though.

Saying that, I took a quick glance back at the game-by-game results. Without doing a ton of deep analysis, I think the team’s very best win so far in terms of how it shaped their season was the victory in the series finale at Philadelphia on June 30.

The Sox had gone 6-8 in interleague games to that point, but by getting a big start from Jon Lester (it helped that they knocked Cole Hamels from the game after four innings with a line drive), the kicked off a 21-6 run that saw the club click on almost every cylinder.

The worst loss so far in my opinion was the 11-10 setback in Toronto a few weeks ago, the one in which Daniel Bard completely melted down and a three-run double off Matt Albers proved to be the difference. Boston wasn’t playing well at the time. They were 2-5 in September to that point. However, they were coming off a 14-0 rout and held an 8-5 lead entering the seventh inning of that one.

The loss began the 5-15 fall that has brought us to this point.

Tonight, because of how much is riding on it, will be either the team’s best win or its worst loss.

With that in mind, here are a few links to some of our Red Sox- and baseball-related items of the day.

First, the updates on Clay Buchholz and Kevin Youkilis.

Also, my opinion on Terry Francona, tonight’s lineup and why it is a nice example as to how good he is at staying the course and doing what he feels is right.

I also opined upon the other manager in tonight’s game and why he is the perfect guy to pull off the spoiler.

4:07 p.m.: When you are watching Jon Lester tonight, take note of the counts to the Orioles hitters.

If he is getting into two- and three-ball counts early on, or even walking guys, that’s never a good sign. He can dominate when he avoids high pitch counts early. Otherwise he can be a five-inning pitcher, or even less given his three days of rest.

We explored this issue with Lester in this story. Take a look, and then take a look at the lineup he will face in the biggest regular season start of his career:

Robert Andino, 2B
J.J. Hardy, SS
Nick Markakis, RF
Vladimir Guerrero, DH
Matt Wieters, C
Adam Jones, CF
Mark Reynolds, 1B
Chris Davis, 3B
Nolan Reimold, LF

The bookends have given Lester some fits. Andino is 4-for-7 (.571) with a double against the lefty. Reimold is 4-for-10 (.400) with a double and three walks.

In case you needed to be reminded, Lester is 14-0 with a 2.33 ERA against Baltimore in his career. Some of you will curse me for jinxing him, but how can you not mention that? It is the longest current winning streak by any active pitcher against any team and the longest winning streak ever against the Orioles to begin a career.

3:04 p.m.: With a righty on the mound, Jarrod Saltalamacchia already declaring he was good to go and Jon Lester on the mound, it would seem that Terry Francona would have every reason to stick with his starting catcher.

Apparently, last night’s performance by Ryan Lavarnway was all Francona needed to go by when making out his lineup card.

Lavarnway will hit fifth and catch Lester, who threw to Saltalamacchia in 23 of his 30 starts, although his ERA was well over a run less when he threw to Jason Varitek (3.77 to 2.48).

Another quirk is the use of David Ortiz in the third spot in the lineup and Adrian Gonzalez in the cleanup role. Both have hit in those spots before, but we haven’t seen Ortiz-Gonzalez 3-4 this season.

Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
David Ortiz, DH
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Ryan Lavarnway, C
J.D. Drew, RF
Marco Scutaro, SS
Carl Crawford, LF
Mike Aviles, 3B

8 a.m. ET: The Red Sox are already expecting the Tampa Bay Rays to win Wednesday night at home. If that’s the case, it makes the regular-season finale in Baltimore the very definition of a must-win game.

The Sox and Rays enter the final day of the season tied. If they remain that way at the end of the night, Boston travels to Tampa Bay for a 4:07 p.m. game Thursday afternoon.

In their finale, the Rays will be facing a collection of second-rate arms for the New York Yankees, who are simply gearing up for Friday’s ALDS opener at home. Tampa will have a great chance to pick up its 91st win. Whether or not the Red Sox get theirs will depend in large part on the performance of Jon Lester.

Lester will be pitching on three days’ rest for the second time in his career and the first time since April 2008. He gave up four runs on nine hits in five innings the first time he went through this. The lefty is 0-3 with a 10.54 ERA over his last three starts.

Baltimore, which has given Boston everything it can handle over the past week-plus, starts righty Alfredo Simon.

First pitch of this do-or-die affair is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.

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