Red Sox Live Blog: Boston Remembers How to Play Good Baseball, Tops Tampa Bay in Series Opener

Red Sox Live Blog: Boston Remembers How to Play Good Baseball, Tops Tampa Bay in Series Opener Final, Red Sox 5-2: Boston looks more like a playoff contender than Tampa Bay. Rays are fading fast. Maybe playing in a convalescent home is sapping their will to win. Weak offense doesn’t help either.

One win down, 14 to go for Red Sox to finish year with .500 record. Boston hasn’t had a losing season since 1997. The streak is still alive.

Do you believe?

10:18 p.m.: Rays add a run to draw within three of Boston. B.J. Upton manufactures the score with a single, steal of second, wild pitch and Zobrist groundball.

Upton is an interesting free-agent-to-be at the end of this season. The .255 career hitter doesn’t hit for great average, but he runs well, has some pop, a strong arm and excellent glove.

Upton, 28, is expected to get a multiyear deal and raise from the $7 million he’s making now. According to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, suitors may be willing to go three to five years on a new deal for $27 million ($9 million per year) to $70 million ($14 million per year). Anything more in contract length and average annual value, and a team may as well fill 100 briefcases with $100 bills, fly over the Las Vegas strip in a helicopter on a Saturday night and make it rain.

Boston would not be a good fit for Upton. After the failed Carl Crawford experiment, the Red Sox should avoid Rays outfielders for at least the next 20 to 30 years. But Upton could benefit from a fresh start somewhere.

10:14 p.m.: Mark Melancon is the fourth Red Sox pitcher of the game. He has allowed runs in eight of his last 18 games and sports a 6.92 ERA. Think Ben Cherington would like a mulligan on the Melancon-Jed Lowrie/Kyle Weiland trade?

Mid 9th, Red Sox 5-1: The score stays the same. With one out, Ellsbury reaches on an infield single. He advances to second on a Dustin Pedroia groundout, then gets thrown out attempting to steal third to end the inning.

10:10 p.m.: The announced crowd is 11,722 at Tropicana Field. Mostly friends and family of Rays players.

10:04 p.m.: Now pitching for the Rays: Dane De La Rosa. He throws hard. Strikes out Ciriaco with electric, 94-mph cheese.

End 8th, Red Sox 5-1: Tazawa takes care of Rays 1-2-3. Pitching is getting the job done for Boston.

9:58 p.m.: Red Sox will have a tribute to Johnny Pesky at Fenway Park on Sunday, Sept. 23, at 6 p.m.

9:55 p.m.: Red Sox relievers providing relief. To paraphrase the Japanese groundskeepers from Major League, they don’t stink. After Rich Hill throws a perfect seventh with two strikeouts, Junichi Tazawa starts his inning with a strikeout of Roberts on a 96-mph fastball.

Final line for Cook: 6 IP, 1 R, 1 ER, 5 H, 1 K, 1 BB, 75 pitches, 47 strikes. Efficient, effective outing. The 33-year-old could get his first win since Aug. 6 against the Rangers.

Mid 8th, Red Sox 5, Rays 1: Ramos strikes out the side and prevents Nava, who reached on an error, from adding to Boston’s lead.

9:49 p.m.: Another error by Tampa Bay. Third baseman Sean Rodriguez throws ground ball hit by Daniel Nava into stands.

9:41 p.m.: Left-hander Cesar Ramos is Rays’ fifth pitcher.

End 7th, Red Sox 5, Rays 1: No joy in St. Petersburg. Tampa Bay is six outs from another L. The Rays continue moving in the wrong direction in the standings. They picked a bad time to start slumping. If they don’t snap out of their funk fast, they will be watching the postseason on TV just like the Red Sox.

Mid 7th, Red Sox 5, Rays 1: Fun for Boston is misery for Tampa Bay. Gomes stops the bleeding for the Rays, but not before the Red Sox put three more runs on the board.

Final line for Cobb: 6 IP, 4 R, 3 ER, 2 H, 1 HR, 4, 3 BB, 101 pitches, 62 strikes. Add up all of the numbers, and Cobb is on the hook for the loss. Don’t expect him to buy a steak dinner for Molina anytime soon.

9:27 p.m.: Brandon Gomes replaces Cobb.

9:25 p.m.: Where has this type of quality baseball been from the Red Sox? They coulda been a contender. They coulda been somebody. Terry Malloy, the Marlon Brando character from On the Waterfront, can relate. 

9:24 p.m.: Red Sox 5, Rays 1. Ellsbury knocks a base hit to left to drive in his third run of the game.

Another pitching change for Rays.

Red Sox are getting good pitching, good hitting and good defense. In the same game. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while.

9:20 p.m.: Pedro Ciriaco gets intentionally walked, just his sixth walk of the season. For Ciriaco to have a shot at being an everyday player in 2013 (and beyond), he will need to work on getting on base more. That includes taking walks. His .316 on-base percentage limits, rather than leverages, his greatest weapon: speed. Getting his OBP up closer to .400 would increase his value and make him a bigger threat.

9:17 p.m.: Mauro Gomez, hitting for Scott Podsednik, drives in two runs with a single. Red Sox 4, Rays 1.

9:13 p.m.: Left-hander J.P. Howell takes over for Badenhop.

9:09 p.m.: Burke Badenhop takes over for Cobb. The right-hander gets Lavarnway to hit a ground ball to short, but Zobrist boots the ball. Could have been a double play. Instead, the bases are loaded with no outs.

9:07 p.m.: Cobb gets the hook after giving up a single to James Loney and walking Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The Rays’ right-hander goes six-plus innings and gives up two hits.

9:03 p.m.: The Red Sox and Rays have had a few altercations over the years. Who could forget Gerald Williams charging Pedro Martinez and turning into Marvin Hagler in 1999? Or Coco Crisp charging James Shields and sparking an old-fashioned donnybrook.

End 6th, Red Sox 2-1: Three up, three down. After an Upton single, Zobrist grounds into a double play. Iglesias makes a nice play at short to throw out Joyce at first and end the inning.

8:55 p.m.: Cobb and Jose Molina show their frustration in the dugout between half innings. After the top of the sixth, the pitcher and catcher begin yelling at each other and have to be separated. Who do they think they are — the 1974 A’s? The Rays should be yelling at and fighting the Red Sox.

Mid 6th, Red Sox 2-1: Ellsbury’s power stroke has been in the witness protection program most of the season. Nice to see it coming out of hiding.

The center fielder’s home run broke up Alex Cobb’s no-hitter and shutout. That’s baseball. Fortunes change in a hurry.

8:45 p.m.: First hit of the night for Red Sox is a big one and gives them the lead. Boston goes up 2-1 with one swing of Jacoby Ellsbury’s bat. The center fielder deposits a 91 mph fastball into the right-center field seats for his fourth home run of the season.

8:38 p.m.: Dick Vitale is one of the 75 people in the house at the Trop. He never met a camera he didn’t like. But can you blame him for this one?

Red Sox Live Blog: Boston Remembers How to Play Good Baseball, Tops Tampa Bay in Series Opener

A Kodak moment with Jenny Dell is awesome, baby. (Photo via Instagram @dickiev_espn.)

End 5th, Rays 1-0: A safety squeeze isn’t exactly the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World,” but the bunt is good, fundamentally sound baseball. Joe Maddon’s teams do the little things. That’s why they are in contention year after year.

8:33 p.m.: Red Sox bullpen stirs. Rich Hill starts warming up.

8:28 p.m.: We have offense. Sort of. Rays take 1-0 lead on a safety squeeze. Roberts lays the bunt down the first-base line on a tough inside pitch, and Luke Scott scores the first run of the game.

Mid 5th, 0-0: Cue Kermit the Frog and Fozzie Bear. This Red Sox-Rays game is moving right along.

8:16 p.m.: Speaking of Shangri-La, anyone who enjoys exciting yarns should check out The Lost Horizon, a novel by James Hilton published in 1933. The story is about a group of travelers whose plane crashes in the Himalayas in Tibet. There, they find a hidden community of peace where people live for centuries. Very enlightening pulp.

End 4th, 0-0: No runs, one B.J. Upton infield single for Rays. If you like pitching and no offense, this game is Shangri-La.

Mid 4th, 0-0: The hits keep on not coming for the Red Sox. At this rate, the game could be over in under two hours. That still would be far from the MLB record for fastest nine-inning game. On Sept. 28, 1919, the New York Giants beat the Philadelphia Phillies 6-1 in 51 minutes.

End 3rd, 0-0: Eight-pitch inning. Cook sets the Rays down 1-2-3. Iglesias shows off his hops in the field and makes a nice catch of a Ryan Roberts line drive. The 5-foot-11 Cuban shortstop looked a little like Rajon Rondo climbing the ladder. Wonder if Iglesias can do this?

Mid 3rd, 0-0: Red Sox go down in order. Only one at-bat of note: Jose Iglesias does not get pulled for a pinch hitter and flies out to center.

7:47 p.m.: Remember the name Psy. He is a South Korean pop star, and Major League Baseball is using his pop single, “Gangnam Style,” to promote the playoffs in a commercial. Catchy tune.

End 2nd, 0-0: We could have a ground ball theme for this game. Through two frames, seven groundouts — five by Cobb, two by Cook.

Mid 2nd, 0-0: Wake up, St. Petersburg. You’re missing a pitchers’ duel. Red Sox get only one baserunner as Jarrod Saltamacchia draws a walk. Cody Ross, James Loney and Ryan Lavarnway ground out.

7:34 p.m.: If the Rays can get to playoffs — and it’s a big if — they would be dangerous because of their pitching. They rank first in the majors in ERA (3.27, tied with Nations), batting average against (.231) and WHIP (1.18).

7:31 p.m.: Rays should consider changing the name of Tropicana Field to Ghost Town.

End 1st, 0-0: Cook gives up a single to Ben Zobrist, but that is all for the Rays.

7:21 p.m.: Rays should pull an Art Modell and move the team to a city that will appreciate a team, come to the ballpark and watch games. Tampa Ray is in the middle of fighting for a playoff spot, and most of St. Petersburg had the early bird special for dinner hours ago. Now, the primary demographic is getting ready for bed. The lack of support is nothing new, but remains a pathetic sight for a major league franchise.

Mid 1st, 0-0: Alex Cobb to Red Sox: You’ll get nothing and like it. No runs, no hits. Better luck next time.

7:13 p.m.: Plenty of good seats still available at the Trop.

7:11 p.m.: And we’re off. Evan Longoria is out of the lineup for the Rays with some tired legs. He will be available to pinch-hit, if necessary. Insert joke here.

7:06 p.m.: Dustin Pedroia is en fuego in September, hitting .409 (18-for-44) with three home runs, three RBIs, a .458 on-base percentage and .682 slugging percentage.

6:09 p.m.: Dennis Eckersley and Jerry Remy weigh in on the Iglesias Pinch-Hit Brouhaha during NESN’s pregame show.

Eckersley calls Valentine’s move embarrassing and humiliating for Iglesias, who could be part of the Red Sox’ organization for a long time and still is working to gain confidence. In Eck’s 24 years of baseball, he remembers, maybe once, a hitter getting pulled for a pinch hitter in the middle of an at-bat.

Remy is equally confounded by the move. According to Remy, the joke going around the Red Sox clubhouse in St. Petersburg on Monday: Hitters better not go too deep into counts, or they might be pulled for a pinch hitter.

Henny Youngman would be proud.

5 p.m.: Jose Iglesias gets a clean slate at the plate.

After being pinch-hit for in the middle of an at-bat Sunday — when Bobby Valentine subbed in Daniel Nava with a 2-2 count — the Red Sox’ shortstop bats ninth in the series opener against the Rays.

Here are the complete lineups for both squads.

Boston Red Sox (66-81)
Pedro Ciriaco, 3B
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Cody Ross, RF
James Loney, 1B
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, DH
Ryan Lavarnway, C
Scott Podsednik, LF
Jose Iglesias, SS

Aaron Cook, P

Tampa Bay Rays (78-68)
Desmond Jennings, LF
B.J. Upton, CF
Ben Zobrist, SS
Matt Joyce, RF
Luke Scott, DH
Jeff Keppinger, 3B
Carlos Peña, 1B
Ryan Roberts, 2B
Jose Molina, C

Alex Cobb, P

2:21 p.m.: Bobby Valentine is a polarizing figure. Some people love him. Others don’t. But everyone can agree he is quotable.

The Red Sox’ skipper has had his fair share of “say what” comments this season. We have collected them on NESN.com in a feature called “According to Bobby.”

Nobody ever knows what will come out of Valentine’s mouth next. One thing you can be sure he won’t say during the Red Sox-Rays series? More cowbell.

Valentine is no Bruce Dickinson.

1:51 p.m.: In other sports news, Sunday was an eventful day in the NFL.

Greg Schiano made some new friends in New York.

The Patriots’ offensive line made the Cardinals’ defense look like the second coming of the Steel Curtain.

Wes Welker continued to get the new-kid-in-school treatment.

And NFL players had Ed Hochuli withdrawals because of replacement referees.

1:26 p.m.: Rays fans have come a long way. Joe Maddon used to criticize them for not showing up at the Trop to support the Rays. Now, he praises them.

 

 

According to ESPN, Tampa Bay plays in front of a 58.6 percent-full stadium on average, good for 23rd in the majors. That amounts to 19,956 fans per game (last in the majors), but the Rays are making progress. In 2010, the year Tampa Bay won the AL East, the Rays were lucky to get 12,000 at the park.

For perspective, the Red Sox rank first in full-house percentage (101.4 percent) and average 37,580 fans per game this season. They also have lost fewer games on the road (33-38) than at Fenway Park (33-43).

So today, we salute you, Mr. Tampa Bay Rays Cowbell Ringer. Keep showing up. You’re a real American hero

8 a.m. ET: The Red Sox have 15 games left to play in
2012. At 66-81 and 17 1/2 games back in the AL East, they must win out to
finish at .500.

Don’t bet the mortgage, kid’s college fund or lunch money
that Boston will run the table. In fact, betting anything more than a handshake
is a bad idea. The Red Sox have not had a three-game winning streak since July 31 (when they had a four-game stretch) after failing to sweep the Blue Jays on Sunday.

But the show must go on, and Bobby Valentine is committed
to keeping the tent on the circus. Before the series opener in Toronto,
Valentine called Boston’s September roster the worst in the history of Western civilization. The insult worked like a
motivational charm, and the Red Sox won Games 145 and 146. On the third day, the skipper clarified
his remarks
 and sent in a pinch hitter for Jose Iglesias in the middle of an
at-bat
.

What will Valentine do for an encore in Florida? Maybe he
and Joe Maddon can bike to games together, discuss managerial strategy and catch up on old times.

The Red Sox open a four-game series with
the Rays at Tropicana Field on Monday night. Tampa Bay won’t be in a welcoming mood. The Rays
(78-68) just dropped two of three to the Yankees in the Bronx to fall five back
in the East and four back in the AL wild-card race.

Nothing would make the Red Sox and Valentine happier than
knocking Maddon’s Band of Merrymakers further down in the standings.

Right-hander Aaron Cook (3-10, 5.18 ERA) gets the starting nod for Boston and will be opposed by right-hander Alex Cobb (9-8, 4.26) for Tampa Bay.

All of the entertainment begins at 5:30 p.m. on NESN.
First pitch is 7:10 p.m. Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy have the TV call. Follow
along on the live blog for catharsis.