Final, Rays Win 13-3: We're really not quite sure what to say about this one. It was back-and-forth early, but once Matsuzaka allowed the Rays to break through in the fourth inning, it never really felt close.
And, of course, the sixth inning was an absolute nightmare, where the Red Sox just couldn't throw strikes. We'll spare you all the numerical details.
With the win, the Rays improve to 79-70, while the Sox fall to 68-82, ensuring Boston's first losing season since 1997. Chris Archer (1-3) picks up the win, while Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-6) takes the loss. Time of the game was 3:21.
Well, that's it for us from our Red Sox Live Blog, but never fret, we'll be back with another edition Thursday as Boston tries to secure a four-game series win in Tampa Bay. First pitch will again be at 7:10 p.m., but you can tune into NESN beginning at 6 p.m. with Red Sox First Pitch.
And, in the meantime, follow this live blogger on Twitter at @ZachStoloff to chat Red Sox and all things MLB any time day or night.
End 8th, Rays 13-3: Earlier today, NESN reported that former Oasis vocalist Liam Gallagher actually missed the end of a soccer match between Real Madrid (of whom he is a huge fan) and Manchester City basically because he was too excited.
It's been a while since Oasis has been in the news, and considering all the amazing gossip surrounding the fued between Liam and his brother, Noel Gallagher, that's a shame. So, we here at our Red Sox Live Blog decided to do you a favor.
Click here to read an amazing interview conducted by Chuck Klosterman for Grantland about a year ago, in which the music journalists sits down for a hilarious chat with Noel. Just a hint of what to expect:
"I never said that I was the greatest thing since Lennon and McCartney …
well, actually, I'm lying. I probably did say that once or twice in
"I really wonder what would have happened if Be Here Now had sold like Morning Glory.
What would we have done the next time? Just imagine if that album had
sold 30 million copies. I probably would have grown a mustache and
started wearing a f–king cape."
Mid 8th, Rays 12-3: It's been a while since the Sox offense has been able to mount any kind of attack. In fact, since the third inning Boston has been largely silent. Granted, the game is probably out of reach, but the offensive unit had looked much more dangerous in recent games.
Nonetheless, Tampa Bay's strength is its pitching, and it's showing why tonight.
End 7th, Rays 12-3: There's been a lot of debate lately about how to handle the expanded 40-man rosters in September, with the contention being that the larger rosters slow games down late in the season.
On the one hand, it's absolutely true that the larger rosters make for longer games, and many clubhouses become physically cramped when welcoming up the minor leaguers to the big club — Fenway's visiting clubhouse is among the worst.
But all that being said, September is a time when many rosters are wearing a bit thin, so the extra ammunition probably helps prevent injuries. However, ultimately it's a fan's game and it needs to be tailored to be watchable.
Mid 7th, Rays 12-3: In certain situations, this live blogger has been encouraged to move beyond just baseball and incorporate pop culture and whathaveyou into this live chronicling of the Red Sox. A 9-run blowout seems like the appropriate time, no?
On that note, I highly, highly reccoment checking out the new album by Grizzly Bear, which was just released yesterday in the United States. The foursome has already been making the rounds on late night television, checking in with Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon and a host of others.
Additionally, the band is also playing a sold-out show at the Orpheum here in Boston this Saturday — and this live blogger will indeed be there.
Click here to hear a stream of "Shields."
End 6th, Rays 12-3: So, uhm, Scott Atchison has been pretty good this season, and he continues it by mercifully ending the 6th inning on a double play.
Aside from that, we'll save any editorial comments on that last half inning.
Bottom 6th, Rays 9-3: Perhaps that wasn't the best situation to bring Daniel Bard in. Granted, it's the kind of low-pressure situation you would like to give him a chance to throw some pitches, but we're not sure doing it in the middle of an inning was the best idea.
Normally, when a pitcher is struggling as Bard has been since he was demoted to Triple-A earlier this season, managers try to give them a clean inning to begin in a blowout game. And though this is close to a blowout at this point, the Rays already had a significant amount of momentum in the inning. Ideally, you'd like to give Bard a fair chance to regain some confidence.
Unfortunaltely, it looks like Bard is anything but confident right now, as his Steve Blass-like issues continue with three walks in five batters faced.
Mid 6th, Rays 5-3: After some early struggles and command issues, Archer has really settled down and given the Rays some stability.
That was actually the first time Archer has sent the Sox down in order, but the last time the Red Sox had any sustained threat was in the third inning. Since that point Archer has retired nine of 11, allowing just a walk to Nava and a single to Ellsbury.
More to the point, Archer is just hitting his spots better, and actually seems to be using his developing changeup to great effect on the evening.
End 5th, Rays 5-3: This live blogger is not an overall proponent of James Loney. In short, the 28-year-old has had plenty of time over his career to evolve into the hitter the Dodgers always thought he would be, and it just hasn't happened. Loney patently doesn't have the bat to justify regular plate appearances while filling a corner infield role.
All that being said, his defense is flat brilliant, as we've seen as much during his brief time with the Red Sox. His first-step reactions are impeccable, he has incredible hands and is always positioned in the right place. It's been a pleasure to watch Loney work at first base.
End 4th, Rays 5-3: We feel we spoke too soon in this instance.
A couple of times throughout this blog we'd mentioned Matsuzaka's ability to not let his bad innings snowball, which has been a characteristic of his all year. Well, we just had to wait a little bit longer for that to actually happen, as the wheels just came off in the bottom of the fourth.
Matsuzaka is a strange animal. He seems to be either far too fine with his pitches, missing the zone entirely, or he lives right in the middle of the plate, and usually gets hit very hard when he does so. There's rarely any middle ground.
Either way, credit Alfredo Aceves for coming in and ending the inning, particularly given the fact that he hasn't pitchd in a week.
Mid 4th, Red Sox 3-2: Earlier we mentioned that Archer's primary hindrance as a starting pitcher are his lapses in control. Throughout his minor league career, the 23-year-old has always maintained high walk rates, and, despite his success, 2012 has been no different.
Through 128 innings pitched with Triple-A Durham, Archer walked 62 batters, almost one every other inning. The inverse of that is that Archer struck out an impressive 139 batters, so he can definitely get away with a few more free passes than most.
But that being said, the major leagues is a much bigger jump than any other level of baseball, and control issues tend to be magnified when you're consistently facing the best hitters in the world in terms of pitch recognition.
End 3rd, Red Sox 3-2: We won't say that this is a new-and-improved Matsuzaka, because yielding a couple runs over three innings isn't spectacular, but we're definitely seeing an improvement from the right-hander.
As we mentioned earlier, Matsuzaka has a tendancy to let his bad innings snowball on him. However, twice in this game he's allowed a single run when the Rays were threatening for more, so just the fact that he's been able to limit damage is a step in the right direction. Another step, of course, would be a scoreless frame.
So let's see if he has that in his bag of tricks.
Mid 3rd, Red Sox 3-1: Jacoby Ellsbury has finally gotten his legs under him, as the numbers have indicated. According to Bill James' esoteric temperature gauge, Ellsbury came into this game registering as an 88, and that's only likely to increase, as the center field has two RBIs already on the night.
Going back to Sept. 8 — a span of 10 games coming into Wednesday — Ellsbury has gone 15-for-46, which includes two home runs and eight RBIs. He's also stolen a couple bases, on top of everything else.
End 2nd, 1-1: Despite initially getting himself into trouble — to be fair, none of those base hits were struck particularly hard — credit Matsuzaka for limiting the damage and getting himself out of the inning there.
Being able to minimize a threat is clearly not a skill Dice-K has thrived with. Quite to the contrary, one little trickle has a tendancy to open the floodgates against the right-hander. But Matsuzaka strikes out Pena and gets Molina to ground into a double play to put away the Rays while yielding just the one run.
Mid 2nd, 1-0 Red Sox: Well, it's disappointing for the Sox not to push any runs across there after getting the first two on, but let's turn our attention to Boston starter Daisuke Matsuzaka.
During his time as the Red Sox' pitching coach, John Farrel tried to limit the number of different types of pitches Matsuzaka would throw on any given night, but it's no secret the right-hander has an almost inumerable arsenal of pitches.
Matsuzaka features two and four-seam fastballs, a cutter, a straight curveball, a slider, a changeup, a forkball and (possibly) something called the gyroball. Realistically that one's probably just a variation of the cutter, but when Matsuzaka first came over to America the myth of that pitch took on a life of its own.
For the 32-year-old, the story is always the same: be more aggressive, avoid nibbling. Matsuzaka has as many weapons as any big league starter, but it seems far too often that he doesn't trust his stuff, preferring to be too fine on the corners, and inevitably issuing free passes or running his pitch count up.
End 1st, 1-0 Red Sox: So, what to expect from rookie right-hander Chris Archer?
The 23-year-old has some great pure stuff, but, as you'd expect, he hasn't completely learned the art of pitching yet. By all accounts, in the minors he had trouble with free passes, with a walk rate in Triple-A hovering around 5 per nine innings. He also hasn't really developed his secondary pitches much.
That being said, what Archer does have is a mid-90s fastball that naturally sinks and thus generates a lot of ground balls. He also was reported to have one of the most-developed straight curveballs in all of Minor League Baseball, but his changeup — which he actually featured a couple times in the first inning — still has some work to do.
Mid 1st, 1-0 Red Sox: Well, then, that's certainly a nice change of pace for the Red Sox. Even though they've been playing much better of late, they've still often found themselves behind early. So, it will be interesting to see how the team reacts to the inverse.
Particularly, it will be interesting to see hor Matsuzaka reacts, as he's often been the culprit in terms of putting the Sox behind early. We'll see how he works with an early lead. Hopefully for the Red Sox that gives the right-hander the license to be more aggressive in the strike zone.
7:11 p.m.: We have first pitch! And, for those wondering about the gametime weather down in Tampa … don't! The Red Sox and Rays are inside the Tropicana Dome, so we don't think the elements will have any say in this one.
6:35 p.m.: So the Red Sox seem to have found a winning formula with their starting lineup, and thus the only major change from Tuesday night is that Daniel Nava takes over in left field for Scott Podsednik.
Aside from that, the only other difference in the lineup is that Ryan Lavarnway and Jarrod Saltalamacchia switch their defensive assignments, with the rookie taking over behind the plate while Salty sees no defensive action on Wednesday.
This live blogger had the opportunity to speak with Lavarnway at some length last week, and it was a very interesting conversation. The 25-year-old realizes that his first responsibilities are to defense, and specifically his ability to aid his starting pitcher. Lavarnway says his goal on any night is to maximize the unspoken communication between a pitcher and catcher, so any night without shake-offs or cross-ups is the goal.
That's definitely a positive, as unspoken communication will be key on this evening, as Lavarnway and starter Matsuzaka don't even speak the same language.
Either way, check out the lineups for both teams below:
Pedro Ciriaco, 3B
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Cody Ross, RF
James Loney, 1B
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, DH
Ryan Lavanway, C
Daniel Nava, LF
Jose Iglesias, SS
Daisuke Matsuzaka, RHP
Desmond Jennings, LF
B.J. Upton, CF
Ben Zobrist, SS
Evan Longoria, 3B
Luke Scott, DH
Jeff Keppinger, 2B
Matt Joyce, RF
Carlos Peña, 1B
Jose Molina, C
Chris Archer, RHP
6 p.m. ET: So, this live blogger found a recent Tweet by Grantland writer Jonah Keri very interesting.
It's no secret that teams like the Oakland A's and Tampa Bay Rays have a very constricted payroll. Then, the obvious question is how such teams are able to compete when they don't have the ability to import the kind of talent that others do. Well, the answer is simple: those teams find bargains and undervalued assets.
However, in at least two cases, the Rays made decisions that weren't all that shrewd, and it may end up being the difference between them making the playoffs and missing out. Carlos Pena has long been a favorite of the Rays, and it's not all that difficult to see why. Pena usually has a batting average that hovers around the Mendoza Line, so he usually comes at a pretty good bargain. At the same time, however, Pena displays a lot of power and also takes walks at a very high rate, so the Rays clearly believe Pena is undervalued.
All that being said, Pena and designated hitter Luke Scott are the second and fifth highest-paid players on the Rays, respectively, making a combined $13.25 million. The problem is, those two have a combined WAR (wins above replacement) of 0.3, which just isn't very good.
So, it would seem the Rays are performing in spite of two of their highest-paid players, not because of them. Usually teams with limited resources have a difficult time competing when such players don't pan out (look at A's signings like Hideki Matsui and Mike Piazza), but the Rays' relative success this year speaks to the talent on the rest of the squad.
Luke Scott and Carlos Pena have combined for 0.3 WAR this season. Making $13.25 mil, more than 20% of Rays payroll.
— jonahkeri (@jonahkeri) September 13, 2012
8 a.m. ET: After enduring one of the roughest stretches in club history throughout a West Coast road trip earlier this month, all of the sudden the Boston Red Sox (68-81) have won four out of five and, more importantly, are dealing some serious body blows to the postseason hopes of the division rival Tampa Bay Rays (78-70). Even if Boston won't have much October baseball, the Red Sox can find solace in giving some payback to a team that helped oust them from the postseason in 2011. The Red Sox can put another nail in the Rays' coffin with a win on Wednesday.
To accomplish that, they'll turn to much-maligned Japanese import Daisuke Matsuzaka, who probably hasn't even qualified as "inconsistent" but nonetheless has shown brief flashes of the ability that made him such a hot commodity upon coming to America. Going back to an Aug. 27 start against Kansas City, Matsuzaka threw seven innings of five-hit, one-run ball. But since then, the right-hander has had outings of 3 2/3 innings, 1 1/3 innings and 5 1/3 innings, respectively.
Opposing him will be 23-year-old Chris Archer, one of the fruits of the Matt Garza trade. Just three starts (four games) into a promising big-league career, Archer has already impressed, throwing 22 1/3 innings and allowed just 15 hits and seven walks, striking out 28 in the process. The youngster clearly has swing-and-miss stuff.
First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m., but you can tune in to NESN with Red Sox First Pitch beginning at 6 p.m. You can also stick right here with NESN.com and our Red Sox Live Blog, as we'll have the starting lineups and, as Vin Scully would say, "all the stats and stories" leading up to the game.
And be sure to follow this live blogger on Twitter at @ZachStoloff to chat Red Sox and all things MLB.