Final, Rays Win 4-2: Tough night for Boston, and a tough season for the team at Fenway Park, as the Red Sox end their home schedule a full 13 games below the .500 mark, at 34-47 — which matches 1965 for the organization's worst record under a 162-game schedule. Talk about a disappointing result from what is known as one of the most distinct home field advantages in all of professional sports.
With the loss, the Red Sox' overall record falls to 69-87, while the Rays improve to 85-70. Alex Cobb (10-9) picks up the win, while Jon Lester's (9-14) tough-luck season continues, as he gets saddled with the loss. Fernando Rodney, meanwhile, continues his resurgent dominance by notching his 45th save in 47 chances — one more for Rodney's Archery Club.
Well, that's it for us from your Red Sox Live Blog. Boston's off on Thursday, but we'll be back with another edition as the Sox head south to Baltimore to take on the magic Orioles as they fight for their playoff lives.
And, as always, follow this live blogger on Twitter at @ZachStoloff to chat Red Sox and all things MLB any time.
Mid 9th, Rays 4-2: Craig Breslow's Yale roots and pre-med education have been well documented throughout his career. Perhaps then, given his educated nature, it shouldn't come as much surprise that the lefty studies Sabermetrics to try and give himself an edge over other players on the diamond.
Incidentally, Brandon McCarthy's cover story for ESPN The Magazine earlier this year had a very similar angle, in which the starter talking about his own statistical analysis and how he uses it to maintain an advantage over opponents.
It looks like Breslow studies in a similar vein. Should it be any surprise they both have spent time in the Oakland organization?
Mid 8th, Rays 4-2: So that's four outs on strikeouts recorded in five batters faced for Melancon, who continues his nice outing.
Otherwise, among the attendees for today's ceremonies was The Rocket, Roger Clemens. We won't harp on it too much, but we'll just point out that Clemens' recent publicity tour has been interestingly timed — rather conveniently, actually, considering Clemens' impending Hall of Fame candidacy.
On Wednesday, Clemens spoke to the media, and professed his love for Boston in the process. Check out the article linked to hear more about Clemens' visit, and check out the tweet below for a photo of from his day in the media room.
Roger Clemens speaking at Fenway Park – lockerz.com/s/248003039
— Didier Morais (@DidierMorais) September 27, 2012
End 7th, Rays 4-2: That's twice now that Ciriaco has struck out looking on pitches he immediately knew were strike three.
That's the problem with the utility man's long-term viability boiled down to its essence: lack of pitch recognition. Already you're seeing more and more teams realize that they don't need to pitch Ciriaco in the zone to get him out. He'll largely do opposing pitchers a favor by chasing pretty much whatever.
And suffice to say that Ciriaco is not the second coming of Vladimir Guerrero, and doesn't possess the ability to hit a home run off his shoe tops.
Aside from that, click here to see the video of Jose Iglesias' fifth-inning highlight-reel play to rob Evan Longoria of a base hit.
Mid 7th, Rays 4-2: The Red Sox' bullpen has been a strength most of the year, but the Rays take advantage of Clayton Mortensen and Rich Hill and add to their lead in that last half inning.
Mark Melancon, however, continues his superb September by striking out Jennings to end the inning. In six games in September (seven innings pitched) the 27-year-old right-hander has yielded just a single run, notching eight strikeouts against just one walk. It's been quite a turnaround for Melancon, who now resembles the pitcher who admirably served as the Astros' closer in 2011 much more closely than at any point this year.
End 6th, Rays 3-2: The Red Sox manage to get one back there on Loney's sacrifice fly, but are still snakebitten by the inability to get the big hit with men in scoring position. After getting the first to runners on, Pedroia's run is the only one they get, as Saltalamacchia and Lavarnway each strike out after Loney's fly ball.
That's been a theme of the Red Sox ever since the August trade that shipped out Adrian Gonzalez — inability to hit with runners in scoring position. Nonetheless, the Sox did manage to cut their deficit, so now within a single run we'll see if they can muster anything else against the Rays.
Mid 6th, Rays 3-1: So Lester looks to have settled down a bit, but his cutter hasn't fully returned. It looked like he tried to throw it there to Zobrist, who promptly banged it off the Green Monster for a double.
This was mentioned on-air by Don and Jerry, but Pedro Martinez' comments while visiting the booth yesterday were very telling. Martinez never really threw a cutter, but he clearly understands that to make the pitch work you have to be able to pitch inside effectively — which many young pitchers take years to learn.
In the case of Lester, the cutter just doesn't have its usual sharp late break over the last couple innings. So, we'll keep an eye out to see if he improves as the night continues.
End 5th, Rays 3-1: So, according to Pedro Martinez, had the Red Sox not won the 2004 World Series, the pitcher would have been so morified that he would have retired rather than suffering through another season.
That seems like a bit of a stretch — athletes often talk in similar extremes that they don't really mean. Nonetheless, it's a reflection of just how desperate the franchise was at that point in time that Martinez would even say something like that in jest, years later.
Mid 5th, Rays 3-1: Very simply, Lester's cut fastball stopped cutting.
That's the pitch it looked like the southpaw was attempting to throw on both of those home runs, and each time they remained flat, just high-80s pitches right in the middle of the zone, begging to be hit hard.
Moving on from that, however, how about that play by Iglesias? That one had the mark of Omar Vizquel on it, as the quick transfer between glove and hand on that play was just incredible. There just aren't many baseball players in the world who have hands like that. We're still skeptical that Iglesias' bat is ever going to offset his glove, but with plays like that, it's pretty close.
End 4th, Red Sox 1-0: So, chances are if you're a Red Sox fan you also have some affinity for the New England Patriots. Likewise, we're guessing many readers of this Live Blog are well apprised of the controversy surrounding the NFL's replacement referees and Bill Belichick's grabbing of one of them after Sunday's loss to the Ravens.
Now that we know the penalty for the coach's actions is a $50,000 fine, we want to know what you think. So head on over to Wedensday's NESN Daily Poll to get in some voting practice in advance of November, and decide whether the fine matches the crime.
Mid 4th, Red Sox 1-0: Through four innings, Jon Lester has faced the minimum, walking Longoria to lead off the second inning but erasing him on a double play.
Aside from that, the Rays haven't mustered anything against Lester, who looks to be hitting his spots with percision tonight. We'll wait another inning or two to openly talk about what Lester's in line for, but he definitely looks to have an edge in this game. Specifically, the cutter looks more impressive than it has recently, as the Rays hitters don't look comfortable at all up there against Lester.
End 3rd, Red Sox 1-0: At this point, the Rays have a couple young starters in their rotation — Jeremy Hellickson is another — who are long on polish but a bit short on pure stuff.
Thus far, Cobb isn't doing anything terribly fancy, just trying to get ahead with his fastball to set up his other pitches. The right-hander has impressive command overall for a 24-year-old, but doesn't seem to have any pitches which really wow you. So, while such pitchers may have a limited ceiling, they're serving as cheap, servicable starting pitchers in the here and now.
Mid 3rd, Red Sox 1-0: Holy wow Luis Tiant has a great mustache. The hipsters in Allston are clearly jealous of that one.
Among current players, the award for best facial hair has to go to the Seattle Mariner's Brendan Ryan, who has featured a couple interesting looks throughout his career. When he was with the Cardinals it was the hipster 'stache, but throughout the 2012 season it's been the full-on fu manchu.
End 2nd, Red Sox 1-0: It's nice to see Nava looking comfortable and locked in at the plate again.
After being recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket in early May, Nava posted OPS figures of .900 and .892 in May and June, respectively. Anyone who knows anything about baseball scouting or statistical analysis figured Nava would come back down to Earth a little bit, but July was a definite struggle, as the outfielder had an OPS of .474.
Then came the injuries, and since returning in the middle of this month, Nava's mark is .613 in 41 at-bats. Nonetheless, the 29-year-old has looked like he's seeing the ball much better over the past couple days, as he could be fighting for a job in 2013.
Mid 2nd, 0-0: We've said it before and we'll say it again, though Loney's bat may be a huge question mark, he's among the best defensive first basemen in the game.
That double play was just another shining example. Pena didn't hit that ball very hard, so credit Loney for using his quick hands to get the ball to second quickly and give Iglesias a chance to turn two.
Loney's play at first recalls a former Red Sox player by the name of J.T. Snow, who was the best defensive first baseman this live blogger has ever seen. Beyond having about the softest hands this side of Omar Vizquel, Snow had incredible range for a first baseman.
End 1st, 0-0: Cobb definitely could have gotten at least one borderline pitch on the outside corner to Pedroia, but he gets through the inning without incident.
So let's turn our attention to Red Sox starter Jon Lester. During his peak, the lefty had an extreme over-the-top motion that kept him on top of his pitches and gave his cutter, in particular, a sharp motion. However, over the course of this season Lester's arm angle looks to have dropped a bit, and though he's since corrected that to an extent, it may have been a factor in his midseason struggles.
Lester features a straight four-seam fastball, his infamous cutter, a curveball, a slider that's been used more than ever before this year and a show-me changeup.
Mid 1st, 0-0: Nine pitches in and Lester is through his first inning in order. That's always something we now keep an eye on in the southpaw's starts, as his early-game struggles during his midseason rough stretch were well documented.
Aside from that, how about our usual scouting report on Rays starter Alex Cobb. The right-hander features the typical slate of a four-seam fastball and straight changeup, but he also has a splitter that has a couple different actions on it. One version of the splitter is a typical split-fingered fastball, the other looks a lot more like a cutter, and when it's on can be very tough on right-handed hitters especially. All in all, Cobb's repertoire might be a little bit short for a starting pitcher, but the 24-year-old certainly has some time to develop.
7:26 p.m.: We have first pitch! And, for those wondering, the gametime temperature is 70 degrees with 73 percent humidity and winds from the southwest at 10 miles per hour.
7:20 p.m.: Yes, we are well aware of all the pomp and circumstance currently happening at Fenway. Don't worry, we'll get to it, and we'll probably have a few opinions to share about the all-time Fenway squad.
For now, before the game starts, let's talk about the Cy Young awards. Just to keep teasing you, we'll get to the AL a little bit later, but how about the National League? Well, as it so happens, this live blogger just expounded on the subject, and my pick is Atlanta Braves closer Craig Kimbrel. Really, the only two valid choices for the award are the Mets' R.A. Dickey and Kimbrel.
Actually, scratch that. Clayton Kershaw should be an absolutely viable option, but he's had a lot of bad luck this year in the form of lack of run support. And, unfortunately for Kershaw, the voters won't overlook a little blemish like having only 12 wins to your credit.
All that being said, Kimbrel has only pitched just under 60 innings in 2012, but in that time has struck out nearly half the batters he's faced, which is a flat incredible rate.
6:40 p.m.: While Jose Iglesias has gotten some seriously consistent playing time at shortstop, the rest of the Red Sox lineup has largely alternated between veteran and young looks in many games.
Case in point: on Tuesday night both Mauro Gomez and Ryan Lavarnway found themselves in the lineup (and on the field), but a day later James Loney takes over at first base and Lavarnway moves over to the DH slot to accommodate Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who's behind the plate on Wednesday.
Aside from that, Jacoby Ellsbury remains sidelined despite Bobby Valentine originally intimating that the center fielder could return to close out Fenway Park's slate of games, Pedro Ciriaco moves back to third base but stays in the leadoff role and Daniel Nava moves down to the No. 8 spot in the order.
Check out the lineups for both teams below:
Tampa Bay Rays
Desmond Jennings, LF
B.J. Upton, CF
Ben Zobrist, SS
Evan Longoria, 3B
Jeff Keppinger, DH
Carlos Pena, 1B
Ben Francisco, LF
Ryan Roberts, 2B
Jose Lobaton, C
Alex Cobb, RHP
Boston Red Sox
Pedro Ciriaco, 3B
Scott Podsednik, CF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Cody Ross, RF
James Loney, 1B
Ryan Lavarnway, DH
Daniel Nava, LF
Jose Iglesias, SS
Jon Lester, LHP
6:10 p.m. ET: Ah, the things you can learn from Wikipedia.
This live blogger doesn't claim to be the most up-to-date on all facets of pop culture, and reality TV is definitely one of those that I've eschewed. Nonetheless, I'd seen so many references in my Twitter feed and online to an unknown entity called "Honey Boo Boo" that it was something I had to look up.
Well, I suppose this is why I'm not too keen on reality TV, as I just don't see the appeal of following this familar around all the time, but the show is obviously pretty popular, so there you go.
But what does this have to do with baseball, you might ask. Well, it turns out that McIntyre, Georgia isn't just the home of the Thompson family, but also the origin of former Marlins, Padres, Dodgers and Yankees starting pitcher Kevin Brown. With his temper, now there was someone that should have had their own realty program. We'd still like to see video of him breaking his hand while punching his locker.
Maybe him and Jeff Kent could get together to do a project about mercurial All-Stars in retirement.
8 a.m. ET: All year the Boston Red Sox (69-86) have celebrated the 100th birthday of Fenway Park, but on Wednesday those festivities come to and end. In doing so, the organization will announce its All-Fenway Team prior to the game, but then it's all business, as the Sox try to salvage a two-game series split with the Tampa Bay Rays (84-70), and try to play spoiler to Tampa's playoff hopes.
To do that, the Sox send left-hander Jon Lester (9-13, 4.96) to the mound. The 28-year-old has faced Tampa Bay just once this season, all the way back on May 25. In that game, Lester was lit up for seven earned runs over just four innings of work, but over his last 53 1/3 innings of work (eight starts) the southpaw is 4-3 with a 3.88 ERA — a vast improvment over his midseason struggles.
He'll be opposed by Alex Cobb (9-9, 4.27), who is coming off four consecutive starts in which he has pitched exactly seven innings. In all but one of those he gave up exactly one run (the other he yielded three), so the 24-year-old — just another green Rays pitcher — is clearly on a roll coming into this one.
First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m., but we may well get started late due to the pregame ceremonies. That means NESN's pregame schedule kicks off at 5:30 p.m. ET with Red Sox First Pitch. Or just stick right here with NESN.com, as our Red Sox Live Blog will have the starting lineups and, as Vin Scully would say, "all the stats and stories" leading up to the game.
And, as always, follow this live blogger on Twitter at @ZachStoloff to chat Red Sox and all things MLB any time.