Final, Red Sox Win 7-5: So if the Red Sox were trying to pay the Rays back for the end of the 2011 campaign, mission accomplished, as Tampa Bay currently stands at 5 1/2 half games back of Baltimore for a wild card slot, and may find it all but impossible to climb back in it this year.
Felix Doubront get his first win in exactly two months, a July 18 victory over the White Sox. Conversely, Jeremy Hellickson picks up the loss, while Andrew Bailey gets his fifth save of the season.
Well, that's it for us from your Red Sox Live Blog. We'll be back with another edition tomorrow, however, so be sure to join in with all the fun as the Red Sox try to win their third consecutive game over the Rays. First pitch is again scheduled for 7:10 p.m., but we'll be with you all day here at NESN.com.
You can also follow this live blogger on Twitter at @ZachStoloff to chat Red Sox and all things MLB any time.
Mid 9th, Red Sox 7-5: This live blogger had the opportunity to watch Fernando Rodney throw a lot over the past couple seasons, and no one is more surprised to see his resurgence during the 2012 campaign.
His velocity has never left him, but with the Angels Rodney looked like his career was done. His mechanics were a mess and he just had no command to speak of. Likewise, he's probably a pretty good candidate for Comeback Player of the Year, and kudos to the Rays for picking off an incredible bargain, and (correctly) banking on a player being due to rebound.
End 8th, 7-5 Red Sox: Well, Bobby Valentine's decision to pull Vicente Padilla after just one batter paid off there, as Craig Breslow comes in and gets the job done. The lefty preserves the two-run lead, and presumably turns the game over to closer Andrew Bailey.
Something tells us Padilla won't be happy about that move, but the fact that it was successful negates all. On a completely unrelated note (wink), did we mention that Alfredo Aceves isn't even in the bullpen for this game?
Mid 8th, 7-5 Red Sox: Well, this has sure been a long game, as we're nearing the four-hour mark and are still motoring right along. That's largely due to the number of pitching changes and the fact that the Rays, finding their backs up against the wall in the playoff push, are clearly playing very deliberately.
All that being said, we actually missed the opportunity to talk about Doubront's outing. Take away the third inning, and it's a pretty stellar effort for the left-hander, who ended his day by retiring 11 of the last 12 Rays he faced.
Once more, for emphasis: Doubront needs to find a way to eliminate the one bad inning, keep his pitch count down and work deeper into games, but this was a step back in the right direction after struggling mightily since about the end of July.
End 7th, 7-5 Red Sox: Tazawa's done an excellent job all year not allowing inherited runners to score, but he can't keep the Rays down there, yielding a two-RBI single to Zobrist.
In fact, the Rays have two hits on the night overall, and they are both RBI singles on the part of Zobrist, who has plated five on the evening.
Bottom 7th, 7-3 Red Sox: You can never be sure there's a correlation, but we'll point out that Clayton Mortensen warmed up several times before actually being brought into the game there.
That's generally not a good way to use relievers, but let's see if Junichi Tazawa can get out of the jam.
Mid 7th, 7-3 Red Sox: How nice is it to finally see Ryan Lavarnway contributing with the bat? This live blogger spoke with the rookie catcher about a week ago, and we had a very nice chat about pitcher-catcher communication and defense in general, so I'm confident he'll pan out defensively over the long term.
The bat, however, remains to be seen, as Lavarnway's clearly going to need to hit to earn a job. But after coming up with a big double on Sunday in Toronto, and four RBIs on Friday, it's another gapper for the 25-year-old there, this time plating a couple. If Lavarnway can hit, it presents a very nice problem for Boston: two viable catchers for one role.
End 6th, 4-3 Red Sox: Per Sean Rodriguez: if your defense of porous, and you're having trouble keeping your OPS over .600, why are you continuing to see at-bats? Nonetheless, Rodriguez has gotten into 110 games and has now seen more than 300 trips to the plate this season.
Aside from that, how about Doubront. The lefty has now retired 10 of his last 11, and is pitching with the kind of bullish agressiveness that he needs to feature more often. The results speak for themselves.
Mid 6th, 4-3 Red Sox: That is a doubly bad break for the Red Sox — triply so if first base coach Alex Ochoa isn't alright.
The Rays give the Red Sox another gift run on Rodriguez's error, but by all rights the Sox should have had a two-run, 5-3 lead, except for the fact that the errant throw picked off Ochoa, enabling Keppinger to pick up the ball and throw home to get Podsednik.
But in addition to that, Ciriaco's bat was still blocking home plate, as Podsednik clearly didn't want to slide. Upon watching the replay it appears that he would have been well out, anyway, but either way the Red Sox should have an extra insurance run.
End 5th, 3-3: In typical Doubront fashion, the lefty is at 91 pitches through five innings thus far. That, of course, is a much higher number than you would like to see, but it also means the Red Sox may try to squeeze one more inning out of him. Boston has had some bullpen action at a couple points during this one, but we'll keep an eye on it.
Otherwise, however, Doubront has really settled down since a difficult third inning. He's retired eight of his last nine, but the one he didn't set down? You guessed it, a walk to Jennings.
Mid 5th, 3-3: Under normal circumstances, Hellickson would be given the opportunity to work through his struggles in that last half inning. However, the fact that he was pulled in favor of Jake McGee is reflective of just how desperate the Rays are at this point in the season.
Being five games back of the Orioles for a wild card slot and 5 1/2 back of the Yankees for the AL East, the Rays are clearly at a point where they can't afford to stumble anymore.
Aside from that, credit Ciriaco and Ellsbury — and their speed — for getting that rally started. As we mentioned earlier, if the Rays lose tonight it gets very, very difficult to see them leapfrogging both the Angels and the Orioles, so the Sox could really do Tampa Bay some damage.
End 4th, Rays 3-1: So, call that a bounce-back inning for Doubront, who gets the Rays in order — including two strikesouts — in that frame.
It's just another example of the Jekyll and Hyde season that Doubront has endured. One minute he looks brilliant, the next he looks incapable of finding the strike zone.
Mid 4th, Rays 3-1: Loney hasn't provided much in the way of offense — that being said, his defense at first base has been nothing short of brilliant — but he knocks in Ross there to get the Red Sox on the board.
Then, however, both Sox catchers strike out, ending the threat. For Saltalamacchia, that's just part of his game, but Lavarnway needs to start showing a little more at the plate.
End 3rd, Rays 3-0: One would assume that Doubront is penciled in for a rotation slot in 2013, but there are clearly some issues he needs to work out between now and April: command and composure.
Doubront always says the right thing in interviews, and is always there to answer to the press for his mistakes and triumphs, so he clearly knows how he's supposed to conduct himself on the hill.
Nonetheless, once he's out there the emotions have had a tendancy to bubble over, which needs to change immediately. For one it doesn't help the lefty's mindset, but moreover it's not difficult to make the inference he was getting squeezed by home plate umpire D.J. Reyburn on a couple pitches up in the zone.
In terms of command, we have nothing new to offer. This Live Blog has been mentioning Doubront's issues with control all season, as has everyone else in the media. To prove he's worth keeping in the rotation long term, Doubront needs to take the next step and keep the walks and pitch count down.
Mid 3rd, 0-0: Pedroia has had a couple good at-bats, but has nothing to show for it, and there leaves the go-ahead run on third base. So, it's more of the same for the Red Sox offense.
It's also more of the same for the Rays defense, which has been sloppy throughout the season, and particularly of late. There, they allow Ellsbury to get all the way to third on an errant pickoff attempt.
End 2nd, 0-0: Doubront threw a couple very impressive two-seam fastballs to Roberts in that last at-bat. The way you can tell the difference between the two and four-seam varieties of fastball is twofold: movement and velocity.
A two-seamer will move much more, as you saw with the tail on those pithces from Doubront. The four-seamer is a straighter, harder pitch, and the lefty will usually reside in the mid-90s when throwing that one, with his two-seamer dropping down to the 91-93 mph range.
Mid 2nd, 0-0: That was one impressive curveball to end the inning from Hellickson, who absolutely froze Podsednik at the plate, just catching the outside corner.
In many wasys, Hellickson is a complete statistical anamoly. For those not too familiar with Sabermetrics, BABIP is an acronym that stands for "batting average on balls put into play" — keep in mind that this excludes home runs. For any player, whether they are a pitcher or a hitter, BABIP always tends to trend back towards the .300 mark, meaning a pitcher who has allowed a BABIP lower than .300 hundred is considered to be lucky, while yielding a BABIP over .300 is unlucky.
Well, in each of his first three seasons, Hellickson has allowed marks of .267, .224 and .258, which at this point is clearly more than luck. It's probably an indication of just how good Hellickson is in pitching to contact, but it's a very atypical metric, indeed.
End 1st, 0-0: So, as we mentioned before, it isn't too typical to see Hellickson rack up two strikeouts in an inning. The K just isn't part of the 25-year-old's typical gameplan, as Hellickson largely pitches to contact, and will yield a lot of fly balls.
When he came up he was mostly a three-pitch pitcher, relying on a four-seam fastball, changeup and curveball. However, he's able to give each of those offerings different looks, he'll throw his changeup to both right and left-handed batters and has developed a sinker and cutter over the past couple seasons.
All in all, Hellickson is a pitcher who usually has exceptional command, and knows how to deploy his vast array of pitches. He's like the inverse of Doubront: Hellickson doesn't have nearly the pure stuff of the left-hander, but is able to use his tools much more percisely.
Mid 1st, 0-0: That was a bit of an abberation for Hellickson in that last half inning, producing two strikeouts, but we'll get to him with our next entry.
For right now, what to look for from Felix Doubront? The southpaw is a rather frustrating pitcher to watch, as he routinely yields a high number of walks and generally throws far too many pitches — pitching to contact is clearly not his strength. All season, the problem for Doubront has been trying to be too fine with his pitches, rather than taking the aggressive strategy and letting his stuff do the work for him.
Doubront features a litany of pitches: two- and four-season fastballs, a curveball, slider, changeup, sinker and has been working on a cutter throughout the year. Basically, the 24-year-old has an arsenal of pitches at his disposal, but his success will depend on how well he commands them.
7:12 p.m: We have first pitch! And, for those wondering, the weather down in Tampa Bay… well, who cares about the weather? We hear there are some storms down south, but the Red Sox are inside the Tropicana Dome, so we don't think the elements will be an issue.
7:00 p.m.: It's surely been nice to see Jacoby Ellsbury return to form over the last week, as the center fielder's power stroke had been conspiculously absent since returning from the DL in mid-July. Over the last nine games, however, the 29-year-old has gone 14-for-41, including two home runs and seven RBIs.
He should make for a productive duo in combining with Dustin Pedroia — the other power source in the Sox lineup of late — as the two go back-to-back hitting second and third, respectively.
On the Rays' end of things, Evan Longoria has been back with the club for more than a month now after missing the entirety of three months with a torn hamstring. Since his return, the star third baseman's metrics (.760 OPS) have been a bit lackluster, but his overall totals (eight home runs, 24 RBIs in 36 games) have been a boon for a Rays offense that has struggled manufacturing runs all season.
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, C
Ryan Lavarnway, DH
Scott Podsednik, LF
Jose Iglesias, SS
Felix Doubront, LHP
Desmond Jennings, LF
B.J. Upton, CF
Ben Zobrist, SS
Evan Longoria, DH
Jeff Keppinger, 1B
Ben Francisco, RF
Ryan Roberts, 2B
Chris Gimenez, C
Sean Rodriguez, 3B
Jeremy Hellickson, RHP
12:15 p.m.: If it's the spoiler role that was left to the Boston Red Sox (67-81), it's one they are filling admirably as the season winds to a close. The Sox may be on the outside looking in on the playoff picture, but they still have a major opportunity to decide who continues playing and who goes home in October, as the club's last 14 games all come against the Tampa Bay Rays (78-69), Orioles and Yankees.
On Monday, the Red Sox put a major dent in Tampa's postseason push, as Boston's 5-2 win put the Rays five games back of a wild card spot. And with Oakland all but out of reach and the Angels still between them and Baltimore, the Rays' season is absolutely on the brink — having gone 3-7 over their last 10 games — with another loss meaning a veritable death knell for manager Joe Maddon's club.
How sweet would that be for the Red Sox, after last season's final day?
To accomplish that, Boston turns to young left-hander Felix Doubront (10-9, 5.11), who has struggled to the tune of an 0-4 record and 8.13 ERA over his past six starts. However, the 24-year-old looked revitalized his last time out against the Yankees, going 6 1/3 innings and yielding just two runs on four hits in a tough-luck 2-0 loss — which, in typical Doubront fashion, did include five walks and 105 pitches. In his only start against the Rays this year, Doubront struck out seven over 5 2/3 innings of work back on May 12, picking up the win.
He'll be opposed by righty Jeremy Hellickson (8-10, 3.22), who's had a wealth of experience against the Red Sox this season. Over four starts, Hellickson has gone 1-1 with a 4.38 ERA against Boston, including 7 2/3 innings of three-run ball back on May 27.
First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET, but you can tune into NESN beginning at 6 p.m. with Red Sox First Pitch. Or just stick right here with NESN.com, as we'll 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.