Red Sox-Rays Live: David Ross’ Three-Run Home Run Helps Push Sox Past Rays 6-2

Jacoby EllsburyFinal, Red Sox 6-2: The Rays jumped out to a 2-0 lead in this one, but the Red Sox went on to score six unanswered runs to secure a 6-2 victory over the Rays.

David Ross got the Boston offense going with a three-run blast in the fourth inning, and the Sox later added three more runs of insurance in the seventh.

John Lackey took another step forward in his fourth outing of the spring. He allowed two runs on four hits, walked one and struck out two while throwing 66 pitches in 3 2/3 innings. The third inning proved to be problematic for the right-hander, but all in all, it was another good day of work.

After Lackey departed, five pitchers combined to shut the door on the Rays. Clayton Mortensen, Koji Uehara, Daniel Bard, Junichi Tazawa and Steven Wright each pitched pitched well and kept Tampa Bay off the scoreboard.

The Red Sox will play once again on Monday. They’ll square off with the Marlins in Jupiter, beginning at 1:05 p.m. ET. Jon Lester will get the start.

Mid 9th, Red Sox 6-2: Ryan Dent smacked a two-out single into right-center, just over the head of a leaping Cole Figueroa, but it went for naught.

Dent’s hit came after Jonathan Diaz popped out and Shannon Wilkerson struck out. Jeremy Hazelbaker, who doubled home Boston’s sixth run in the seventh inning, struck out to end the inning.

The Red Sox will turn to knuckleballer Steven Wright in the ninth. Wright got touched up for five runs in two innings on Wednesday, so he’d love to get back on track by nailing the coffin in this one.

End 8th, Red Sox 6-2: The Red Sox’ pitching continues to be solid.

The Sox haven’t surrendered a run since John Lackey ran into some trouble in the third inning. In the eighth, it was Junichi Tazawa’s turn to shut down the Rays.

Tazawa breezed through the three hitters he faced, retiring Sean Rodriguez, Hak-Ju Lee and Cole Figueroa in order.

Tazawa entered the game having allowed two runs on six hits in 4 1/3 spring training innings.

Mid 8th, Red Sox 6-2: Will Inman, who spent last season in the Red Sox’ organization at Triple-A Pawtucket, pitched a 1-2-3 inning for the Rays in the eighth.

Inman struck out Christian Vazquez and Mauro Gomez for the first two outs, and then got Brock Holt to fly out to left field.

Junichi Tazawa is coming on for Boston.

End 7th, Red Sox 6-2: Christian Vazquez has been as impressive as anyone not named Jackie Bradley Jr. this spring training.

Vazquez gunned down another would-be base stealer in the seventh inning. And again, it wasn’t even close, as Vazquez’s chuck was right on the money.

Daniel Bard gave up a leadoff single to Chris Gimenez, who was then replaced by Brandon Guyer on the base paths. As Bard struck out the next hitter, Jack Cust, Guyer took off for second, and Vazquez responded by throwing an absolute missile to execute the strike-him-out, throw-him-out double play.

Leslie Anderson ended the inning by grounding out to second base.

Vazquez turned heads with a throw down to second base in Friday’s game as well. He was timed at 1.82 seconds in delivering the ball to shortstop Jose Iglesias in that game, which is far better than the two-second league average.

Mid 7th, Red Sox 6-2: The Red Sox added three runs before the seventh-inning stretch.

Lyle Overbay and Drew Sutton started off the inning with a single and a walk, respectively. That paved the way for Pedro Ciriaco to hit a ground-ball base hit into center field that scored Mauro Gomez (who pinch ran for Overbay).

The Red Sox still had runners at first and second with no outs following Ciriaco’s base knock, but Shannon Wilkerson grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to alleviate some of the pressure.

It wasn’t long before the pressure picked back up.

Ryan Dent worked a two-out walk to set up runners at the corners, and Juan Sandoval responded by firing a wild pitch, which allowed Brock Holt (who pinch ran for Sutton) to score Boston’s fourth run.

Jeremy Hazelbaker decided four runs wasn’t enough, and he ripped a line-drive double down the right-field line to plate the Red Sox’ fifth run.

The Red Sox have made a number of substitutions in this game.

Shannon Wilkerson, Ryan Dent, Jeremy Hazelbaker, Mark Hamilton, J.C. Linares, Mauro Gomez, Brock Holt and Jonathan Diaz are in. Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Daniel Nava, Ryan Lavarnway, Ryan Sweeney, Lyle Overbay, Drew Sutton and Pedro Ciriaco are out.

End 6th, Red Sox 3-2: Koji Uehara continues to show why the Red Sox’ bullpen could be such a strong unit in 2013.

Uehara retired the Rays in order in the sixth. He got Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce to ground out, and he then struck out James Loney on a foul tip into David Ross’ mitt to end the inning.

Uehara has been perfect in his five innings of work against big league competition this spring training. Boston College hitters were the only ones to have any success off Uehara, as the Eagles connected for two hits off the right-hander before the Sox kicked off their Grapefruit League slate.

If all goes according to plan, Uehara will likely pitch the seventh or eighth inning for Boston and be used as one of the team’s primary setup men alongside Andrew Bailey. With that two-headed monster and Joel Hanrahan closing out games, the Sox’ pen could really shorten some games this season. And that’s important. Just ask the Orioles, who were 29-9 last season in one-run games.

Mid 6th, Red Sox 3-2: Josh Lueke came on for another inning, and he kept Boston’s lead at just one run.

Ryan Lavarnway struck out for the first out. He’s now 0-for-3 in this one, and he’s just 3-for-21 overall this spring.

Ryan Sweeney got a good piece of a Lueke offering with one out, but center fielder Sean Rodriguez had it sized up off the bat, and he snagged it for the second out.

Lueke concluded the inning by striking out David Ross, who drove in all three of Boston’s runs with a home run back in the fourth.

End 5th, Red Sox 3-2: Clayton Mortensen has been sharp since coming on for John Lackey in the fourth.

The Rays went three up, three down in the fifth against Mortensen. The right-hander took care of business himself for two of the three outs.

Sean Rodriguez hit one back to the mound to begin the inning, and Mortensen fielded his position well for the first out. After getting Yunel Escobar to ground out to third, Mortensen came back and struck out Kelly Johnson swinging to retire the side.

Mid 5th, Red Sox 3-2: The Rays made a pitching change in the inning, but the Red Sox went down 1-2-3.

Adam Liberatore started the inning on the bump, and he struck out Jacoby Ellsbury before manager Joe Maddon turned to Josh Lueke.

Lueke came on and got ahead of Dustin Pedroia. Pedey ended up grounding out to Yunel Escobar at short for the second out.

Daniel Nava then stepped into the box. He hit a sky-high flyball to right field, but Matt Joyce camped under it for the final out of the inning.

End 4th, Red Sox 3-2: John Lackey gave up a leadoff single to James Loney, and then recorded back-to-back outs before manager John Farrell turned to the bullpen.

Lackey got Chris Gimenez to fly out, and he struck out Jack Cust to put a bow on his afternoon. Farrell made the move to Clayton Mortensen, who came on and got Leslie Anderson to pop out to Drew Sutton along the third-base line in foul territory.

Lackey gave up two runs on four hits and walk in this one. He also struck out two, while throwing 66 pitches.

All in all, it’s enough step forward for the right-hander, who has now given up six earned runs, struck out six and walked three in 9 2/3 innings this spring.

Mid 4th, Red Sox 3-2: The Red Sox put a couple of runners on in the fourth, and David Ross delivered the big blow.

Daniel Nava walked to lead off the inning, and he moved up two batters later when Ryan Sweeney pulled a single through the right side. That brought up David Ross with two on.

Ross gave one a pretty good ride to the warning track earlier in the game, but the Boston catcher put a little extra oomph into Matt Moore’s offering this time around. The ball just cleared the wall in left-center field to catapult the Sox in front 3-2.

It was an interesting at-bat for Ross. Before hitting the home run, he seemed to favor his wrist a bit, which brought manager John Farrell and the team’s trainer out of the dugout. Ultimately, they decided Ross was OK, and the veteran backstop proved it by putting a charge into one.

As mentioned, Ross’ home run just made it over the wall in left-center. At first, it wasn’t initially clear if the ball cleared the fence, as it came back onto the field of play. After some brief confusion, though, the umpires determined it was home run.

Moore was taken out with two outs in the inning. He was replaced by Adam Liberatore.

End 3rd, Rays 2-0: John Lackey started off the inning by striking out Jack Cust, but he ran into some trouble from there.

After fanning Cust, Lackey gave up three straight singles, and the Rays have struck first.

Leslie Anderson got the offense rolling by hitting a base hit into center field. Sean Rodriguez moved him over to third base with a single through the right side, and Anderson would score when Yunel Escobar hit a groundball into the hole between shortstop and third base. Pedro Ciriaco made a rangy, backhanded play, but the chopper took him too far into the outfield for him to record an out.

With two on, Lackey opted to try and pick off Rodriguez at second, but his throw hit the runner and sailed into center field. That put runners at second and third, and Lackey loaded the bases by walking Kelly Johnson.

The situation was made even more daunting by the fact that Evan Longoria was the man who came up with the bases packed. Longoria skied a high flyball to center field. Jacoby Ellsbury made the play, but Rodriguez came across with Tampa’s second run.

Mid 3rd, 0-0: The pitchers are cruising right along thus far. Matt Moore held the Sox scoreless again in the third, despite issuing a two-out walk to Jacoby Ellsbury.

Drew Sutton popped out to James Loney, who was forced to battle the sun, for the first out of the inning. Pedro Ciriaco followed up by hitting a groundball to Evan Longoria. The sure-handed third baseman had no trouble handling it, and he fired to first for the second out.

After that, it was back to the top of the Boston order, and Ellsbury worked the count full before earning a walk. Dustin Pedroia did his best to make it two free passes, but he struck out swinging after getting to a full count.

End 2nd, 0-0: John Lackey enjoyed another successful inning in the second.

Lackey first retired Matt Joyce on a chopper to Pedro Ciriaco at short, before going to work against old friend James Loney. Loney hit one to Dustin Pedroia’s right. The Red Sox second baseman made the play and then, after a brief bobble, fired to first for the out.

Lackey ended the inning by getting catcher Chris Gimenez to fly out to Jacoby Ellsbury in center.

1:30 p.m.: While John Lackey works the second inning, I just thought I’d pass along a bit of news that’s probably interesting to most Red Sox fans.

Manny Ramirez has reportedly signed with a team in Taiwan. Ramirez will be joining the EDA Rhinos of the four-team Chinese Professional Baseball League after failing to catch on with a major league club.

So there’s that.

Mid 2nd, 0-0: Easy frame for Matt Moore.

Ryan Sweeney led off the inning by lining out to Matt Joyce in right field. David Ross then got a hold of one, which got caught up in the wind and forced center field Sean Rodriguez to drift onto the warning track in left-center. Rodriguez had it sized up all along, though, and he made the grab for out No. 2.

Moore finished the inning by also getting Lyle Overbay to fly out to Rodriguez in center.

It’s back to work for John Lackey.

End 1st, 0-0: John Lackey’s day is off to a solid start. The right-hander took care of the Rays in order in the first.

The rather controversial Yunel Escobar, who the Rays brought in this offseason, led off the inning with a groundout to Drew Sutton at third. Kelly Johnson then hit an easy fly ball that Jacoby Ellsbury hauled in in center field for the second out.

Evan Longoria — speaking of lengthy contracts — also grounded out to Sutton at third for the inning’s final out.

Longoria’s health will be extremely important to the Rays’ potential success this season. I’d even venture to say that he might be the most important player in the AL East not named Robinson Cano.

Mid 1st, 0-0: The Red Sox entered Sunday’s game having only scored two runs in their last 18 innings. They were again held scoreless in the first inning of this one.

Matt Moore got two quick outs. He got Jacoby Ellsbury to ground out to lead off the inning, and he then got Dustin Pedroia to ground out to Evan Longoria, who fired across the diamond for the second out.

Daniel Nava ensured the Sox wouldn’t go down in order, as he lined a base hit into center field. Moore bounced back, though, and got Ryan Lavarnway to hit a loud out to right.

Moore will be entering his second full season in 2013, and he could be poised for a breakout campaign. The Rays have a lot of confidence in the 23-year-old — so much confidence, in fact, that they already signed him to a lengthy contract in 2011.

1:06 pm.: And we’re under way …

1 p.m.: The Red Sox and Rays are about to do battle in Port Charlotte, but the baseball world is still buzzing about the World Baseball Classic brawl that happened between Canada and Mexico on Saturday.

The rumble was particularly interesting to Sox fans, as Boston hurler Alfredo Aceves was very much in the thick of things.

Aceves, of course, has had a rather controversial past year or so. Not only did he clash with former Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine in 2012, which led to Aceves getting suspended by the team, but he has also made waves this spring training. Aceves had a bizarre live batting practice early on in spring, and manager John Farrell had to have a talk with the polarizing righty.

In the wake of Saturday’s brawl, Aceves is once again on the hot seat. I wrote about the topic on Saturday night, so feel free to check that out at the link below.

Click here to read an opinion about Alfredo Aceves >>

Click here to see the brawl >>

12:29 p.m.: The Rays’ lineup card is in, and the Red Sox will go up against old friend James Loney.

Loney, who came over in the August megadeal with the Dodgers, played in 30 games with Boston last season, hitting .230 with two home runs and eight RBIs.

The rest of Tampa Bay’s lineup is below.

Rays
Yunel Escobar, SS
Kelly Johnson, 2B
Evan Longoria, 3B
Matt Joyce, RF
James Loney, 1B
Chris Gimenez, C
Jack Cust, DH
Leslie Anderson, LF
Sean Rodriguez, CF

Matt Moore, P

10:50 a.m.: You’re in luck. I’ve got a lineup card for you all to glance over while sipping on your java.

Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia will man the top two spots in the Boston order on Sunday, while Daniel Nava and Ryan Lavarnway will bat third and fourth, respectively.

On Saturday, the Red Sox struggled to generate any offense out of the top four spots in the lineup. Those Sox hitters who batted in the first four spots hit a combined 1-for-15.

Pedro Ciriaco, who has played all over the diamond this spring (as he did last season), will get the call at shortstop, as Stephen Drew continues to battle back from a concussion he sustained during Thursday’s game.

The rest of Sunday’s lineup is below.

Red Sox
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Daniel Nava, LF
Ryan Lavarnway, DH
Ryan Sweeney, RF
David Ross, C
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Drew Sutton, 3B
Pedro Ciriaco, SS

John Lackey, P

8 a.m. ET: The Red Sox will look to salvage their weekend on Sunday.

The Sox head into Sunday’s tilt with the Rays on the heels of back-to-back losses to the Orioles and Twins. Boston’s offense struggled mightily on Friday, failing to score while only collecting five hits, and then saw minimal improvements on Saturday, when the unit scored just two runs on seven hits.

The Red Sox’ pitching continues to be solid, though, and on Sunday, it’ll be John Lackey taking the hill for his fourth spring training start. Lackey’s held Team Puerto Rico scoreless in his last start on Tuesday, and he continues to make strides in his return from Tommy John surgery, which kept the right-hander out the entire 2012 season.

Lackey is expected to be followed by Clayton Mortensen, Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, Daniel Bard and Steven Wright. The Rays are scheduled to counter with the combination of Matt Moore, Josh Lueke, Juan Sandoval and Enny Romero.

The game will start up at 1:05 p.m. ET, and all of the action will air live on NESN. Feel free to stick around here as well, though, as I’ll be pumping out all sorts of fun throughout the afternoon.