Red Sox-Rays Live: Stephen Drew Hits Grand Slam in Eight-Run Third Inning, Sox Throttle Rays 9-2

Jon LesterFinal, Red Sox 9-2: Finally, everything seemed to go right for the Red Sox.

The Sox have had a difficult go of it lately, but everything came together on Wednesday. The Red Sox scored eight runs in the third inning and Jon Lester picked up his sixth win as Boston rolled to a 9-2 victory.

Stephen Drew’s grand slam highlighted the monster third frame, which saw the Red Sox go 5-for-7 with runners in scoring position. That’s a welcome sign for a team that has struggled mightily to cash in with runners on base of late. Prior to the third inning, Boston had been 4-for-42 (.095) with runners in scoring position over its previous 37 innings.

The big third inning started against David Price, whose difficult season continues. It didn’t end against Price, though, as the reigning American League Cy Young winner left with an injury after just 2 1/3 innings.

Lester held up his end of the bargain on Wednesday. He went seven innings, allowing two runs on eight hits while striking out five. His now joins teammate Clay Buchholz on baseball’s six-win list.

Drew’s night was defined by his grand slam, but he played a solid game overall. The shortstop added a double and a walk as part of his 2-for-3 performance. Will Middlebrooks and Dustin Pedroia also chipped in two hits apiece, and Middlebrooks even ended a 15-game home run drought by going deep in the eighth inning.

Felix Doubront will get the start for Boston on Thursday as he continues to try and get on the right path. He’ll be matched up against Alex Cobb, and the game will kick off at 7:10 p.m.

Good night, everyone.

Mid 9th, Red Sox 9-2: The Rays made a few moves defensively in ninth, and they brought in Josh Lueke to pitch.

Lueke walked Jacoby Ellsbury to lead off the inning, but he retired the next three hitters in order.

The play that retired Shane Victorino brought Red Sox manager John Farrell out for a brief discussion. Victorino hit a popup directly behind home plate. Jose Lobaton — who entered the game as Tampa’s new catcher before the inning started — made the play with one hand before dropping the ball on his transfer to his bare hand. There was some question as to whether Lobaton ever had complete control of it, but replays show the out call was the correct one.

Mike Carp pinch-hit for David Ortiz with two outs, and he flied out to left field to end the inning. Jose De La Torre, who gave up two runs in his big league debut on Sunday, will pitch the ninth for Boston.

End 8th, Red Sox 9-2: This game nearly got a bit more interesting.

Matt Joyce — who pinch-hit for Sean Rodriguez — drilled a fly ball right down the right-field line with two runners on. If it was a few more feet to the left, we would have been looking at a 9-5 game. Instead, it hooked just foul, and Joyce ended up flying out to Daniel Nava in left field.

Koji Uehara, who has made a career off throwing strikes, found himself working through an uncharacteristic 29-pitch inning in the eighth. Prior to Joyce’s deep foul, Evan Longoria singled, Yunel Escobar grounded into a force out and James Loney walked. Joyce’s fly out to left came on the 10th pitch of his at-bat.

Luke Scott pinch-hit for Jose Molina with two outs, and Uehara struck him out swinging on a splitter low and away.

Mid 8th, Red Sox 9-2: Will Middlebrooks has a ton of power, which makes his season-long slump even more perplexing.

Middlebrooks used his immense power to smack his first home run since April 26 in the eighth inning. It was a 15-game home run drought for Middlebrooks, whose seven blasts still have him tied with Mike Napoli for the team lead.

Middlebrooks jumped all over a slider on the outer half of the plate from Kyle Farnsworth, and he drilled it over the fence in right-center field. Middlebrooks has the ability to hit with power to all fields, so his performance in this game is very encouraging. Not only does Middlebrooks have a home run, but he also doubled to the opposite field back in the second inning.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Stephen Drew, who had reached safely in all three of his previous plate appearances, each struck out to end the inning. Daniel Nava, who entered the game for Jonny Gomes in left field, grounded out to lead off the inning.

End 7th, Red Sox 8-2: Stephen Drew is really turning in a complete effort.

Drew has a grand slam and has reached safely in all three of his plate appearances. In the seventh inning, he nearly added a diving play to his resume.

Ryan Roberts hit a ball sharply to short. Drew went into the dive while ranging into the 5-6 hole and knocked the ball down. Drew didn’t have enough time to make a throw to first, but it was still a solid defensive effort — one pitchers appreciate.

Desmond Jennings flied out to right field for the first out. Kelly Johnson then nearly bounced into an inning-ending double play, but he beat out the throw at first base. It didn’t matter, as Ben Zobrist grounded into a 5-4 force out to end the inning.

That’ll likely be the night for Jon Lester. Koji Uehara has been warming up in the bullpen, and Lester appears to be getting congratulatory pats on the back in the Red Sox’ dugout.

Mid 7th, Red Sox 8-2: Cesar Ramos exited with two outs in the seventh inning, but he did a very nice job of settling things down in this game.

When Ramos entered the contest, the Red Sox had just put up eight runs the inning prior. Ramos ensured they wouldn’t get any more on his watch, tossing three scoreless innings in which he only surrendered one hit.

Before departing in the seventh, Ramos retired Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz. Pedroia grounded back to the mound, while Ortiz grounded to first baseman James Loney, who flipped to Ramos to complete the out.

Kyle Farnsworth replaced Cesar Ramos. It took him just two pitches to retire Mike Napoli via a ground out to third.

End 6th, Red Sox 8-2: Jon Lester struck out two in the sixth inning, and he now ranks fifth on the Red Sox’ all-time strikeouts list.

Lester, who has five K’s in this game, has 1,110 for his career. His 1,109th — a strikeout of Evan Longoria to lead off the sixth inning — moved him past Josh Beckett on the franchise list.

Lester struck out Longoria looking on a cutter. The lefty then yielded a double to Yunel Escobar before striking out James Loney. Loney tried to check his swing on a curveball low and out of the zone, but home plate umpire Sam Holbrook determined that he went around.

Sean Rodriguez was hit in the hand by a pitch with two outs, but the inning ended with Jose Molina grounding out to third base.

Mid 6th, Red Sox 8-2: The Rays retired eight in a row until Stephen Drew stepped into the box in the sixth inning.

Drew, whose grand slam highlighted Boston’s four-run third inning, smacked a two-out double off the right-field wall. Drew has now reached base safely in all three of his plate appearances — he walked in his first plate appearance — and his season average is up to .247.

Drew advanced to third base when one of Cesar Ramos’ pitches to Shane Victorino got away, but Victorino couldn’t drive him in. The Flyin’ Hawaiian hit a ground ball that forced Yunel Escobar to range up the middle, but the Rays shortstop easily took care of business for the inning’s final out.

End 5th, Red Sox 8-2:  Jon Lester finally has a 1-2-3 inning to his credit, as the left-hander mowed down the Rays in order in the fifth.

Desmond Jennings grounded out, Kelly Johnson flied out and Ben Zobrist struck out.

Lester tried to put Zobrist away with a couple of fastballs, but Zobrist laid off the first and fouled off the second. Lester then went with a sinker down and in to freeze the versatile Zobrist.

Mid 5th, Red Sox 8-2: It’s important when a team explodes for a big inning that the next guy settle things down. Cesar Ramos is trying to do that.

Ramos retired the Red Sox in order in the fifth inning, striking out Mike Napoli and Will Middlebrooks in the process. Both hitters went down hacking at offspeed offerings.

In between the two K’s, Jonny Gomes grounded out back to the mound.

End 4th, Red Sox 8-2: Jon Lester is fortunate to be working with a big lead, as he doesn’t have his best stuff going.

Lester hasn’t enjoyed a 1-2-3 inning yet in this game, and although he managed to keep the Rays scoreless in the fourth, they still put two runners on and forced the lefty to work.

Lester retired Yunel Escobar and James Loney on a fly out and ground out, respectively, to begin the inning. The Rays then threatened from there. Sean Rodriguez and Jose Molina each singled into center field to set up runners at the corners for Ryan Roberts.

Fortunately for the Red Sox, Roberts stranded the two runners by striking out swinging.

Mid 4th, Red Sox 8-2: The Red Sox’ offense must have been worn out. Boston went down 1-2-3 in the fourth inning.

Jamey Wright, who entered the game in the third inning for the injured David Price, came back out to start the fourth. He retired Shane Victorino and Dustin Pedroia on a pair of grounds outs before giving way to Cesar Ramos.

Ramos entered the game and got David Ortiz to hit into the shift. Ryan Roberts made a nice backhanded play on the outfield grass in right, and then delivered an off-balance throw to first to end the inning.

The Rays will now see if they can establish some momentum on offense after their two-run third inning.

End 3rd, Red Sox 8-2: We just saw perhaps the only drawback of putting up eight runs as part of a lengthy offensive inning — the benefiting team’s pitcher has to sit for a while, and that could ultimately hurt his rhythm.

Jon Lester — or any pitcher, for that matter — will never complain about getting a whole bunch of run support, but the left-hander struggled a little bit in the third inning following a lengthy stint on the bench. The Rays put up two runs, and we’re now looking at an 8-2 game.

Ryan Roberts led off with a little dribbler to the left-side. By the time Lester came off the mound and grabbed it, Roberts was able to easily reach at first base.

Desmond Jennings, who singled in a 10-pitch at-bat in the first inning, put Tampa on the scoreboard with a triple. The Rays were aggressive in sending Roberts home down eight runs, but the move paid off.

The Rays’ second run scored when Ben Zobrist grounded out to third base with the infield back.

Mid 3rd, Red Sox 8-0: The Red Sox went right to work against Jamey Wright after David Price left with an injury.

Mike Napoli, batting with runners at first and second, smoked an RBI double that one-hopped off the wall in right-center field. Jonny Gomes then plated Boston’s fourth run with a sharply hit single into center. (Napoli’s RBI gave him 34 for the season, and Gomes’ base hit broke up an 0-for-13 stretch for him.)

Will Middlebrooks stepped up with runners at the corners, and he flied out to center, but it wasn’t deep enough to score Napoli from third. Wright had a hard time getting the inning’s final out, though.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia kept the frame going by working a walk. That set the stage for Stephen Drew’s grand slam, which landed in the first row in right-center field.

The Red Sox batted around in the eight-run inning. It marks the sixth time this season that they’ve done that. Four of the runs were charged to Price, and the other four were charged to Wright.

All in all, the eight-run assault was exactly what the Red Sox’ offense needed. Time and time again, the unit has struggled to capitalize with runners on,  but that was hardly the case this time around.

Jon Lester will head back to the hill after a very lengthy at-bat sequence for the Red Sox. We’ll see if the layoff hinders him at all, but it’s a tradeoff he’ll certainly take.

8:12 p.m., Red Sox 2-0: David Price is coming out of this ballgame. Something appeared to be wrong with Price’s pitching hand after the left-hander gave up an RBI single to David Ortiz, and the Rays will turn to the bullpen early.

Price gives way after giving up two runs in the third inning. Stephen Drew kicked off the frame by capping off an eight-pitch battle with a walk, and Jacoby Ellsbury followed up with a single into center field.

Dustin Pedroia, who continues to be the Red Sox’ hottest hitter, drove in the game’s first run with a one-out single into right field. Ortiz added to the lead by shooting an RBI single past Evan Longoria and down the third-base line.

Jamey Wright will enter for the injured Price. So much for the highly anticipated pitcher’s duel.

End 2nd, 0-0: James Loney showed both what to do and what not to do on the bases in the second inning.

Loney lined a pitch on the outside corner into center field with one out. He then showed a heads-up play on the basepaths moments later. Jon Lester threw a pitch in the dirt that Jarrod Saltalamacchia did a good job of blocking. The ball bounced off Saltalamacchia’s chest and out in front of him, but Loney didn’t show any hesitation before taking off for second base, and he was able to beat Salty’s throw.

Loney’s aggressiveness was what got him into scoring position, but it’s also what wiped him off the bases. Sean Rodriguez hit a ground ball to short. Loney took off for third  but then threw on the brakes before retreating to second base. The indecision cost him, though, as Stephen Drew tossed to Dustin Pedroia to nail Loney for the second out.

Jose Molina grounded out to third base with a runner on first to end the inning.

Mid 2nd, 0-0: David Price has struggled this season with two outs, but the Red Sox have struggled after putting runners in scoring position. Something has got to give, right?

Price got two quick outs in the second inning, although the first one was thanks to some stellar defense from Evan Longoria. Mike Napoli threatened to yank a base hit through the left side, but Longoria made an excellent diving stop before firing to first for the inning’s first out.

After Jonny Gomes popped out behind the first base bag, Will Middlebrooks drove a double into the right-center field gap, which brought opponents’ average against Price with two outs to .343 for the season.

Price escaped any damage, though. He struck out Jarrod Saltalamacchia swinging on a fastball on the outside corner.

End 1st, 0-0: The Rays put up some good at-bats against Jon Lester in the first inning.

Lester ultimately kept the Rays off the scoreboard, but he was forced to work a little bit. The lefty tossed 21 pitches, 10 of which came in the opening at-bat.

Lester battled back after falling behind the leadoff man, Desmond Jennings, but Jennings made life very difficult. He fouled off four straight pitches — mostly sinkers on the outer half of the plate — before singling into left field on the 10th pitch of the at-bat.

Jennings stole second base during what was another solid battle by Ben Zobrist. Zobrist fell behind 0-2, but he worked the count full, even though Lester’s 2-2 pitch looked like it was perfectly placed on the corner low and away. Zobrist eventually struck out on a changeup down and out of the zone.

Evan Longoria, who was named the American League Player of the Week for last week on Monday, struck a line drive back at Lester, but the left-hander’s knee-jerk reaction was enough to make the snag. Both teams put a runner in scoring position in the first inning, but neither could jump out to a lead.

Mid 1st, 0-0: The Red Sox’ inability to capitalize with runners in scoring position has become a huge issue. They’re already 0-for-1 in such situations in this game.

Jacoby Ellsbury led off the game by grounding out, and Shane Victorino was retired on a short popup into center field for the second out. Victorino’s bloop looked like it might cause trouble off the bat, but some good communication between shortstop Yunel Escobar, second baseman Ryan Roberts and center fielder Desmond Jennings ensured the play didn’t become problematic.

Dustin Pedroia fared better. David Price went with back-to-back cutters to try and put Pedroia away. Pedroia fanned on the first one, but he drove the second one into the left-center field gap for a double.

David Ortiz, who went deep on Tuesday, couldn’t cash in with Pedroia at second. He went the other way with a cutter, but Sean Rodriguez tracked down the slicing fly ball for the inning’s third out.

Price’s velocity, which has been under a microscope of late, wasn’t bad in the first inning. He topped out at 95 mph, although he consistently sat at around 93 mph. It’s clear Price is going to try and pound the cutter on the outside corner, which makes two, as Jon Lester has been known to consistently do the same.

7:11 p.m.: David Price’s first pitch is low and away. Let’s play a little baseball.

7:01 p.m.: Wednesday’s duel will mark the second time this season that Jon Lester and David Price have gone toe-to-toe. The two lefties also squared off on April 13, and the Red Sox came away with a 2-1 win.

Lester received a no-decision in that contest despite tossing seven innings of one-run ball. Price, who also received a no-decision in that game, allowed one run over six innings. The Red Sox pulled out the victory on Shane Victorino’s walkoff infield single in the 10th inning.

Since the start of 2009, Lester’s 2.17 ERA at Tropicana Field leads all pitchers with at least four starts at the Trop. Lester is 3-1 with 40 strikeouts in 29 innings in five starts at Tropicana Field since the start of 2009.

6:45 p.m.: David Ortiz’s injury might not be enough to sideline him, but Andrew Bailey’s biceps issue has been a different story. The good news for the Red Sox, though, is that Bailey is nearing a return.

Manager John Farrell said Bailey will rejoin the Sox on Monday at the latest.

“He threw a very good bullpen yesterday,” Farrell said Wednesday on WEEI’s Salk and Holley. “He’ll throw to hitters here, tomorrow, early afternoon, in a simulated game situation just to see some hitters and try and create some additional adrenaline. After tomorrow, we’ll determine if it’s best served for everyone — most importantly, Andrew — to get a rehab appearance before he comes back to us. We’re thinking at the latest, it’d be Monday when he would rejoin us, in Chicago.”

Bailey hasn’t pitched since April 28 against the Astros.

6:30 p.m.: You may have noticed that David Ortiz is in the lineup despite dealing with some tightness in his left oblique.

The Red Sox will continue to monitor and be careful with Ortiz, who missed the beginning of the year with an Achilles injury, but apparently the new ailment isn’t enough to sideline the slugger. Ortiz said he suffered the oblique injury during a three-game series in Texas, and he admitted that it is affecting his swing. You wouldn’t know it, though, considering he jacked a three-run home run on Tuesday.

“I’m going to keep on playing with it. It’s not at a point where it gets any worse. Hopefully, it doesn’t get any worse. But yeah, it bothers me on some swings that I take,” Ortiz told reporters before Wednesday’s game. “Like last week, I was watching some videos, outside pitches that I was kind of pulling, and when you get to the point where you want to drive the ball the other way and next thing you know you’re hooking the ball, that’s not normal, you know what I’m saying? That had a lot to do with it. Hopefully it gets better.”

Ortiz’s home run on Tuesday snapped a 1-for-19 stretch, during which he didn’t have an extra-base hit.

5:30 p.m.: The main storyline entering this game is obviously the pitching matchup, which includes two of baseball’s elite lefties. Here’s a look at the guys who will be forced to generate offense against Jon Lester and David Price.

Red Sox (22-17)
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Shane Victorino, RF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
David Ortiz, DH
Mike Napoli, 1B
Jonny Gomes, LF
Will Middlebrooks, 3B
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
Stephen Drew, SS

Jon Lester, LHP (5-0, 2.73 ERA)

Rays (20-18)
Desmond Jennings, CF
Kelly Johnson, DH
Ben Zobrist, RF
Evan Longoria, 3B
Yunel Escobar, SS
James Loney, 1B
Sean Rodriguez, LF
Jose Molina, C
Ryan Roberts, 2B

David Price, LHP (1-3, 4.78 ERA)

11 a.m.: If this doesn’t fill the Trop, what can?

The Red Sox and Rays are sending their best to the mound Wednesday night. Jon Lester (5-0, 2.73 ERA) and David Price (1-3, 4.78), both aces of their staffs and perennial Cy Young candidates, will face off as the Red Sox look to chip back after dropping the first game of the series.

Lester had some bumpy outings after his torrid start this year, but he made up for all that Friday night in Toronto. Pitching a complete game, Lester gave up just one hit and struck out five.

Price, meanwhile, comes into Wednesday night’s contest with his last start a sharp one, too. He went eight innings, also against Toronto, and gave up two earned runs while striking out eight.

The Red Sox have been on a bad slide as of late (2-9 in their last 11 games), and they’ll need the bats to get back in it if they want to start stringing together Ws again. David Ortiz also revealed Tuesday that he is nursing a sore oblique muscle, although that didn’t keep him from hitting a home run in the first inning.

Flip over to NESN around 6 p.m. to hear what’s going on before the game, but be sure to be here until then for updates and analysis before first pitch, which is scheduled for 7:10.

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