Red Sox-Rays Live: Will Middlebrooks’ Ninth-Inning Heroics Give Red Sox Improbable 4-3 Victory

Stephen Drew, Mike NapoliFinal, Red Sox 4-3: The Rays didn’t go quietly in the ninth inning, but Junichi Tazawa eventually nailed down an improbable win for the Red Sox.

Rays closer Fernando Rodney entered the game with a two-run cushion in the ninth, but his control problems paved the way for Will Middlebrooks’ heroics. The Red Sox were down to their final strike when Middlebrooks smacked a bases-clearing double to give Boston a 4-3 lead.

Rodney, who was lights-out last season, walked Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Daniel Nava in the ninth inning before Middlebrooks delivered the big blow.

Tazawa, who also pitched the eighth inning, receives the win for Boston. Rodney, who now has three blown saves this season, suffers the loss.

The Red Sox’ wild victory gives them back-to-back wins for the first time since May 1 and May 2. They’ll look to make it three in a row in Minnesota on Friday. Clay Buchholz will get the start for Boston.

Good night, everyone.

Mid 9th, Red Sox 4-3: Alex Torres replaced Fernando Rodney and got Jacoby Ellsbury to ground out to second base to end the inning, but what a finish we have on our hands at Tropicana Field.

Rodney walked Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Daniel Nava during a ninth inning in which he was one strike away from closing out a Tampa Bay victory on multiple occasions. The Sox kept fighting, and Will Middlebrooks delivered the big bases-clearing double.

Middlebrooks has had a tough season thus far, so that one has to feel good.

Junichi Tazawa, who pitched the eighth inning, will come back out and try to nail this one down for Boston.

10:35 p.m., Red Sox 4-3: Wow.

The Red Sox were down to their final strike, but Will Middlebrooks drove a bases-clearing double into the left-center field gap to give Boston a 4-3 lead.

Rays closer Fernando Rodney walked three batters to set the stage for his showdown with Middlebrooks. He then jumped ahead of Middlebrooks 0-2 before delivering a 100 mph fastball that just missed the outside corner. Rodney tried to pull the string with a changeup on 1-2, but Middlebrooks stayed back and drilled it.

Rodney walked Jarrod Saltalamacchia after Middlebrooks’ double, and he’ll now get the hook.

End 8th, Rays 3-1: Junichi Tazawa entered the game for what turned out to be an interesting — and solid — defensive inning for Shane Victorino.

Jose Lobaton led off the bottom of the eighth inning with a deep fly ball to right. Victorino retreated back toward the warning track and crashed into the wall while making the catch.

Ryan Roberts struck out for the second out, but it wasn’t before Victorino made a sliding attempt on a ball hit into foul territory down the right-field line.

The inning ended with Victorino making an over-the-shoulder catch on a fly ball off the bat of Desmond Jennings. Victorino looked like a wide receiver making the play.

Rays closer Fernando Rodney will now take the mound with a two-run cushion in the ninth. Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Mike Napoli are due up.

Mid 8th, Rays 3-1: Joel Peralta took over in the eighth inning, and he got the job done. The Red Sox are now down to their final three outs.

Peralta got Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Shane Victorino to pop out in the inning. Jacoby Ellsbury grounded out harmlessly to short.

Junichi Tazawa will pitch the bottom of the eighth for Boston.

End 7th, Rays 3-1: Craig Breslow did a very nice job in the seventh inning.

Breslow induced three groundouts while tossing a perfect frame. Yunel Escobar grounded to third, James Loney grounded to second and Matt Joyce grounded to short.

Breslow has now notched four straight scoreless outings, and five of his six outings overall have been scoreless.

Mid 7th, Rays 3-1: Mike Napoli walked to lead off the top of the seventh, but the Red Sox couldn’t muster up any more offense.

Daniel Nava flied out to left field for the inning’s first out, which also ended Alex Cobb’s night. Jake McGee took over on the hill.

McGee threw a wild pitch while facing Stephen Drew, which allowed Napoli to advance to second base. Neither Drew nor Will Middlebrooks could cash in, though. Drew popped out to his counterpart at shortstop, and Middlebrooks grounded to his counterpart down at third base.

Cobb was solid in his 6 1/3 innings. He allowed just the one run on three hits and two walks. Cobb racked up six strikeouts, five of which came on his changeup, which was very nasty, especially early on. Cobb threw 92 pitches (56 strikes) before giving way to the Tampa Bay bullpen, and he’s currently in line for his fifth win if things stay the same.

End 6th, Rays 3-1: Andrew Miller took over for Clayton Mortensen, and Luke Scott greeted him with a single into right field.

Scott’s RBI single scored Tampa’s third run and left the bases loaded for Ben Zobrist with one out. Miller escaped any further damage by striking out Zobrist and getting Evan Longoria to ground into a forceout at third base.

Longoria’s ground ball required Will Middlebrooks to show off some nifty footwork, as the third baseman made the play and tip-toed to tag the bag all in one motion.

Red Sox pitchers have walked eight in this game, including three in the sixth inning. Free passes are dangerous, and the Sox are actually lucky to be down by only two runs.

The book is officially closed on Doubront, who is currently on the hook for the loss. Doubront gave up two earned runs on three hits and six walks in five innings. He struck out seven and threw 104 pitches (54 strikes).

9:28 p.m., Rays 2-1: Clayton Mortensen entered the game, and he too struggled with his control.

Mortensen got Matt Joyce — who pinch-hit for Sean Rodriguez — to ground to third base. Will Middlebrooks determined that he had enough time to go to second, and he did so in order to get the lead runner.

From there, it was all trouble for Mortensen. He issued back-to-back walks to Jose Lobaton and Ryan Roberts to load the bases, and Desmond Jennings singled into center to give Tampa Bay a 2-1 lead.

Jennings’ hit landed just beyond the reach of a diving Stephen Drew, and the bases are still loaded as Mortensen heads for the showers.

The Rays’ second run is charged to Felix Doubront, who walked James Loney to begin the sixth inning. That means Doubront is currently on the hook for the loss.

9:14 p.m., 1-1: Felix Doubront probably isn’t a big fan of home plate umpire Joe West.

John Farrell brought Doubront out to begin the sixth inning despite the left-hander’s pitch count being at 100. Doubront responded by throwing four straight balls to James Loney, although three of them realistically could have been called strikes.

The Red Sox will now turn to Clayton Mortensen. Doubront is responsible for the runner on first.

Mid 6th, 1-1: Dustin Pedroia tried to get a little two-out rally going, but it was a fruitless effort.

Jacoby Ellsbury and Shane Victorino each grounded out to give Alex Cobb two quick outs. Pedroia then singled into right field, but David Ortiz grounded to third base to end any potential threat.

Cobb has given up one run on three hits in this game, which, amazingly, is the same line that Doubront owns at this point. Cobb has obviously been far more efficient, though. (Doubront has five walks to Cobb’s one.)

End 5th, 1-1: Felix Doubront really loves to live life on the edge.

Doubront picked up two quick outs in the fifth inning. He struck out Desmond Jennings for the second time, and he then got Luke Scott to hit right into the shift. Scott got a good piece of Doubront’s offering, but it was right at Dustin Pedroia in shallow right field.

It was at that point that Doubront stumbled, almost as if he didn’t want things to go too smoothly. Doubront threw nine consecutive balls and walked both Ben Zobrist and Evan Longoria.

Doubront bounced back and got Yunel Escobar to pop out to Pedroia behind the first base bag, thus ending Tampa Bay’s threat. But it was a typical inning for Doubront, who has been walking a tightrope all game despite only surrendering one run.

Doubront has thrown 100 pitches (54 strikes) through five innings.

Mid 5th, 1-1: Will Middlebrooks walked with two outs in the fifth inning, but that was the only hint of trouble for Alex Cobb.

Cobb got Daniel Nava to line out, and he then struck out Stephen Drew swinging for out No. 2.

Cobb got Drew on three pitches, finishing him off with a changeup. Five of Cobb’s six strikeouts have come on the changeup, in fact.

After Middlebrooks’ walk, Jarrod Saltalamacchia grounded out to first base to end the inning.

End 4th, 1-1: Felix Doubront enjoyed his first 1-2-3 inning of the game in the fourth.

Doubront struck out Sean Rodriguez and Jose Lobaton before Ryan Roberts, who homered earlier, grounded out to end the inning.

The frame wasn’t a cakewalk for Doubront, though. He was forced to work a little bit, particularly during the two strikeouts.

Rodriguez laid off a curveball to run the count full and saw eight pitches before Doubront punched him out. Lobaton, who also worked a full count, saw seven pitches before he was retired.

Mid 4th, 1-1: The Red Sox almost fell into an old habit, but David Ortiz ensured that wasn’t the case.

Shane Victorino doubled into right field with one out after Jacoby Ellsbury lined out to Yunel Escobar at short. Alex Cobb’s changeup has been his out pitch all game, but Victorino jumped all over the offspeed offering in a 1-0 count.

Dustin Pedroia grounded out to second base after Victorino’s double. The ground ball to the right side allowed Victorino to take third, but it meant the Red Sox were in jeopardy of faltering with a runner in scoring position — something that was all too common before Wednesday’s offensive outburst.

Ortiz came up big, though. He smoked a long single down the right-field line to plate Victorino with Boston’s first run.

End 3rd, Rays 1-0: Felix Doubront will be on some blooper reels after this game.

Doubront led off the inning by walking Luke Scott. He started the at-bat with a curveball. On his second pitch, he threw a … I actually couldn’t tell you.

Doubront’s second pitch to Scott slipped out of his hand and ended up rolling over near the first-base line. He couldn’t recover from there, as he missed up and in with a 2-0 fastball and then walked Scott two pitches later.

Evan Longoria extended his hitting streak to 10 games in the inning. He went the other way for a one-out single. It set up runners at first and second, but Doubront bounced back to retire Yunel Escobar and James Loney on flyouts to center.

Mid 3rd, Rays 1-0: Alex Cobb didn’t strike anyone out in the third inning, but he’s still cruising.

Cobb enjoyed another perfect inning, and he has now retired the first nine hitters he’s faced.

Stephen Drew, Will Middlebrooks and Jarrod Saltalamacchia all flied out in the third.

Middlebrooks’ out was by far the loudest. He stayed back on a curveball that Cobb left up a little bit and sent Desmond Jennings back to the warning track, where the Rays center fielder hauled it in.

End 2nd, Rays 1-0: The Red Sox will need to play catch-up in this one. Ryan Roberts put the Rays on the scoreboard in the second inning.

Felix Doubront started off the second inning by striking out Sean Rodriguez. Doubront started Rodriguez off with a fastball before going with back-to-back curveballs to freeze him on three pitches.

Jose Lobaton, who got the start behind the plate after entering Wednesday’s game late, sent an outside fastball the other way. Shane Victorino hauled it in just before the warning track, though, and it looked as if Doubront might enjoy an easy inning.

Roberts had a different idea. He sent a 2-0 fastball into the seats in left-center field for his third home run of the season.

Mid 2nd, 0-0: Alex Cobb looks very sharp early on. He’s mixing up his pitches well, and his changeup has been filthy thus far.

Cobb picked up two more strikeouts in the second inning, and he has four K’s total. Mike Napoli and Daniel Nava each went down swinging on changeups after David Ortiz grounded out to begin the second inning.

All four of Cobb’s strikeouts have come on the changeup.

End 1st, 0-0: When Felix Doubront takes the mound, you know there are going to be a lot of lengthy at-bats. That was the case in the first inning, as Doubront threw 28 pitches before retiring the Rays.

Doubront struck out Desmond Jennings with a high fastball to begin the inning. The pitch was clocked at 92 mph, so the left-hander is still lacking some velocity, despite pitching coach Juan Nieves feeling before the game like Doubront had made some strides in that area.

Luke Scott then reached with an infield single. The Red Sox had the shift pulled over to the right side, and Scott hit a ball into the hole at shortstop. Stephen Drew made a backhanded bid, but he had no play at first base. Perhaps it’s a small victory, though, as Scott entered the game 2-for-6 in his career against Doubront, with both hits being home runs.

Doubront got Evan Longoria to fly out to center field with runners at first and second, but he loaded the bases by walking Yunel Escobar. Escobar fouled off a number of pitches and saw nine pitches total before Doubront missed upstairs with a 3-2 curveball.

Doubront, who frequently walks a tightrope, escaped the inning unscathed. James Loney, who is off to an extremely hot start this season, struck out looking on a 91-mph fastball on the corner.

Mid 1st, 0-0: Alex Cobb finished 2012 on a strong note, and the success has carried into this season.

The 25-year-old right-hander was very sharp in the first inning. He struck out both Jacoby Ellsbury and the hot-hitting Dustin Pedroia as part of a 1-2-3 inning.

Cobb, who prides himself on a good fastball-changeup combo, had his offspeed stuff working in the first inning. Ellsbury and Pedroia both struck out on changeups.

Cobb struggled out of the gate last season, going 4-5 with a 4.89 ERA in nine first-half starts. He turned things around in the second half, though, going 7-4 with a 3.40 ERA in 14 starts after the All-Star break.

Cobb was particularly impressive in the final two months of last season. He went 4-0 with a 3.38 ERA in six starts last August, and then went 3-1 with a 2.73 ERA in his final five starts of the year.

7:12 p.m.: Alex Cobb’s first pitch to Jacoby Ellsbury is on the outside corner for a strike, and we’re underway.

6:58 p.m.: Every time Felix Doubront takes the mound, it’s a big outing for the lefty. Doubront has struggled a great deal this season, and there is some question as to how long the Red Sox will continue to roll him out there if he can’t right the ship soon.

Doubront last started in Texas on May 3, and he lasted just 3 2/3 innings, surrendering six earned runs on 12 hits while throwing 97 pitches.

Doubront did pitch out of the bullpen against the Twins on May 8 after Allen Webster failed to make it out of the second inning, but the results were similar. Doubront gave up six earned runs on 11 hits in that outing while throwing 105 pitches in 5 1/3 innings.

Overall, Doubront has give up 12 earned runs on 23 hits in his last nine innings pitched. Yikes.

6:40 p.m.: I’m sure I don’t need to remind all of you Boston sports fans out there, but the Bruins are ready to kick off their playoff series against the Rangers. You can follow NESN.com’s Bruins live blog at the link below.

Click here for NESN.com’s Bruins live blog >>

6:30 p.m.: The Rays announced that they have placed David Price on the 15-day disabled list with a left triceps strain. The left-hander exited Wednesday’s start against the Red Sox in the third inning.

The move isn’t surprising, and it continues what has been a difficult season for Price. The reigning AL Cy Young winner is 1-4 with a 5.24 ERA in nine starts, and he just hasn’t looked like the pitcher who won 20 games last season.

Price has lost about 2 mph on his fastball, which is certainly concerning for a pitcher of his status. Perhaps a stint on the DL can help alleviate whatever issue he’s dealing with.

Click here to read about David Price’s injury >>

5:10 p.m.: The month of May hasn’t been too kind to the Red Sox, but it’s been very kind to Stephen Drew. Drew leads the team in average (.348), on-base percentage (.415), slugging percentage (.609) and RBIs (12) this month.

Red Sox manager John Farrell is looking to ride that hot streak. Drew, who typically bats ninth, will bat seventh on Thursday, with Will Middlebrooks and Jarrod Saltalamacchia batting eighth and ninth, respectively.

Click here to read about Stephen Drew’s hot streak >>

Daniel Nava will also return to the Boston lineup. He’ll bat sixth and play left field.

The rest of Thursday’s lineups are below.

Red Sox (23-17)
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Shane Victorino, RF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
David Ortiz, DH
Mike Napoli, 1B
Daniel Nava, LF
Stephen Drew, SS
Will Middlebrooks, 3B
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C

Felix Doubront, LHP (3-1, 6.40 ERA)

Rays (20-19)
Desmond Jennings, CF
Luke Scott, DH
Ben Zobrist, RF
Evan Longoria, 3B
Yunel Escobar, SS
James Loney, 1B
Sean Rodriguez, LF
Jose Lobaton, C
Ryan Roberts, 2B

Alex Cobb (4-2, 3.09 ERA)

8 a.m. ET: Jon Lester once again played the role of stopper on Wednesday, holding the Rays to two runs over seven innings in the Red Sox’ 9-2 blowout at Tropicana Field.

Lester, who tossed a one-hit shutout in his last start before Wednesday’s, was very solid, but it was Boston’s offense that came alive in the victory. The Red Sox suddenly showed an ability to hit with runners on, and an eight-run inning capped off by Stephen Drew’s grand slam provided all the offense Boston needed.

Now, the Red Sox will try to ride the momentum of Wednesday’s big win. Sure, the performance was impressive, but the Sox had lost three in a row before Wednesday, and they’ve still lost nine of their last 12 games overall. Felix Doubront will attempt to give the Red Sox their first back-to-back wins since May 1 and May 2.

It won’t be easy for Doubront, who is making his first start since May 3. The left-hander has seen a drop in velocity recently, and his overall effectiveness has suffered as a result. He’ll need to turn things around on Thursday, as Rays starter Alex Cobb (4-2, 3.09 ERA) has been pitching well for Tampa.

Thursday’s first pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. All of the action can be found on NESN and right here at NESN.com.

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