Red Sox-Rays Live Blog: Clay Buchholz Shines in Return to Mound As Sox Take Opener 2-0

Clay Buchholz

Final, Red Sox 2-0: Koji Uehara completes the four-out save, and the Red Sox emerge victorious at the Trop.

Red Sox pitching as a whole was dominant against the Rays, with Clay Buchholz leading the charge. In his first start since early June, Buchholz worked five scoreless innings, allowing three hits and one walk while striking out six.

David Price pitched well enough to win for Tampa Bay, but a Jonny Gomes RBI single in the sixth inning proved to be all the offense Boston would need.

These two teams will be back at it again Wednesday night, with Ryan Dempster scheduled to start against Tampa’s Alex Cobb.

Good night, everyone.

Mid 9th, Red Sox 2-0: The Red Sox threatened in their half of the ninth, putting a pair of runners on against Joel Peralta, but Jonny Gomes’ flyout ended the inning and kept the Rays’ deficit at two runs entering their final at-bats.

Ben Zobrist, Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce will look to extend this contest against Koji Uehara.

End 8th, Red Sox 2-0: Koji Uehara makes quick work of Wil Myers, and we go to the ninth.

The top of the Red Sox order will look to add a bit of insurance in its first hacks against the Tampa Bay bullpen.

Bottom 8th, Red Sox 2-0: After Junichi Tazawa surrendered a two-out double to No. 9 hitter Yunel Escobar, John Farrell will look to get a four-out save out of Koji Uehara.

Tazawa struck out Desmond Jennings and got Jose Molina to pop out before allowing Escobar’s two-bagger.

Mid 8th, Red Sox 2-0: David Price threatened to come off the rails in the eighth, allowing a leadoff single and tossing a pair of wild pitches, but he struck out Stephen Drew with Daniel Nava on third to keep Tampa Bay’s deficit at two runs.

I jumped the gun a bit last inning, but with 127 pitches under his belt, Price’s night is now surely finished.

End 7th, Red Sox 2-0: Despite another free pass, Craig Breslow wrapped up his second inning of scoreless relief.

Breslow got Evan Longoria, who is now 0-for-3 on the night, to ground out to shortstop to open the inning before walking Matt Joyce.

That’s all the Rays would get in the seventh, though, as Breslow induced a weak fly ball from James Loney and got Luke Scott to ground out to third to end the inning.

This marks just the fifth time in 54 appearances this season that Breslow has completed multiple innings.

David Price will, in fact, return to the mound for the Rays in the eighth. His leash will be short, though, as he is up to 107 pitches on the night.

Mid 7th, Red Sox 2-0: David Price retires the Sox in order in what is likely his final inning of the night. Price’s pitch count is up to 107, and the Rays have Jamey Wright warming in the bullpen.

The Tampa starter induced a pair of groundouts and struck out Mike Napoli looking in the seventh, bringing his total to eight K’s on the night.

End 6th, Red Sox 2-0: Craig Breslow works around a leadoff walk in the sixth, thanks to some sturdy defensive play behind him.

Yunel Escobar’s free pass put a man on first with nobody out.

The Sox nearly wiped that runner off the basepaths, but pinch hitter Will Myers narrowly beat out Stephen Drew’s attempt to turn a 6-4-3 double play.

Dustin Pedroia took care of that shortly after, though. Pedroia fielded a Ben Zobrist grounder, tagged Myers and fired to first for the final out.

Mid 6th, Red Sox 2-0: David Price righted the ship in the fifth, striking out the side in order.

Stephen Drew, Dustin Pedroia and Shane Victorino all went down by way of the K.

With Clay Buchholz’s outing in the books, Craig Breslow will now come on to pitch for the Red Sox.

End 5th, Red Sox 2-0: Clay Buchholz’s final inning was his best of the night.

Buchholz, who has reached his pitch limit, sat the Rays down with ease in the fifth, needing just 10 pitches to retire Luke Scott, Desmond Jennings and Jose Molina.

In all, Buchholz’s return was everything the Red Sox could have asked for. He worked five scoreless innings, allowing three hits and one walk while striking out six.

Mid 5th, Red Sox 2-0: David Price’s perfect game is no more, and so is his shutout.

Mike Napoli, who led off the fifth, nearly gave the Red Sox their first lead with one swing. His fly ball to deep center field fell about two feet short of a home run, but it eluded the outstretched glove of Desmond Jennings and fell for a double.

Jonny Gomes quickly brought his bearded brother home, slapping a ground ball up the middle that allowed Napoli to score from second. Napoli took a wide turn around third base, but Jennings, who was playing Gomes relatively deep in center, was unable to get the ball to the plate in time to retire the first baseman.

Daniel Nava dropped a textbook sacrifice bunt to push Gomes to third, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia lifted a sac fly to deep center to bring him home with Boston’s second run.

Will Middlebrooks struck out to end the inning, but Clay Buchholz now has a two-run cushion to work with.

End 4th, 0-0: A pair of strikeouts and another laser to second base by Jarrod Saltalamacchia help Clay Buchholz complete his fourth scoreless frame of the night.

The only blemish on Buchholz’s inning was a one-out walk to Matt Joyce, his first free pass of the night, and that was quickly wiped away with a strike-‘em-out, throw-‘em-out double play.

David Price returns to the mound for the fifth, with the Red Sox still searching for their first baserunner.

Mid 4th, 0-0: Nothing doing again for the Sox, and David Price is perfect through four.

Shane Victorino sandwiched a 6-3 groundout between flyouts by Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz.

End 3rd, 0-0: The Rays have been nice enough to let Clay Buchholz experience a variety of pitching situations without truly threatening to score.

After Yunel Escobar popped out in foul territory to open the third inning, David DeJesus nearly took Buchholz’s head off with a line drive up the middle.

DeJesus entered tonight 4-for-5 on stolen base attempts this season, but he was unsuccessful here, as Jarrod Saltalamacchia gunned him down at second to clear the bases.

Ben Zobrist then grounded out to first base to end the inning, with Mike Napoli flipping to a covering Buchholz for the force out.

Mid 3rd, 0-0: David Price has retired the Red Sox order in order.

Price struck out Jarrod Saltalamacchia, got Will Middlebrooks to ground out to short and caught Stephen Drew’s popup to complete a perfect third inning.

End 2nd, 0-0: Clay Buchholz found himself in a bit of a jam here in the second.

The Rays didn’t hit the ball particularly hard in the inning, reaching on an infield single and a ground ball that deflected into the outfield, but they forced Buchholz’s pitch count up to 35. This being the righty’s first start in a long while, John Farrell probably doesn’t want him getting up into the 100-pitch area, so it’ll be interesting to see how his arm holds up as this game wears on.

Buchholz did keep the Rays scoreless, though, striking out both Luke Scott and Jose Molina after lengthy at-bats and getting Matt Joyce to ground out into the shift.

Mid 2nd, 0-0: The Red Sox get nothing again off David Price, who has retired the first six batters he’s faced.

Price opened the inning by getting Mike Napoli to line out softly to right field.

Only Will Middlebrooks (5-for-10) and Dustin Pedroia (12-for-42) have favorable numbers against the Rays starter, but Napoli’s line against Price is particularly brutal. In 25 career at-bats, the first baseman has six hits and has struck out 14 times.

Jonny Gomes grounded out to shortstop on his second pitch to bring up Daniel Nava with two outs.

Nava worked another lengthy at-bat, fighting off a number of fastballs up and away before flying out to deep center field with the count full.

End 1st, 0-0: Clay Buchholz’s first major league inning in more than three months is a success.

The right-hander retired the Rays in order in the bottom of the first, getting David DeJesus to fly out to center to open the inning.

Tampa Bay’s next bid was a line drive by Ben Zobrist that nicked off Buchholz’s glove. The deflection created a tough ground ball to the right side of the mound, but Dustin Pedroia was able to charge it and fire to first to retire Zobrist.

Buchholz then struck out Evan Longoria on a 2-2 changeup to end the scoreless frame.

Mid 1st, 0-0: It took a little longer than expected, but David Price sat the Red Sox down in order in the first.

After quickly mowing down Dustin Pedroia and Shane Victorino on strikes, Price had to work to retire David Ortiz.

After falling behind 1-2, Ortiz fouled off four pitches and looked at two balls just out of the strike zone before flying out to right field to end the inning.

Price has not been very ace-like lately, having surrendered 17 earned runs in 32 innings over his last five starts. He’s been very effective against the Red Sox this season, though, allowing just one run in three of his four outings against Boston.

David DeJesus, Ben Zobrist and Evan Longoria are due up first against Clay Buchholz.

7:12 p.m.: First pitch to Dustin Pedroia is in for strike one, and we are underway.

Pedroia, Shane Victorino and David Ortiz will be the first to bat tonight against Rays lefty David Price.

6:49 p.m.: Those watching the game on NESN tonight will get to catch up with an old friend, as former Red Sox pitcher Derek Lowe will be Don Orsillo’s partner in the broadcast booth.

We’ll be getting underway here in just over 20 minutes.

5:45 p.m.: Well, that’s not something  you see every day.

No, not the presence of Clay Buchholz back on the mound, though that has certainly been a rare occurrence for Boston this season. I’m actually referring to Dustin Pedroia’s spot in the lineup for tonight’s game.

The second baseman has been a mainstay in the No. 3 slot for the Red Sox this season, taking each of his 573 at-bats this season from that spot in the order. But with Jacoby Ellsbury out for the foreseeable future with a foot injury, Pedroia slides up to the top of the batting order tonight, hitting leadoff for the first time since 2009.

Pedroia has clearly been successful from his usual slot this year, hitting .297 and leading the team with 170 hits, but John Farrell reportedly indicated a short while ago that the second baseman may see considerable time atop the lineup until Ellsbury is healthy enough to return. Shane Victorino and Daniel Nava are also likely candidates to fill in.

To accommodate the shift, David Ortiz with hit in Pedroia’s usual spot tonight, and reigning AL Co-Player of the Week Mike Napoli will hit cleanup (the other Co-POW, Will Middlebrooks, will bat eighth).

Check out the full starting lineups for both teams below.

Boston Red Sox (87-58)
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Shane Victorino, CF
David Ortiz, DH
Mike Napoli, 1B
Jonny Gomes, LF
Daniel Nava, RF
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
Will Middlebrooks, 3B
Stephen Drew, SS

Clay Buchholz, P

Tampa Bay Rays (78-64)
David DeJesus, RF
Ben Zobrist, 2B
Evan Longoria, 3B
Matt Joyce, LF
James Loney, 1B
Luke Scott, DH
Desmond Jennings, RF
Jose Molina, C
Yunel Escobar, SS

David Price, P

8 a.m. ET: After three months and two days on the shelf, Clay Buchholz will finally take the mound again Tuesday night in Tampa Bay.

That’s an 82-game layoff for the Red Sox ace, who was having arguably the best season of any American League pitcher when neck and shoulder issues first sidelined him in early June.

For those who forgot how dominant the right-hander was during the early months of this season, Buchholz enters Tuesday’s series opener against the Rays with a perfect 9-0 record and a 1.71 ERA. He’s made just 12 starts on the year, but Boston has won 11 of them.

A lot can change in three months, though. Buchholz was not overpowering in his three rehab starts, and getting reacquainted with major league hitting can take time — a luxury the Red Sox do not have at the moment.

The Sox hold a 7 1/2-game lead over these Rays in the AL East. But with only 17 games remaining in the regular season, John Farrell is faced with the task of whittling down his starting rotation as October rapidly approaches. The skipper will hope for an encouraging performance from Buchholz against Tampa Bay, which will trot out an elite arm of its own in David Price (8-7, 3.51 ERA).

First pitch from Tropicana Field is scheduled for 7:10 p.m.

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