Final, Rays 6-4: The 2014 season continues to slip away.
Xander Bogaerts singled and Jackie Bradley Jr. doubled in the ninth inning to set the table for David Ross’ sacrifice fly. Jake McGee ultimately managed to nail things down by striking out Brock Holt.
The Red Sox suffered their fourth straight loss in Friday’s series opener against the Rays at Tropicana Field. Boston’s bullpen imploded in the seventh inning as Tampa Bay scored four runs en route to a 6-4 win.
The Red Sox grabbed a 3-2 lead in the sixth inning as David Ortiz and Shane Victorino, who also homered, produced RBI singles. The advantage was short-lived, though, as Junichi Tazawa faltered in the seventh.
Ben Zobrist tied the game with an RBI single. Evan Longoria thrust the Rays in front with a bases-clearing double.
David Price went eight innings for Tampa Bay, allowing three earned runs on eight hits while striking out 10. Jon Lester went six innings for Boston, surrendering two runs on six hits while striking out seven and walking one.
End 8th, Rays 6-3: Craig Breslow induced three flyouts in the eighth inning.
James Loney, Curt Casali and Logan Forsythe each put the ball in the air against the Boston left-hander.
Shane Victorino, Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. are due up for the Red Sox in the ninth inning. Jake McGee will be the new pitcher for Tampa Bay.
Mid 8th, Rays 6-3: Dustin Pedroia led off with a single. It was the only noise the Red Sox’s offense made in the eighth inning.
David Ortiz grounded up the middle. Third baseman Evan Longoria, who was shifted over, made a diving stop and flipped to second base for a forceout. The Rays were unable to turn two.
Mike Napoli and Jonny Gomes struck out to end the inning. Napoli struck out swinging and Gomes went down looking.
David Price allowed three earned runs on eight hits over eight innings. He struck out 10 and didn’t walk anyone. It’s likely his night is over, though, as the left-hander has thrown 114 pitches (84 strikes).
End 7th, Rays 6-3: The Red Sox’s bullpen imploded in the seventh inning.
The Rays scored four runs against Andrew Miller and Junichi Tazawa — two typically reliable relievers — to grab a 6-3 lead. One run was charged to Miller. The other three were taxed to Tazawa.
Miller started the inning after six solid frames from Jon Lester. He hit Jose Molina in the leg with a pitch — sending the big backstop to the ground — and struck out Logan Forsythe before turning things over.
Tazawa walked Desmond Jennings to begin his outing. Ben Zobrist then put an inside-out swing on a 2-2 fastball and dropped it into left field. The Rays had every intention of challenging Jonny Gomes, but there never was a play at the plate because Gomes couldn’t handle the single cleanly. Cole Figueroa, who pinch-ran for Molina, scored easily from second base.
Brandon Guyer walked to load the bases for the always dangerous Evan Longoria. Longoria gave the Rays a 6-3 lead with a bases-clearing double into the left field corner. Tazawa oddly opted to go with a curveball — his third-best pitch — in the key spot.
Mid 7th, Red Sox 3-2: David Price settled back down in the seventh inning. Price, who was knocked around a bit in the sixth, shut down the Red Sox’s offense in order.
Jackie Bradley Jr. grounded to second base. David Ross and Brock Holt both struck out swinging.
Price is up to 95 pitches through seven innings. He has struck out eight and hasn’t issued a single walk.
Jon Lester’s night is over after six innings. Andrew Miller will take over.
Lester allowed two runs on six hits while striking out seven and walking one. It’s the eighth straight start in which Lester has allowed two earned runs or fewer. In that span, Lester owns a 1.07 ERA.
End 6th, Red Sox 3-2: Exactly what the doctor ordered.
Jon Lester, who was forced to grind through the fifth inning, responded to the Red Sox recapturing the lead by providing a shutdown sixth.
Lester needed just 12 pitches to work a 1-2-3 sixth inning. It’s likely Lester’s night is over, as the left-hander has thrown 110 pitches overall.
Lester struck out Sean Rodriguez and Yunel Escobar in the sixth. James Loney ended the inning with a popup to Brock Holt.
Mid 6th, Red Sox 3-2: The Rays’ lead didn’t last long.
The Red Sox scored two runs in the sixth inning to recapture the lead. David Ortiz and Shane Victorino produced RBI singles.
Dustin Pedroia jump-started Boston’s rally with a double into the left-center field gap. David Price battled back against Ortiz after falling behind in the count 3-0, but Big Papi grounded a 93 mph fastball back up the middle to tie the game at two apiece.
Jonny Gomes dropped a two-out single into right field after Ben Zobrist tracked down Mike Napoli’s attempt to shoot the right-center field gap. Ortiz advanced to second base.
Victorino, who homered in the second inning, knocked in Ortiz with a single into center field. The Flyin’ Hawaiian has played well since returning from the disabled list last weekend.
End 5th, Rays 2-1: Desmond Jennings gave the Rays a 2-1 lead with one swing of the bat.
James Loney led off with a single into left field. Jon Lester rebounded to retire Jose Molina (strikeout) and Logan Forsythe (flyout), but Jennings wouldn’t go away as quietly.
Jennings jumped on a 2-0 pitch located on the inside corner. He drove it into the seats in left-center field. The two-run homer was Jennings’ ninth long ball of 2014.
Lester had difficulty recording the third out. Ben Zobrist reached on a chopper toward the middle of the infield that Xander Bogaerts unsuccessfully attempted to bare hand. Brandon Guyer walked to extend the inning for Evan Longoria.
Longoria flied out to left field to end the inning after Lester found himself in another three-ball count.
Lester has thrown 98 pitches through five innings, as the Rays really made him work in the fifth.
Mid 5th, Red Sox 1-0: Jackie Bradley Jr. gave the Red Sox their third hit of the game in the fifth inning.
Bradley dropped a single into left field with two outs. Shane Victorino and Xander Bogaerts began the inning with groundouts to second base and shortstop, respectively.
David Ross couldn’t get anything going after Bradley’s two-out single. He, too, grounded out to end the inning.
End 4th, Red Sox 1-0: Jon Lester had no trouble working a scoreless fourth inning.
The middle of the Rays’ order — Evan Longoria, Sean Rodriguez and Yunel Escobar — went down without a fight.
Longoria struck out swinging to begin the inning. The ball got away from catcher David Ross, who hobbled over to retrieve it and throw to first. It’s clear Ross is really battling the plantar fasciitis that recently crept up.
Sean Rodriguez also struck out. Yunel Escobar grounded to short.
Mid 4th, Red Sox 1-0: David Price has been very sharp beyond Shane Victorino’s solo homer. He’s showing good velocity — around 94-95 mph — and the ability to paint the corners.
In other words, he looks like David Price.
Price worked a very quick fourth inning in which he retired David Ortiz, Mike Napoli and Jonny Gomes in order.
Ortiz, who struck out on three pitches in his first at-bat, lifted a fly ball to deep center field handled by Desmond Jennings.
Price struck out Mike Napoli looking on a pitch on the inside black.
Gomes flied out to deep left field.
End 3rd, Red Sox 1-0: We’re three innings in, but this game already has the feel of a potential pitchers’ duel. Shane Victorino’s second-inning homer could end up being big.
Lester overcame a two-out, infield single in the third inning. Brandon Guyer grounded to third baseman Xander Bogaerts to end the frame.
Zobrist hit a little chopper in front of home plate after Logan Forsythe struck out and Desmond Jennings grounded to short. Lester charged off the mound but delivered a poor throw to first base.
Zobrist was credited with a hit and probably would have reached even with a good throw. However, Lester clearly has had issues throwing to first base.
It’s actually quite amazing opposing teams don’t bunt more often against Lester.
Mid 3rd, Red Sox 1-0: Brock Holt snapped an 0-for-10 skid with a two-out single into center field.
David Price had no trouble beyond Holt’s two-out knock. He struck out Jackie Bradley Jr. (swinging) and David Ross (looking) to begin the inning. The lefty retired Dustin Pedroia to end any potential threat.
Evan Longoria made an excellent play to retire Pedroia. Pedroia hit a chopper down the third base line and Longoria ranged into foul territory to grab it before firing a laser across the diamond.
Price has five strikeouts through three innings.
End 2nd, Red Sox 1-0: Jonny Gomes has had a rough go of it lately in left field.
Sean Rodriguez led off with a line drive toward the left-center field gap. Gomes ranged over and slid, but the ball deflected off his glove. Rodriguez cruised into second base.
It was a play Gomes should have made. But while Gomes initially was charged with an error, the official scorer later changed his ruling and awarded Rodriguez a double — presumably, because Gomes slid while attempting to make the catch.
Jon Lester made sure the defensive miscue didn’t cost the Red Sox. Rodriguez took third base when Yunel Escobar grounded out, but the tying run never crossed.
James Loney lifted a fly ball into shallow left field. Gomes again slid, but this time he made the play.
Jose Molina struck out to end the inning.
Mid 2nd, Red Sox 1-0: Shane Victorino hit his first home run since returning from the disabled list.
Victorino, who returned Saturday after being sidelined since May 23, lifted a hanging breaking ball from David Price into the left field seats. It was Victorino’s second homer of the season.
Mike Napoli flied out, Jonny Gomes struck out and Xander Bogaerts lined out softly in an otherwise effective inning for Price.
End 1st, 0-0: Jon Lester worked around an infield single for a scoreless first inning.
Ben Zobrist ripped a sharp ground ball into the hole with one out. Brock Holt, who is playing shortstop, laid out to make an excellent diving stop. He popped up and delivered a strong throw — intentionally bouncing it to first base to get it there faster — but Zobrist beat out a bang-bang play.
Brandon Guyer lined out to third base for the second out. Xander Bogaerts tossed to first base in the hopes of doubling up Zobrist, but Zobrist dived back safely.
Evan Longoria lined out to left fielder Jonny Gomes to end the inning.
According to ESPN.com’s Gordon Edes, there are scouts from at least 17 major league teams at Tropicana Field. Gomes likely is one of the players being watched, as he’s been the subject of trade speculation in recent weeks.
Mid 1st, 0-0: David Price struck out David Ortiz on three pitches in the rivals’ first showdown of the evening.
Price tossed a 1-2-3 first inning in which he struck out two. Brock Holt and David Ortiz both went down looking at fastballs on the corner.
Ortiz wasn’t happy with home plate umpire Bill Miller’s strike zone in the first inning. Price received a very, very generous call from Miller on an 0-1 curveball located low and away, and Ortiz voiced his displeasure.
Dustin Pedroia flied out to center field in the inning.
7:12 p.m.: Brock Holt takes a first-pitch ball up high.
6:35 p.m.: The Red Sox anticipated being without David Ortiz for Friday’s series opener, but the slugger called manager John Farrell and told him not to write him off. Ortiz indeed is in Friday’s starting lineup.
Ortiz tweaked his back on a check swing in the ninth inning Thursday against the Toronto Blue Jays. He exited the game and was described by Farrell as being “day-to-day.” The injury apparently isn’t serious enough to keep Ortiz out of Friday’s much-anticipated game against the Rays, though, which is good news for fans of dramatic baseball.
Brock Holt will play shortstop Friday. Stephen Drew will be out of the lineup with left-hander David Price going for the Rays.
Jon Lester gets the nod for Boston. He’s looking to continue his torrid pace, which has thrust him into the American League Cy Young discussion, although Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez remains the front-runner.
Friday’s complete lineups are below.
Boston Red Sox (47-55)
Brock Holt, SS
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
David Ortiz, DH
Mike Napoli, 1B
Jonny Gomes, LF
Shane Victorino, RF
Xander Bogaerts, 3B
Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
David Ross, C
Jon Lester, LHP (10-7, 2.50 ERA)
Tampa Bay Rays (49-53)
Desmond Jennings, CF
Ben Zobrist, RF
Brandon Guyer, LF
Evan Longoria, 3B
Sean Rodriguez, DH
Yunel Escobar, SS
James Loney, 1B
Jose Molina, C
Logan Forsythe, 2B
David Price, LHP (10-7, 3.06 ERA)
6:15 p.m. ET: The Boston Red Sox looked poised to make a second-half run, especially after defeating the Toronto Blue Jays 14-1 on Monday at Rogers Centre. Now, the Red Sox are in some serious trouble.
Boston opens up a three-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday at Tropicana Field. The Red Sox, who had won eight of nine before Tuesday’s loss, enter on the heels of three straight defeats, while the Rays come in having won their last seven games, including all five of their contests since the All-Star break.
The Red Sox and Rays have been buried in the basement of the American League East, but Tampa Bay appears to be making strides while Boston is attempting to stay afloat. It’s possible this weekend series could go a long way toward determining how each club approaches the July 31 trade deadline.
This series not only is intriguing because of each team’s status in the standings. It’s also clear there’s a lot of animosity between the sides, evidenced by their last two series, both of which involved bench-clearing incidents.
The Red Sox and Rays cleared the benches during a series at the end of May at Tropicana Field after Tampa Bay shortstop Yunel Escobar said something to the Boston dugout, prompting Jonny Gomes to storm in from left field. Tensions again ran high days later after David Price drilled David Ortiz in the first inning.
Perhaps this series will lack fireworks. If things are going to spill over into this series, though, Friday might mark the beginning, as Price is toeing the rubber for Tampa Bay. Ortiz, who exited Thursday’s series finale against the Blue Jays with a back injury, talked his way into Friday’s starting lineup.
In other words, get your popcorn ready. It should be fun. The first pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. Tune in on NESN and keep it right here with NESN.com’s live blog.