Rays 4-2, FINAL (13): Longoria. Again. A two-run homer with two outs to end it. The Rays had a runner at third with two outs, but Terry Francona chose not to walk the dangerous Longoria and take his chances with Ben Zobrist, who was 0-for-4 with two walks. Of course, Francona didn't expect Saito to groove a batting practice fastball, either. This was a must-win for the Rays and a bitter pill for the Sox, who have a four-game winning streak snapped.
Mid 13th, 2-2: Evan Longoria tied the game with a home run, and he likely kept the game tied with his glove, snaring a line drive by Kevin Youkilis that had the left-field corner written all over it. With Martinez running from first with two outs, that might have broken the tie. Instead, it's more Saito Time.
End 12th, 2-2: Saito keeps the good times — and the game — rolling, striking out two after a leadoff walk to send us to the 13th. As Saito was dropping a nasty breaking ball over the plate to ring up Gabe Gross to end the inning, Clay Buchholz was beginning to warm up, so we know what the post-Saito plan is.
Mid 12th, 2-2: Another 1-2-3 inning for the offense, and the game now rests in the hands of Takashi Saito, the last available arm out of the bullpen. We're not sure what the plan is after Saito's arm falls off, but let's get that far, first.
End 11th, 2-2: So, naturally, on a night of total chaos, Papelbon comes in and pitches a routine 1-2-3 inning. It's Bizarro Night at the Trop.
Mid 11th, 2-2: Not so dramatic this time, as the Red Sox only strand a runner at first before going down. Victor Martinez led off with a single and David Ortiz nearly un-tied it with a deep drive to left that Crawford caught on the track for the second out. Then J.D. Drew, who has turned back into a pumpkin after last week's hit barrage, grounds out to end the inning. Jonathan Papelbon is on to pitch the bottom of the 11th.
End 10th, 2-2: This game is officially ridiculous. The Rays load the bases with nobody out and do not score. Ramon Ramirez gets Gabe Gross and Michel Hernandez to hit infield fly balls, then strikes out Jason Bartlett, who had reached his previous four plate appearances. Does anybody want to win this game?
Joe Dillon started the inning with a single, then Pena doubled hard off the wall in right, but Dillon was stopped at third. The way these last few innings have gone, they probably should have sent him. Once he stopped, there was no way the Rays were going to get him in.
Mid 10th, 2-2: What goes around, comes around. The Red Sox load the bases with one out and Pedroia up. But Pedey hits it sharply to Longoria, who steps on third and throws to first for the inning-ending double play.
Josh Reddick had doubled with one out and Jacoby Ellsbury reached on a fielder's choice after Mike Lowell was intentionally walked and Jed Lowrie ran for him, beating Bartlett's throw to second on Ellsbury's grounder in the hole. But the double play kills the rally.
End 9th, 2-2: Nick Green has had a couple of bad moments this year, in Seattle in May and last week against Oakland, but he's coming up big in the field tonight. With runners at first and second and one out in the ninth, Green starts a 6-3 double play by waiting on a slow roller up the middle, fielding the ball with his foot on second base, then making the throw to get Ben Zobrist and we're on to extra innings.
Mid 9th, 2-2: Despite the two homers, if the Sox lose this one, it's on the offense. After battering the Orioles over the weekend, the Red Sox have three hits in nine innings tonight and just one since the second inning. Tampa Bay pitching has set down 10 in a row and 12 of 13 with a walk since Pedroia's homer leading off the sixth.
End 8th, 2-2: Delcarmen comes up very big, striking out pinch hitter Gabe Gross for the second out, then getting another pinch hitter, Pat Burrell, on a grounder to third to end the inning. The Sox are lucky to be alive in this one.
10:11 p.m.: Bard's inning got worse after Longoria's homer. First, he walked Zobrist, then he fielded a bunt fron Aybar and threw the ball into right field, and only a generous call from the umpires, ruling that Zobrist could only advance to third, prevented a run from scoring. Bard then walked Carlos Pena on a 3-and-2 pitch to load the bases before finally striking out B.J. Upton for the first out. Now it's up to Manny Delcarmen with the bases loaded and the score tied at 2-2.
9:57 p.m.: We're tied. After striking out three time against Lester, Evan Longoria greets Bard with a first-pitch homer to make it 2-2. It's the first homer Bard has allowed in his career. Not good timing.
Mid 8th, Red Sox 2-1: It's nail-biting time, as the Sox go down in order and the heart of the Rays order is coming up. Could this be a night for a four- or five-out save from Jonathan Papelbon? It's all up to the rookie Bard.
End 7th, Red Sox 2-1: Bard gets Jason Bartlett to hit one deep to short, but Nick Green's throw is too late and Pena scores from third to make it 2-1. Crawford then hits one to short and Green goes to second for the force on a bang-bang play. If the replay shows that Bartlett was actually safe, I will not be surprised. It was that close.
9:41 p.m.: Okajima allows a single to B.J. Upton to put runners at first and second with none out, but Dioner Navarro does the Red Sox a huge favor and swings away instead of bunting, resulting in a 6-4-3 double play, with Pedroia making an acrobatic pivot to turn it. But Okajima walks No. 9 hitter Kapler and it's up to Bard to clean up the mess.
9:33 p.m.: Lester lasts just one batter and one pitch in the seventh, hitting Carlos Pena with his only offering before Francona comes out to get him. Hideki Okajima is on in relief, with Daniel Bard warming up. Lester allows three hits and two walks while striking out 10.
Mid 7th, Red Sox 2-0: Garza sets the Sox down in order, but it's out of his hands now. It's up to the Rays hitters to figure out Lester and the bullpen with nine outs to go. Lester is headed back out to start the seventh at 109 pitches.
End 6th, Lester 2-0: The Rays have had their fun with Lester in the past, but tonight it's no contest. Lester strikes out two more in the sixth for 10 overall. The Rays have just three hits and haven't had a runner past second since Crawford stole third in the first inning. Lester is at 109 pitches, but shows no signs of slowing down.
Mid 6th, Red Sox 2-0: J.D. Drew almost busts the game open, missing a two-run homer by about 10 feet to center. But when the Sox have gotten hits, they've made the most of them. Two of the three hits against Garza are the solo shots by Youkilis and Pedroia.
9:05 p.m.: Garza has made just two mistakes tonight, but they have been very costly for the Rays. In the second, it was a leadoff homer by Youkilis. Here in the sixth, it's a leadoff homer by Pedroia that gives the Red Sox a 2-0 lead.
End 5th, Red Sox 1-0: Lester's toughest opponent tonight has been home plate umpire Jerry Layne, who has squeezed the left-hander big-time, including a two-out walk to Jason Bartlett that put runners at first and second. But Kevin Youkilis makes a great stab of a hard grounder to third and steps on the bag to end the inning.
Mid 5th, Red Sox 1-0: Garza keeps pace with Lester, pitching his second 1-2-3 inning of his outing, including his fifth strikeout, getting rookie Josh Reddick for the second time. Halfway through this one, the pitching matchup is living up to its advance billing.
End 4th, Red Sox 1-0: Lester has his best inning of the four, needing just 13 pitches to throw a 1-2-3 inning, the final two outs coming on strikeouts. Lester now has seven Ks through four innings, three shy of his fifth double-digit game of the season.
Mid 4th, Red Sox 1-0: Garza has also labored tonight, and like Lester, has had his differences with the home plate umpire. Kevin Youkilis appeared to take strike three leading off the inning, but Garza didn't get the call and Youk eventually walked. But Garza did get strikeouts when he needed them.
After Ortiz struck out for the first out, J.D. Drew hit an apparent double-play ball, except first baseman Carlos Pena dropped the ball and Drew reached second with two outs. But Garza got Varitek on a high fastball to end the inning.
End 3rd, Red Sox 1-0: Evan Longoria entered tonight's game 5-for-12 in his regular season career against Jon Lester. No such luck this time. Lester strikes Longoria out for the second time in a row to leave a runner stranded at first. This is, by far, the best of Lester's starts this season against the Rays.
Mid 3rd, Red Sox 1-0: Victor Martinez had five hits on Sunday, but he would have gladly traded one of them in for a hit in the third inning tonight. VMart came up with runners at first and second and two outs — courtesy of a Nick Green hit-by-pitch and infield single by Dustin Pedroia — but flew out to old friend Gabe Kapler in right to end the inning.
End 2nd, Red Sox 1-0: Lester throws his first 1-2-3 inning of the night, including his fourth strikeout, giving him twice as many tonight as he had in 5 2/3 innings last Thursday against the Athletics. All the strikeouts has Lester already up to 39 pitches, however.
Mid 2nd, Red Sox 1-0: The Red Sox are hitting Garza hard, but have just the Youkilis homer to show for it. David Ortiz took Garza to the wall in right for a loud out, then Jason Varitek hit a sinking liner to left-center, and only the speed of Crawford prevented a double.
7:38 p.m.: Kevin Youkils is having the week of a lifetime. After going 12-for-16 over his past four games, including 10-for-12 with 2 homers and 5 RBI in Baltimore, Youk leads off the second inning with a booming homer to center, giving the Sox a 1-0 lead.
It was Youkilis' 20th homer of the season, becoming just the fifth player in major league history with 20 homers in consecutive seasons while playing 30 games at both first and third base. The other four: Harmon Killebrew, Mike Schmidt, Dave Kingman and Al Rosen.
End 1st, 0-0: Proving Francona's point, Lester leaves Crawford stranded at third by striking out Willy Aybar to end the inning. Lester actually struck Aybar out twice, but didn't get the call on a 1-and-2 pitch on the outside corner. Lester struck out the side in the inning, wasting Crawford's single and a two-out walk to Ben Zobrist.
7:30 p.m.: Carl Crawford is up to his old tricks. Crawford, who stole six bases in a game against the Red Sox back in April, singles with one out tonight, then steals second and third to give him 51 on the season. The Red Sox conceded the steal of third, which is something Francona has discussed in the past. With two outs, he would rather not risk a bad throw or his third baseman out of position if the ball is hit that way, figuring his pitcher is more likely to retire the batter and leave the runner stranded.
Mid 1st, 0-0: Matt Garza lives up to his reputation as a Sox killer with an efficient 1-2-3 inning. Now it's up to Jon Lester to shake is rep as a Rays kill-ee.
7:10 p.m.: The Red Sox enter this game with a five-game lead over the Rays for second place in the division — six in the loss column – so there's an opportunity to put the Rays out of view with nine weeks left in the regular season.
6:30 p.m.: The lineup shuffle spins Mike Lowell out of the mix tonight. Victor Martinez plays first and bats third with Kevin Youkilis playing third and batting fourth. Jason Bay, who hurt his hamstring Friday night in Baltimore, remains out of the lineup, and might be out Wednesday with the game being played on turf, although Terry Francona said Bay would likely play Wednesday against the lefty David Price. J.D. Drew, who left Sunday's game after one at-bat because of his groin issue, is in the lineup tonight, hitting sixth, but is expected to sit tomorrow. Josh Reddick, who made quite a debut over the weekend in Baltimore, is playing left and batting eighth.
2:30 p.m.: It may only be August, but this week is going to feel a lot like October. Tonight, the Sox begin a two-game series against wild card contender Tampa Bay, then its on to New York for a four-game showdown with the Yankees for supremacy in the AL East. Tonight's game against the Rays will really feel like October, as the two Game 7 starters from last year's ALCS — Jon Lester and Matt Garza — face off again at Tropicana Field.
Garza has become something of a Red Sox killer, dominating Game 7 last year to capture MVP honors, then going 2-0 in three starts this season with a 1.66 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 21 2/3 innings. Lester has had a much different fate against the Rays, sporting a 12.54 ERA in two starts, both losses. Lester is coming off a rough outing last week at Fenway against the Athletics, but with two starts during this crucial six-game stretch, the Red Sox need the Lester that dominated the six weeks before the All-Star break to re-emerge.