Red Sox 6-3, FINAL: Another electric performance by Jonathan Papelbon, who strikes out two to earn the save, and the Red Sox put the Rays six games back with 29 to play. Bye, Bye, Rays! The lead in the Wild Card now stands at three over the Rangers.
Mid 9th, Red Sox 6-3: Three outs away from burying the Rays … I LOST MY LEG!
End 8th, Red Sox 6-3: Hey, whaddyaknow! A Daniel Bard sighting! Bard finally gets a chance to impact this series, and unlike a month ago, it's a positive experience. Bard wastes a one-out walk to Carlos Pena by striking out Longoria to end the inning — and making Longoria look bad in the process.
Mid 8th, Red Sox 6-3: The Rays tried to hand the Red Sox an insurance run, but the Sox fail to capitalize. After a pinch-hit single by J.D. Drew, the Rays fail to cover first on a sacrifice bunt by Alex Gonzalez, putting two on with none out. Another sacrifice moves the runners up, but Dustin Pedroia's grounder to a drawn-in infield results in Drew being thrown out at the plate. Martinez then grounds back to the pitcher and the opportunity was lost.
End 7th, Red Sox 6-3: Two more strikeouts for Billy Wagner, but he needed 25 pitches to do it. Hopefully the surgically-repaired arm comes through no worse for wear.
Mid 7th, Red Sox 6-3: Turnabout is fair play. With two on and one out, Martinez hits a chopper toward first — just like Zaun's double over third — and it hops into right field, scoring Ellsbury to make it 5-3. Youk then hustles down the line to avoid a double play and it's 6-3. The Rays keep trotting out reliever after reliever, to no avail. Now it's up to the Sox bullpen to nail it down.
End 6th, Red Sox 4-3: Buchholz is finishing strong tonight, retiring nine in a row since the Zaun double in the fourth. He even got Longoria on a called strike three for the second out of the sixth. Buchholz is at 91 pitches and Billy Wagner was starting to warm up in the pen, so that might be it.
Mid 6th, Red Sox 4-3: Lowell wins the battle, hitting a sacrifice fly to center to give the Red Sox the lead. Too bad he couldn't have been given the chance in the eighth inning last night.
9:06 p.m.: That's it for Price, as the Red Sox put runners at the corners with one out in the sixth. Youkilis, who now has three hits tonight, is 90 feet from giving the Red Sox the lead. It will be Mike Lowell vs. Russ Springer.
End 5th, 3-3: Buchholz works another 1-2-3 inning, but does it the hard way. With one out, Zobrist hits a chopper down the first base line that Buchholz fields before colliding with Youkilis, then Zobrist, before getting the out. The umpire said Buchholz tagged Zobrist, but it didn't look that way on the replay. Either way, it's yet another wacky first base collision for a Red Sox pitcher wearing No. 61.
Mid 5th, 3-3: Ellsbury walks, steals second and takes third on a passed ball with two outs. But Martinez, whose had so many clutch hits in his first five weeks in Boston, can't deliver this time, flying out to Ben Zobrist, who has taken over in center.
8:40 p.m.: B.J. Upton has left the game in the top of the fifth after colliding with teammate Carl Crawford in deep left-center on a flyout by Dustin Pedroia. Upton appeared to hurt his left ankle after Crawford swooped in and made the catch as Upton was calling for the ball. That's one less speed weapon for Buchholz to contend with.
End 4th, 3-3: Why even bother pitching to Longoria anymore? Just walk him. It's only one base. Longoria doubles for the second time tonight, leading off the inning by hustling his way to second. Gregg Zaun follows with a cheapie double on a chopper over Lowell's head to score Longoria with the tying run. Walk him. Please?
Mid 4th, Red Sox 3-2: David Price has also settled down, putting down the side in order for the first time tonight and 8 of 9 since the Baldelli homer.
End 3rd, Red Sox 3-2: The Rays are still hitting some balls hard, but Buchholz has now retired five in a row and 7 of 8 since his rocky first inning.
Mid 3rd, Red Sox 3-2: Kevin Youkilis continues to be hot in this series, now 6-for-10 after his second hit of the night. But Jason Bay cannot convert the two-out double, and the lead remains one.
End 2nd, Red Sox 3-2: Buchholz settles down, allowing a one-out single to No. 9 hitter B.J. Upton but leaving him stranded on second base. The Rays are running again, with Upton stealing second on a pitchout.
Mid 2nd, Red Sox 3-2: A happy homecoming for Rocco Baldelli, who unties the game with a homer to left. Looks like we're in for a slugfest tonight.
End 1st, 2-2: Not a good start for Buchholz (or my laptop, sorry for the delays tonight). The Rays hit Buchholz hard in the first inning, including another RBI for Longoria, who doubles home the tying run. Buchholz allows three hits and walk and even allows Carlos Pena to steal second practically before the ball reached home plate.
Mid 1st, Red Sox 2-0: The middle of the Red Sox order has been Longoria-esque this series, with Victor Martinez, Kevin Youkilis and Jason Bay combining to go 12-for-26 so far. Martinez and Youkilis single with two outs in the first, then Bay drives them in with a double to give Clay Buchholz a lead to work with.
7:08 p.m.: The mission for Red Sox pitching tonight is simple: Stop Evan Longoria. The Rays' third baseman has worn out the Red Sox this season, hitting .362 with 8 homers and 26 RBI. He's been especially deadly late, hitting .323 with 5 homers in the 7th inning or later. Longoria is batting sixth in the order for the second straight night.
6:30 p.m.: Clay Buchholz will try to do something tonight he hasn't done all season: Beat a team not called the Blue Jays. Buchholz is 3-0 against Toronto, but 0-3 with three no-decisions in the other six starts. Maybe the Rays are the solution. In two career starts, Buchholz has an ERA of 2.03.
In his lone career start at Tropicana Field, in April, 2008, Buchholz took a shutout two outs into the eighth, before allowing a game-winning two-run homer to Akinori Iwamura (who is not in the lineup tonight).
3 p.m.: The Red Sox look to make it 2-of-3 from the Rays and pick up a half-game over the idle Rangers in the Tropicana Field finale of 2009. Hopefully for the Red Sox, the Grady Pills that someone slipped into Terry Francona's coffee before Tuesday's game have finally cleared his system, and he can get back to his normal self.
The Red Sox turn again to Clay Buchholz, who is finally living up to his oft-stated potential, pitching his best game since the 2007 no-hitter last Saturday night against the Blue Jays. Opposing Buchholz is another piece of baseball's bright future, David Price, who has struggled as a starter this season, after looking oh-so-imposing as a closer in Game 7 against the Red Sox last October.
This is the last call for the Rays, who need this one to keep any hope alive entering the final 30 games of the season. The difference between four back and six is enormous … and the difference between two and three over the Rangers is kinda important, too.
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