Russell Branyan Delivers Game-Winning Two-Run Single in Dramatic Win Over Red Sox

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Russell Branyan Delivers Game-Winning Two-Run Single in Dramatic Win Over Red Sox Postgame, Indians 8-7: In addition to losing two leads, stranding a ton of runners and heading home with a series split, Thursday night was made more frustrating by the fact that both Tampa Bay and New York lost, and Kevin Youkilis was hurt.

Terry Francona said after the game that Youkilis suffered mild back spasms and hopefully left the game before making it a more painful situation.

"I think he's smart enough to know that when this has happened in the past it's turned into multiple games," Francona said. "So hopefully we caught it quick enough so this doesn't turn into a three or four-day thing."

We will have any updates on that situation and all others from Fenway Park on Friday afternoon. First pitch of the Phillies series opener will be thrown by John Lackey at 7:10 p.m.

Final, Indians 8-7: Unreal. Daniel Bard blows it after Kerry Wood blows it, and a roller coaster of a ninth inning leaves the Red Sox with nothing more than a disappointing loss and a series split.

The Sox blew a 5-0 lead through the middle innings and then a 7-6 lead in the ninth, which they gained when Adrian Beltre hit a two-run homer with two outs in the top half of the inning. 

Bard walked the leadoff man on four pitches and then gave up a double to Shin-Soo Choo to put runners at second and third. Another walk loaded the bases before it appeared as if Bard would get out of it, striking out Travis Hafner on a 100-mph fastball and getting Jhonny Peralta to pop to the catcher.

But Russell Branyan blooped a two-run single over the head of Dustin Pedroia in shallow right, one of several bloop hits the Indians had which hurt Boston.

After taking the first two games of the series and having Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester lined up for the last two, the Sox were sitting pretty. But an embarrassing loss Wednesday night and an agonizing one on Thursday sends them home with a four-game split.

Friday at Fenway will see John Lackey go against the Phillies in the first of nine straight at home against NL teams. We'll see then if there is any hangover from a couple of rough nights in Cleveland.

10:42: A walk and a double to start the ninth off Daniel Bard has the Indians with the tying and winning runs in scoring position with no outs.

Mid 9th, Red Sox 7-6: You figured the Sox would get to this bullpen at some point. They do, and just in the nick of time. Adrian Beltre, with two outs and a runner at first base, crushes a fastball from Kerry Wood for a go-ahead two-run homer, his eighth of the year.

Just when this looked as if it would go into the books as a difficult loss, the Sox can send Daniel Bard out for the save and a chance to win the series.

The big play in the ninth, aside from the homer, came when Wood hit J.D. Drew with a pitch in the foot, allowing Beltre's blast to mean that much more when it sailed over the left-center field wall.

End 8th, Indians 6-5: Ramon Ramirez does his job in the eighth, sending the Sox into the ninth in need of a rally. Mike Lowell, batting in Kevin Youkilis's cleanup spot, will lead things off. He will be followed by Victor Martinez and J.D. Drew, all against Indians closer Kerry Wood.

Mid 8th, Indians 6-5: A clutch defensive play keeps the Red Sox from tying things up in the eighth. With a runner at second and two outs, David Ortiz hit one past the first baseman, but second baseman Jason Donald was there to back him up in shallow right field. Donald threw to reliever Chris Perez covering to bairly get Ortiz at first.

The word on Kevin Youkilis is mild back spasms.

End 7th, Indians 6-5: Manny Delcarmen loads the bases on a single and two walks before striking out Shelley Duncan on a controversial foul tip and then getting Russell Branyan swinging on a 3-2 pitch.

The velocity was there for Delcarmen in his first game since Sunday, but he was all over the place there for a minute. He did strike out the side.

9:47 p.m.: Kevin Youkilis was wincing after his at bat in the seventh and has been removed from the game. Mike Lowell is at first base. Manny Delcarmen has relieved Jon Lester.

Mid 7th, Indians 6-5: Cleveland's bullpen entered Thursday with a 5.24 ERA, far and away the worst mark in the American League. It has provided three scoreless innings in this one and is six outs from gaining an unlikely split in the series.

I say unlikely because the two wins would come against Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester.

It didn't seem all that important at the time, but a big moment in this game may have been when the Sox left the bases loaded in the second. They strand two more in the seventh and have left nine overall.

End 6th, Indians 6-5: I typed these words after the Sox took a 5-0 lead and Jon Lester looked unhittable through two innings: "What are the chances the Indians make a game of this?" Apparently they're pretty good.

Despite only getting one hard-hit ball all inning, the Indians score three times off Lester in a frustrating sixth and all of a sudden have an unlikely lead.

The one hard hit came off the bat of Andy Marte, who atoned a bit for his three first-inning errors with a solid run-scoring single to left to make it 5-4. After a groundout put runners at second and third, Lou Marson blooped one down the right-field line to plate two more.

Manny Delcarmen, who has been out with a sore back, was up and throwing in the Red Sox bullpen and may be out to start the seventh.

Whenever I type, read or even think of the name of the Indians' park, Progressive Field, I am immediately hit with visions of this girl and her wacky antics.

Mid 6th, Red Sox 5-3: Back and forth we go. The way this one started it figured to be a runaway for the Sox, but they are locked in a pretty good duel now.

Dustin Pedroia struck out for the second out in the sixth. He has fanned 30 times in 60 games this year. Most players would love such a rate, but Pedey whiffed only 45 times in 154 games last year and 52 times in 157 games in 2008.

End 5th, Red Sox 5-3: As Jon Lester works around a double in the first inning, a reminder that you can also follow the Celtics action on Evans Clinchy's live blog. We've got you covered.

Mid 5th, Red Sox 5-3: The Indians commit their fourth error of the game, this time a throwing error on left fielder Austin Kearns, but the Sox fail to take advantage.

Boston has now left seven men on base, including five in scoring position. Adrian Beltre singled off reliever Jensen Lewis with one out in the fifth and dashed into second when Kearns air-mailed his throw back into the infield.

End 4th, Red Sox 5-3: I promise I had a juicy post for you in the bottom of the fourth, but the program decided to delete it. Just know that Jon Lester worked around a single by getting an inning-ending double play.

Mid 4th, Red Sox 5-3: You have to give Mitch Talbot some credit for just getting this far. There were baserunners all over the place in the first two innings, but he gets through the fourth with only a two-out walk to Kevin Youkilis.

Still, Talbot has thrown 99 pitches. Maybe one more inning from the righty and that would be it.

End 3rd, Red Sox 5-3: See that? I rip the bottom third of the Indians' lineup and it accounts for the club's first two hits off Jon Lester, kicking off a three-run rally for the hosts. My apologies.

Lester served up singles to Anderson Hernandez and Jason Donald. A double by Trevor Crowe plated the first run and Shin-Soo Choo's fly to left brings in Donald from third.

Austin Kearns finally lined an RBI single to left, Crowe beating the relay to home plate.

Mid 3rd, Red Sox 5-0: About the last thing the Sox want to see now is another injury to an outfielder. Mike Cameron, who is already a part-timer due to his maladies, was seen talking to the trainer in the dugout after sliding head-first into second base trying to stretch a single into a double.

Cameron was out at second, and he can blame himself. The 37-year-old center fielder was not exactly going hard around first base. He appears to be OK, but it's worth keeping an eye on.

Marco Scutaro is already 2-for-3 with two runs scored and a strikeout.

End 2nd, Red Sox 5-0: Sure, you never say never and the fat lady has to sing and all that stuff, but what are the chances the Indians make a game of this? Jon Lester is already in his usual groove and Cleveland's lineup just offers up so little resistance right now. Plus, the Sox should be in the Indians' league-worst bullpen in no time.

Lester has four strikeouts through two perfect innings. He faces Anderson Hernandez, Lou Marson and Jason Donald in the third, so he must be pretty nervous about that.

Mid 2nd, Red Sox 5-0: Marco Scutaro and Dustin Pedroia have reached base in each of the first two innings. Scutaro is the first of them to score twice, but with the way things are going Pedroia and others will follow.

Mitch Talbot has thrown 69 pitches through just two innings. He can thank his third baseman for extending the first with three errors, but the rookie right-hander didn't do himself any favors in the second.

There were two singles, an RBI double by Victor Martinez and a walk.

Talbot has lasted through six innings in nine of his 11 starts, and got through five in the other two. That sounds a bit far-fetched at this point in time.

End 1st, Red Sox 4-0: Jon Lester's scoreless streak is now at 12 1/3 innings after striking out two in a perfect first inning.

Another note on the top of the first. The Sox have now scored 11 runs in this series, but seven of them have been unearned due to five Indians errors in the set.

You have to take advantage of what you are given, and Boston has.

Mid 1st, Red Sox 4-0:You read that right. Three errors in one inning for Indians third baseman Andy Marte allows the Sox to pile it on in the first inning.

The first error came on a booted grounder that allowed the Sox to load the bases with no outs (Dustin Pedroia had already knocked in Marco Scutaro with a run).

After a sacrifice fly, a walk and a pop to second, the bases were again loaded with two outs when Mike Cameron chopped another one to Marte that the former top prospect could not come up with. Then, in what can only be described as a poor decision, he picked the ball up and threw it away trying to nip Cameron at first.

Two more runs scored on that play.

Just one of the four runs was earned.

On another note, the fact that Scutaro exists has made this whole Jacoby Ellsbury situation much easier to take. He is batting .333 (15-for-45) when leading off the game after a double to the gap in left-center. Moments later, Pedroia singles to left to start the scoring.

The Sox had gone 14 straight innings without a run but needed just four minutes to get on the board in this one. In addition, Scutaro and Pedroia were a combined 0-for-17 the last two nights before starting things off with back-to-back hits.

Go figure.

7:05 p.m.: Is it me or is the sun at 7:00 p.m. in Cleveland about as intense as can be. It's as if it sets beyond the wall in left. Under those sunny skies, Mitch Talbot has taken the hill and we are about to get underway.

6:47 p.m.: Jon Lester is putting up so many impressive numbers, it's worth a second look. Here are a few Lester stats heading into his start Thursday night.

  • With a win, Lester would become the eighth left-hander in team history to record 50 victories, and the first since Bruce Hurst in 1986.
  • Lester is the first Red Sox pitcher to allow one earned run or less over at least six innings in four straight starts since Tim Wakefield in September 2002.
  • Lester's 1.29 ERA over his last nine starts trails only Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez (0.92) in that time frame.
  • The southpaw is 6-0 with an AL-best 1.77 ERA at night.
  • His .731 (49-18) winning percentage is the best in major league history (since 1901) among pitchers with at least 50 decisions.

6:20 p.m.: With this Jacoby Ellsbury situation, it might be time to start looking at available outfield options on either the trading block, the free agent market (Jermaine Dye? Nah.) or the minor league level.

Some of the names tossed around in recent reports as potential trade options are one-time Red Sox David Murphy, Austin Kearns of the Indians and David DeJesus of the Royals. Coco Crisp would be an option if he was ever healthy himself.

Perhaps the Rays will lose 45 straight and decide they can trade away Carl Crawford.

Seriously, if the current assemblage of J.D. Drew, Mike Cameron, Jeremy Hermida, Bill Hall, Darnell McDonald and Josh Reddick, none of whom are at their best when playing every day (if you know what I mean), does not hold up long-term, then the next in line a level down is Ryan Kalish, considered by some to be the top positional prosect in the organization.

Kalish was recently promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket. But unless he is getting consistent playing time at the major league level he won't be considered.

Ideally, Cameron will get to the point that he can at least play two of every three games, Hermida's recent injury issues do not cause him to suffer any drop-off and Drew can continue to play every day without the loss of production the club worries about when he plays too much.

Whatever happens, do not look for Ellsbury to be a big part of this team for a long time. 

5:40 p.m.: Here is the update on Jacoby Ellsbury's condition, given to us by team medical director Dr. Thomas Gill and Dr. Lewis Yocum, who examined Ellsbury on Wednesday:

"An MRI of Jacoby‚Äôs thoracic spine and posterior rib area, recommended by us jointly, revealed a non-displaced rib fracture and edema in the left posterior-axillary line. This fracture, which is in a different area than the initial fractures and which was not present on previous scans, is likely the result of a new injury which occurred when Jacoby dove and impacted the ground during his brief return to play. Jacoby will require several weeks of rest and physical therapy."

If Ellsbury is back by the All-Star break, I would be shocked. It must be frustrating for him, given the multiple diagnoses he's had to undergo.

4:36 p.m.: Terry Francona recently wrapped up his meeting with reporters in Cleveland and has confirmed earlier reports that Jacoby Ellsbury will need roughly two more weeks of recovery before he can begin plotting a comeback.

As reported by Peter Abraham in the Boston Globe's Extra Bases blog, Francona said Ellsbury will head to Athletes' Performance training facility in Arizona for what the skipper said was "a couple of weeks."

Also, we get word from The Globe that Jonathan Papelbon will be activated Friday before the team begins a three-game series with Philadelphia. Boof Bonser and his infinite ERA, or Joe Nelson and his rather lofty one, could be victims of the roster shuffle. 

4:18 p.m.: When Jon Lester is on the way he has been of late, sometimes the lineups don't mean a thing. But we'll still give them to you, just in case. Here is a look at the starting nine for both teams:

Red Sox

Marco Scutaro, SS
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
David Ortiz, DH
Kevin Youkilis, 1B
Victor Martinez, C
J.D. Drew, RF
Adrian Beltre, 3B
Mike Cameron, CF
Bill Hall, LF

Indians

Trevor Crowe, CF
Shin-Soo Choo, RF
Austin Kearns, LF
Travis Hafner, DH
Shelley Duncan, 1B
Andy Marte, 3B
Anderson Hernandez, SS
Lou Marson, C
Jason Donald, 2B

Back in a bit with more pregame updates.

8 a.m.:The Red Sox have won eight of the last nine starts made by Jon Lester, who takes his impressive streak to the mound Thursday for the finale of a four-game series with the Cleveland Indians.

Boston, which suffered an 11-0 loss to the Indians on Wednesday, turns to Lester to try to pick up its fourth straight series win on the road. The lefty has allowed only two runs in 28 1/3 innings during the course of a personal four-game winning streak.

Mike Cameron may return to center field, while Manny Delcarmen might be available out of the bullpen after missing a few games with a sore back.

Mitch Talbot, who leads Cleveland with seven wins, gets the call for the hosts.

First pitch is 7:05 p.m.

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