Postgame, Rays 3-2: Terry Francona said there was no decision to make in determining whether to go to Daniel Bard to start the eighth or stick with Clay Buchholz. With how good Buchholz has been (he had not allowed an earned run in 30 1/3 innings!!!), that choice might be forgiven.
However, it was one of several tough rulings that the Red Sox players and coaches made in this one that completely backfired.
From Buchholz throwing a pickoff attempt down the line in right with Carlos Pena practically on the bag to J.D. Drew's decision to catch a tricky foul pop with a runner on third to Buchholz throwing a rare curveball to B.J. Upton in the eighth to Francona using Bard for just 10 pitches in the ninth before turning to Scott Atchison, it was a series of debatable decisions.
To make matters worse, Adrian Beltre's troublesome hammy was giving him problems at the end of the game. Hold your breath and hope he is good to go.
Boston will need him, some better judgment and a good effort by John Lackey in Sunday's finale. James Shields goes for Tampa Bay in the 8:10 p.m. series finale.
Final, Rays 3-2: Wow, does that sting. Dan Johnson takes Scott Atchison deep to the stands in right and the Rays eke out a big win on a nail-biting night in St. Pete.
Plenty of second-guessing after this one. We will be back after all the clubhouse reaction to wrap it up for you.
Bottom line? The Sox are 5 1/2 games behind the Rays once again. If the Yankees can hold onto a three-run lead in the ninth in Chicago the deficit will be 5 1/2 behind them as well.
Mid 10th, 2-2: Randy Choate retires David Ortiz with a man on to end the top of the 10th. It looks like Scott Atchison will come on to face the bottom third of the Rays' order.
10:19 p.m.: Victor Martinez and David Ortiz are a combined 7-for-8 with a walk after Martinez gets an infield single with two outs in the 10th, prompting Joe Maddon to bring in lefty Randy Choate to face David Ortiz.
The rest of the Red Sox are 3-for-29.
End 9th, 2-2: Free baseball, folks. Daniel Bard does his job in the ninth, doing so in just 10 pitches, and we move to the 10th. Only the Seattle Mariners have more extra-inning losses in all of baseball than your Red Sox, who are 5-9 in extras.
Chad Qualls is the fourth Rays pitcher of the night.
Pretty interesting that the first two runs in this game were scored on sacrifice flies and the next two on solo homers. Maybe it isn't, but thought it was worth mentioning.
Mid 9th, 2-2: Joe Maddon has chosen to go with his setup guy, Joaquin Benoit, and his closer, Rafael Soriano, in a tie game in the eighth and ninth. He has certainly been a bit more aggressive with his use of the bullpen than Terry Francona.
Daniel Bard is on to begin the ninth.
End 8th, 2-2: B.J. Upton was one of the few Rays hitters to have some pretty good numbers against Clay Buchholz (3-for-7, double, two walks) entering the game. One could question Terry Francona's decision to stick with him and stay away from Daniel Bard.
The Sox have a constant eye on Bard's work load, and who knows what their target is for him. Perhaps Francona was hoping to avoid having to use Bard for a night, but it was tailor-made for him.
9:47 p.m.: Clay Buchholz lets the lead hold up for exactly two pitches, giving up a solo blast to B.J. Upton to start the eighth. One out later he is out of the game. Tough end to another sparkling performance. Felix Doubront is your new pitcher.
Mid 8th, Red Sox 2-1: There has been talk of this series being a bit like a playoff matchup. If it was, Victor Martinez would be the front-runner for the MVP award.
Martinez homers off Joaquin Benoit with two outs in the eighth, his third homer in the series. The Boston backstop is 3-for-4 in this one and has scored four of his team's runs in this series.
It has taken the Rays so much effort to get anything offensively this series. To offset their one run in the seventh on one swing of the bat has to be deflating for Tampa Bay.
By the way, Matt Garza only threw 101 pitches. He's thrown more than that 16 times this season and many of those were in worse starts than this one. Curious maneuver by Joe Maddon.
Clay Buchholz begins the eighth with a pitch count of 107.
End 7th, 1-1: I disagree with anyone who says J.D. Drew should've made that catch just to get an out where you can. The second he makes that catch deep into the Rays' bullpen it is conceding a run. Remember, Clay Buchholz had not allowed a run in 26 innings, so why would anyone doubt his ability, with the infield in, to get the light-hitting Matt Joyce and the lighter hitting Dan Johnson?
And even if Drew lets it drop and Joyce hits the next one deep to short for an RBI groundout, well, it's just one run anyway.
Of course, it's Buchholz's fault that Carlos Pena was able to score on the foul pop by Joyce down the line in right. He was on first when Buchholz threw an ill-advised pickoff attempt down that same line.
Clay's streak of not allowing an earned run is still alive. It is now at 30 1/3 innings. It is doubtful he cares much right now.
Joaquin Benoit has taken over for Matt Garza to start the eighth. Felix Doubront was up and warming for Boston.
Mid 7th, Red Sox 1-0: Ryan Kalish had one hit in his last 33 at-bats before singling with two down in the seventh. Doesn't mean much, however, as Matt Garza blows away Bill Hall to put the pressure back on Clay Buchholz.
Quite a duel here and both men figure to have enough to go eight. Garza is at 101 pitches ending his half of the seventh. Buchholz is at 87 as he starts his.
End 6th, Red Sox 1-0: To put this streak for Clay Buchholz into perspective, the last earned run he allowed came when Alex Rodriguez fought off a pretty good pitch to get a flare RBI single in the fifth inning of the Red Sox' win in New York on Aug. 6.
His pure scoreless streak (the one without a run of any kind) is now up to 26. The club record is 45 2/3 innings, held by Cy Young in 1904.
Mid 6th, Red Sox 1-0: Adrian Beltre is second in the American League in grounding into double plays, now with 23 after ending the top of the sixth by hitting into a 5-4-3 twin killing. He was ahead 2-0 on Matt Garza, who had walked David Ortiz moments before.
End 5th, Red Sox 1-0: If I'm a Rays' fan I'm screaming at my guys to take their bats off their shoulders. Three of Clay Buchholz's four strikeouts have come looking. Dan Johnson has watched strike three twice already, and let all five pitches of his at-bat in the fifth go right by.
It's not as if Buchholz is wild out of the zone or anything. He has walked a pair but is mostly throwing strikes.
Buchholz's scoreless streak is up to 25 innings. He has not allowed an earned run in 28 1/3 innings. Ho hum.
Mid 5th, Red Sox 1-0: A rare grounder to shortstop gets Matt Garza through a perfect fifth. He has thrown 74 pitches through five.
End 4th, Red Sox 1-0: Victor Martinez has just had a great series. There were the two home runs and fantastic work behind the plate Friday night. In this one he has singled and scored the only run and he ends the fourth by throwing out Evan Longoria trying to steal second.
Not only have the Yankees seen their five-run lead in Chicago cut to one, but Mark Teixeira has left that game with an undisclosed injury. Surfing this interweb thingy for some sort of update.
Mid 4th, Red Sox 1-0: Matt Garza has gotten eight outs already through the air, but one of them leads to a run in the fourth.
Victor Martinez leads the inning off with a single and David Ortiz pushes him to third with a double to center. Adrian Beltre follows with a deep fly to left to easily score Martinez.
Left fielder Carl Crawford had all three putouts in the inning.
End 3rd, 0-0: Clay Buchholz has his first 1-2-3 inning in the third. He has now gone 26 1/3 innings without allowing an earned run and 23 without allowing a run at all.
Mid 3rd, 0-0: It was the third inning when the Red Sox got to Matt Garza the last time they faced him, chasing the righty with a four-run outburst. A Marco Scutaro single is all they can muster this time around.
End 2nd, 0-0: When they create the career highlight reel on Ryan Kalish Night at Fenway Park in 2029, his catch in the bottom of the second inning on Aug. 28, 2010, at Tampa Bay, may lead it off.
With a man on first and two down, B.J. Upton sent one toward the gap in right-center field. Kalish got an excellent jump and dove to make the grab before rolling into a somersault which added some style points.
A run might've scored had he not made the grab. Check out the highlights after the game if you missed it. Phenomenal grab.
Mid 2nd, 0-0: David Ortiz hit about the hardest single you will ever see to start the second. It reached the right field wall in a heartbeat and bounced right to Matt Joyce, who held the big man to one base. That's where he would stay.
Matt Garza flirted with more trouble, going 3-0 on Mike Lowell before Lowell lifted one to deep center. He also floated in a changeup that Daniel Nava rocketed down the line in right, but just foul.
End 1st, 0-0: Clay Buchholz survives a one-out walk to Ben Zobrist and a pair of hard liners to center that Ryan Kalish is able to haul in to get through the first inning.
The Yankees started an hour earlier than last night and are already up 2-1 in the first. CC Sabathia is on the mound. Any time New York loses with him starting it is in trouble. The rest of the rotation is in shambles.
Mid 1st, 0-0: He seems to be despised among Red Sox fans but Matt Garza is the kind of gamer you love to have on your side. He sends a message early on by knocking down Marco Scutaro with a fastball up and in, then rolls through the top third of the Boston order.
Victor Martinez is a strikeout victim to end the inning.
7:01 p.m.: Carl Crawford is back in the Rays' lineup for this one after missing the opener with a stomach bug. It gives Tampa Bay an immediate transformation.
Here is the Tampa Bay lineup opposite Clay Buchholz:
John Jaso, C
Ben Zobrist, 2B
Carl Crawford, LF
Evan Longoria, 3B
Carlos Pena, 1B
Matt Joyce, RF
Dan Johnson, DH
B.J. Upton, CF
Jason Bartlett, SS
6:12 p.m.: Everyone knows how exceptional Clay Buchholz's season has been. Every once in awhile it's nice to take a closer look at the numbers, just for a reminder.
Entering Saturday's starts here are Buchholz's ranks in the American League:
– 1st in ERA: 2.26
– 1st in road ERA: 2.23
– 1st in night ERA: 1.79
– tied for 2nd in wins: 15
– 4th in winning percentage: .750
– 5th in opponents average: .224
Where you won't see Buchholz is high on the strikeouts list. That's just not his game anymore. He'll get guys consistently with poor contact, relying on his defenders, particularly those in the infield, to do the job.
There was a simulated game in Fort Myers back in mid-March that Buchholz threw at the team's minor league complex. It consisted of roughly 10 batters and Buchholz may have had to cover first or field a comebacker on about half of them. He said after that little session that he was working hard to defend his position a bit better, and the work has been evident during the regular season.
That's just one small portion of the 26-year-old's progress but it has made enough of a dent in those aforementioned numbers.
A clutch start on Saturday in St. Pete might put Buchholz front and center in the Cy Young Award race.
4:48 p.m.: As expected, the Red Sox have activated Hideki Okajima from the 15-day disabled list. Michael Bowden will be sent back to Triple-A Pawtucket.
The Sox will now have two left-handers in the bullpen in Okajima and Doubront, neither of whom is a lefty specialist but rather a guy who can get out hitters on both sides of the plate.
Terry Francona was asked a few days ago whether Okajima's struggles have hurt the bullpen and the skipper did not hesitate before saying it had. He talked about how often he and pitching coach John Farrell had looked at matchups (Okajima vs. any hitter) and always saw positive numbers due to the great success he had in the first couple of seasons.
Trotting the lefty out there and not finding that success has caused Francona to attack things in a different way and it hasn't always worked out. It's hard to imagine Okajima being the guy he was in '07, but being someone Francona can trust would help.
3:18 p.m.: All eyes will be on a second straight sensational pitching matchup. Here are the fellas that will be supporting Clay Buchholz on Saturday in St. Pete:
Marco Scutaro, SS
J.D. Drew, RF
Victor Martinez, C
David Ortiz, DH
Adrian Beltre, 3B
Mike Lowell, 1B
Daniel Nava, LF
Ryan Kalish, CF
Bill Hall, 2B
8 a.m.: When the Red Sox ventured to Tampa for a three-game series down six games in the loss column, you figured they had to win at least one game to keep their season alive. Now that they have, it's time to get greedy.
And with Clay Buchholz on the mound Saturday against the Rays that greed may be rewarded.
Buchholz enters the contest with a 2.23 road ERA, tops in the American League. Of course, he leads the league in ERA overall (2.26), but it's been away from home where he has been especially effective, going 8-2.
Also, the 26-year-old righty is 3-2 with a 1.93 ERA in his career against Tampa Bay.
Matt Garza is on the mound for the Rays. He is 7-3 with a 3.64 ERA lifetime vs. Boston.
First pitch is 7:10 p.m.