Red Sox Drop Second Straight to Tampa Bay, Leave Town With Growing Deficit Postgame, Rays 5-3: The Red Sox are now 19-23 in the final game of a series in 2010 and hop a flight to Baltimore with plenty to think about.

In past years the trip to Camden Yards would offer up an opportunity to right the ship. But Boston is just 6-6 against last-place Baltimore this season and 2-4 in Camden Yards.

In addition, the O’s are 16-11 in August and would like nothing better than to hurt the playoff chances against the team that has hurt them so often in recent history.

That series begins after a much-needed day off for the Sox. Josh Beckett goes against Brian Matusz in the opener Tuesday night at 7:05 p.m.

Final, Rays 5-3: The Red Sox lost a pair of one-run leads Saturday night and blow a two-run advantage in the sixth inning of this one. And with another meager offensive effort they do not have enough to come back themselves.

Boston is now 6 1/2 games back of Tampa Bay and New York with 31 games to play. The deficit in the loss column is seven games.

If the Rays and/or Yankees split their final 32 games (16-16), the Sox will have to go 22-9 just to tie. That’s assuming one of the top two teams in the majors goes .500 over a span of 32 games, a scenario that is hard to imagine.

Will sum this thing up for you in a bit.

End 8th, Rays 5-3: Barring any scoring in the ninth the Red Sox will be held to three runs or less for the fourth straight time and the eighth time in 14 games overall.

So much talk of the starting pitching being good enough to carry the club, but the offense without Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis is just not easy to duplicate. Gotta score some runs at some point.

Rafael Soriano is on to try to get the last three outs.

Mid 8th, Rays 5-3: The Rays, specifically Joaquin Benoit, dispatch of Victor Martinez, David Ortiz and Adrian Beltre in the eighth.

Closer Rafael Soriano will face Mike Lowell, Daniel Nava and Darnell McDonald. No offense to that trio, but it’s quite a downgrade in the ninth.

It is not looking good, my friends.

Scott Atchison has replaced Hideki Okajima on the mound.

End 7th, Rays 5-3: It took an eternity but amounted to just one run. Then again, one run is incredibly huge at this point in time.

After Hideki Okajima struck out Carl Crawford for the second out Evan Longoria poked a single to center to plate a run. Longoria entered just 2-for-10 in his career against the lefty but Longoria hits nearly 50 points higher off southpaws than righties.

Wonder if Tito thought about Delcarmen or Atchison there. I know Okajima is not necessarily a lefty specialist. He faces both sides. But he’s been out for almost a month and has struggled all year. Why not take the strikeout of Crawford and move on, quit while you’re ahead, rather than have him face a tough righty.

Just a thought.

10:23 p.m.: John Lackey’s night really fell apart, didn’t it? He allowed two singles and a walk in the top of the seventh before being removed in favor of Hideki Okajima. A caught stealing has kept this from being a bases-loaded situation.

Okajima has not pitched since Aug. 5. I’m sure Terry Francona would’ve rather brought him back in a non-pressure situation, but he wants a lefty right here against Carl Crawford and does not want to use Felix Doubront with his team losing.

Mid 7th, Rays 4-3: Joe Maddon’s ploy works to perfection to end the top of the seventh. He brings in Randy Choate, who strikes out J.D. Drew on three pitches. Drew is hitting .192 (24-for-125) against southpaws this season.

10:09 p.m.: James Shields gets the first two outs in the seventh and leaves with the bases empty. Lefty Randy Choate is coming on to face J.D. Drew.

End 6th, Rays 4-3: Where do we start? So much happened in the bottom of the sixth, both good and bad (mostly bad) that it would take a conference call to get you all the details if you missed it. Bottom line: John Lackey gives up a two-run homer, a double, two walks and an RBI single in a 31-pitch inning.

While all of that stinks for Boston, can we all rise in appreciation for Victor Martinez? Not only has he had a fantastic series at and behind the plate, but he gets a visit from the trainers on an almost nightly basis and continues to fight through pain.

Martinez’s expert block of the plate and tag on Carlos Pena allowed the Sox to stay within one run through six. He took spikes in the left leg but stood his ground, making Darnell McDonald’s throw from center worth its while.

McDonald leads the Red Sox outfielders with eight assists.

Mid 6th, Red Sox 3-1: The last five hitters in the Red Sox lineup on Saturday night were a combined 1-for-16. After Daniel Nava drives in Adrian Beltre with an RBI single in the sixth the bottom five are 5-for-13 with both RBIs and all three runs scored in this one.

The one negative of the inning is the image of Beltre limping his way around the bases. After he really hurt his left hamstring at Toronto before the All-Star break he limped like that for what seemed like a solid week, maybe more. But at some point the limping stopped, or at least was a lot less noticeable.

Expect to see Beltre’s name in the lineup every day but a solid limp for a handful of days.

End 5th, Red Sox 2-1: John Lackey has failed to get through seven innings just twice in his last eight starts. He has really been a horse of late. After getting through the fifth with a pitch count of just 63 he figures to go deep into this one.

Lackey has six strikeouts and no walks. That ratio is 25-to-3 over his last four starts, including this one.

The Lackey bashers will find less ammo if he keeps this up.

Mid 5th, Red Sox 2-1: Admit it. You all looked at the lineup and got to the bottom and asked why Yamaico Navarro’s name was there. Aren’t you happy he is now? Navarro’s second major league hit yields his first major league RBI.

Navarro drove in Mike Lowell, who had doubled. Darnell McDonald came in when Marco Scutaro followed with another single to left.

James Shields had to throw 20 pitches in the inning and is up to 83.

End 4th, Rays 1-0: Tampa Bay scored its first two runs of this series on a wild pitch with a runner on third and a sacrifice fly on the questionable J.D. Drew play Saturday night. Since then the Rays have hit three straight bombs, the latest a mammoth solo shot by Carlos Pena.

It was a 91-mph fastball by John Lackey that caught way too much of the plate. Pena has 25 homers this year and three in his career off Lackey.

Mid 4th, 0-0: Victor Martinez is now 8-for-11 (.727) in this series after a single in the fourth. His teammates are 15-for-78 (.192). A little help, fellas?

End 3rd, 0-0: John Lackey gives up a two-out single before getting through the third. He has walked just three men in his last 30 innings. Pretty impressive.

Let’s all congratulate SoxFanForsyth for guessing that I turn 36 today! Of course it has to be the one person who said I was 40.

Thanks for playing everyone, especially SoxFanForsyth. Well done.

We will focus exclusively on baseball from here on out. Pretty important game to do so.

Mid 3rd, 0-0: The Red Sox have scored seven runs in their last 30 innings after another perfect frame by James Shields in the third. A lot of holes in that lineup right now.

Still searching for a winner. It’s like a dart board with darts surrounding the bullseye.

End 2nd, 0-0: He has been asked about his shrinking strikeout totals all season. Perhaps John Lackey got tired of it. After fanning a season-high 10 in his last start he has four already in this one.

Still looking for a winner. The latest one is also close.

Mid 2nd, 0-0: James Shields strikes out Daniel Nava to end the top of the second before a handful of empty seats. It’s too bad the fans do not come out for such a big game.

On another note, consider this. Manny Ramirez’s last act, for all intents and purposes, was throwing Red Sox traveling secretary Jack McCormick to the ground. His last act with the Dodgers will likely be getting ejected arguing a first-pitch strike with the bases loaded.

He really knows how to go out with a bang.

End 1st, 0-0: John Lackey and James Shields rank second and third in the AL in hits allowed, respectively, so we should see plenty of base knocks. There has been just one thus far, a single by Carl Crawford with two down in the bottom of the first. Lackey strikes out Evan Longoria to end it.

We have yet to get a winner in the birthday guessing game. I appreciate all the wishes but the wait continues. A hint — a comment made at 7:55 is very close.

Mid 1st, 0-0: The only positives from the Red Sox’ half of the first is Marco Scutaro battling through an eight-pitch at-bat before making an out, and J.D. Drew taking James Shields to the track in left for another. Shields has a 1-2-3 start.

Several reports have Manny Ramirez officially going to the Chicago White Sox on Monday. Chicago invades Boston from Friday through Sunday and the Red Sox play four in the Windy City later in the month of September. Yay, we get to see Manny again!

7:45 p.m.: Terry Francona said a few weeks ago when asked about the playoff race that when it comes time to “do math,” his team is in trouble. By that he meant calculating how many games the team needs to win in the number of remaining games and all that mumbo jumbo.

Francona doesn’t have the calculator out yet, but we do. Entering this one, if the Rays go 16-17 over their final 33 games (a pretty big if), the Red Sox will need to go 21-11 in their remaining 32 just to tie.

So even with a poor Tampa Bay finish, Boston would have to play .656 ball. If we just give the Rays a 17-16 mark and the Sox will have to go 22-10, and so on. Certainly gives you an idea how critical this finale is.

7:12 p.m.: Adrian Beltre is obviously already in the lineup but we will have to keep an eye on his sore left hammy. He appeared to tweak it Saturday night, aggravating a muscle first strained just before the All-Star break.

Also, Terry Francona told reporters he chose to give Yamaico Navarro a start at second rather than Jed Lowrie because James Shields is a bit tougher on lefties.

That doesn’t necessarily answer the question as to why Bill Hall is not in the lineup, but maybe Navarro will make the most of his opportunity.

That is probably the reason that Darnell McDonald is starting in center in place of Ryan Kalish.

On a side note, let’s all wish a happy **th birthday to yours truly, who was overjoyed when this game was moved from a matinee to Sunday night, thereby destroying plans made months in advance. I suck it up and do it all for you guys.

First person to guess my age correctly will get a shoutout in the blog.

6:33 p.m.: We have word that the Red Sox placed a waiver claim on Mike Napoli, a move which would mean more to the first base position than catcher this season.

Napoli has always been a “good-hitting, poor-fielding” catcher and has filled in admirably at first for the Angels in the wake of Kendry Morales’s broken leg.

While Napoli has played some catcher since Morales went down he has mostly been at first and continues to hit, smacking 21 homers and driving in 60 in 113 games.

With Victor Martinez and the soon-to-return Jason Varitek and Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the fold, as well as Kevin Cash and an upcoming roster expansion that will allow the club to keep at least three of them, the Sox are not necessarily in need of another backstop.

While Mike Lowell has been able to play more than expected at first, he has not produced much. Lowell is hitting .243 with a .680 OPS in August. Not quite Kevin Youkilis production and it has hurt Boston at times.

Napoli has two more years after 2010 before he becomes a free agent. Perhaps he would come as a cheap alternative at catcher if Martinez walks after this year, but for now he’s a potential offensive upgrade at first.

5:37 p.m.: John Sterling threw in a little extra something before finalizing his “Yankees Win!” call as New York finishes off Chicago in the Windy City. Rookie Ivan Nova got the win and the Yanks are now six up on the Red Sox and one-half game ahead of the Rays entering our evening affair.

5:28 p.m.: Scoreboard watching will not be necessary this evening. The Yankees are up 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth in Chicago. The White Sox could go from an interesting clubhouse to an extremely interesting clubhouse if and when Manny Ramirez joins them. Both he and Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen were just ejected in separate games at the exact same time!!!

Manny was tossed for arguing a FIRST-PITCH strike with the bases loaded in the sixth inning. He is all but on the plane out of town. Can you imagine not starting a game for four days, coming on as a pinch hitter and then getting ejected after one pitch?!?!

Ramirez is toast as a Dodger. Perhaps we see his circus act once more in Fenway next weekend.

4:49 p.m.: If the season rests on the result of Sunday night’s game, and some seem to think it does, then here are the lineups that are going to decide the Red Sox’ fate:

Red Sox

Marco Scutaro, SS
J.D. Drew, RF
Victor Martinez, C
David Ortiz, DH
Adrian Beltre, 3B
Mike Lowell, 1B
Daniel Nava, LF
Darnell McDonald, CF
Yamaico Navarro, 2B


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

10 a.m.: There were many onlookers and prognosticators who said that the Red Sox could not afford to lose their series in Tampa Bay.

Whether they are right or not, the finale on Sunday night looms rather large in the club’s chances to remain in the playoff race.

Following a brutal extra-inning loss Saturday night, Boston stood 5 1/2 games behind the Rays and the New York Yankees with 32 games to play. Making up that deficit would not be impossible by any means but a loss Sunday would make it that much more difficult.

John Lackey opposes James Shields in the primetime affair. First pitch is 8:05 p.m.