While it was the Rays on Monday who looked sloppy, it was the Red Sox on Tuesday who couldn't stop the bleeding.
Things got out of hand in the top of the fourth, when Daisuke Matsuzaka allowed four runs, including one on a bases-loaded walk. With a comfortable 6-2 lead, the Rays stepped on the gas pedal and ran away with the win.
With the Yankees losing to Baltimore, the Rays move to just a game-and-a-half behind New York, while the Sox now trail Tampa by 7 1/2 games for the wild card.
It was a rough night all around from the Red Sox, and by the ninth inning, all but two players in the game were not on the team on Opening Day. The best part may be that this long, difficult night is over.
Final, Rays 14-5: That one, thankfully for everyone involved, is officially over.
A brief rally came in consecutive singles from Hall and Reddick, but McDonald grounded into a double play. Navarro struck out to end it.
Middle 9th, Rays 14-5: Robert Coello joins Michael Bowden as the only pitchers to not surrender runs in this one. That's not exactly how this game was drawn up.
Yet, that's how it played out. Bill Hall, Josh Reddick and Darnell McDonald are due up in the ninth.
End 8th, Rays 14-5: It probably won't be enough to launch the greatest comeback in history, but the Sox offense showed some life in the eighth.
Darnell McDonald led off with a laser into the Monster Seats. Two batters later, Lars Anderson walked to reach base for the first time in the majors. He then scored on a Jarrod Saltalamaccia double off the Monster. Jed Lowrie then drove in Saltalamacchia on a ground-rule double to right.
Robert Coello is in for the ninth, looking to keep the lead at … nine runs.
Middle 8th, Rays 14-2: Well, at least Michael Bowden looks good.
The 23-year-old finished off his second scoreless inning, only allowing a two-out walk to Dan Johnson in the eighth. That makes him the only pitcher to not give up any earned runs in this one.
End 7th, Rays 14-2: Jason Varitek's first at-bat since June 30 results in a grounder to shortstop, part of a 1-2-3 inning for a Red Sox lineup that has everybody reaching for a new scoresheet up here.
Mid 7th, Rays 14-2: Searching for silver linings we get a very tiny one in the seventh as Michael Bowden comes on to get all three Rays hitters in order.
Bowden has been riding the Pawtucket shuttle this year but is hopeful that a full month of action can give him the opportunity to show enough to break camp with the big club next year. He seems to enjoy coming out of the bullpen and it's very possible he is a middle inning guy in 2011.
End 6th, Rays 14-2: If you are scoring at home, I commend you for sticking with it. The changes on the Red Sox' end of things have been tough to track even here in the press box, where multiple corrections have had to be made.
Boston gets a pair of walks in the sixth but otherwise goes quietly.
In left field now is Eric Patterson. Bill Hall goes from left to third base. Lars Anderson is at first base.
And Michael Bowden is on the mound.
Mid 6th, Rays 14-2: That's five home runs on the night for the Rays as Dan Johnson and B.J. Upton go back-to-back in the sixth off Robert Manuel. Sox got 'em right where they want 'em.
End 5th, Rays 12-2: This is an absolute study in contrasts. The Red Sox can't record an out. David Price has sent down seven in a row and is through five in 72 pitches.
Major changes for the Sox. Jason Varitek is in at catcher, his first action in over two months. Jed Lowrie moves from shortstop to second to kick out Marco Scutaro. Yamaico Navarro is at short.
Josh Reddick is in center field. Darnell McDonald moves from center to right. J.D. Drew is out.
Mid 5th, Rays 12-2: A sarcastic roar, one of several heard on this homestand, rains down upon the Red Sox after they finally get the last out in the fifth. Tampa Bay has batted around two innings in a row.
Poor Carlos Pena. He is 0-for-4 and has made the last out in each of the last three innings. Every other Ray has scored at least one run.
8:58 p.m.: Dustin Richardson has just completely fallen apart. He walked the only man he faced Sunday against Chicago, the only man he faced Monday against Tampa Bay and issues two free passes and an infield single before throwing a ball away at first. Not one positive in three outings.
The Rays are up 9-2 and Evan Longoria will face Robert Manuel with two outs and a pair of runners in scoring position.
Carl Crawford is 4-for-4. The Red Sox have two hits.
8:46 p.m.: Well, we wondered how it would turn out when the season, in a way, hung on a Daisuke Matsuzaka start. The answer, we now know, is not well. He is gone two outs into the fifth having surrendered eight runs.
Dustin Richardson, whose last two outings have resulted in no outs and two walks, is on in relief.
Jason Bartlett, who drew a walk to force in a run in the fourth, slugged a two-run homer in the fifth to chase Dice-K.
Eight runs on eight hits and four walks in 4 2/3 innings. That's the line.
You can just about rule out a Clay Buchholz start Wednesday.
End 4th, Rays 6-2: Daisuke Matsuzaka threw 33 pitches in the top half of the fourth. David Price threw seven in the bottom half. That tells you all you need to know about the turning point in this one.
Mid 4th, Rays 6-2: Daisuke Matsuzaka was wild, hittable and made one poor decision in the fourth. It all added up to four runs for the Rays.
The first two in the inning reached before B.J. Upton laid down a bunt. Matsuzaka fielded and went to third even though the runner was just steps away when he turned. That loaded them up for an RBI walk to Jason Bartlett.
It is the sixth bases-loaded walk issued by a Red Sox pitcher in the last three games alone. That is horrendous.
An RBI single by Ben Zobrist and a two-run double by Carl Crawford opened things up.
Crawford has matched a career high with three doubles, one to each field.
David Price can now settle in and put another nail in the Red Sox' coffin.
End 3rd, 2-2: First and third, one out and the meat of the order coming to the plate and the Red Sox fail to score. Darnell McDonald, the man on third, is caught in a pickle after a tapper back to David Price for the second out. David Ortiz chops one to first for the third.
Perhaps the most telling statistic related to the absence of Jacoby Ellsbury is the fact that the Red Sox entered the night with Dustin Pedroia as its leader in stolen bases with nine. McDonald tied Pedroia with his ninth theft earlier in the frame.
Mid 3rd, 2-2: Borrowing a page from the book of David Price, Daisuke Matsuzaka throws almost nothing but fastballs in the third. A couple of them were absolutely crushed.
John Jaso sliced a one-out double on the fourth of 11 straight fastballs thrown by Matsuzaka. Ben Zobrist homered to center on the very next offering, also a fastball.
Dice-K did get Evan Longoria swinging on a pretty slider later in the inning. But the damage was done to the heater.
End 2nd, Red Sox 2-0: By grounding out in the bottom of the second J.D. Drew fell to .182 (24-for-132) against left-handers this year. Terry Francona talked a bit about Drew's issues against southpaws this year, particularly how it seems as if Drew cannot get a break in the schedule.
"When we look at our matchups when we go into a series, this year more than ever, it seems like there's a lot of [left-handers]," Francona said. With J.D. and David [Ortiz], some of that has to do with it. Price, Matusz, Lester, Buehrle, Danks. There's some pretty good left-handed pitching."
Indeed, Drew already has 132 at-bats against southpaws in 124 games in 2010. He has just 114 in 137 games last year. The lefties have come fast and furious this year and Drew has struggled in such matchups.
Mid 2nd, Red Sox 2-0: Matt Joyce, Dan Johnson and B.J. Upton are now a combined 2-for-26 (.077) against Daisuke Matsuzaka after being set down in order in the second. Upton is Matsuzaka's first strikeout victim.
End 1st, Red Sox 2-0: With two on and no outs Victor Martinez hits a moon-scraper that becomes a wall-scraper in left, allowing two runs to scamper home. One of the runs is unearned — Marco Scutaro led things off by reaching on a Carlos Pena error.
Can't ask for a better start for the Sox. They have now scored five runs in the first innings of this series.
Mid 1st, 0-0: Carl Crawford missed a home run by a few feet in the top of the first inning, instead settling for a double. Evan Longoria then followed with a walk before Daisuke Matsuzaka escaped an early jam. David Price will now make his Fenway Park debut.
6:55 p.m.: Well folks, it all comes down to Daisuke Matsuzaka. He wins this one and the Red Sox can press on with their pursuit of a playoff spot by starting Clay Buchholz on short rest Wednesday.
If the Red Sox suffer a setback they will likely start Tim Wakefield or a minor leaguer against Matt Garza. They would never say it but that's tantamount to throwing up the white flag.
Matsuzaka has given up exactly four runs in five of his last six outings and has lasted more than six innings just five times in his last 12. Additionally, he is 2-5 with a 4.34 ERA in 11 career starts against Tampa Bay.
Those aren't necessarily the numbers that engender confidence, especially when you look at David Price on the other end of things.
5:34 p.m.: Marco Scutaro will be starting at second base for the first time in nearly two years and Jed Lowrie will move to shortstop in a late position swap for the Red Sox.
Scutaro's right shoulder was being looked at Tuesday. The club felt that the shorter throw might help him out a bit. He has not started a game at that position since Sept. 26, 2008, but has played 270 games at second in his career.
The 34-year-old told reporters he does not think he will need offseason surgery but will continue to get treatment on the ailing shoulder. The decision to move him against Tampa Bay made sense to Scutaro.
"Especially with this team, they've got a bunch of fast guys so if you get a ball at short in the hole it's going to be tough. You've got Crawford, Upton, Barlett, all those guys can run. So it will be better for the team if Lowrie plays short," Scutaro said. "We're going to start getting treatment and stuff. Whatever the doctor says, and whatever the treatment I have to get to make it better. I've just been given the option to play second which makes it a little easier, a little closer."
The Red Sox have said Scutaro has inflamed a longstanding rotator cuff issue. Expect to see him at second often down the stretch as it might not improve until after the season ends.
4:52 p.m.: Terry Francona said there is still a chance that Marco Scutaro could sit Tuesday night. They were still awaiting results of his MRI at around 4:00 p.m.
"We will go on as planned and if something needs to be adjusted, we will," Francona said.
The skipper talked about a number of other items. Here is a brief rundown.
– Felix Doubront remains a question mark with his strained pectoral muscle. He threw a side session Monday, then felt stiff, then felt OK. It's caused Francona to become a bit unsure of the situation.
"I don't know," he said when asked if the lefty would be available. "I would say 'no.'"
– Michael Bowden, whose conversion from starter to reliever at Pawtucket took place just after Doubront's, will be able to settle down with his latest recall, his third of the year. Francona thinks that will help him pitch a bit better, not having to worry about when the shuttle will take him back to the minors.
"He's gonna get a chance to pitch. It's finally an opportunity where he knows he can unpack his bags. He's gonna make a road trip with us and he knows he's not gonna be sent down. Hopefully that'll help him get comfortable."
– There is no set timetable to get Jason Varitek back in the lineup, according to Francona. The guess would be by Sunday on the road trip.
– Clay Buchholz is still the scheduled starter for Wednesday's series finale. Nothing has changed on that front. If Boston loses Tuesday then Buchholz may get bumped to Friday. A lot hinges on this result.
"Right now he's starting," Francona said. "We sorta reserve the right to change that. All of our starters have been talked to…they have adjusted on their sides and things like that."
– Jonathan Papelbon is also a question mark, two days after throwing 48 pitches against Chicago. Francona was going to see how he responded to his pregame routine (stretching, etc.) before deciding whether to use him or not. Of course, the game may dictate it.
Finally, here is the Tampa Bay lineup against Daisuke Matsuzaka:
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
3:17 p.m.: Apparently Marco Scutaro's shoulder is OK as he is back in the lineup. J.D. Drew is all the way down in the eighth spot with tough lefty David Price on the mound. Here are your starters:
Marco Scutaro, SS
Darnell McDonald, CF
Victor Martinez, C
Adrian Beltre, 3B
David Ortiz, DH
Mike Lowell, 1B
Jed Lowrie, 2B
J.D. Drew, RF
Bill Hall, LF
Also, as expected, Michael Bowden has been recalled from Pawtucket. That brings the Red Sox active major league roster to 33.
3:02 p.m.: Greetings from Fenway Park, where we are watching the Red Sox take early batting practice. In and around the cage is Darnell McDonald, Bill Hall, Jed Lowrie and our own Hall of Famer Peter Gammons, who has yet to take any cuts.
The starters should be posted momentarily. We will get you those, and an update on Marco Scutaro, who was scheduled to get an MRI on his sore right shoulder Tuesday.
8 a.m.: Following a wild win in the series opener, the Red Sox will look to make it two straight against the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night at Fenway Park.
Boston took advantage of 10 walks and slugged three home runs in an absolutely necessary 12-5 victory on Monday, moving to within 6 1/2 games of the Rays in the wild-card race.
Tampa Bay, which saw starter Jeff Niemann get knocked out in the second inning Monday, has a decided advantage on the mound in the second game. Cy Young Award contender David Price will go up against Red Sox right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka.
First pitch is 7:10 p.m.