Final, Red Sox 4-2: If Kevin Youkilis gets through this year without body parts just falling off of him, it will be a feat. The Red Sox are happy he’s still intact, and was there to make a sparkling defensive play in the ninth.
After the first two reached on a double and an infield hit (runner at second could not advance), Youkilis made a sprawling catch in foul territory of a bunt attempt by pinch hitter Elliot Johnson.
Youkilis got up with a limp, but had the first out secure in his glove. Jonathan Papelbon then struck out Justin Ruggiano looking and Sean Rodriguez swinging to end it.
Given Youkilis’ constant limping, Clay Buchholz’s balky back and Jed Lowrie’s troublesome shoulder, this was a fantastic win for the Sox. They finish the road trip 8-1 and can now begin a 15-game run of interleague play at home. And oh do they love interleague play.
The first of those affairs is Friday night at Fenway. John Lackey will be on the mound opposite Shaun Marcum. First pitch is 7:10 p.m. Be there.
Mid 9th, Red Sox 4-2: The margin for error was non-existent. Now, it exists.
Adrian Gonzalez just lined a solo shot into the right field stands to give Jonathan Papelbon another run with which to work.
It is the 14th of the year for Gonzalez, who now has a league-leading 30 multi-hit games.
Papelbon has his first save opportunity since June 7. He has given up eight earned runs in his last 7 1/3 innings.
End 8th, Red Sox 3-2: Daniel Bard retires all four men he faces to preserve the one-run advantage.
The Red Sox are winning in a variety of ways. They knock the ball all over Rogers Centre for a three-game sweep. They come to Tampa and the bats get shut down, but still can take two of three.
That responsibility falls on the shoulders of Jonathan Papelbon, who will pitch the ninth.
Mid 8th, Red Sox 3-2: It’s amazing how well this Tampa Bay bullpen has been after an offseason in which nearly every significant member took off.
That shows how fickle bullpens can be as much as anything.
Daniel Bard is not fickle. Not even close. He will work a pretty important eighth inning here. I will work on a pretty important cookie.
9:45 p.m.: Another pitching change. J.P. Howell is removed one out into the eighth.
End 7th, Red Sox 3-2: Daniel “The Ultimate Weapon” Bard throws just one pitch and gets Johnny Damon to ground to second and finish the seventh.
Since Terry Francona has to use Bard and Jonathan Papelbon to get seven outs, a quick one is more than welcome.
9:39 p.m.: Alfredo Aceves gave up a solo shot and a few hard outs, but never lost the lead. There are seven outs to get between Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon.
Daniel Bard will get to work against the top of the order. A runner is at first base.
The word out of Tampa is that it was lower back tightness for Clay Buchholz.
Mid 7th, Red Sox 3-2: J.P. Howell is a name we are all familiar with. He takes over for Tampa Bay in the seventh, facing the Red Sox for the first time since 2009, and gets his two men.
This game just has that feeling, doesn’t it? The momentum is on the side of the hosts. Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon will have something to say about it.
9:26 p.m.: Pitching change at The Trop with one out in the top of the seventh. Not to scare you too much, but Kevin Youkilis did appear to still be limping when he ran out a grounder.
End 6th, Red Sox 3-2: The Red Sox have a lead in the seventh but this just has the feeling of one of those punch-in-the-gut losses.
Jed Lowrie is likely headed to the DL, Clay Buchholz had to leave early, presumably with back issues and the Rays have slowly chipped away at what was once a three-run lead. Also, Kevin Youkilis left the field limping in the sixth after making an awkward catch in foul territory.
Alfredo Aceves got two loud outs to start the sixth before Casey Kotchman took him deep to halve the deficit for Tampa Bay.
Word is that Drew Sutton left Pawtucket’s game early. He was likely yanked in order to get ready for a callup.
Mid 6th, Red Sox 3-1: As the Rays get a scoreless inning from their first man out of the bullpen, we keep an eye on the situation for Clay Buchholz, who has been lifted after just 81 pitches.
We will see if this has anything to do with the blister or the back or both. Buchholz has been electric since returning from his extra two days of rest with the back ailment. He did make an awkward leap for a chopper in this one and had to wave off Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who was walking to the mound to check on him.
Updates to come when we get them.
End 5th, Red Sox 3-1: What a curveball Clay Buchholz just threw to Johnny Damon. Set him up with an inside fastball or cutter that Damon had to swing at since there was a hit-and-run on. Then came back with a sweeping curve that started way high and outside and broke in to catch the upper corner of the zone.
Damon could only turn and walk back to the dugout.
Ben Zobrist followed by grounding to second, and Buchholz had worked around a one-out walk.
David Price has been taken out after five innings. Juan Cruz is the new pitcher.
Mid 5th, Red Sox 3-1: With a reliever warming in the pen, David Price works around a one-out single by Marco Scutaro.
Price may get a chance to start the sixth and face Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who likes hitting from the other side a bit more. But the top of the order has enjoyed its encounters with Price so far. Joe Maddon may not want them getting a fourth look at the lefty tonight.
End 4th, Red Sox 3-1: Clay Buchholz has a lot of starts like this.
He gets outs with so many different pitches, but not one of them completely jumps off the page (at least some of the time that’s the case). He gives up a hit and a walk here and there, but does a great job of limiting the damage. He works well with a lead, rarely giving them up. He doesn’t always completely wow you, but when you look up at the end of seven he’s given up a run on six hits or something like that.
Simply put, he knows how to pitch.
The fourth inning sees B.J. Upton single with two outs and the steal second base for the second time. Buchholz then gets John Jaso on a soft grounder to second, and that’s that. It wasn’t an awe-inspiring inning, he had to throw a few more pitches than he would’ve liked, but Buchholz is still very much in control of this one.
Mid 4th, Red Sox 3-1: David Price will not go nine innings. He has, however, settled things down just a tad.
Although he walked Adrian Gonzalez with two outs, Price gets through the Giant Glass part of the lineup (or thereabouts) and will head to the fifth at 88 pitches. If he can give the Rays six they will be overjoyed.
Gonzalez ripped a double his first time up and has not seen much to hit since, drawing a pair of walks from Price.
End 3rd, Red Sox 3-1: The first two games of this series were the two fastest games of the year for the Red Sox, and it wasn’t even that close.
Prior to Tuesday, the shortest game Boston played was done in two hours, 36 minutes. The time of Tuesday’s game was 2:24, and last night was 2:20.
Chances are that that trend will not continue.
We are through three innings in an untidy 1:10. There have already been 120 pitches thrown. By contrast, there just 214 thrown last night.
Clay Buchholz finished the third with a strikeout of Matt Joyce. It was Buchholz’s third K of the night.
Mid 3rd, Red Sox 3-1: Throwing 30-plus pitches an inning was not a good formula for David Price. He fixes things a bit in the third by mowing through the bottom third of the Red Sox lineup in a matter of moments.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia is a strikeout victim and the third out.
The word from the Red Sox is that Jed Lowrie has a left shoulder injury. We figured that was the case, and should know the severity of it after the game, or at least by tomorrow.
If Lowrie goes on the disabled list, it’s likely Drew Sutton gets brought back up.
End 2nd, Red Sox 3-1: The Rays were in dire need of something after the way this one began. They get something positive in the second, and Clay Buchholz may have himself to blame.
Buchholz got the first out of the inning but then walked B.J. Upton on four pitches. Upton stole second and scored on the double by Sam Fuld, who is now 6-for-11 with five extra-base hits and five RBIs against the Red Sox this season.
Mid 2nd, Red Sox 3-0: The Rays can hang in this race on the strength of their pitching and defense. They are getting little of either early in this one.
David Price gave up two runs on a double by Jarrod Saltalamacchia, a single by Darnell McDonald and a double by Dustin Pedroia.
McDonald scored on the Pedroia double easily as he was able to advance to second when center fielder B.J. Upton’s throw in came nowhere near the cutoff man.
Later, second baseman Ben Zobrist dropped a transfer on a potential inning-ending double play, extending the frame. Price followed by walking David Ortiz on four pitches. That is a season-high four walks already for Price, who has thrown 63 pitches.
There were no errors to charge, but the defense was shoddy, and Price is offering little resistance so far.
End 1st, Red Sox 1-0: Jed Lowrie’s struggles since the left shoulder injury are hard to ignore. If he does not go on the disabled list, I would be surprised.
Lowrie is just 4-for-36 (.111) in June. He hasn’t been hitting righties for some time now, but lefties have been getting him as well.
Marco Scutaro replaced him and immediately fielded a grounder for the first out of the first. Ben Zobrist walked, but Clay Buchholz worked around it.
Mid 1st, Red Sox 1-0: Plenty to talk about after just one half inning of this one.
First off, you should know that Clay Buchholz already has little room for error when working inside. A warning was issued to both sides after David Price hit Kevin Youkilis with an inside fastball.
Youkilis didn’t like it, although it really wasn’t that far in. Still, he may have been hit in retaliation for stepping on Casey Kotchman’s foot in a play earlier in the series. Either way, whether intentional or not, it puts Buchholz in a bind.
The HBP loaded the bases with one out, and Price got payback (if he was throwing at Youkilis on purpose) when he was not given a strike three call on a 3-2 pitch to David Ortiz. The walk forced in a run.
Jed Lowrie followed by striking out and was wincing after doing so. He paid an immediate visit to the trainer and has been replaced at shortstop by Marco Scutaro. The left shoulder continues to bother Lowrie, who could be headed to the DL.
7:12 p.m.: Darnell McDonald, in his first at-bat since returning from the DL, hit one to the track in left that Sam Fuld tracked down for the first out of the game.
6:44 p.m.: The MLB Network is talking about it right now, and it popped in my mind many times last night. Is it a matter of “when” as opposed to “if” for Josh Beckett throwing a no-hitter?
He has always been a guy who, when on his game, is as tough to hit as anyone out there. For his career, opponents are hitting .242, and he has fewer hits than innings pitched in every year but 2010.
This season, opponents are batting only .174 and Beckett, not Justin Verlander or Francisco Liriano or anyone else that has achieved the feat this year, leads the American League with the lowest hits/nine innings ratio, now down to a miniscule 5.38.
If you missed it while watching hockey, you missed a masterpiece.
5:43 p.m.: The Yankees have won in 12 innings today, completing a three-game sweep of Texas.
That gives New York a 38-20 record in games that do not involve the Red Sox. Not sure what that means, but it’s becoming more and more noticeable with each series win for the Yanks.
Consider that after the Sox had a three-game sweep in New York in May, the Yankees had a 13-6 stretch. Then came the second three-game sweep in The Bronx for Boston. Since then, the Bombers are 6-1. That is a 19-7 mark when not playing Boston since mid-May.
The margin in the AL East is one game at the current time.
5:22 p.m.: Yes, I stand by what I said, and yes, it is all for selfish reasons. I guess I can be happy that fans will get to experience both events, but free Saturday nights are few and far between from March to October.
OK, I’ve vented enough. We have a fantastic matchup for you tonight. If you are wondering about Jacoby Ellsbury against David Price, he is 1-for-5. Not a huge sample, so it is just a day off for Ellsbury. Terry Francona has probably wanted to do this for some time, but his center fielder has been so good. Tough to find a time to sit him.
In part because of Ellsbury’s phenomenal play, Darnell McDonald has really never had a chance to get anything going this year. He is Ellsbury’s backup, for all intents and purposes. Mike Cameron is J.D. Drew’s backup. Sure, they can be mixed and matched, but that’s the depth chart that exists in Francona’s head, and the play of Ellsbury and McDonald’s quad injury have made it a tough year for him.
McDonald swung a hot bat at Pawtucket while on rehab. He hit .345 (10-for-29) with two homers, three RBIs and 11 RBIs in just nine games. Perhaps this will be a good opportunity for him to break out, at least for a night — McDonald is 4-for-12 with a home run vs. Price.
4:54 p.m.: The Red Sox have announced that Saturday’s game against Milwaukee has been moved to 7:10 p.m. to accomodate the Bruins parade. Please make a note of it if you have tickets.
And if you are asking me whether I think it’s a joke, why yes, I do. I understand the need to celebrate the Bruins, but if the city can prepare for a potential riot it can handle a parade and a baseball game at the same time. If people need warning as to how nutty the city might be, then give them warning. Don’t dramatically alter their plans. At least not 40 hours in advance.
My friend who was planning on taking his dad down from Vermont to a game to celebrate the elder’s 80th birthday is now in limbo, and my presence at my sister’s 40th that night is wiped away. Gin and tonics were to be had. Perhaps we are in the minority in our displeasure, but since I have this forum you now know how I feel. Bad move, Menino.
3:51 p.m.: While the Red Sox load up on right-handers to take on David Price, the Rays are keeping things relatively status quo against Clay Buchholz.
About the only change is the insertion of Sam Fuld, a left-handed hitter, in left field. You will recall that the New Hampshire native’s outstanding effort in Fenway Park earlier this year helped to kick start Tampa Bay’s recovery from an 0-6 start.
Here is the lineup against Buchholz, followed by a few notable numbers:
Johnny Damon, DH
Ben Zobrist, 2B
Matt Joyce, RF
Evan Longoria, 3B
Casey Kotchman, 1B
B.J. Upton, CF
John Jaso, C
Sam Fuld, LF
Reid Brignac, SS
The first four hitters in the lineup are a combined 10-for-39 (.256) with no home runs against Buchholz. Kotchman and Upton are 10-for-19 with four doubles and a homer, so that could be his speed bump in this one.
3:05 p.m.: Jacoby Ellsbury will begin a game on the bench for the first time in nearly two months. Darnell McDonald is your leadoff hitter against lefty David Price.
Here is a look at the batting order for Boston:
Darnell McDonald, CF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Kevin Youkilis, 3B
David Ortiz, DH
Jed Lowrie, SS
Carl Crawford, LF
Mike Cameron, RF
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
If you are wondering when McDonald last led off for this team, it was in his last game of 2010, on Oct. 2 against the Yankees.
8 a.m.: The two fastest games of the Red Sox’ season have come in the first two games of their series with the Tampa Bay Rays.
The reason? Pitching.
Clay Buchholz and David Price will attempt to pick up where others have left off when they meet in the finale Thursday night.
Buchholz’s teammate, Josh Beckett, threw a one-hit shutout in a 3-0 win Wednesday. Price’s colleague, James Shields, tossed a five-hit shutout in the series opener Tuesday.
After a shaky start and a week off to rest an ailing back, Buchholz yielded a run in seven innings of a 5-1 win in Toronto on Friday. He owns a 1.81 ERA in seven career starts against Tampa Bay.
Price is 4-2 with a 3.18 mark in his career vs. Boston.
First pitch is 7:10 p.m., and you cannot use hockey as an excuse to miss this one.