Final, Rays 6-5: Daniel Bard gives up a triple to Desmond Jennings that falls in between Jacoby Ellsbury and Darnell McDonald to start the 11th. One out later it is Evan Longoria with a base hit into center to end it.
Unreal. That’s two straight losses for Bard. It looked as if Ellsbury had a chance at that catch, but he slowed up just a tiny bit with McDonald bearing down on him and it caromed off his glove.
The Red Sox have now lost four in a row to Tampa Bay, four in a row overall for the first time since June, four straight series for the first time all season and are now just four games up in the loss column.
Boston has very little time to bounce back. It is a 1:40 p.m. start Sunday, when Jon Lester and James Shields duel in what is now a humongous matchup between these two rivals. Football? Who cares.
Mid 11th, 5-5: It’s a weird game this baseball.
After getting a home run, home run, double and walk in the ninth, the Red Sox have had seven straight set down in a row.
Brandon Gomes finished a 1-2-3 ninth by striking out Jarrod Saltalamacchia and getting Jacoby Ellsbury to ground to second while shattering his bat.
It is indeed Daniel Bard on the mound for the Sox. He is looking to atone for that rough outing in Toronto his last time out.
End 10th, 5-5: When you take your kid’s kids to a ballgame in 30 years (I’m speaking to the younger set of readers), they will play on the big screen a video montage of baseball bloopers from bygone days, and somewhere in there you’ll see Darnell McDonald’s play from the bottom of the 10th.
Chasing a foul pop that flirted with a catwalk, McDonald flat tripped over the bullpen mound as the ball fell next to him. He had a little smile on his face, perhaps knowing that little Timmy will be laughing at him in 2041.
The missed pop didn’t hurt Jonathan Papelbon. He has retired six hitters on only 16 pitches. We shall see if he comes out for a third inning. Daniel Bard is warming as if he is next, so that should be it for Pap.
Mid 10th, 5-5: The Rays will get their second crack at a game-winning rally against Jonathan Papelbon, who has thrown more than an inning just once and that came on April 20.
Papelbon’s last two-inning outing was July 17, 2010.
10:40 p.m.: Pitching change No. 7, yes No. 7, for the Rays will see Brandon Gomes take the place of Cesar Ramos.
Ramos got the only two men he faced in the 10th.
End 9th, 5-5: By getting through the ninth in a span of just six pitches, Jonathan Papelbon has earned himself a second inning.
He hasn’t allowed a run in almost two months, the last one coming in Tropicana Field.
Mid 9th, 5-5: A huge double play with a great pick at first base by Casey Kotchman gets the Rays out of the inning without any further damage.
Jonathan Papelbon, who has a scoreless streak of 18 innings on the line, will come on to pitch the ninth. He has worked just once this month and it was five days ago.
10:25 p.m.: It just got worse for Kyle Farnsworth.
Dustin Pedroia followed up the consecutive homers with a double and Farnsworth then walked Adrian Gonzalez.
That’s enough for Joe Maddon. He has called upon Cesar Ramos, a lefty, to face David Ortiz with just one out in the inning.
10:21 p.m.: I’ll admit it. I began to write the “Final, Rays 5-3” post. But that was quickly deleted after Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jacoby Ellsbury went back-to-back in the ninth to tie it.
The Red Sox dugout was through the roof after the Ellsbury blast, his 26th. Maybe that was their wake-up call.
End 8th, Rays 5-3: Alfredo Aceves has completed four relief innings for the third time this year, but he has to give Marco Scutaro some of the credit.
With two on and two outs, Evan Longoria hit a hot shot to Scutaro’s right. The Red Sox shortstop backhanded the ball as he spun on his backside, rose to his feet and barely got the force at second base.
Kyle Farnsworth, who blew a save in his last appearance, will try to finish this one off for Tampa Bay.
Mid 8th, Rays 5-3: After J.P. Howell fans Carl Crawford, Juan Cruz comes on and does the same to Jed Lowrie.
With three more outs the Rays will be four games back in the loss column with 18 games to play, five of which are against the Red Sox.
9:56 p.m.: As we mentioned pregame, this is a very, very big game for the Rays with Jon Lester on the horizon and the team needing to at least take two of three.
For that reason, and because he has some rested arms in the bullpen, he will make every possible pitching change.
With two outs in the eighth and a runner on second, Maddon will bring in right-hander Juan Cruz to turn Jed Lowrie around to his inferior side.
End 7th, Rays 5-3: The Rays have been held scoreless for just the second time in seven innings.
And every time that the Rays get held scoreless for just the second time in seven innings, I earn an iced coffee! Be right back.
J.P. Howell is the new Tampa Bay pitcher.
Mid 7th, Rays 5-3: The Red Sox are running out of outs and they are up gainst a rested Tampa Bay bullpen. Jake McGee has no problem with Adrian Gonzalez to finish the top of the seventh.
9:36 p.m.: Joel Peralta gets the first two outs of the seventh before walking Dustin Pedroia. That’s Pedroia’s first walk since August 27, and it prompts Joe Maddon to call on a lefty to face Adrian Gonzalez.
Jake McGee gets the call. He struck out Gonzalez in their only prior meeting.
End 6th, Rays 5-3: We aren’t breaking new ground by saying that the Rays are an aggressive team on the bases and take advantage of every opportunity they get, but the Red Sox’ inability to make smart throws has only served to reinforce that point.
Sean Rodriguez was hit by a pitch to begin the bottom of the sixth. On a single to right, Rodriguez raced to third, as a Rays runner is wont to do, and Josh Reddick made the ill-advised decision to throw past the cutoff man to third, which allowed Desmond Jennings to race into second.
Just like that Tampa Bay has two men in scoring position and no outs, forcing Boston to bring the infield in.
Alfredo Aceves struck out B.J. Upton to get a huge out, and the only run came on a long sacrifice fly by Evan Longoria, so in the end the mistake doesn’t cost the Sox. But it could’ve been very costly if Tampa Bay got another big hit.
However, the Rays are now 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
Joel Peralta is the new TB pitcher.
Mid 6th, Rays 4-3: A one-out double by Carl Crawford made it feel as if we might enter one of those see-saw stages where the teams just trade blows inning to inning.
Jeremy Hellickson then slams the door shut with two quick outs, perhaps ending his night on a very positive note.
Hellickson is at 102 pitches, but the Rays bullpen is very rested. We’ll see what Joe Maddon decides to do. (Update: Maddon just gave Hellickson the hand shake. So he’s either engaged or will be relieved in the seventh.)
End 5th, Rays 4-3: Well, that tie was short-lived.
Casey Kotchman just deposited the eighth pitch of the night from Alfredo Aceves into the stands in right to give the Rays the lead again.
Aceves had not given up a homer in nearly two months. He looked his usual self for the rest of the inning.
Mid 5th, 3-3: We wondered if and when the Rays’ inability to get some of their runners in early on would hurt them. Well, that can only hurt if the Red Sox score at some point.
That’s what makes the Adrian Gonzalez two-out, two-run shot in the fifth an incredibly huge one.
Gonzalez launched a 2-2 changeup from Jeremy Hellickson into the stands in right field to tie the score. It is his 25th home run of the year and it couldn’t have come at a better time for an offense that has done next to nothing against Rays pitching of late.
Dustin Pedroia, who scored on the homer, is now in a 2-for-30 slide, but he had a pretty good at-bat in the fifth.
Pedroia spoiled some pretty good pitches from Hellickson. Then, on the eighth pitch of their duel, Pedroia cranked a hard grounder to third that Evan Longoria snagged with a dive to his right.
From his knees, Longoria went to second to get Jacoby Ellsbury (he singled with one out), and the Rays nearly turned the double play. By beating it out, Pedroia kept alive the inning for Gonzalez.
Alfredo Aceves has taken over for Kyle Weiland. You can almost smell a 10th win for Aceves. Smells sort of like lemons.
End 4th, Rays 3-1: The Rays are still waiting for that big hit, and you have to wonder if not getting it will hurt them later on.
At least two men have reached in every inning against Kyle Weiland. In the fourth, it was a two-out double by B.J. Upton and a walk to Evan Longoria that got Weiland in another mess.
But he gets Ben Zobrist to ground to first, stranding two more. Tampa Bay is 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and has left seven runners on already.
Mid 4th, Rays 3-1: I stretched my right leg, which has been bothering me, and thought about grabbing some water and by the time that was done, Jeremy Hellickson was finished with the fourth.
It took 11 pitches for Hellickson to get through Carl Crawford, Jed Lowrie and Marco Scutaro.
If you are wondering about Kyle Weiland’s work load, he did throw 100 pitches in his last major league start.
He is approaching 70 as the bottom of the fourth begins.
End 3rd, Rays 3-1: This may not make sense, for it implies a nagging woman in a marital situation, but the only term that comes to mind to describe what the Rays are doing to the Red Sox is henpeck. (Sorry if that offends anyone.)
They’re just being annoying and saying some crap about the laundry and the shoes that are always in the hallway…and scoring a run each inning.
There hasn’t been a big hit yet for Tampa Bay. It has scored three runs on two RBI ground outs and a sacrifice fly to center.
Maybe Boston can take comfort in the fact that Kyle Weiland hasn’t given up that big hit. The Rays have five hits and two walks against him, but all of the hits have been singles and they’ve all come early in the inning.
Mid 3rd, Rays 2-1: Jeremy Hellickson threw a complete game his last time out. He will be hard-pressed to duplicate that act again tonight.
Although the Red Sox failed to score in the third, Adrian Gonzalez worked a walk and David Ortiz singled, all part of a 19-pitch inning for Hellickson.
The righty is up to 52 pitches.
Dustin Pedroia struck out in the inning, and it’s about time we start asking some questions about him. He looks perfectly fine, no limp or noticeable signs of pain. But he’s picking a bad time to spiral into a vicious slump.
With that K, Pedroia is 2-for-29 (.069) with eight strikeouts and no walks in his last seven games. He’s all but eliminated himself from MVP discussions.
End 2nd, Rays 2-1: Not the best defensive inning for the Red Sox, which isn’t something you want to see when you have a kid making his third career start.
With a runner on first and one out, Sean Rodriguez singled to left. Carl Crawford, who won a freakin’ Gold Glove roaming left field in this park, makes an unwise decision to throw over the cutoff man trying to get the runner advancing to third.
That allows Rodriguez to move up, giving the Rays two men in scoring position with just one out.
In the end, it didn’t matter too much, for Tampa Bay only scored one on a Desmond Jennings grounder to third, but it didn’t look pretty. Neither did Jed Lowrie on the Jennings grounder. He first looked home and thought about trying to cut down the runner at the plate before deciding against it. However, before throwing to first, Lowrie sang some hymns, waxed his car and drank a beer, barely getting Jennings at first.
Lowrie has to be aware of the speed of Jennings, for another millisecond later and he would have been safe.
Mid 2nd, 1-1: It wasn’t quite the same situation in which Kyle Weiland was mired in the bottom of the first, but Jeremy Hellickson can take some comfort in limiting the Red Sox to just a run in the second.
After walking David Ortiz, Hellickson gave up a single to the surging Josh Reddick. Two on and nobody out.
Hellickson got the first out on a Carl Crawford grounder to first, which pushed up both runners 90 feet. That allowed Jed Lowrie’s soft grounder toward shortstop to result in a run.
Hellickson also walked Marco Scutaro with two outs, part of an inning that saw him throw 11 balls and 11 strikes.
End 1st, Rays 1-0: This is an extremely tough time and place for Kyle Weiland to make his third major league start. It showed right off the bat, but give the youngster some credit for settling down just in time before things got very ugly.
Eleven of the first 12 pitches Weiland threw were outside the zone. The one strike resulted in a B.J. Upton base hit.
The end result of that mess was a bases-loaded, no-out situation and a 3-0 count on Ben Zobrist.
Finally, Weiland got a strike in there and eventually got Zobrist to bounce into a fielder’s choice. A run came in, but Weiland was able to build off that first out. He then got locked in a long duel with Johnny Damon before striking out the veteran on the first slider of the inning.
Matt Joyce flied to center to leave the bases loaded. Weiland and the Sox have to feel great about there being just one run on the board.
Mid 1st, 0-0: The first few nails are bitten off in living rooms and sports bars around New England as the Red Sox go quietly in the first.
OK, I’m being dramatic, but if and when the Rays grab the lead there will be more thought about what it will feel like to be four games up with 18 to play.
By the way, the Red Sox have scored eight runs in their last 51 innings against the Rays.
7:10 p.m.: Jeremy Hellickson’s first offering of the night is a strike to Jacoby Ellsbury. Get ready for what will either evolve into a panic fest or into one big sigh of relief.
6:53 p.m.: Sorry for the slow updates. Some technical issues over here.
We should be up and running now.
Here’s a final thought before first pitch.
Coming into the series, everyone figured the Rays would have to sweep to stay alive in the wild card race. Realistically, they can still have a pulse (a tiny, labored one) by taking two of three.
That means that tonight’s game out of the three is the true must-win affair. Jon Lester is on the mound tomorrow for the Red Sox. He is the one healthy Boston starter with shut-down ability. If the Rays have split the first two heading into a meeting with Lester, they’ve done themselves no favors.
If Joe Maddon agrees with this assessment in any way, you’ll see him pull out all the stops tonight. He’s never shy about trying anything on the diamond, but if he feels that this is a must-win contest, expect Maddon to do some funky things in order to ensure a victory.
5:55 p.m.: Quick set of links for you, just to get in the mood. For baseball, of course.
Let’s begin with a look at why the Rays might be rooting for the Yankees for the next week.
Leftover from last night is a glance at the greatest disparity between these two teams.
5:25 p.m.: Just took a glance at my Twitter account and saw that the trending list for Boston had the following two items:
Are they related trends?
5:04 p.m.: Unless they met in a minor league game or a spring training game or an American Legion game, we don’t have anything to draw from when analyzing the matchups between Kyle Weiland and the Rays hitters.
What Rays hitters? These Rays hitters.
Desmond Jennings, LF
B.J. Upton, CF
Evan Longoria, 3B
Ben Zobrist, 2B
Johnny Damon, DH
Matt Joyce, RF
Casey Kotchman, 1B
John Jaso, C
Sean Rodriguez, SS
3:27 p.m.: As expected, there is no Kevin Youkilis in the Red Sox lineup.
We do not know if he has returned to the team or is waiting to meet back up when the Sox return to Boston. But the shot Youkilis received will need some time to do its thing, so it is doubtful he will get any action in the series.
Here is lineup without Youkilis, and with Josh Reddick getting a rare chance to bat fifth:
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
David Ortiz, DH
Josh Reddick, RF
Carl Crawford, LF
Jed Lowrie, 3B
Marco Scutaro, SS
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
The order is a combined 9-for-36 (.250) with no home runs against Jeremy Hellickson.
8 a.m. ET: The slumping Red Sox turn to rookie Kyle Weiland in a big spot Saturday as they try to end a slide against the hard-charging Tampa Bay Rays.
Following Tampa Bay’s win in the series opener Friday night, the gap between the two teams in the American League wild card race stood at five games in the loss column. Boston has lost seven of its last nine games.
Weiland hasn’t started in the majors since July 19, when he spun a quality start in a loss at Baltimore. He was 8-10 with a 3.58 ERA in 24 starts for Pawtucket this year.
The Rays, who are 20-10 in their last 30 games, turn to a rookie of their own, but one with a bit more of a track record. Jeremy Hellickson, whose 2.90 ERA is fifth in the American League, is coming off his second career complete game six days ago against Baltimore.
Hellickson is 1-1 with a 3.65 ERA against the Red Sox this year.
First pitch from the lefty is scheduled for 7:10 p.m.