Red Sox Live Blog: Wade Davis Dominates Red Sox, Rays Pull Closer in Wild Card Race

Red Sox Live Blog: Wade Davis Dominates Red Sox, Rays Pull Closer in Wild Card Race

Final, Rays 7-2: The major difference between these two teams lies in the starting rotations, and it is a mammoth gap right now, as evidenced by the series opener.

Six innings after John Lackey departed, Wade Davis puts the finishing touches on a complete game with a strikeout of David Ortiz.

Tampa Bay is within 5 1/2 games (five in the loss column) and it gets to turn to another quality arm tomorrow, when Jeremy Hellickson opposes fellow rookie Kyle Weiland. We’ll see you then. Bring your rabbit’s foot…the Sox need all the help they can get right now.

End 8th, Rays 7-2: Wade Davis will get a chance to record his second complete game and first since 2009.

He actually went nine innings just three starts ago but the Rays didn’t win until extra innings.

This is a top prospect that seems to be coming into his own. Quite a rotation they have built in Tampa.

Mid 8th, Rays 7-2: Wade Davis said yesterday he is feeling better than ever.

Well, this will certainly go down as one of his better starts this season. He certainly looks as good as we’ve ever seen him.

Davis strands one runner in the eighth, ending it on his 105th pitch.

Kyle Weiland, who has an 8.10 ERA in two career starts, goes against Jeremy Hellickson, who ranks fifth in the American League in ERA, on Saturday. Panicking yet?

Franklin Morales will work the eighth for Boston.

End 7th, Rays 7-2: Felix Doubront worked around a one-out walk in the seventh.

Red Sox pitchers have not produced a 1-2-3 inning since John Lackey accomplished the feat in the first inning.

Wade Davis is out to begin the eighth.

Mid 7th, Rays 7-2: That was about as weak an inning as you will find from an offensive standpoint.

David Ortiz grounded softly to second on the first pitch of the inning from Wade Davis. Carl Crawford grounded softly to second on the second pitch.

Jed Lowrie struck out swinging on the seventh pitch of the frame, and Davis is in great shape to go another inning or so, if that’s what Joe Maddon chooses do to.

There was some action in Tampa Bay’s bullpen.

End 6th, Rays 7-2: Felix Doubront gets his man to push this one to the seventh, where the Sox will have David Ortiz, Carl Crawford and Jed Lowrie against Wade Davis.

Davis has thrown 80 pitches.

9:11 p.m.: The Red Sox really could’ve used another shutdown inning by Scott Atchison, but three doubles in the bottom of the sixth lead to two more runs and an exit for Scott Atchison.

Felix Doubront is taking over with two outs in the inning.

Mid 6th, Rays 5-2: It has to start somewhere, and for the Red Sox it was a Josh Reddick single to center leading off the sixth.

Reddick moved to third on a double by Jarrod Saltalamacchia and scored when Jacoby Ellsbury reached on an infield hit to second.

Marco Scutaro lifted a sacrifice fly to center, but that would be it for the scoring.

An Adrian Gonzalez liner was snagged at short by third baseman Evan Longoria, who was moved over in a shift and positioned well. The Rays are noted as the best in the business at having guys lined up perfectly in the field.

End 5th, Rays 5-0: This feels a lot like last night, doesn’t it?

The Red Sox fell behind 5-0 after three innings of the finale in Toronto before getting two scoreless innings in the fourth and fifth, just like tonight.

In that one, they rallied to within 5-3 before the Blue Jays put down the hammer.

Scott Atchison is at least giving them a chance to mount another comeback with a pair of scoreless innings so far. He’ll get a crack at a third.

Mid 5th, Rays 5-0: If you saw Joe Maddon joking around with Blue Man Group, or the reaction of Desmond Jennings and B.J. Upton after they nearly collided on the final out of the top of the fifth, you get glimpses as to how it’s just a loose club.

The Red Sox on the other hand look extremely tight, and that will only continue as long as this swoon continues and the Rays stay hot.

A Carl Crawford single with two outs ended Wade Davis’ run of 11 straight outs. Jennings then snagged Jed Lowrie’s bloop as Upton raced past him.

End 4th, Rays 5-0: Lack yields to Atch, and things settle down. For now.

Scott Atchison begins what figures to be a three- or four-inning outing with a scoreless fourth.

The Rays did get another two-out hit, but this time it didn’t lead to disaster.

Mid 4th, Rays 5-0: The contrast between John Lackey and Wade Davis is striking.

Davis just followed up Lackey’s 36-pitch inning with a nine-pitch frame. He has retired nine straight since Dustin Pedroia’s infield hit in the second.

Meanwhile, Lackey’s night is over. I’m sure that shin has to be barking right now. Scott Atchison is in, and Lackey has to reflect on a miserable outing in every sense of the word.

Keep in mind the stat we gave earlier. Red Sox relievers have thrown an average of more than four innings over the last seven games, a hefty total for any bullpen, even one loaded up with September call-ups.

That number will now soar. Kyle Weiland is on the mound Saturday, so don’t expect a long start.

End 3rd, Rays 5-0: Body language is never John Lackey’s strong suit. In what has spiraled into a very poor start, his vibe has reached an all-time low.

Another two-out rally for the Rays, which featured a mental error by Lackey in the field, got Scott Atchison up in the bullpen. Lackey was able to escape before the hook came, but had to recover from a line drive off his leg to make the final out.

Lackey needed only four pitches to get the first two outs and seemed to be one his way to a nice bounceback inning. But Evan Longoria singled and Ben Zobrist walked. Johnny Damon then smacked one down the line that was snagged on a hop by Adrian Gonzalez, but Lackey was slow to cover first.

Damon beat Lackey to the bag and Longoria never broke strike on the play, rounding third as Damon was called safe. Lackey spun to try to get Longoria at home but it was too late.

An RBI single by Matt Joyce followed to make it 5-0. Casey Kotchman drew a walk as well, helping to run Lackey’s pitch count to 69.

It was Lackey’s left shin that got hit on the final out. He is getting taped in the dugout, so keep an eye on his plant leg.

By the way, my apologies for giving some incorrect stats on Rays hitters against Lackey earlier. Damon’s numbers were not included, and he is now 22-for-60 (.367) vs. Lackey.

Mid 3rd, Rays 3-0: Building off an earlier stat, it’s worth noting that the Red Sox have scored one run in their last 19 innings in this place.

The Rays starting pitching is better than Boston’s. No two ways about it. And thus far Wade Davis just looks like the better man.

Davis struck out both Jed Lowrie and Josh Reddick before he got Jarrod Saltalamacchia on a lazy fly to left.

That’s four strikeouts against no walks for Davis.

End 2nd, Rays 3-0: John Lackey threw nothing but cutters (and one two-seamer) for the first six hitters until finally throwing some breaking stuff to Casey Kotchman.

At that point he had a man on second and two outs. Kotchman was unimpressed by the off-speed offerings and worked a walk to extend the inning for John Jaso, who hammered a cutter (what else?) for a three-run homer.

Jaso is now 5-for-11 off Lackey, whose velocity seems to be down a bit. Perhaps that’s why he’s trying out the fast stuff as much as he can, sensing that he’s not getting loose like he normally can. We’ve been seeing a lot of sliders and some pretty good curves from Lackey of late, but he’s taken a different approach in this one. So far, not so good.

Mid 2nd, 0-0: The Red Sox had one of those ominous starts to their second inning when Dustin Pedroia, who entered in a 1-for-23 start, hit a swinging bunt single down the third-base line.

Wade Davis then just barely missed on a couple of two-strike pitches to David Ortiz and found himself in a 3-2 count.

It all changed on the next pitch.

Davis grooved one for strike three (not really sure how Ortiz could complain about that one) and Pedroia, who was off on the pitch, was a dead duck at second. It looked as if Pedroia was caught in between how and exaclty when he was going to slide. The tiny bit of hesitation left him several feet short when John Jaso’s throw arrived.

Carl Crawford grounded to second a few pitches later and Davis was through two.

End 1st, 0-0: We await our first base runner after John Lackey answers Wade Davis with a 1-2-3 inning of his own.

The Rays are scoreless in 17 straight innings against Red Sox pitching at home. You remember the previous 16 innings, don’t you?

They all came in the same freakin’ game, a 1-0 Boston win that lasted only five hours and 44 minutes.

Mid 1st, 0-0: The cowbells and keychains and whatever else they use in The Trop to make noise…they’re out in full force tonight.

And they have reason to make noise in the top of the first as Wade Davis has a very good start to things. He gets Jacoby Ellsbury on a pop to third, Marco Scutaro on a liner to right and Adrian Gonzalez on the first strikeout of the night.

Lackey time!

7:10 p.m.: Jacoby Ellsbury steps in and takes a strike from Wade Davis. Should be a great series.

6:43 p.m.: A few of the more interesting stats from the game noties to pass on to you.

The Red Sox have 99 road homers, 13 more than any other team in MLB.

They have hit .324 over their last seven road games and outscored their opponents 58-26 in that span, but are just 4-3.

Boston is 21-25 in series openers.

Jacoby Ellsbury has doubled in five straight games, the longest run by a Red Sox center fielder since Reggie Smith in 1968. His 41 doubles are the most by a Boston CF since Fred Lynn had 42 in 1979.

Tris Speaker owns the record with 53 in 1912. Lynn is second with 47, a very attainable mark for Ellsbury.

Lastly, the Sox are 19-18 since the trade deadline and have lost three straight series for the first time since interleague play in June.

5:56 p.m.: If Wade Davis’ prior history against the Red Sox means anything, the bats will come alive tonight for Boston.

Davis is 0-3 with an 11.12 ERA in three career starts against the Sox.

However, there are two things which suggest that it could be a bit different this time around. One lies in the fact that those three starts came within the first 15 outings of Davis’ career.

He has made 45 starts since. Also, the worst of those three came in Fenway Park in his second major league start. He gave up eight runs in 2 2/3 innings in that one. It will take several starts for an ERA to look anything but awful after an encounter like that.

The second thing working in Davis’ favor is his well-being, which is at its highest level all year, at least according to him.

“I feel great,” Davis said yesterday. “I feel the best I have all year right now. Good in-between days, good recovery. I’ve been stronger and recovering faster. I feel really good about everything.”

We will see how it all translates in just over an hour. With Jeremy Hellickson and James Shields going the next two nights, the Rays have a chance to make some noise this weekend if Davis turns his positive feelings into a solid start.

5:25 p.m.: Since there has not been much good news on the injury front so far today, we’ll offer up something that might bring a smile to your face.

Our own Heidi Watney is reporting that Clay Buchholz is still targeting a return in the final series of the season and is feeling nothing when he goes through the motions.

One hopes that the bullpen is still standing at that point. Red Sox relievers have thrown an astounding 33 2/3 innings over the last eight games. Just once in that stretch did a starter last longer than six innings.

I know there are extra arms out there with September call-ups, but even some of them have been overused.

4:47 p.m.: OK, we have your updates as the Red Sox limp into southwest Florida.

Kevin Youkilis is getting an MRI on his left hip and Erik Bedard is seeing someone for a lat issue, the same sort of injury that sidelined Jon Lester and Matt Albers earlier in the year. Click here for the story on those two.

The Sox are hopeful that Bedard won’t be backed up too much, but the primary concern when they picked him up was his physical well-being. It’s not often that a guy gets skipped in the rotation due to a lower-body injury and then has an upper-body one surface at the same time.

As for Youkilis, this could be one of those situations where he and the team just wants to make sure of things before he powers through the rest of the schedule. You will recall that panic that set in when Dustin Pedroia had to have his knee checked. But once he got some peace of mind, it was all systems go. Hopefully that will be the case on Youkilis, but we will have to wait and see.

3:57 p.m.: While we await word on why Kevin Youkilis has reportedly flown back to Boston, there are a couple other items to pass on.

Scott Atchison is back with the team for the duration. The bullpen has seen a ton of use lately, and although there are other September call-ups to eat up some innings, the Sox would use a guy like Atchison right now.

Of course, if you see him tonight that means something probably didn’t go right for John Lackey. And if something didn’t go right for John Lackey, that means one or more of these guys did something good:

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
Reid Brignac, SS

The first three guys are a combined 12-for-53 (.226) against Lackey. The next six are 24-for-72 (.333).

3:05 p.m.: An ESPNBoston.com report surfaced earlier today that Kevin Youkilis was headed back to Boston. We cannot confirm nor deny anything at this point. All we can do is give you the Youk-less lineup for Friday night’s game, and a promise that we will pass on any news once we know.

Here is the batting order against Wade Davis:

Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Marco Scutaro, SS
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
David Ortiz, DH
Carl Crawford, LF
Jed Lowrie, 3B
Josh Reddick, RF
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C

Ellsbury and Scutaro are both 0-for-5 against Davis. The next three are a combined 7-for-15 (.467) with a home runs and two doubles. The next four have never seen the righty.

8 a.m.: Two American League East rivals meet in the opener of a three-game series when the Red Sox visit the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday night.

John Lackey goes for Boston, which has lost seven of its last 10 and holds a 6 1/2-game lead on the Rays in the wild card race. Lackey is 12-5 in his career against Tampa Bay, but lost to the Rays in Fenway Park last month.

That loss ended Lackey’s personal six-game winning streak. Including the setback, he is 1-3 with a 6.04 ERA in his last four starts.

Wade Davis will be on the mound for the Rays. He is 0-2 with an 11.12 ERA in three career starts versus Boston.

First pitch from Davis is expected at 7:10 p.m.

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