Red Sox Live Blog: James Shields Pitches Into the Ninth, Jon Lester Knocked Out Early as Rays Complete Sweep

Red Sox Live Blog: James Shields Pitches Into the Ninth, Jon Lester Knocked Out Early as Rays Complete Sweep

 

Final, Rays 9-1: The Rays have outscored the Red Sox 32-10 in taking five straight from them.

They are within three games in the loss column and head to Baltimore with loads of confidence.

Boston, meanwhile, has a day to regroup before starting a long homestand. Will it be enough to erase the sting of this one?

We will find out Tuesday when the Sox host Toronto in the first of two games. Tim Wakefield will be on the mound going for his 200th career win.

It's safe to say the milestone won't matter much at all as long as the Boston gets a win. We'll see you then. Thanks for following along today.

5:03 p.m.: James Shields gets the first out but not the second. He walks Darnell McDonald and then heads to the showers.

Not really sure why they sent him back out there unless there is something to that 12th complete game. One figures the Rays have to save all their bullets for next weekend.

End 8th, Rays 9-1: Franklin Morales takes over for Felix Doubront and gets through the eighth (not the ninth…apologies for my error earlier).

James Shields will work the ninth in pursuit of a dozen complete games. Who saw that coming after his ERA soared over 5.00 last year?

Mid 8th, Rays 9-1: Nice to see Conor Jackson back in action for the first time since he collided with the wall in Fenway over a week ago.

Jackson hit for Adrian Gonzalez and flew to center for one of the three quick outs recorded by James Shields.

At 107 pitches, Shields may get an opportunity to go after his MLB-leading 12th complete game.

End 7th, Rays 9-1: A Dustin Pedroia throwing error (yep, it's that bad) leads to another Tampa Bay run and helps carry this debacle into its fourth hour.

Since we already looked ahead at the Red Sox' future schedule, let's examine that of the Rays.

They go to Baltimore for three games starting Monday before invading Fenway Park on Thursday.

If Tampa Bay stays in line with its rotation, and with no days off they pretty much have to, the starters in Boston will be Jeremy Hellickson, James Shields, David Price and Jeff Niemann, in that order.

We have no clue what Boston's foursome will be other than the fact that it will include Jon Lester.

Mid 7th, Rays 8-1: It's time to get up and stretch!

And if that doesn't work to make this game feel any better, try antacids. Or maybe creamsicles. I just had one and for a moment all my issues (there are many) melted away.

Felix Doubront will pitch the seventh and the eighth. Well, at least the seventh. We shouldn't get ahead of ourselves with the way things have been going.

End 6th, Rays 8-1: The Rays don't score in the sixth, but there's no lack of drama.

One man reaches on a Marco Scutaro throwing error and another on a Matt Albers walk.

Joe Maddon then elects to bunt the runners up with a seven-run lead. Perhaps that didn't sit too well with the Red Sox, for Albers drilled the next man with first base open.

The "strategy" works. Albers retires the next two he sees to leave the bases loaded. No grand slam this time for Albers, who also gave up a three-run double earlier on this road trip.

Mid 6th, Rays 8-1: As James Shields motors through the top of the sixth, we begin to look ahead.

Monday is a day off before Boston begins a 10-game homestand that will take place in nine days because of a doubleheader along the way.

All we know so far is that Tim Wakefield starts Tuesday against Toronto and John Lackey goes Wednesday. Dream big, Red Sox fans. Dream big.

End 5th, Rays 8-1: B.J. Upton doesn't take too many pitches, but he stared at a pair of Matt Albers fastballs, just to size them up. Upton then cranked the third heater deep into the seats in left-center field.

It's a grand slam that pretty much puts an exclamation point on the worst road trip in recent memory. Sure, there are four innings to play, but does anyone in the Red Sox dugout believe anything good is going to come of it?

For that matter, does anyone on the Rays side believe that anything can go wrong? These are two teams traveling very different paths right now.

3:55 p.m.: Michael Bowden puts up great numbers every time he's at Triple-A. He just never gets enough guys out in the majors. Bowden may be your quintessential "Quadruple-A" player.

He was just brought in to eat up multiple innings and couldn't even get throug one. After two walks and a single, Terry Francona has seen enough.

Matt Albers is coming on with the bases full and two outs. Good times, eh?

Mid 5th, Rays 4-1: When asked about Mike Aviles last week at Fenway Park, Terry Francona made a point of stressing how impressed he was by Aviles' base running.

Give credit to the opponents in both cases, but Aviles has made two notable outs on the bases this road trip. He was thrown out trying to steal second to end that disaster in Toronto on Wednesday, and just erased his own leadoff hit when he was picked off by James Shields.

Shields is great at holding runners on and made a perfect move as Aviles was just taking his normal lead, but that just can't happen. Not down three in a game your team really, really needs.

It becomes even bigger when Jacoby Ellsbury follows with a single. Shields strands him by retiring Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez.

Jon Lester is indeed done after four innings. It is his shortest start not ended by injury since last year. Michael Bowden is your new pitcher.

End 4th, Rays 4-1: Jon Lester may be done after running his pitch count to 111, but he at least prevented the deficit from growing.

Lester labored through another long inning. There was a one-out double, followed by a walk and then an at-bat by Ben Zobrist that lasted 142 minutes.

Zobrist saw nine pitches (it felt like many more than that) before grounding into a fielder's choice.

Lester then escaped on a liner to right by Johnny Damon. The lefty gets the pat on the back from Terry Francona. We will see either Michael Bowden or Felix Doubront next inning.

Mid 4th, Rays 4-1: James Shields has a nice bounceback frame to keep the heat on Jon Lester. All three outs in a 1-2-3 fourth were recorded in the air.

End 3rd, Rays 4-1: Johnny Damon, who knows a thing or two about great team comebacks, tripled to lead off the bottom of the third. He was thinking three right on contact.

All the Rays needed was a fly ball or something along those lines, but Sean Rodriguez made sure he got Damon in by lining one off the wall in left. He missed a home run over the short fence near the pole by about two feet.

Jon Lester survived from there, but his day will end soon. Michael Bowden was up and warming as Lester ended the inning at 85 pitches.

Mid 3rd, Rays 3-1: The Red Sox get in the scoring column on a solo homer by Marco Scutaro, his sixth of the year, but they may rue the wasted scoring chance they had later in the frame.

James Shields lost his location, walking two to load the bases (Mike Aviles followed the Scutaro homer with a base hit). He did win a fight with Dustin Pedroia for a big strikeout, but still had to face David Ortiz with the bags full and just one out.

Ortiz popped to shallow left, not deep enough for Aviles to tag. Josh Reddick then popped to Evan Longoria in foul territory to end it.

You wonder if Pedroia, ever the leader, is trying to do a bit too much in the midst of this team-wide slump. He has been swinging at more pitches out of the zone than we are used to.

End 2nd, Rays 3-0: We mentioned Jon Lester's first-inning ERA this year (5.14). That number is 1.98 in innings 2-4 after he throws a scoreless second.

That doesn't mean he's out of the woods. Lester gave up a single and a walk in the second and had to throw 26 more pitches.

That gives him 69 and is enough for Felix Doubront to head down to the bullpen. Not what the Red Sox needed, by any stretch of the imagination.

Mid 2nd, Rays 3-0: We love Jason Varitek for so many reasons, but he isn't always the guy you want up with runners at first and second and one out, for there may not be a better double-play candidate on the roster.

Sure enough, Varitek follows up back-to-back hits by Josh Reddick and Carl Crawford with a bouncer to second that results in two big outs for the Rays.

Jon Lester recovered to throw four scoreless innings after his last 43-pitch first. With the way the bullpen has been used up lately, that's almost imperative if Boston is going to have much of a chance.

End 1st, Rays 3-0: For the second time in three starts, the opponent just wears out Jon Lester in the first inning.

Lester throws 43 pitchs in the frame (the exact number he had in the first inning two starts ago against New York), during which he has a 5.14 ERA for the year.

Lester loaded the bases with no outs, but unlike last night when Kyle Weiland was in an identical situation, Lester could not avoid the big hit.

Ben Zobrist singled in a pair of runs with a liner to left. Johnny Damon followed with a slow grounder to second that gave Dustin Pedroia just one play, to tag out Zobrist.

With runners on the corners and one out, Sean Rodriguez battled Lester during a seven-pitch at-bat that ended with a sacrifice fly to center. There was another single by Casey Kotchman before Lester finally escaped by retiring the eighth hitter of the inning.

James Shields has held opponents to two runs or less in 18 of his 29 starts, so every run the Rays can put up early looms large.

Lester had three full counts in the inning. Not much of what he offered seemed particularly biting, as many of his pitches seem to do when he's on. Just none of that Jon Lester nastiness that makes him such a pain in the rear to face. Out of the zone a lot and when he was in it things were somewhat flat.

Mid 1st, 0-0: Amid his remarkable season, James Shields has been better at home than on the road and better during the day than at night.

That, combined with the way he looked in the first inning, could make for a long afternoon for the Red Sox.

Shields gets a pair of grounders to second base before striking out Adrian Gonzalez on a curveball in the dirt.

1:40 p.m.: James Shields delivers a strike to Jacoby Ellsbury and we are off and running.

1:07 p.m.: We are all taking some time to reflect on what occurred 10 years ago today.

My story isn't out of the ordinary. I didn't lose anybody in those attacks, but was glued to the coverage like anyone else and remember a feeling of nausea that lasted a week or so.

For me, like so many, it was baseball that brought back a dose of reality. A friend of mine had tickets for the first Red Sox game after the break that baseball took at that time. It was a home game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Hideo Nomo was on the mound. We were about 20 rows behind home plate.

I recall feeling a little weird eating a hot dog and enjoying a beer, like I shouldn't have been able to do that when so many others were suffering from close, personal loss. But there were two moments that stood out that made us incredibly happy to be there that night.

One was the singing of God Bless America. I have no clue who led the rendition from the field, but he or she was joined by 37,000 others in full throat. It was incredibly moving, with hundreds of flags waving throughout the stands. I never sang so loud in all my life.

Another moment came when a Yankees score was posted on the Green Monster scoreboard. They were cruising toward another AL East title and rolling over the White Sox that night. I don't know if it was the final score or just a scoring change, but when people noticed the Yanks on top, they cheered. Everyone knew what it meant to those people closest to the Twin Towers.

That's all I have. Just wanted to share one take on how baseball was such a remarkable took in the recovery process. If you want another, watch this.

12:36 p.m.: OK, it looks as if we've ironed out some issues on our end. Thanks for your patience.

Jon Lester has had few issues on his end lately. Here are the guys hoping to end the lefty's surge:

Desmond Jennings, LF
B.J. Upton, CF
Evan Longoria, 3B
Ben Zobrist, 2B
Johnny Damon, DH
Sean Rodriguez, SS
Casey Kotchman, 1B
Jose Lobaton, C
Brandon Guyer, RF

The 2-3-4 hitters are a combined 20-for-104 (.192) with 35 strikeouts against Lester.

By the way, we looked at a few numbers this morning just to see how historic this collapse/comeback would be if the Rays ever caught the Red Sox. Click the link to find out.

On a much more important note, there will be many pregame ceremonies to mark the 10-year anniversary of 9/11. Tune to NESN now for all the coverage.

10:09 a.m.: The lineup is somewhat similar to last night, with a few changes at the bottom.

Jason Varitek is in at catcher and Mike Aviles is starting at third base for the first time since Aug. 27.

Have a look:

Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
David Ortiz, DH
Josh Reddick, RF
Carl Crawford, LF
Jason Varitek, C
Marco Scutaro, SS
Mike Aviles, 3B

This is the seventh time Varitek has caught Jon Lester this year. The lefty is 4-2 with a 1.75 ERA in the first six.

The first five hitters in the Boston order are a combined 41-for-132 (.311) against James Shields. The next four are 19-for-93 (.204).

8 a.m. ET: The Red Sox have not had a must-win game in nearly two years, unless you want to consider a few down the stretch last year when they had to win just to stay alive in the playoff race.

But those games came when the club stared at a sizable deficit and with little chance of a comeback. Sunday's game at Tampa Bay has about as much importance to Boston as any game since the 2009 playoffs.

The Sox have dropped eight of 10 and four in a row. With their lead over the Rays in the wild card down to four games in the loss column, they turn to Jon Lester in a marquee matchup with Tampa Bay All-Star James Shields.

Lester is 4-0 with a 1.16 ERA in his last five starts and is 4-0 with a 2.92 ERA in his career at Tampa Bay.

Shields is coming off his 11th complete game, tops in the majors by a sizable margin. Two of those have taken place against Boston.

First pitch is scheduled for 1:40 p.m.

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