Red Sox Live Blog: Red Sox Drop Another to Orioles, Fall Into Tie With Tampa Bay in Wild Card Race

Red Sox Live Blog: Red Sox Drop Another to Orioles, Fall Into Tie With Tampa Bay in Wild Card Race

Final, Orioles 6-3: The Red Sox get a run on a Dustin Pedroia RBI single and get the tying run to the plate in the form of Adrian Gonzalez, all you can ask for given the way this one has gone.

Jim Johnson, who got himself in the mess with a hit batter, a balk and two singles, gets Gonzalez on a fly to left and then strikes out Jed Lowrie.

The Rays haven’t been this close to Boston in the standings since May 23 when they actually held a lead of one half game. They fell back a half game on May 24 and have trailed ever since.

It now rests in the hands of Erik Bedard, your starter Tuesday night. We also know that Jon Lester will definitely start Wednesday since that game will mean something. See you again tomorrow night.

End 8th, Orioles 6-2: Kyle Weiland pitching to Ryan Lavarnway in the eighth inning of a must-win game in the opener of the final series of the season.

That’s what you wanted to see, right?

It wasn’t intended to be like this, for Jarrod Saltalamacchia was just forced from the game after taking a foul ball on his right collarbone. Salty crumbled to the ground and was in some serious pain before being replaced by Lavarnway.

You hope that he’s OK, first of all. If not, you hope Jason Varitek can get back out there tomorrow. Otherwise it’s Erik Bedard throwing to Lavarnway or Luis Exposito in another must-win game. Not what  you wanted to see, right?

Mid 8th, Orioles 6-2: The Red Sox loaded the bases with one outs and all the yahoos that made the trip down from Boston started the “Let’s Go Red Sox!” chant at Camden Yards (Fenway South).

If this was 2007, a comeback would be almost inevitable. But it is 2011, or more accurately September 2011, and the Orioles escape.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who is just a shadow of his former self (mid-season self) at the plate right now, went down swinging and Marco Scutaro grounded to short.

You have to wonder if there was another option to hit for Salty. Maybe Josh Reddick. Then get Luis Exposito to catch the last inning. Jarrod has been in a nosedive of late and has caught a ton of innings the last few days. He practically jumped out of his shoes at the first pitch, perhaps a sign of how eager he is to do something, anything at the plate.

Kyle Weiland is your new pitcher.

9:52 p.m.: One out and one on and Buck Showalter is out to make a pitching change.

Point raised by a colleague in the press box at Camden Yards: Alfredo Aceves is not limited by the usual days off and pitch counts and all that. He can come back and throw three tomorrow and three the next day if they need it.

Francona has said all year that Aceves tells him every day he feels good enough to go. No reason to think he won’t be tomorrow after throwing 20-something pitches.

End 7th, Orioles 6-2: A lot of people blowing up on the fact that Alfredo Aceves is in this game. It’s an argument worth having as Erik Bedard, who has thrown less than three innings since Sept. 3, is on the mound tomorrow.

The only logic I can see is that Terry Francona doesn’t have anyone else he really trusts to keep this a four-run game, yet has faith his team can score some more. This is the time of year you do unorthodox things, and I guess that’s one.

Also, Aceves was up earlier when the game situation was very different, so perhaps Francona wanted to use him when he was warm and not waste that effort.

In any event, Aceves did keep Baltimore off the board in the seventh and the Sox have six outs with which to play.

Meanwhile, the Rays have extended their lead to 5-2.

Mid 7th, Orioles 6-2: Again, excluding the 18-9 win for the Red Sox last week at Fenway, the Orioles bullpen has dominated the recent matchups between these two teams.

Speaking of bullpen, the O’s have reached that of the Red Sox. Alfredo Aceves is on for Boston.

End 6th, Orioles 6-2: I ain’t got the words.

Then again, they pay me (in the form of candy) to come up with something, so here goes.

The bottom of the order does a ton of damage once again as Chris Davis rips a go-ahead RBI double and Robert “That Guy Again” Andino hits a three-run inside-the-park homer on a ball that was in and out of the glove of Jacoby Ellsbury.

Ellsbury has seemingly come up with everything he could possibly get to this year, so you almost expected him to come up with it, but a collision with the wall pops the thing free and Orioles run like the wind as Ellsbury is slow to get up. Andino scored on the play, but the throw was there in plenty of time. Somehow it skipped past Jarrod Saltalmacchia, who didn’t seem to give the greatest effort.

Just a crazy play all around and the lead clip on the eventual video montage of the 2011 Red Sox collapse, if it becomes complete.

Beckett has now given up six runs in consecutive starts to the Orioles when his team has needed him most. Just read that again to get the full effect.

He is probably done after 108 pitches. Ellsbury is leading off the seventh so he appears to be OK.

Mid 6th, 2-2: Troy Patton has a quick 1-2-3 inning for the Orioles, keeping alive a trend that does not bode well for the Red Sox.

The Baltimore bullpen gave up only one run in 11 1/3 innings in its three wins at Fenway Park last week. Buck Showalter has a lot of quality arms, guys that have emerged late, and he will not be shy about using every single one of them, including a handful of lefties that can give the Sox some fits.

End 5th, 2-2: This feels a lot like the last time Josh Beckett faced the Orioles.

He looked strong early on but every once in awhile would uncork a pitch three feet high or something like that and you wondered if it was a precursor to anything.

Well, Beckett did the same in this one and suddenly became much more erratic in the fifth, nearly crumbling against the bottom of the order.

Chris Davis had an RBI single with no outs and then Robert Andino bunted two runners into scoring position. After a walk to the .179-hitting Matt Angles, it didn’t look good for Beckett. His pitch count was soaring, Alfredo Aceves was warming and the dangerous hitters were coming up.

But Beckett jammed J.J. Hardy to get a huge pop to third and then struck out Nick Markakis to end it.

A big, big escape for Beckett, who has thrown 48 pitches the last two innings.

Troy Patton has replaced Tommy Hunter.

Mid 5th, Red Sox 2-1: The Red Sox are outhitting the O’s 7-2, the latest a single by Dustin Pedroia to start the fifth.

Alas, the promise of a rally was squashed when Pedroia was thrown out on what was strike three to David Ortiz.

Tommy Hunter did yield a two-out walk before escaping on his 90th pitch.

You probably know that the Rays have taken the lead in St. Pete. Both are one-run games. Getting to be nail-biting time, if in fact you have any left.

End 4th, Red Sox 2-1: The Orioles didn’t score in the fourth, but they at least got Josh Beckett to work a little more than he had in the first three innings.

Both J.J. Hardy and Nick Markakis had eight-pitch plate appearances, Markakis working the first walk of the game for Beckett.

Markakis would move to second on a nubber to the mound and Matt Wieters grounded Beckett’s 21st pitch of the inning to shortstop to finish the frame.

On a night when the bullpen really needs a break, Beckett is at 59 pitches through four. It will be interesting to see how Terry Francona plays the bullpen game if it remains like this. He said everyone is available except for Franklin Morales, so maybe nothing changes at all.

Mid 4th, Red Sox 2-1: Most of the good numbers Jed Lowrie has against certain pitchers involve lefties.

Tommy Hunter is one right-hander he just hammers. After poking a solo shot down the right-field line Lowrie is 4-for-6 with two home runs and a double against Hunter.

Lowrie has just two home runs in 196 at-bats against righties this year.

I gave Hunter some props before, but the streak of six-inning starts won’t last if he continues to keep this many balls up. Seems as if everything is belt-high right now and he gets by only if the movement is sharp either in or away.

Hunter also gave up a deep drive to Jarrod Saltalamacchia that was caught at the track in left and a two-out single to Marco Scutaro. That allowed Jacoby Ellsbury to get another chance against the team he destroys.

Ellsbury came through with a base hit to left, his 210th hit of the year. He and Adrian Gonzalez are the seventh and eighth players in team history to reach that mark. Ellsbury is hitting .433 (65-for-150) during his 34-game hitting streak against Baltimore, the longest such run in Red Sox history against one opponent.

Carl Crawford’s looping liner to right was caught for the final out and Boston strands runners at the corners.

End 3rd, 1-1: Two things working in Boston’s favor right now. The Yankees have taken a 2-0 lead (both RBI by Robinson Cano). That’s the first thing.

The second is the fact that although this game is tied, Josh Beckett has thrown 16 fewer pitches than Tommy Hunter.

Beckett has a 1-2-3 third and has thrown just 38 pitches so far.

Mid 3rd, 1-1: I heard some buffoon on talk radio say something about how the Sox get to face “some chump named Hunter” tonight.

Tommy Hunter is not going to win any postseason awards, but if you’re really interested in analyzing your team’s chances in a critical contest, at least know what you’re working with.

Hunter, a 13-game winner last year with Texas, has lasted at least six innings in each of his last nine starts. He’s given up four earned runs or less in seven of those.

Those aren’t eye-popping numbers, but an illustration that he won’t just be knocked out of the game like some chump. Expect Hunter to give up two or three more and get the game to the late innings, just like he did in Fenway Park last week. At that point, you never know what can happen.

Hunter has his first 1-2-3 inning in the third. The second out came on a called third strike to an incredulous David Ortiz.

End 2nd, 1-1: Josh Beckett has now given up four home runs in his last three starts, including three to the Orioles in a span of 8 1/3 innings over his last two starts.

It was Matt Wieters doing the damage this time as he drove a cutter the opposite way to tie it.

Beckett battled back by striking out the next two men he faced. The righty has at least one K in each os his 279 major league games. Doc Gooden owns that record with 349 but Beckett’s run is the longest active in the majors.

Buck Showalter has returned to the Orioles dugout.

And for those of you who expect that I won’t make a gramatical error firing off 3,500 words of constant instant reaction, just get over it. Nobody on the planet can do what I’m doing now. They auditioned millions.

Mid 2nd, Red Sox 1-0: The Red Sox have received almost every break so far. One big one paid off in the second.

The Orioles helped Josh Beckett escape the first with a base running blunder and then had a series of things go their way in the second.

J.D. Drew led off with a base hit that was nothing more than a jam shot that found some grass in shallow right. He was forced out at second (Marco Scutaro reaching) before Jacoby Ellsbury lined a base hit (ruled a double) into left-center field.

Matt Angle, who made the out on the bases in the first, threw in to absolutely nobody and the ball rolled through the infield and toward the Baltimore dugout. Matt Wieters raced over to cut it off and fed pitcher Tommy Hunter at home, but Scutaro was in on the throwing error. Ellsbury got all the way around to third.

Some very sloppy play right there by the hosts. That’s what the Sox need. Also, the Yankees are up 1-0 but the Rays were apparently just cost a run by a poor call. Haven’t seen a replay yet.

End 1st, 0-0: A base running blunder hurt Baltimore in the first, something we’ve seen the Red Sox do quite often this year.

Matt Angle led off with a hit and stole second, to nobody’s surprise. The Orioles will run any chance they get tonight.

But Angle strayed too far off second base on a comebacker (nice stab by Josh Beckett) and was out in a rundown between second and third.

Nick Markakis then hit into a 3-6-6 double play to end it.

Buck Showalter had a mild ankle injury and is expected to return to the Orioles dugout.

Mid 1st, 0-0: Buck Showalter didn’t win any fans in New England with his words about Theo Epstein this spring, but everyone has to hope he is OK after being ushered from the Baltimore dugout right after the first pitch was thrown.

Showalter did not look good. We hope it is nothing serious. Will pass on any updates when we hear.

His team presses on without him, and if they know how competitive Showalter is, especially against the Red Sox this year, they’ll give that extra effort.

The Showalter situation was not the only drama of the inning. With two outs, Tommy Hunter walked Dustin Pedroia and gave up a double to David Ortiz on a squibber down the left-field line. The O’s elected to walk Adrian Gonzalez to load the bases and it worked as Jed Lowrie popped to left.

Lowrie had been 3-for-4 with a home run against Hunter.

Ortiz’s double is his 40th. Him, Gonzalez and Jacoby Ellsbury are the first Red Sox trio ever with at least 40 in a single season.

7:08 p.m.: Tommy Hunter’s first pitch to Jacoby Ellsbury is a strike. Settle in for what should be a riveting night.

6:39 p.m.: Jason Varitek wanted to give it a go, but apparently he could not do it tonight.

Varitek has been removed from the lineup in favor of Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

This marks the first time since April 5 that Saltalamacchia has caught Josh Beckett. That was one of Beckett’s worst starts as he gave up three runs in five innings, walking four.

The Sox also recalled Luis Exposito as a fourth catcher. That will allow them to have Exposito as a backup tonight for Salty, who caught 16 innings yesterday, and keep Ryan Lavarnway as a pinch-hitting option in a big spot against lefties. Or at least that’s one possible scenario.

Here is the new lineup:

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

5:58 p.m.: With just over an hour before first pitch, here is some light reading for you.

We have the update on Jon Lester’s status for Wednesday.

Also, are the Red Sox running into too many outs?

The Yankees will not be providing much help this week in St. Pete.

Speaking of the Yankees, the way they played Sunday night’s game didn’t hurt Boston’s cause. Thank goodness for September baseball.

In case you need a refresher on an unlikely three-way wild card tie, click here. The Rays have elected Team C and the Red Sox have chosen Team A, just so you know.

OK, back soon after a quick bite to get ready for first pitch.

4:41 p.m.: A few quick updates.

Terry Francona told reporters that everyone except Franklin Morales will be available in the bullpen. Obviously he would like to stay away from Papelbon and Bard.

Also, Jarrod Saltalamacchia was told to stand by in case Jason Varitek’s knee does not respond well to pregame activities.

Finally, Clay Buchholz threw 18 pitches today in Florida. He will pitch Wednesday in Baltimore if the games doens’t mean anything. If it does, he won’t, but Jon Lester will start, Francona confirmed.

Back in a bit with some links.

3:15 p.m.: There were a couple of questions that Terry Francona needed to answer before posting his lineup today.

Would Jason Varitek be able to catch Josh Beckett after suffering a bruised knee last night? If not, Jarrod Saltalamacchia would’ve been needed one day after catching 16 innings. He had not caught Beckett since Beckett’s first start of the year.

Also, would J.D. Drew be able to give it a go after returning from his lengthy layoff to play 14 innings.

Francona got the answer he wanted on both guys. Here is the lineup against Tommy Hunter, followed by that of the Orioles:

Red Sox

Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Carl Crawford, LF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
David Ortiz, DH
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Jed Lowrie, 3B
J.D. Drew, RF
Jason Varitek, C
Marco Scutaro, SS

The two through seven hitters are a combined 24-for-54 (.444) with five homers, two triples and five doubles against Hunter. Ellsbury, Varitek and Scutaro are 2-for-28 (.071) collectively.

Orioles

Matt Angle, LF
J.J. Hardy, SS
Nick Markakis, RF
Vladimir Guerrero, DH
Matt Wieters, C
Adam Jones, CF
Mark Reynolds, 1B
Chris Davis, 3B
Robert Andino, 2B

8 a.m. ET: The Red Sox need Josh Beckett in a big way Monday night in the opener of a three-game series with the Baltimore Orioles.

Not only will Beckett be called upon to help the Sox either maintain a one-game lead in the wild card or build upon it, depending upon what Tampa Bay does, but he will be needed to spare an overworked bullpen.

Boston’s relievers threw 12 innings in a doubleheader split Sunday in New York. Jonathan Papelbon threw 29 pitches in 2 1/3 innings, Daniel Bard threw 28 and Franklin Morales threw 44, all in the nightcap. Additionally, Scott Atchison tweaked his groin in the matinee.

Beckett did last 7 1/3 innings in his last start, but gave up six runs in one of the team’s 18 losses this month (against just six wins). He has a 6.38 ERA in three starts against Baltimore this season.

The Orioles counter with Tommy Hunter. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m.

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