Final, 5-3 Rays Win: Well, the Red Sox are right back to .500 again, seeing their record fall to 44-44. The Rays, meanwhile, run their record to 46-42, keeping a buffer zone between themselves and the Sox heading into the dog days of summer.
Price (12-4) takes the win, while Buchholz (8-3) is saddled with the loss. That's all for us here for the live blog, but you can tune into NESN and NESN.com for all your postgame needs, and check back tomorrow for another NESN.com live blog, while NESN pregame begins at 12:30 p.m. ET, with first pitch scheduled for 1:40.
End 8th, 5-3 Rays: This feels like the first time in quite a while that the bullpen has let the Sox down a bit. Granted, Buchholz initially got himself in trouble, but Matt Albers did the team no favors by walking in a run, and just now Andrew Miller couldn't hold the Rays' lead to one-run, giving up a towering home run to Upton.
Now the Red Sox have to deal with Rays closer Fernando Rodney, who has seen a career renaissance after largely floundering for two seasons in Los Angeles (of Anaheim).
Mid 8th, 4-3 Rays: The next time someone tries to tell you complaining to the umpire never does any good, you can cite that last at-bat between Ortiz and Price as an example otherwise.
Price essentially threw the same exact pitch in the same exact location consecutively, and the results were completely different. It reasons to stand that Ortiz' complaining did in fact make a difference in why one was called a strike and the next pitch a ball.
End 7th, 4-3 Rays: Walks always seem to come back to hurt you, and that's what happened to the Red Sox in that last half inning.
Ultimately, Buchholz' line doesn't look so impressive, but enough can't be said about the right-hander's efforts on the evening. Perhaps it wasn't fair to ask him to throw a seventh inning while still rebuilding his arm strength, but if he can reestablish the roll he was on prior to his illness, it would go a long, long way to stabilizing the Red Sox rotation.
Mid 7th, 3-2 Red Sox: Lillibridge was unhappy with himself there for good reason. Against a pitcher like Price, the one thing you cannot afford to do is to give away extra strikes.
Like Buchholz, Price is cruising right along, as well, with eight strikeout and only five hits yielded over seven innings of work. At 103 pitches on the evening, it will be interesting to see whether or not Maddon allows him to go eight.
End 6th, 3-2 Red Sox: At only 79 pitches through six innings, Buchholz may actually have one more inning left in him. And why not? He's looked cominant most of the night, and would have limited the Rays' offense to a single run if it were not for an Aviles error.
Suffice to say, seven innings probably wasn't even in the thought process of the Red Sox when they set Buchholz to the hill Saturday, so they have to be absolutely ecstatic over what they've gotten out of him this evening.
Mid 6th, 3-2 Red Sox: Basically, the Sox and the Rays have traded gift runs over the past two half innings. Cody Ross managed to fake out David Price on the attempted pick off, while Keppinger is easily out at the plate after taking off on contact on Molina's ground ball to Aviles.
End 5th, 2-2 Red Sox: The trend continues. Through five innings Buchholz has struck out seven Rays — six of those looking. The right-hander is doing very well to take advantage of the large strike zone, and though the Rays are a team that will strike out often, anyway, he's looked every bit the pitcher he looked to be evolving into in the five starts prior to his hospital stay.
Mid 5th, 2-1 Red Sox: That is some textbook plate blocking on the part of Molina, who learned the trade from former catcher Mike Scioscia coming up with the Angels. Back in his day, Scioscia was also a master of blocking the plate, and the Angels manager also has another disciple in the dugout tonight in longtime Angels bench coach, and current Rays manager, Joe Maddon.
End 4th, 2-1 Red Sox: With Wade Boggs dropping by to visit Don and Jerry, it recalls one of the great moments of television history. Yes, you know what we're talking about: "Homer at the Bat."
The Simpsons has long been one of the most popular, influential shows in the history of television, and their baseball episode (from all the way back in 1992), cobbling together an All-Star cast of baseball voice actors, remains a high water mark.
You can follow this link to watch an animated Boggs argue with Barney Gumble over British prime ministers in a scene from the eipsode.
Mid 4th, 2-1 Red Sox: Having Middlebrooks healthy and productive in the lower-middle of the Red Sox lineup makes it infinitely deeper and more difficult to pitch to. And particularly without Adrian Gonzalez producing much power, the Sox are going to need the young third baseman to fill the role of lineup protection for the likes of Ortiz and Ross.
If Middlebrooks continues to produce, this is a deep lineup. If Gonzalez manages to turn it around, it could be a scary one for any opposing pitcher.
End 3rd, 1-0 Rays: Buchholz has largely looked about as good as could be expected, and after leaving a couple pitches over the plate to Jennings and Molina, did well to limit the damage thereafter.
Through three innings, however, the 27-year-old has only thrown 43 pitches, which the Red Sox have to be ecstatic about. He likely won't be extended beyond 90 or so, but he's giving himself a chance to take a little bit of the burden off of the bullpen as he rebuilds his arm strength.
Mid 3rd, 0-0: By our count that's six strikeouts looking through 2 1/2 innings between the two starting pitchers. That's been fortitous for Price and Buchholz, as the two have yielded a single hit between them.
Now the onus is on the hitters to make the adjustment to the large strike zone, foul off some pitches and try to bring the starters back into a smaller zone.
End 2nd, 0-0: Luke Scott just doesn't look like the kind of dude who would fit in in Boston. Besides the fact that he went out of his way to trash Fenway Park on a couple of occasions, we're not too sure how that facial hair would play in Beantown.
Who does have the most interesting facial hair in Major League Baseball right now? Seattle infielder Brendan Ryan would definitely be a contender, as in the past he's sported a hipster mustache, and more recently has gone full-fu manchu.
Mid 2nd, 0-0: It's going to be very difficult for anyone to hit Price if he keeps getting calls such as he just did with Shoppach at the plate, but Aviles had the right idea there. On occasion Price gets wild within the zone, starts over-relying on his fastball and can be hit. But when he's on, well, good luck.
But Aviles simply just guessed fastball with his single up the middle, and guessed right. Sometimes, your only strategy against a pitcher that talented is guesswork.
End 1st, 0-0: If the early strikeouts looking are any indication, we're already looking at a very liberal strike zone from home plate umpire Jeff Nelson.
Both players got third-strike calls that looked to be just off both sides of the plate in that last inning, with Buchholz getting Johnson and Zobrist on fastballs inside. The Rays, sans Evan Longoria, are already known to have their offensive problems, so this game could be well set to become a pitcher's duel.
Mid 1st, 0-0: Watching Price pitch to Ortiz there was like watching a pitching clinic. The called strike three was questionable, but Price kept going back to the same spot just off the corner and eventually got the call.
That's impressive command, and combined with 97-mph heat, it's not difficult to see why Price is one of the premier pitchers in baseball.
7:13 p.m. ET: We have first pitch! For the record, the game-time temperature in St. Petersburg is 87 degrees. But then again, being under a dome, that shouldn't really matter.
6:00 p.m. ET: We have tonight's lineups.
It looks like Ciriaco's hitting onslaught hasn't just earned him Dustin Pedroia's position on the diamond, but his position in the No. 2 hole in the lineup, as well.
Red Sox (44-43)
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Pedro Ciriaco, 2B
David Ortiz, DH
Cody Ross, RF
Will Middlebrooks, 3B
Mike Aviles, SS
Kelly Shoppach, C
Brent Lillibridge, 1B
Daniel Nava, LF
Clay Buchholz, RHP
Tampa Bay Ray (45-42)
Elliot Johnson, SS
Carlos Pena, 1B
Ben Zobrist, RF
B.J. Upton, CF
Adam Scott, DH
Jeff Keppinger, 3B
Desmond Jennings, LF
Jose Molina, C
Sean Rodriguez, 2B
David Price, LHP
8 a.m. ET: Clay Buchholz is set to return to the mound for the Red Sox on Saturday night, after missing the past few weeks with a case of esophogitis.
Buchholz returns to a different Boston roster, though, as Jacoby Ellsbury has returned to the team from his shoulder injury and yet second baseman Dustin Pedroia continues to sit out with a lingering thumb issue. Ellsbury was 1-for-5 in his return to the order, striking out twice in the leadoff spot and playing solid defense out of center field.
While the team expects Ells to find his rhythm and soon, David Ortiz continues to be the catalyst for all offensive explosions. Big Papi hit another home run, his 23rd of the season, on Friday night and started the scoring for the Sox. Pedro Ciriaco, who was caleld up to Boston just last weekend, was also phenomenal going 3-for-3 with a pair of RBIs and raising his batting average to an obscene .625 over his four games with the big club.
First pitch is set for 7:10 p.m. at Tropicana Field in Tampa Bay, but NESN has all your coverage starting at 6 p.m. with the Red Sox pregame show.
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