Red Sox-Rays Live: Jon Lester Tosses Six Perfect Innings, Jonny Gomes Collects Four RBIs As Sox Win 5-1


Boston Red SoxFinal, Red Sox 5-1: The Red Sox’ bid for a perfect game was broken up in the ninth, but it’s hard to complain with the end result.

Boston had the luck of the Irish on its side on St. Patrick’s Day. Jon Lester pitched six perfect innings, Jonny Gomes collected four RBIs and the Sox took down the Rays 5-1 at JetBlue Park.

Lester was tremendous in his fifth start of the spring. He had success with all of his pitches and commanded both sides of the plate while dominating the Rays for six perfect frames. The lefty struck out six in total.

Lester exited before the seventh, and Anthony Carter and Joel Hanrahan pitched a perfect inning each to set up a dramatic — by spring training standards — ninth inning. Marco Duarte came on for Boston, and he retired the first batter he faced before Jason Bourgeois broke up the perfect-game bid with an infield single behind the second-base bag. The Rays would later push across a run, but it was a fine pitching effort overall.

Jonny Gomes powered the Boston offense. He went 3-for-3 and drove in four of Boston’s five runs. Will Middlebrooks, meanwhile, collected two doubles, while Lyle Overbay drove in the Red Sox’ fifth run upon entering the game.

The Sox will be back in action on Monday, when they take on the Pirates in Bradenton at 1:05 p.m. ET. Clay Buchholz will get the start.

To all of you fellow Irish out there, happy St. Patrick’s Day. Now, go continue enjoying your festivities.

3:58 p.m.: It took 8 1/3 innings, but the Rays finally have a baserunner. Jason Bourgeois broke up Boston’s perfect-game bid with an infield single up the middle with one out in the ninth.

End 8th, Red Sox 5-0: Will Inman kept the deficit at five by retiring the Red Sox in order in the eighth.

Now, it’s on to the ninth inning, with a perfect game on the line for Boston. Marco Duarte will take the ball.

Mid 8th, Red Sox 5-0: It won’t be as dramatic as the regular season, but the Red Sox will enter the ninth inning with perfection on the line.

Joel Hanrahan retired all three Rays hitters he faced in the eighth inning, and Boston’s pitchers have now retired all 24 batters they’ve faced in this game.

Sean Rodriguez and James Loney flew out to begin the inning. Hanrahan then froze Jose Lobaton with a pitch on the outside corner to pick up the final out of the inning.

End 7th, Red Sox 5-0: The Red Sox tacked on another run in the seventh.

Juan Sandoval recorded two quick outs, getting Jackie Bradley Jr. to fly out and Daniel Nava to strike out, but the Sox then started making some good contact against the right-hander.

Jonathan Diaz dropped one in front of Rich Thompson in left field. Thompson was caught in between, as he didn’t know whether to dive or pull up, and it led to the ball rolling past him and all the way to the wall. Diaz ended up on second base.

The next batter, Mike Carp, worked a walk, and Lyle Overbay then knocked in Boston’s fifth run with a line-drive single into left-center.

Mid 7th, Red Sox 4-0: Jon Lester is out of the game, but the pitching remains perfect.

Anthony Carter made it 21 up, 21 down with a perfect top half of the seventh.

Yunel Escobar and Kelly Johnson both flew out, and Evan Longoria popped out to second base to end the inning.

The Red Sox have made a number of substitutions beyond the mound. Jackie Bradley Jr., Daniel Nava, Jonathan Diaz, Mike Carp, Lyle Overbay, Drew Sutton, Ryan Sweeney, Christian Vazquez and Brock Holt are in. Jacoby Ellsbury, Shane Victorino, Dustin Pedroia, Mike Napoli, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Will Middlebrooks, Jonny Gomes, David Ross and Jose Iglesias are out.

End 6th, Red Sox 4-0: Jon Lester is the big story in this game, but Jonny Gomes is having himself a day.

Mike Napoli singled into right field to lead off the sixth. He was subsequently lifted for a pinch-runner in Mike Carp, who would go from first to third when Will Middlebrooks crushed a one-out double off the left-field wall. The double was Middlebrooks’ second two-bagger of the game, and he too departed for a pinch-runner, with Drew Sutton coming on in his place.

Jonny Gomes ensured both Carp and Sutton would score, as he singled on a line drive into left field after Juan Sandoval replaced Rays starter Alex Cobb.

Gomes is now 3-for-3 with four RBIs in this one.

For those hoping for another inning out of Lester, I regret to inform you that the left-hander’s day is done after six perfect innings. Anthony Carter will take over in the seventh.

Mid 6th, Red Sox 2-0: It was more of the same from Jon Lester in the sixth: perfection.

Lester got Mike Fontenot to hit a routine flyball to left field, and Jason Bourgeois then grounded out to Jose Iglesias at short. Lester ended the inning by striking out Rich Thompson, marking his sixth K of the game.

That might do it for Lester, as he’s up to 80 pitches (54 strikes) in the outing. It would obviously be nice to see if he could complete the perfecto, but let’s keep in mind, folks; it’s still spring training.

In any event, Lester has looked fantastic. He’s had all of his pitches working, and his location has been tremendous.

Then again, Lester’s entire spring has been tremendous.

End 5th, Red Sox 2-0: The Red Sox’ offense has had its moments in this one, but Alex Cobb has put together another solid outing overall.

Cobb retired the top of the Red Sox’ lineup in order in the fifth. He got Jacoby Ellsbury and Shane Victorino on ground balls to the right side, and Dustin Pedroia was sat down on a slow ground ball to short.

Pedroia nearly beat out his ground ball, but Yunel Escobar made a great, barehanded play and delivered a strong throw to end the inning.

Cobb’s outing would look even better if not for Jason Bourgeois’ fourth-inning error with two outs. But hey, that’s the game of baseball.

Mid 5th, Red Sox 2-0: If it wasn’t spring training, things would have the potential to get a little interesting.

Jon Lester once again cruised through the Tampa Bay lineup, and he is now perfect through five innings.

Lester has thrown 67 pitches (44 for strikes) and has five strikeouts.

End 4th, Red Sox 2-0: Take notes, kids. Try to use two hands when catching a fly ball.

After two quick outs, Will Middlebrooks skied a fly ball down the right-field line. Jason Bourgeois drifted over and was in position to make the catch, but the ball hit off his glove, allowing Middlebrooks to scamper up to second. In Bourgeois’ defense, the glare looks to be tough, but it was still a relatively routine play.

Jonny Gomes made the Rays pay for the mistake by lifting a sky-high, RBI double off the wall in left.

Mid 4th, Red Sox 1-0: Jon Lester is cruising right along. In the fourth, he had the benefit of some pretty good defense behind him.

The Rays sent the top of the order to the plate, starting with Yunel Escobar. Escobar — who was dealt from Toronto to Miami and then to Tampa this offseason — led off by popping one up down the right-field line. Dustin Pedroia gave chase, and he eventually made a nice, running grab in foul territory. Pedey covered a lot of ground to make the play.

Lester struck out Kelly Johnson for the second out, and the always dangerous Evan Longoria then ripped a ball into the hole at short. Jose Iglesias, who has already flashed some leather in this game, made a nice, backhanded grab and fired to first for the inning’s final out.

Mike Napoli, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Will Middlebrooks are due up for Boston in the fourth.

End 3rd, Red Sox 1-0: The Red Sox hit Alex Cobb relatively hard near the end of the second inning. They literally hit him hard in the third.

Jose Iglesias was thrown out by Evan Longoria while trying to drop a bunt down the third-base line. It was a good idea, but Longoria once again proved why he’s considered one of the game’s premier defenders.

Jacoby Ellsbury took his cuts, and he drilled a line drive off Cobb. The Rays right-hander managed to recover, though, and he fired to first to nail Ellsbury.

Joe Maddon and the Rays’ training staff came out to check on Cobb, but it appears he’s OK.

The right-hander gave up a two-out single to Shane Victorino, and then threw what seemed like 85 pickoff attempts over to first base before getting Dustin Pedroia to fly out to right-center.

Mid 3rd, Red Sox 1-0: Jon Lester enjoyed another easy inning in the third.

Mike Fontenot led off the inning with a lazy fly ball to center field. Jacoby Ellsbury had no trouble sizing it up, and he reeled it in for the first out.

Jason Bourgeois — whose name I’ll undoubtedly spell wrong at least once within this blog — then popped up into foul territory. The busy Mike Napoli backtracked and made the play for out No. 2.

Lester struck out Rich Thompson swinging to end the inning.

End 2nd, Red Sox 1-0: Alex Cobb retired the first two batters he faced in the second, but it was trouble for the right-hander from there.

Mike Napoli, who has been busy down at first base thus far, got the first crack at Cobb. The Rays starter won the battle, though, as Napoli grounded out to Evan Longoria at third base for the first out of the inning.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia then struck out, but Cobb couldn’t finish off the 1-2-3 inning, as Will Middlebrooks stayed back on an offspeed pitch and drilled a double off JetBlue’s Green Monster.

Middlebrooks’ wall-ball double set the table for Jonny Gomes, who drove him in with a base hit into center field. Sean Rodriguez had a chance to gun down Middlebrooks, but his throw from center was borderline embarrassing, and the Sox now hold a 1-0 edge.

Mid 2nd, 0-0: Jose Iglesias showed in the first inning why he’ll get a long look at shortstop if Stephen Drew isn’t ready to begin the year.

Iglesias made a nice, rangy play going up the middle, spun and fired to first for the out. Mike Napoli leaped up to grab the throw and applied the tag on Jose Lobaton, and it actually capped off a nice defensive inning for Napoli, who is still developing as a first baseman.

Sean Rodriguez chopped one down Napoli to begin the inning. Napoli made the play and flipped to Jon Lester, who was covering the bag, for the first out.

Napoli also helped secure the second out, as Jon Lester nearly sailed his throw over the first baseman’s head after snagging James Loney’s comebacker.

End 1st, 0-0: Alex Cobb is off to a good start.

Cobb, who is looking to secure the fifth spot in Tampa Bay’s rotation, comes into this game having enjoyed a very impressive spring. He allowed just two runs on eight hits over 14 innings in his first four starts. He struck out 18 batters in that span.

Cobb made it 19 K’s this spring by striking out Dustin Pedroia looking to end the inning. Before that, he got Jacoby Ellsbury to ground out to first base and Shane Victorino to ground out to short.

This is Victorino’s first game back with the Red Sox since playing in the World Baseball Classic. For those concerned about The Flyin’ Hawaiian’s playing time, though, don’t be. Victorino enters the game with 27 at-bats split between his time with the Sox and in the WBC — about the same amount as many of the Red Sox’ other starters.

Mid 1st, 0-0: A green jersey-wearing Jon Lester picked up right where he left off in the first inning of this one.

Lester, who has been fantastic all spring, enjoyed a 1-2-3 opening inning. He mix his pitches well, and he picked up back-to-back strikeouts against Kelly Johnson and Evan Longoria.

1:36 p.m.: Jon Lester has the ball, and we’re ready to roll…

1:25 p.m.: Manager John Farrell addressed the media before Sunday’s game, as he usually does, and he provided an update on both David Ortiz and Stephen Drew.

Ortiz is still day-to-day at this point, and it’s unclear whether he will take batting practice on Monday as originally planned. Ortiz still felt some discomfort while running on the treadmill on Saturday.

Drew, who is sidelined with a concussion, is still experiencing symptoms, and his Opening Day status is now very much up in the air. That could pave the way for Jose Iglesias to start the season as Boston’s shortstop.

Per usual, Farrell was asked point blank about Jackie Bradley Jr.’s chances of making the big club. Farrell’s response this time around?

“That’s a hell of a question. We’ve got two weeks to determine that.”

Click here to read about Drew’s status >>

Click here to read an opinion about Iglesias >>

Click here to read about Bradley >>

1:20 p.m.: As we get set for another edition of St. Paddy’s Day baseball, let’s look at how the Red Sox have fared in recent years.

Since 2000, the Sox have gone 9-3-2 on the holiday. They played in split-squad action against the Orioles last year, winning one game 7-4 and playing the other one to a 3-3 tie.

Boston actually won six St. Patrick’s Day contests in a row from 2000 to 2006. We’ll soon see if the Sox have the luck of the Irish on their side in 2013.

Check out the rest of Boston’s recent St. Patrick’s Day history below.

2000: W 6-3 vs. CIN
2001: W 11-1 vs. CIN
2002: W 2-0 vs. PHI
2003: W 9-4 vs. CLE
2004: W 3-1 vs. CLE
2005: W 5-3 vs. FLA
2006: T 5-5 (10) vs. FLA
2007: L 1-2 vs. CIN
2008: L 4-8 at NYY
2009: W 9-5 vs. MIN
2010: L 2-4 vs. NYM
2011: W 8-5 vs. NYM
2012: W 7-4 vs. BAL (SS)
2012: T 3-3 at BAL (SS)

11:20 a.m.: Red Sox fans may want to pay close attention to Sunday’s game. There’s a possibility that the lineup is a preview of what we’ll see when the team opens up the season against the Yankees on April 1.

Shane Victorino is back in the Boston lineup after playing in the World Baseball Classic. He’ll bat second, with Dustin Pedroia batting third and Mike Napoli hitting cleanup.

Manager John Farrell elected to insert two of his catchers into the lineup, with David Ross getting the start behind that plate and Jarrod Saltalamacchia — who has been swinging a hot bat — serving as the club’s designated hitter.

Jose Iglesias, who tripled on Saturday, gets another start at shortstop, as Stephen Drew is still battling concussion symptoms.

Check out the lineups below.

Red Sox
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Shane Victorino, RF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Mike Napoli, 1B
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, DH
Will Middlebrooks, 3B
Jonny Gomes, LF
David Ross, C
Jose Iglesias, SS

Jon Lester, P

Yunel Escobar, SS
Kelly Johnson, 1B
Evan Longoria, 3B
Sean Rodriguez, CF
James Loney, DH
Jose Lobaton, C
Mike Fontenot, 2B
Jason Bourgeois, RF
Rich Thompson LF

Alex Cobb, P

8 a.m. ET: Top o’ the morning to ya!

We’ve once again stumbled — perhaps quite literally in some instances — upon St. Patrick’s Day. And that means that somewhere in the middle of blaring Gaelic music and drinking lots and lots of beer, Red Sox fans have a chance to see the hometown club slap on some green.

The Red Sox will don their St. Patrick’s Day edition green caps and jerseys for Sunday’s game against the Rays. It’s believed the Sox first donned green in Winter Haven in 1990, when Roger Clemens purchased caps and stirrups for the team. How about that?

In any event, it’ll be Jon Lester toeing the rubber for Boston, which improved to 12-9-1 in Grapefruit League play with a victory over Tampa Bay on Saturday.

Lester has been excellent this spring. He tossed five innings of one-run ball in his last start, which came against the Marlins on Monday. Overall, the left-hander has allowed just two runs on six hits in 14 innings (1.29 ERA) while striking out 10 and walking four.

Joel Hanrahan and Anthony Carter are also expected to take the mound for Boston on Sunday.

It’s a little early, but hey, St. Patrick’s Day comes once a year. Grab yourself a beer, but come right back here. The Sox and Rays will kick things off at 1:35 p.m. ET. That action can be seen on NESN, and I’ll, of course, do my best to further enhance the overall experience.

Photo via Twitter/@RedSox

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