Final, Rangers 4-3: The Red Sox were one strike away from this game going to extra innings, but Adrian Beltre put an exclamation point on the series with a walkoff RBI single into right-center field.
The Rangers completed the sweep by winning in much different fashion than they did on Friday and Saturday. While Texas rolled in the first two games of the series, it was Boston that jumped out to an early lead on Sunday before the Rangers rallied.
The Red Sox led 3-0 after two innings following home runs by David Ortiz and David Ross. Yu Darvish settled down immensely from there, though, and he ended up going seven innings while striking out 14.
Nelson Cruz’s two-run home run off Jon Lester in the sixth inning tied the game, and both teams failed to gain an edge until the ninth inning. Elvis Andrus hit a two-out single into center field. He then advanced to second base on a wild pitch, and following an intentional walk to Lance Berkman, Beltre came up with the big hit.
The three straight losses are a season high for the Red Sox, who certainly didn’t pass what many called their first real test of 2013. Fortunately for the Sox, they’ll return home to the friendly confines of Fenway Park on Monday for the start of a seven-game homestand.
Mid 9th, 3-3: It wasn’t easy, but Joe Nathan held down the Red Sox in the top of the ninth. The Rangers will come up with a chance to win the game in the home half of the inning.
Mike Carp started off the ninth with a loud out. He turned on a pitch down in the zone and yanked it to right field. Carp gave it a pretty good ride, but Nelson Cruz hauled it in just before the warning track.
The Red Sox managed to spark a little rally after that. David Ross walked, which brought Shane Victorino into the game as a pinch runner, and Stephen Drew singled softly over the head of shortstop Elvis Andrus.
Nathan then had two hard-fought battles with runners at first and second, but he won both to close out the inning.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia pinch-hit for Pedro Ciriaco and struck out swinging. Nathan jumped ahead of Saltalamacchia 0-2 and missed with a few fastballs up and away. He pulled the string with a 2-2 curveball, though, and Salty was caught out in front.
Nathan ended the inning by getting Jacoby Ellsbury to hit a bouncer to first base. Mitch Moreland made the play and flipped to Nathan, who covered the bag.
Nathan had to throw 23 pitches in his second straight day pitching, but the end result was there.
End 8th, 3-3: Junichi Tazawa and Andrew Miller combined to keep Texas’ offense at bay in the eighth.
Tazawa started the inning and got Nelson Cruz, who homered earlier, to pop out to Mike Napoli in foul territory. Napoli really had to battle the shadows, but he ultimately shielded the sun with his glove enough to make the play.
Andrew Miller then came on and struck out A.J. Pierzynski with a slider on the outside corner. Pierzynski has now whiffed four times in this game. That’s right, the man is wearing a golden sombrero, and it has nothing to do with Cinco de Mayo.
Old friend David Murphy extended the inning with a softly hit single into left field, but Miller also got Mitch Moreland on a slider to pick up his second K.
The Rangers’ closer, Joe Nathan, will come on to pitch the ninth inning in a tie game.
Mid 8th, 3-3: Michael Kirkman got two quick outs in the eighth inning, but things got very interesting from there.
Kirkman got Jacoby Ellsbury to ground out, and he then struck out Daniel Nava swinging. A couple of walks later, Kirkman found himself watching the remainder of the inning from the bench.
Kirkman quickly got ahead of Dustin Pedroia 0-2, but the Red Sox second baseman showed great patience as the left-hander tried to put him away. Pedey ended up working an eight-pitch walk.
Pedroia stole second base with David Ortiz batting. With a good throw, Pedroia would have been toast, but A.J. Pierzynski’s toss to second came up short.
Ortiz ended up walking, which prompted a pitching change. Jason Frasor came in to face Mike Napoli, who hasn’t done much against his former team. Frasor retired Napoli on a 6-4 force out to end the threat.
End 7th, 3-3: Koji Uehara found himself in some trouble, but he got out of it, and we have a tie ballgame through seven innings.
Craig Gentry kicked off the seventh by hitting a little roller to the left side of the mound. Uehara grabbed it and fired an ill-advised throw to first as Gentry reached. The Red Sox were very lucky that Uehara’s throw was backed up by Dustin Pedroia, as it wasn’t a very wise decision by the pitcher.
Ian Kinsler then dropped down a bunt. It got the job done in moving Gentry to second base, but it looked like Kinsler may have even been bunting for a hit. Nonetheless, Uehara made the play for the first out.
Elvis Andrus looked overmatched in his at-bat against Uehara. He fanned on a pretty nasty split-finger fastball for out No. 2.
The threat built up a bit from there, as the speedy Gentry stole third base with Lance Berkman at the dish. The Red Sox then decided to put Berkman on and take their chances with Adrian Beltre. The move paid off, as Beltre grounded back to the mound to end the inning.
Mid 7th, 3-3: It was clear Yu Darvish started to tire in the seventh inning, but he found enough in him to finish off a gritty performance.
Darvish, who gave three runs (two home runs) in the first two innings, kept the Red Sox off the scoreboard for the next five, and we have a tie game in the seventh as a result.
Darvish issued a one-out walk to David Ross on four pitches. It was at that point that you could really tell the right-hander was laboring, yet he bounced back to strike out both Stephen Drew and Pedro Ciriaco.
Darvish fell behind Drew, but he eventually battled back and struck him out swinging on a 94-mph fastball.
David Ross swiped second base without a throw with Ciriaco at the dish. It didn’t matter, though, as Darvish fanned Ciriaco with a filthy slider low and away.
Darvish threw 127 pitches (78 strikes) in his seven innings. He gave up three earned runs on four hits and struck out 14, which matches his career high. All in all, it was a very gutsy start.
Koji Uehara will come on to pitch the seventh inning for Boston, as Jon Lester’s day is indeed over.
End 6th, 3-3: Jon Lester worked around some brief struggles throughout his outing, but he couldn’t escape the sixth inning unharmed. Nelson Cruz tied the game with one swing of the bat.
Adrian Beltre delivered a one-out single, which paved the way for Cruz’s huge two-run blast.
Lester missed with a few high pitches during the at-bat against Cruz. The lefty missed with another one up in the zone with a 3-2 count, and the Rangers slugger jumped all over it. Cruz sent it sailing over the center-field fence for his seventh home run of the season.
Lester bounced back to strike out A.J. Pierzynski, who has fanned three times in this game, but it looked as if the left-hander began to tire. He walked Jeff Baker, which forced action to get stirring in the bullpen.
The inning ended with Lester striking out Mitch Moreland, but it’s clear the pitcher’s day is done. Lester has thrown 115 pitches (70 strikes).
Mid 6th, Red Sox 3-1: Yu Darvish’s outing has essentially consisted of two costly mistakes. He’s been sharp the rest of the afternoon.
Darvish struck out the side in the sixth inning, which increases his strikeout total to 12. He’s up to 105 pitches (67 strikes), so we’ll see if Ron Washington trots him back out there for the seventh. Regardless, Darvish has done a nice job of overcoming the three runs he surrendered in the first two innings.
Darvish struck out the heart of the Boston order in the sixth. He got Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz swinging, and then got Mike Napoli looking at a nasty slider.
End 5th, Red Sox 3-1: Jon Lester was forced to throw some stressful pitches again in the fifth. But again he walked away unscathed.
Lester lost Jeff Baker after jumping ahead 1-2, and he gave up a leadoff walk to the Rangers left fielder.
Lester then got Mitch Moreland to fly out, and he struck out Craig Gentry on a nice looking cutter on the outside corner, but Ian Kinsler extended the inning by dropping a single into center field.
Lester and Elvis Andrus squared off in a seven-pitch, two-out battle, but Lester emerged victorious. With the runners going, Lester froze Andrus with a fastball down in the zone, and home plate umpire Brian Knight rung up the Rangers shortstop.
Mid 5th, Red Sox 3-1: Yu Darvish had to work a little bit in the fifth inning, but we’re still looking at a 3-1 game.
Pedro Ciriaco reached out and dropped a one-out single into right-center field after Stephen Drew struck out swinging to begin the inning.
The Red Sox then put Ciriaco in motion a few times. The first time around, Jacoby Ellsbury fouled off a 1-0 pitch on what looked to be a hit-and-run attempt. The second time, Daniel Nava fouled off a 1-0 cutter with Ciriaco going. Finally, Ciriaco took off and swiped second base, but Nava struck out swinging to end the inning.
Darvish, who has thrown 86 pitches (56 strikes), has nine strikeouts in this game.
End 4th, Red Sox 3-1: The third inning was a struggle for Jon Lester, but he escaped it with no harm done.
Lance Berkman got the threat going with a one-out double. Berkman turned on a double and drilled it into the left-field corner, where it one-hopped off the wall.
Adrian Beltre got into a favorable hitter’s count and put good wood on a 2-0 pitch. He didn’t get all of it, though, and Jacoby Ellsbury tracked down his fly ball in deep center.
Nelson Cruz walked and A.J. Pierzynski worked a full count, but Lester managed to escape the jam by striking out Pierzynski.
Mid 4th, Red Sox 3-1: Yu Darvish’s fourth inning wasn’t perfect, but he kept the Red Sox off the scoreboard for the second straight frame.
David Ortiz, who took Darvish deep in the first inning, hit a hot shot back to the Rangers hurler. Darvish snagged it and fired over to first for the first out.
Mike Napoli fell behind 0-2, but he battled back to work the count full and earn a free pass when Darvish missed with a 3-2 slider up and in.
Darvish settled back down after that brief lack of control. He struck out Mike Carp on a curveball for the second time in this game, and he then blew three fastballs by David Ross — who homered in the second — to end the inning.
End 3rd, Red Sox 3-1: The Rangers chipped away on a home run by Mitch Moreland.
Moreland went to the opposite field on a cutter from Jon Lester. It’s Moreland’s fourth home run of the season, and he has had a very nice series. Moreland is now 6-for-8 in the three games thus far.
Lester bounced back to retire Craig Gentry on a ground out and Ian Kinsler on a fly ball to center.
Mid 3rd, Red Sox 3-0: The third inning was much kinder to Yu Darvish.
Darvish, who gave up a home run in each of the first two innings, worked a 1-2-3 frame in the third.
Jacoby Ellsbury and Daniel Nava grounded out to begin the inning, and Darvish ended it by striking out Dustin Pedroia.
Darvish now has five strikeouts despite surrendering three runs. His slider has been particularly impressive when he’s been able to locate it. He struck out Stephen Drew on a slider in the dirt in the second inning, and he got Pedroia with a similar pitch in the third.
End 2nd, Red Sox 3-0: While the Red Sox’ offense is off to a hot start against Yu Darvish, Jon Lester is taking care of business on the mound.
Adrian Beltre grounded to third base to lead off the second. Pedro Ciriaco bobbled it initially, but he recovered to throw out Beltre for the first out.
Nelson Cruz flied out for the second out, and A.J. Pierzynski struck out swinging to end the inning.
Mid 2nd, Red Sox 3-0: Yu Darvish picked up two strikeouts in the second inning, but he also made another big mistake.
Darvish kicked off the inning by striking out Mike Carp, but he didn’t fare as well against David Ross. Darvish left a flat offspeed offering out over the plate, and Ross crushed it down the left-field line for his fourth home run of the season. The only question was whether it would be fair or foul, but Ross’ long ball traveled just to the right of the foul pole.
Darvish struck out Stephen Drew on a pitch in the dirt, and then got Pedro Ciriaco to ground out, but the Red Sox’ offense is off and running in this one.
End 1st, Red Sox 2-0: Jon Lester’s first inning was a lot smoother than Yu Darvish’s.
Lester induced two ground-ball outs before striking out Lance Berkman to cap off a 1-2-3 inning.
Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus both slipped coming out of the box after grounding to the left side. I’m not sure if there’s a slippery patch in front of home plate or if it’s simply a coincidence that both players stumbled, but the Rangers’ fans aren’t happy with what they may believe is a lack of hustle.
Lester struck out Berkman looking on a cutter.
Mid 1st, Red Sox 2-0: Yu Darvish only allowed one home run before this game. He also hadn’t run into the buzz saw that is David Ortiz.
Ortiz jacked a 3-1 offering over the fence in right field for his fourth home run of the season. It came with two outs, and it was of the two-run variety.
Jacoby Ellsbury led off the game by rolling over a cutter to second base. He was easily retired by Ian Kinsler, who hit a leadoff home run for Texas on Saturday.
Darvish then struck out Daniel Nava despite a pretty good at-bat by the Red Sox outfielder. Nava fouled off three straight pitches, including a pair of two-strike sliders, but Darvish eventually blew him away with a 96-mph fastball.
Darvish got ahead of Dustin Pedroia with two outs. He failed to put him away with a fastball, though, and Pedroia managed to reach out and slap a 2-2 slider to the left side of the mound. Darvish came off and grabbed the slow roller, but he put it in his pocket when he realized he had no chance to retire the hustling Pedroia.
That was huge, as it set the table for Ortiz’s two-run bomb. Ortiz has been absolutely destroying opposing pitchers since returning, and his home run in the first inning was crushed.
Jon Lester will now have the benefit of taking the mound with an early lead.
2:08 p.m.: Yu Darvish’s first pitch misses for a ball, and we’re under way.
1:45 p.m.: Jon Lester’s overall resume this season is impressive, but the left-hander enters Sunday’s game on the heels of his two worst starts of the season.
Lester issued six walks and allowed three runs on six hits in 5 2/3 innings despite defeating the Athletics on April 24. He then struggled a bit against the Blue Jays on Tuesday, surrendering five earned runs in six innings while receiving a no-decision.
It won’t be easy for Lester to bounce back in this one, as the Rangers’ offense has looked comfortable through the first two games of the series.
Lester, who had a difficult season all-around in 2012, really struggled against Texas last year. He was 0-2 in two starts. He gave up 11 earned runs on 14 hits in 8 2/3 innings (11.42 ERA). In his career, Lester is 3-3 with a 4.57 ERA in 10 career starts against the Rangers.
12:30 p.m.: Will Middlebrooks has really been struggling, both in the field and at the plate. The Red Sox third baseman will be given the day off on Sunday.
Middlebrooks is 3-for-19 on Boston’s current road trip, which negates the strides he appeared to be making at the plate toward the tail end of the team’s recent homestand. Making matters worse is that Middlebrooks made an error in each of the last two games.
Filling in for Middlebrooks will be Pedro Ciriaco, who will bat ninth. That bumps Stephen Drew up to eighth.
Shane Victorino, who played in back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday after returning from a back issue, will be out of the lineup on Sunday. Daniel Nava will bat second and play right field, while Mike Carp will start in left field and bat sixth.
The rest of Sunday’s lineup is below.
Red Sox (20-10)
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Daniel Nava, RF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
David Ortiz, DH
Mike Napoli, 1B
Mike Carp, LF
David Ross, C
Stephen Drew, SS
Pedro Ciriaco, 3B
Jon Lester (4-0, 3.11 ERA)
8 a.m. ET: The Red Sox had a chance to flex their muscles against a fellow American League division leader. Instead, it’s the Rangers who have done all the flexing.
After another convincing victory on Saturday, the Rangers will send their ace, Yu Darvish, to the mound as they look to sweep the Red Sox right out of Texas. The man asked to stop the bleeding for the Sox is Jon Lester.
Clay Buchholz has been Boston’s best pitcher through the early part of the season, but Lester is still considered the team’s ace in the minds of many. The lefty has a chance to prove he can be a stopper on Sunday, although the Red Sox’ offense will need to be better than it has been through the first two games of the series.
The Red Sox have been outhit 28-13 and outscored 13-1 in the series thus far. Their biggest issue has been their inability to take advantage of their scoring chances. They’ve been leaving runners on base at an alarming clip, and that’s something that simply can’t happen when you’re facing a good team like the Rangers.
Boston’s quest to salvage the series with a win begins at 3:05 p.m. Be sure to tune in on NESN and follow along right here.
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