Sox walk away unscathed
They pick up Papelbon with 6-run outburst in 12th inning
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. With what was left of the crowd of 36,048 on its feet, Brian Stokes had just issued a ball ball four, to be exact to Julio Lugo. The go-ahead run scored. The roar was astounding. Something out of Fenway Park that seemed, in so many ways, quite odd in a domed stadium with fake grass. Yet few in the crowd, quite clearly, had any allegiance to the Devil Rays.
Only the Red Sox fans were left as the game rumbled through the 12th inning, the Devil Rays bullpen stumbling finally after three straight innings of zeroes after Jonny Gomes tied the score with a two-run homer off Jonathan Papelbon in the bottom of the ninth. And though Stokess two-out walk to Lugo wouldnt be the end of the damage the Sox scored five more runs it would be the first crack in what became a 12-6, 12-inning win for the Sox.
That sent the Devil Rays to their eighth straight loss and the Red Sox, coupled with a loss by the Yankees, to a nine-game lead in the American League East.
I tell you, its big, said Mike Lowell, who had a quiet four-hit game, with two coming in extra innings. Those wins can be deflating sometimes.
Kevin Youkilis followed Lugo with a bases-clearing double off Jae Kuk Ryu, and Manny Ramírez added a two-run double. The outburst saved Papelbon and made a winner out of Kyle Snyder (2-2), who pitched two innings of one-hit relief. With the win, the Sox improved to 61-1 when leading after eight innings.
Hes an elite closer, but hes also a human being, Lowell said. Its going to happen once in a while. I think it was a pretty good split.
After allowing a single to Delmon Young to lead off the ninth, Papelbon threw a split-fingered fastball to Gomes that caught far too much of the plate before catching the left-field seats. Papelbon, who was not available to talk to the media after the game, had converted 15 straight save chances. But, once the game ended, that mistake was a distant memory in a game that lasted 4 hours 38 minutes.
The whole sting [is gone], manager Terry Francona said of the effect of Papelbons blown save.
The Sox got one man on in the 10th and two on in the 11th, but failed to score. They did, however, knock out Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon, who was tossed for arguing after Youkilis walked in the 11th on a checked swing.
Though the Devil Rays got two on in the 10th, including Akinori Iwamura on second with no outs, they were unable to get a run.
That was due to Snyder. Once Papelbon closed the ninth, Snyder came in for the 10th and 11th.
Our main focus in the bullpen is, obviously, picking everybody up, Snyder said. Weve got the best closer in baseball, in my opinion. I think in every8ones opinion on this team. But baseballs a funny game.
All this left Jon Lesters second outing of the season a footnote. (So, too, did it leave two impressive catches almost out of mind, a fourth-inning grab by Ramírez and a 12th-inning snag by J.D. Drew.) Lester built on his last outing, going 6 innings. He gave up solo home runs to Gomes and Josh Paul in the seventh, which closed the Sox lead to 5-4. Pauls first home run of the year knocked out Lester.
Prior to the seventh, the Devil Rays scored in the fourth and sixth on sacrifice flies (Young and Carlos Peña). The Sox scored two in the second inning on Jason Variteks single and Lugos first bases-loaded walk. They tacked on another in the third (Drew RBI single) and two more in the seventh (single by David Ortiz, sacrifice fly by Ramírez).
After the hosts cut the lead to 5-4, Lowell led off the eighth with a double and came around to score, setting the stage for Papelbon and a win that came three innings later than hoped.
That leaves the Sox with a chance for a sweep today, in a game that will feature a pair of depleted bullpens, after the Sox used five relievers and the Devil Rays six. Im sure Daisukes going to pitch no less than 160 tomorrow, Lowell kidded. Hes going to need to throw some innings.
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at email@example.com.