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Red Sox 7, Rays 3

Delayed reaction: Sox' offense pours it on Rays

Sox offense finds its swing

Red Sox manager Terry Francona said the team's offense is coming around after scoring seven runs in a rain-delayed game against the Rays on Friday night.
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / May 3, 2008

For those tired, cold souls still clapping and jumping around Fenway Park as the final train rumbled through Kenmore Station, all that movement wasn't just to keep warm on a damp, chilly night. There was, finally, offense, and a reason to cheer before the ninth inning, with a few extra-base hits (five) sprinkled in.

With the bats cold and the arms hot in recent games, the opposite was (mostly) true last night in the Red Sox' 7-3 win over the Rays (after being swept in Florida last weekend).

As they sat huddled in the clubhouse waiting for the rain delay to end, it's not hard to imagine Red Sox hitters dreaming about facing a struggling pitcher.

Other than his last start, Saturday against Clay Buchholz, the Rays' Edwin Jackson had lost two straight, allowing 11 hits and 11 runs in 9 1/3 innings.

Or maybe the Red Sox were just watching the Celtics, like the 37,541 who actually stuck around for the delayed first pitch, which came at 9:32 p.m.

By the time the 2-hour-27-minute rain de lay ended, the other local team was on the ropes, and the Red Sox were ready to play ball. At least their offense was. The pitching? That's debatable.

Although Buchholz (2-2) slithered through trouble, and the offense busted through a recent slump with 13 hits, relievers Javier Lopez and Manny Delcarmen had to fight through the seventh.

They were not helped by another error by shortstop Julio Lugo (No. 8), which led to two unearned runs. That turned a blowout into a 6-3 game, one in which the Sox were forced to use their best relievers, who set down the last six Rays in order. Hideki Okajima was spotless in the eighth and Jonathan Papelbon cleaned up in the ninth.

The Sox pushed a run across in the eighth. Brandon Moss (2 for 4) led off with a single to right and scored on Jason Varitek's deep double to left-center, but the Rays slipped out a jam. With one out, Jacoby Ellsbury was intentional walked and Pedroia singled to right, loading the bases for David Ortiz.

But Big Papi grounded to first, forcing Varitek at home, then Manny Ramírez, who left six on base, struck out swinging for the third time.

The long-lost Sox offense returned in the fourth inning. After scoring once in the third, though Ramírez left two on when he struck out, the Sox broke through in the fourth.

That would be a five-run fourth, surpassing the number of runs scored in their previous five games. Over that span, the Sox had a .153 batting average with just four extra-base hits.

Starting with Moss's two-out home run to straightaway center, the Sox added four more on singles (Varitek, Ellsbury, Pedroia, and Ortiz) and a Lugo walk. It ended when Ramírez struck out swinging again.

"Pedey had a big two-out hit," Sox manager Terry Francona said. "That certainly changed the inning. Sometimes that's what it is. I don't know how many pitches we made [Jackson] throw. It was a lot, and we haven't been able to do that. I don't think it was a different attitude, we just had some success in an inning and it carried over enough for us to win the game."

Pedroia went 3 for 5 with three RBIs, and upped his average to .305.

"We haven't had a lot of room to work with," he said. "Nothing really going on for about a week. We've been facing guys that were pounding the zone with good stuff. We didn't really have an opportunity to get things going. We weren't swinging the bats at our best either."

Even with the large cushion, it took some luck for Buchholz to avoid trouble. He allowed five hits and four walks and threw 95 pitches in 5 1/3 innings, the Rays scoring on a wild pitch in the fifth. Buchholz needed some help from Carl Crawford, though, to get out of the inning.

After Jason Bartlett scored on a wild pitch, Crawford, who had doubled, moved to third. Then Crawford danced off third base as third baseman Mike Lowell fielded a Jonny Gomes grounder and threw to first. Crawford took off for home, but Kevin Youkilis sent the relay to Varitek and Crawford was tagged out. Double play. End of the inning.

Buchholz was aided in the second inning, too, as Evan Longoria got thrown out at the plate to end the frame. Bartlett singled to right, and Moss made a strong throw to nail Longoria, Buchholz leaving unscathed after walking the first two batters of the inning.

Buchholz hooked up in a pitchers' duel with Jackson last Saturday in St. Petersburg, Fla. Jackson threw seven innings, giving up just one run, and Buchholz matched him until allowing a two-run homer to Akinori Iwamura in the eighth. But last night's rematch didn't come close to that sort of mound magic. Jackson was done after allowing nine hits and six runs in four innings.

"We know we're a good offensive team and we know we're going to hit," Lugo said. "We just get anxious, start getting overanxious. We know we're going to hit."

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