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Suspension called as Sox, Rays can’t weather storm

Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia lined to short in the eighth inning of a 1-1 game as the rain began to get heavy at Fenway Park last night. Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia lined to short in the eighth inning of a 1-1 game as the rain began to get heavy at Fenway Park last night. (Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff)
By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / April 17, 2010

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At least half the seats at Fenway Park were empty last night when Jonathan Papelbon struck out B.J. Upton to end the top of the ninth inning. Those who braved the cold weather and persistent rain felt sure their loyalty would be rewarded with a victory.

If so, a different crowd will celebrate. The 1-1 game was suspended before the Red Sox came to the plate, called after a delay of 63 minutes. The game will be restarted at 7:10 tonight before the teams play the second game of the series 30-45 minutes following the opener’s completion. More rain is in the forecast for today.

Only tickets for the regularly scheduled game will be honored tonight. Tickets from the suspended game are no longer valid.

The Sox are scheduled to have David Ortiz at the plate, with Adrian Beltre and Jeremy Hermida to follow. The Rays had just called righthander Lance Cormier to the mound before the delay.

“I got sad,’’ Ortiz said. “I was ready to hit a walkoff.’’

It was the first suspended game for the Sox since May 3, 1996, against Toronto. Leading, 6-1, at the time, they finished off an 8-7 victory the next day. It was the first regular-season suspension for Tampa Bay. The Rays lost Game 5 of the 2008 World Series to the Phillies after a suspension that lasted 46 hours.

Sox manager Terry Francona wasn’t sure how to react.

“It’s kind of a unique feeling,’’ he said. “We’re going to feel one way or another, we just don’t know what it is yet.’’

After a strong seven innings by Josh Beckett, Hideki Okajima and Papelbon held the Rays down. Okajima retired the Rays in order in the eighth before Papelbon worked around a two-out walk to Carlos Pena in the ninth by striking out Upton with a 95-mile-per-hour fastball.

Sox pitchers retired 14 of the last 16 Tampa Bay hitters before the tarp was put down, and allowed only two hits after the third inning.

“I’ll definitely feel better if we win,’’ said Beckett, who allowed one unearned run on four hits with one walk and eight strikeouts. “I’ve never really been in this position.’’

Beckett gave up five runs in 4 2/3 innings against the Yankees on Opening Night. He has allowed three earned runs over 14 innings in two starts since.

“I made some pitches when I needed to [last night]. It wasn’t ideal conditions for the guys playing behind me,’’ Beckett said. “To get through seven was big.’’

The Rays scored their run thanks to some shabby defense by the Red Sox. With two outs, Carl Crawford grounded a ball sharply up the middle that glanced off the glove of shortstop Marco Scutaro for an error. Crawford stole second, his 28th consecutive successful steal against the Sox going back to the end of the 2005 season. Ben Zobrist then chopped a ball to third base that Adrian Beltre lost in the lights. It rolled into the outfield as Crawford scored.

“He was fighting it the whole way,’’ Francona said. “The ball bounced so high, it was like a popup.’’

Beckett struck out the dangerous Evan Longoria to end the inning, but the error cost him 13 extra pitches along with the run.

Tampa Bay’s Wade Davis, a 24-year-old righthander making his eighth big-league start, dominated the Sox over the first four innings, allowing only one hit.

Francona left Ortiz hitting fifth despite his struggles this season. But right fielder J.D. Drew, who has actually been worse than Ortiz, was moved up to second in front of Dustin Pedroia to try to get him better pitches to hit.

“Pedey is probably swinging the bat better than anyone we have,’’ Francona said before the game. “Hopefully we can get J.D. in a situation where we get him some fastballs and get him on track.’’

Drew has been passive at the plate, letting hittable pitches sail by. That led to him striking out in 13 of his first 28 at-bats. Drew saw four pitches in the first inning, three of them strikes. He fouled one off and swung and missed at the other two. It was his ninth strikeout in 12 at-bats. He later grounded out twice and walked, dropping his average to .129.

Davis made his one mistake in the fifth inning, leaving a curveball high enough in the strike zone for Jason Varitek to drive into the seats above the wall in left. It was the third hit of the season for Varitek, all home runs.

Varitek would not speak at length to reporters afterward.

“Don’t try and trick me,’’ he said. “The game isn’t over yet.’’

Davis threw 104 pitches through five innings. On a cold night, that was enough for Rays manager Joe Maddon, who called on Grant Balfour to start the sixth inning.

The righthander walked Kevin Youkilis to start the inning, bringing up Ortiz. With the crowd chanting, “Papi, Papi,’’ Ortiz drove a 2-2 fastball down the first base line and into right field.

Tim Bogar, who this season has replaced new bench coach DeMarlo Hale as the third base coach, sent Youkilis to the plate. But second baseman Reid Brignac took the throw from Zobrist and threw out Youkilis.

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