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Rays 9, Red Sox 4

Tamped down

Rays rip Sox, whose bullpen gets pounded

By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / July 1, 2010

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The walk to the mound is slow and uncomfortable for Red Sox manager Terry Francona, the veteran of too many knee surgeries. And it has gotten even more uncomfortable of late, as reliever after reliever has let him down.

Save for Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon — yes, even with those blown saves in Colorado — Francona has almost no one he can trust, with Manny Delcarmen struggling significantly of late. Add Delcarmen’s troubles to those of Hideki Okajima and Ramon Ramirez, and there has been little effectiveness from the Boston bullpen recently, especially last night in the Sox’ 9-4 loss to the Rays.

As for Delcarmen, there might be a reason beyond simply poor pitching. He has been suffering from elbow trouble the last week, and is scheduled to see a doctor tomorrow.

“My elbow, a little bit,’’ Delcarmen said. “I think it’s something in my forearm. It’s been like that for a week. It’s been getting better every day, just having a little trouble getting extension on the ball. So I’m going to see how the day off [today] goes, and see how I feel on Friday.’’

Delcarmen, helped by Ramirez, turned a two-run game into a blowout, with six Tampa runs scoring in the eighth inning of a loss that prevented the Sox from grabbing a share of first place. It would have been the first time they had been in first since beating the Yankees on Opening Day. Delcarmen, who had Tommy John surgery in the minor leagues, said he was “a little bit’’ concerned. As for the disabled list, “I’m hoping not,’’ he said. But neither Delcarmen nor Francona shot down the possibility.

“He’s still having a little bit of trouble, like with the extension, just feeling it,’’ Francona said. “We talked to him after the game. I don’t know. We’ll keep getting it looked at. He’s been fighting it a little bit. Couple first-pitch fastballs, and all of a sudden it’s first and third before he can even take a breath. Velocity’s still pretty good, just that last little bit is bothering him.’’

Every Rays batter got up in the eighth, and most of them connected. Delcarmen began the inning by allowing a single, a double, an infield single, a walk, and another single. On came Ramirez, who gave up a three-run homer over the Green Monster by Jason Bartlett, his second homer of the year.

Over his last three appearances, Delcarmen has been horrendous, having allowed nine earned runs and only recording three outs. He has given up nine hits and two walks, striking out no one. He has been no relief exactly at the time the Sox need someone in their bullpen besides Bard and Papelbon to start producing.

“It [stunk],’’ Delcarmen said. “Coming in 3-1, I feel like if I felt normal and felt 100 percent . . . ’cause I take the ball whenever Tito gives it to me. Probably stubborn at times. Probably should not take it sometimes, but I still feel like I can go out there and compete. I was just leaving the ball right down the plate and I couldn’t throw my offspeed for strikes.’’

While the Sox could barely buy a baserunner, the Rays had plenty of them. In the first inning, Boston starter Daisuke Matsuzaka walked the bases loaded. He managed to get a line drive off the bat of John Jaso to center field, where it was caught by Mike Cameron to the end the inning.

“He pitched behind in the count for most of the night,’’ Francona said of Matsuzaka. “That’s a tough way to be successful.’’

There was another liner, though, that wasn’t caught. Matsuzaka walked Matt Joyce (.083 average) to lead off the fourth. That was followed by a single by Jaso and, after a foul pop to the catcher, a double to center by Kelly Shoppach that had Cameron up against the wall. He couldn’t nab it.

“I didn’t want the wall to try to come into play, as I tried to make a play on it,’’ Cameron said. “I didn’t want to give up on it, ’cause I’d probably come up short. I probably had like another step to go, and probably could have made a play on it. Just kind of a work in progress. It’s unfortunate that that kind of started it for them.’’

Two runs scored, and one out later Ben Zobrist singled to center, giving Tampa Bay its third run of the game.

Matsuzaka actually left having thrown a quality start, giving up three runs on four hits over six innings and striking out seven. He wasn’t helped by four walks, though, increasing his pitch count early and forcing him to do much of his work with men on base.

Matt Garza, meanwhile, was demonstrating excellent stuff against the Sox, in a ballpark in which he has a 3.10 ERA over eight starts. Though he allowed a single to Marco Scutaro to lead off the first, the Rays starter wouldn’t allow another hit until there were two outs in the fifth, when Jason Varitek singled. That was a span of 14 batters, in which the only baserunner was David Ortiz, with a fourth-inning walk.

“He was pretty good early on,’’ Cameron said. “When a guy’s throwing that many strikes then it makes you that much more aggressive at the plate.’’

No Sox batter got past first until the sixth, when Ortiz hit a double high off the Wall near the yellow line in center, bringing home Eric Patterson.

“I have to,’’ Ortiz said, about going to the opposite field in the sixth. “That was my problem at the beginning of the year, I was trying to pull everything. They were pitching me away, away, away. I had to make the adjustment.’’

Boston got three more runs in the eighth, with singles by Scutaro and Patterson turning into two runs on a double by Ortiz, this time to right field. The designated hitter then came home on a sacrifice fly by Adrian Beltre.

Ortiz has 17 home runs and 53 RBIs in 65 games this season. Not only has he turned it on since his awful April, including seven RBIs in his last three games, but he also had reassuring words after the loss, even as the Sox faced losing yet another player to the ever-growing disabled list.

“It’s one game,’’ Ortiz said. “What have we played, 79? We’re OK.’’

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