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Red Sox, 3-1; Rays, 6-2

Triple double

Sox turn three but settle for just one win

By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / August 17, 2011

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No one seemed better suited to sum up the mind-boggling events of yesterday’s doubleheader split between the Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays than Jed Lowrie.

The Red Sox shortstop began the day expecting to catch a breather in Game 1, but was summoned to make his first major league start at designated hitter for the ailing David Ortiz (right heel bursitis).

Then, in the second game, he drew the start at third for the ailing Kevin Youkilis (sore back), and in the fourth inning he started a triple play, the first 5-4-3 in club history. He also made a throwing error in the second inning with two men aboard that enabled the Rays to score their first run in Tampa Bay’s 6-2 victory. The Sox won the opener, 3-1.

“Yeah, I mean, there were a lot of crazy things that happened in the games,’’ Lowrie said. “All sorts of crazy stuff.’’

The Red Sox ran up against a pair of complete-game pitching efforts by James Shields, for his franchise-record ninth of the season, and Jeff Niemann, who outdueled Erik Bedard, in the nightcap.

Tampa’s dynamic duo allowed five runs on six hits and a pair of walks, and they struck out 16. They limited the Sox to a season-low three hits in each game, but allowed Boston to score all of its runs on homers, including a pair of clouts by Jacoby Ellsbury - a decisive three-run homer off Shields in the third inning of the first game and a solo shot off Niemann in the sixth of the nightcap.

“He pitched well,’’ Ellsbury said of Niemann, who struck out 10. “He has good stuff. He was locating and he was getting guys to chase and he was very effective.’’

The Sox started two lefthanders for the first time since April 26, 1992, when Matt Young and Joe Hesketh went to the mound against the Rangers.

This time, the Sox got mixed results.

Jon Lester went seven innings in Game 1 before a Fenway crowd of 38,525. He overcame a sluggish start, allowing one run on first-inning doubles by Desmond Jennings and Ben Zobrist, to throw six scoreless frames. He retired 12 in a row, striking out the side in the fourth and getting the Rays to go 1-2-3 in the fifth on six pitches.

“Going into it, you know it’s going to be a tight game,’’ said Lester (12-6, 3.22 ERA), who got superb bullpen support from Daniel Bard, who threw a perfect eighth, and Jonathan Papelbon, who clinched it with a 1-2-3 ninth to pick up his 28th save.

“He’s not going to make a lot of mistakes,’’ Lester said of Shields. “Fortunately, when he did make mistakes that one inning, we took advantage of it. And that’s what you have to do against a good pitcher.’’

Bedard, making his third start since being acquired from Seattle at the July 31 trading deadline, wasn’t as fortunate in the nightcap.

He allowed singles to the first two batters, which produced a pair of runs, one unearned because of Lowrie’s throwing error. After Jason Varitek’s solo homer in the third cut the Sox’ deficit to 2-1, Bedard gave up back-to-back singles to B.J. Upton and Zobrist, but got out of the fourth when Sean Rodriguez grounded into a 5-4-3 triple play.

Lowrie fielded Rodriguez’s grounder and tagged third, then threw to Dustin Pedroia for the force at second. Pedroia, who had a pair of web gems in each game, then wheeled and dealed to first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to turn Boston’s first triple play since John Valentin’s unassisted triple play vs. Seattle July 8, 1994.

“The fans got a good kick out of it,’’ Gonzalez said. “It was great, but I was just glad to get out of the inning. We went from [runners on] first and second with no outs to being out of the inning on one pitch.’’

Jennings homered off Bedard over the Monster Seats in left to make it 3-1 in the fifth.

Ellsbury then took Niemann deep to right to cut it to 3-2, but the Sox bullpen imploded. Matt Albers relieved Bedard after 102 pitches (72 strikes) and proceeded to cough up three runs on three hits.

It was that kind of wild and crazy day-night doubleheader in the Fens.

“The way Shields and Niemann pitched tonight, we had to grind for every run we got,’’ said Lowrie, who went home with a souvenir: the triple-play ball. “We scored every run on home runs. We had a three-run home run in the first game and two solo home runs in the last game. So they were pretty stingy tonight and today. Two complete games by their starters, it’s pretty impressive.’’

Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.

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