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Rays 2, Red Sox 1

Red Sox stumble a bit vs. Rays as win streak ends

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / May 17, 2012
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine sent relief pitcher Andrew Miller out to try and perform what he termed a “Houdini act’’ in the sixth inning Wednesday night.

The Rays had runners on first and third with no outs and designated hitter Luke Scott at the plate. Miller had to somehow find a way to keep the game tied at 1.

He did his job, getting Scott to swing at a high fastball and pop the ball up to shallow right field. The runner at third, Matt Joyce, wouldn’t dare try to score.

But right fielder Cody Ross stumbled, then he turned and when he finally caught the ball, he was facing center field. Joyce tagged up and by the time Ross spun back around and threw the ball, the run had scored.

It proved decisive as the Red Sox were beaten, 2-1, to snap a five-game win streak.

Ross ran in, looked to see where second baseman Dustin Pedroia was, and when he tried to find the ball again, it was lost against the dingy off-white dome covering Tropicana Field. By the time Ross found the ball again, he was out of position.

“I tried to break my stride down and kind of tripped over myself and had to reach back and grab it,’’ Ross said. “Just a lot of stuff going on in that play. It was awful. It ended up costing us the game.

Ross shook his head.

“That’s a play that has to be made,’’ he said. “No excuses. It ended up being a big play and I feel terrible about it obviously.’’

In the evolving American League East, the Rays are one of the class teams and the Red Sox are a team that used to be good and now can’t afford to make those types of mistakes.

Clay Buchholz didn’t help himself in that regard, either. His pointless balk in the second inning gave the Rays their first run.

Carlos Pena led off with a single to center field before Scott was hit in the foot by a wayward curveball.

Sean Rodriguez grounded into a double play as Pena advanced to third base. With a chance to get out of the inning, Buchholz walked Will Rhymes on a 3-and-2 cutter that drifted inside.

With Jose Molina, a .197 hitter, at the plate, Buchholz got caught up in trying to hold Rhymes at first and buckled his knee before making a pickoff move. He was called for a balk and Pena scored.

“I was going to go third to first. Came up and the back cleat sort of got caught and then I tried to spin around,’’ Buchholz said.

The third-to-first move is so ineffective that Major League Baseball is considering banning it. With a weak hitter at the plate, it makes even less sense.

“I don’t get it. Molina is at the plate,’’ Valentine said. “I don’t know.’’

It was the second time in nine games that the Red Sox allowed a run because of a balk, Daniel Bard having balked in a run against Kansas City May 8.

Franklin Morales had two balks later in the game. The Sox have six on the season.

Buchholz (4-2) otherwise pitched fairly well. He allowed two runs on six hits with one walk and five strikeouts. His changeup was the best it has been all season and he used his curveball effectively.

After a horrid start, Buchholz has allowed a more respectable five earned runs in his last 11 1/3 innings.

“I feel like I’ve put in a lot of work on the side where I can go out there and pitch with confidence and use all my pitches,’’ Buchholz said. “It’s still a work in progress for me.’’

Jeremy Hellickson (4-0) and three relievers held the Sox to seven hits. The only run came in the fourth when Jarrod Saltalamacchia doubled with two outs and scored on a single by Daniel Nava.

It was Nava’s seventh RBI in seven games since being called from Pawtucket May 10. He also has hit safely in all seven games.

The 25-year-old Hellickson has allowed five earned runs in 31 1/3 innings at home this season. He effectively used his changeup to keep the Sox guessing.

“He’s a good pitcher. With him you cant be in-between,’’ said Adrian Gonzalez, who was 0 for 4 and struck out twice. “You have to either sell out for the fastball or the changeup. He mixed his pitches well.’’

The game was delayed in the eighth when Rhymes passed out while at first base after being hit near his right elbow by a pitch from Morales. First base coach George Hendrick caught Rhymes and lowered him to the turf.

Rhymes was attended to by medical personnel and eventually got up and was taken off the field in a cart. X-rays were negative and the Rays said he was overcome by an adrenaline rush.

“When I got to first I started to get really dizzy and nauseous,’’ Rhymes said. “That’s when I started walking it off. Apparently, I didn’t get very far.’’

Said Valentine: “My heart stopped.’’

Morales said he planned to call Rhymes to check on him and was apologetic for hitting him with the pitch.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.

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