(9:05, top of the ninth, Rays 6, White Sox 2
Outstanding relief pitching by Grant Balfour and particularly lefty J.P, Howell allowed the Rays to hold on to a 3-2 lead until the Rays broke it wide open in the eighth with three runs to take a 6-2 lead. The Rays are about to go up 2-0 in this series.
Howell got out of a two-on, nobody out situation in the 7th in relief of Balfour and retired the side. In the eighth, he struck out the first two batters, allowed a single to Orlando Cabrera and then went 3-0 to Nick Swisher before coming back to strike him out on a called third strike.
The Rays added three runs in the eighth, a rally started by B.J. Upton’s triple to left-center. Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli and Dioner Navarro all had RBI hits.
(8:00 p.m., bottom of the sixth, Tampa Bay 3, Chicago 2)
That little pepper-pot Akinori Iwamura stroked a two-run homer off lefty Mark Buehrle to left-center field in the fifth inning to erase Chicago’s 2-1 lead.
This left-handed hitting second baseman is a little pest. He doesn’t get much notice, but he always seems to get a big hit at a key time. No. 9 hitter Jason Bartlett had started the fifth with a single to left field after one out and Iwamura hammered the 1-1 offering as the crowd here went absolutely crazy with cow bells clanging and Rays chants all over the place.
Rays starter Scott Kazmir was out after 5-1/3 innings, relieved by Grant Balfour. Kazmir allowed 98 pitches, his usually high pitch count which prevents him from pitching deep into games. Balfour came on with a runner at second base and one out. Of course, the first man he faced was Orlando Cabrera, with whom he had the dust up in Game 1. Balfour retired him with a ground out to second base and then he got Nick Swisher to fly out to left field. End of threat.
(7:10 p.m., bottom of the third, White Sox 2, Rays 1)
This Tampa Bay team really has a fighting spirit. Down 2-0, they chipped away at Mark Buerhle with a run in the bottom of the second on Dioner Navarro’s single through the hole between first and second base, after Willy Aybar singled and ChiSox second baseman Alexei Ramirez made a poor throw that got by first baseman Paul Konerko, sending Aybar to third base.
The Rays are playing this game without Haverhill’s Carlos Pena, who was scratched from the lineup before the game after he continued to suffer blurred vision in his left eye as a result of a household accident Wednesday. Pena was removed from Game 1 after two innings. He arrived to the ballpark after a visit to the eye doctor and thought he was fine, but after taking batting practice realized he couldn’t go. Joe Maddon had to shuffle the lineup around. He inserted Willy Aybar at first, moved left-fielder Carl Crawford up to the No. 3 spot and added young outfielder Fernando Perez to right field while switching Rocco Baldelli from RF to DH.
(6:50 p.m., bottom of the 2nd, 2-0 White Sox)
The White Sox are up on Tampa Bay 2-0 in the second inning. Scott Kazmir had a tough first inning, loading the bases right off the bat when he hit leadoff hitter Orlando Cabrera, walked Nick Swisher and allowed a single to Jermaine Dye.
After one out, Jim Thome singled in the first ChiSox run and Alexei Ramirez’ sac fly to left scored the second run. The White Sox reloaded the bases on A.J. Pierzynski’s infield single to third, but Kazmir finally buckled down and struck out Juan Uribe to end the inning.
Kazmir also put two runners on in the second, but got out of it. Never been a big believer in Kazmir’s mental toughness.