SOX WIN (3:52, END 9, 8-7 SOX)
Ramon Ramirez gave up a one-out single up the middle to Jon Weber and a walk to Zobrist, making the victory precarious, especially after an Adam Kennedy sacrifice fly put the tying run 90 feet from home. But, after Farrell came out for a chat, Ramirez held on by inducing Willy Aybar to ground to second. The Sox scored six in the final two innings to ensure Buchholz leaves camp without a loss — Masterson gets the win, Balfour the loss.
ANGEL IN THE INFIELD (3:35, BOT 8, 8-7 SOX)
Angel Chavez singled up the middle, giving the Red Sox their third run of the eighth inning and the lead. All of the damage this inning came off Grant Balfour, a prominent member of the Rays bullpen who played a starring role in the Red Sox’ Game 5 comeback last year — he surrendered the home run to David Ortiz. Joe Maddon yanked him as Varitek came to the plate.
GREEN DELIVERS (3:30, BOT 8, 7-7)
Green drove in Velazquez and Jason Place, who had walked, with a two-RBI double to left-center. Great day for Green, who also learned earlier today he’s almost certainly going to make the Opening Day roster.
CATCHING UP (3:22, BOT 8, 7-5 RAYS)
The Red Sox crept closer when Jason Varitek, batting lefthanded, smashed a three-run home run in the seventh. Gil Velazquez just led off the eighth with a double, and moved to third on a dribbler by Rocco Baldelli.
I didn’t see Varitek’s home run, because Buchholz was available in the clubhouse. He took an optimistic view about his outing, saying he knows there’s gonna be days like this. Here’s a snippet:
“When I was sitting in my locker, I was overlooking everything, and I don’t think there was anything in particular that was that bad. I left a couple pitches up, and they hit a couple home runs. Other than that, just little things. They hit a couple balls just out of reach. If those happened to be caught, it’s two outs and it’s a different scenario. I kept throwing the ball. I kept pounding the zone. I threw a good number of strikes to fastball hitters with the fastball. A couple hard-hit balls got out, and they got a couple runs off them. You’re going to have a game like that every now and then. So I’ll take this one.”
MASTERSON ROLLS (3:01, MID 7, 7-2 RAYS)
Masterson cruised in his second inning out of the pen, setting down the Rays 1-2-3. His outing has been sharp. He’s really the victim of one bad pitch that stayed fair by a few feet.
MASTERSON GIVES ONE UP (2:51, MID 6, 7-2 RAYS)
Masterson’s relief debut got off to a great start, with a strikeout of Chris Richard. The next batter, Jon Weber, rocked a 3-2 pitch high and deep, just inside the right field foul pole, for a two-run homer. One of the runs is charged to Buchholz, who officially allowed six runs on nine hits and a walk in 5 1/3 innings. Zobrist grounded to second to end the inning.
BUCH STOPS HERE (2:42, TOP 6, 5-2 RAYS)
The afternoon ended on a sour and fitting note for Buchholz. With one out, Gabe Kapler lashed a double into the corner in right. After Drew dug it out and hurled it back to the infield, Francona trudged out of the dugout. Buchholz stared at the baseball, handed it Francona, then walked off the mound and into the dugout holding his glove in his right hand.
Justin Masterson is in now, making his first bullpen showing of the spring.
TEK DIFFICULTY (2:34, END 5, 5-2 RAYS)
The Red Sox went in order, but Varitek managed a hit, anyway. Batting lefthanded, he laced a ball into the right field corner. It seemed like a sure double, but Gabe Gross quickly coralled the ball, turned, and fired a one-hop BB into second base. Varitek slid in, barely out.
BUCHHOLZ SETTLES (2:26, MID 5, 5-2 RAYS)
Buchholz rebounded from his first really bad inning of the spring. The Rays got a two-out single from Matt Joyce, nothing. The wind is really tricky today; Drew nearly botched a can of corn that almost drifted over his head, but he snagged it for the third out.
DOUBLING UP (2:19, END 4, 5-2 RAYS)
The Red Sox finally solved Sonnanstine. Ellsbury led off with a lined double into the right field corner, and Pedroia drove him in with a double to the opposite field. After Ortiz walked and Drew singled sharply to left-center, the Sox had the bases loaded with one out. Bay flied to the warning track in center, plenty deep for Pedroia to scamper home. Lowell flied to center to end the inning and strand two.
BUCHHOLZ KNOCKED AROUND (2:04, MID 4, 5-0 RAYS)
The inning began with a very ugly symmetry for Buchholz. Aybar doubled, and Matt Joyce hit a home run. Riggans hit another double, and Gabe Gross hit another home run. Four batters, four runs for the Rays.
Both doubles were kind of strange — Aybar’s ball looked like a lazy fly, and then all of a sudden the wind pushed it to the warning track, and Riggans blooped a hit to right that turned into a double when Drew dived and missed. Still, that was by far the hardest Buchholz has been hit all spring.
Buchholz recovered to retire the next two Rays before Sadler smacked a double to right-center. Pitching coach John Farrell came to the mound for a talk. Zobrist flied to the warning track in center to end the inning. In total, Buchholz has allowed five runs and seven hits.
SONNANSTINE ROLLS ON (1:53, END 3, 1-0 RAYS)
Mike Lowell grounded up the middle, and Adam Kennedy made a backhanded play and a throw in more than enough time to nab Lowell, who looked slow down the first base line. (Lowell has moved laterally well this spring, but down the line, you can see the effects of his hip surgery.) Lowrie grounded to first, and Jason Varitek grounded to second.
As far as omens go, this probably isn’t a good one: The first time the Red Sox posted their projected Opening Day lineup, they endured a full time through it without one base runner. Kevin Youkilis’s fly to center was the only ball to leave the infield.
SCORELESS STREAK SNAPPED (1:44, MID 3, 1-0 RAYS)
Chris Richard reached with a one-out double. After Buchholz unsuccessfully tried to pick him (he loves those pickoffs), he got Ray Sadler to ground out for the second out, bringing up Zobrist. Zobrist laced a line drive to right center. Ellsbury sprinted and dived for it, but the ball nicked off the end off his glove and rolled to the wall. Zobrist raced to third and Richard scored easily, snapping Buchholz’s streak of innings without allowing an earned run at 12. He did, however, strike out Adam Kennedy to end the inning.
EASY DOES IT (1:31, END 2, 0-0)
Sonnanstine rolled through the second, retiring Youkilis (fly to center), J.D. Drew (grounder to second), and Jason Bay (K). All zeros here.
QUICK SIX (1:26, MID 2, 0-0)
Buchholz has continued his remarkable spring so far. He needed just six pitches to get through the second, striking out Matt Joyce, inducing a grounder to short by Shawn Riggans, and getting Gabe Gross to line to left.
SONN HAS A GUN (1:22, END 1, 0-0)
Andy Sonnanstine dominated the Red Sox last season. In three starts, including the playoffs, Sonnanstine went 1-0 with 1.33 ERA in 20 1/3 innings, striking out 14 and allowing a .176 average. He picked up where he left off in the first — Jacoby Ellsbury popped to the infield, Dustin Pedroia grounded to short, and David Ortiz grounded to the right side.
PICKY, PICKY (1:18, MID 1, 0-0)
After Clay Buchholz’s disastrous day with pickoff attempts in his last start — when he uncorked two erratic throws that sent runners to third base — Terry Francona rebuffed the idea that Buchholz should be more “careful” with them. The move is so quick and so effective, the key was not doing it less, but doing it better.
So after Buchholz surrendered a five-pitch walk to leadoff hitter Ben Zobrist, Buchholz didn’t hesitate. He hopped, twisted, and fired, trying to pick off Zobrist, who slid in safely. Adam Kennedy flied to center and Willy Aybar struck out looking. Buchholz wasn’t done with Zobrist. He threw over again, and this time Zobrist, leaning the wrong way, was tagged out by Kevin Youkilis.