RAYS WIN, 6-4
The Sox put the lead man on against closer J.P. Howell in the ninth, but he advanced no farther as Tampa closed out a 6-4 win and a sweep of the two-game miniseries. The Rays are now three games behind the Sox in the standings (four in the loss column) and have gained a valuable two games with precisely one-third of the season remaining.
SOX SIGN BYRD; OKAJIMA STEADY (10:04 p.m., END 8, RAYS LEAD 6-4)
Well, Hideki Okajima just did what no other Sox pitcher has done tonight: he kept the Rays off the board following a half-inning in which the Red Sox had scored. Tampa closer J.P. Howell is on to try closing it out for the Rays. He will face pinch-hitter J.D. Drew to start.
On another note, the Sox just announced the signing of Paul Byrd to a minor-league contract, as sure a sign as any that the club is worried about its pitching depth.
SOX GET ANOTHER (9:52 p.m., MID 8, RAYS LEAD 6-4)
The Red Sox put runners at second and third with nobody out thanks to a walk from Dustin Pedroia and double by Victor Martinez, but the big rally resulted in only a run that will have the Sox the Sox facing at least a two-run deficit entering their final at-bat. Kevin Youkilis brought home Pedroia with a groundout, but reliever Dan Wheeler retired Jason Bay and Mike Lowell to end the inning.
Note: After grounding out, Bay left the game and was just replaced by Nick Green in left field. Bay might have aggravated a hamstring injury; we’ll know more after the game. Hideki Okajima also entered.
FOUR HOMERS FOR RAYS (9:41 p.m., END 7, RAYS LEAD 6-3)
Brad Penny is gone, but the Rays are still swinging away. Jason Bartlett just hit a solo homer – Tampa’s fourth home run of the night – to extend the lead to 6-3. On all three occasions the Sox have scored tonight, the team has taken the field only to allow the Rays to get the run(s) right back. Jeff Bennett is on to pitch for the Rays.
SOX TRIM DEFICIT (9:32 p.m., MID 7, RAYS LEAD 5-3)
The Red Sox caught a break here, Ben Zobrist dropping a Rocco Baldelli blooper after a loooooong run into short right field that was scored a two-base error. (It could just as easily have been a bloop double.) Groundouts by Jason Varitek and Jed Lowrie scored Baldelli. Reliever Lance Cormier pitched the entire inning for the Rays, Manny Delcarmen is now on for the Sox.
BURRELL GOES DEEP (9:24 p.m., END 6, RAYS LEAD 5-2)
One thing that irks pitchers: giving up runs immediately after your team has scored. And Brad Penny now has done it twice tonight. Pat Burrell just belted a solo shot with one out to give Tampa a 5-2 edge on Penny’s 99th pitch of the night, prompting immediate activity in the Boston bullpen. Penny subsequently got through the inning and – get this – the Sox even threw out a runner steal. (OK, so it was Carlos Pena.)
Penny is at 117 pitches and, undoubtedly, done for the night. Still, getting through six was a significant contribution in the bigger picture.
V IS FOR VICTOR (9:05 p.m., MID 6, RAYS LEAD 4-2)
Victor Martinez led off the sixth with his first homer as a member of the Red Sox, 17th overall, to trim the Tampa lead to 4-2. David Price retired the next three batters but threw 21 pitches in the inning, 10 to Kevin Youkilis. Price is at 107 for the game and is probably done for the night.
Youkilis has three plate appearances tonight – seven pitches, two pitches, 10 pitches. The two-pitch at-bat produced a double. Of the Sox’ six hits, five are for extra bases.
PENNY GOES 1-2-3 (8:54 p.m., END 5, RAYS LEAD 4-1)
Brad Penny just retired the Rays in order in an efficient 13-pitch inning, which does more than keep the Sox in the game. It also ensures that Penny will take the mound for the sixth, taking some strain off the bullpen and leaving the Sox in decent shape entering this weekend’s four-game series in New York – no matter whether they win or lose tonight.
PEDROIA STRANDS TWO MORE (8:47 p.m., MID 5, RAYS LEAD 4-1)
Tough night so far for Dustin Pedroia, who just stranded runners at second and third by flying out to center. That’s three LOB’s for Pedroia tonight – all in scoring position – following a double-play groundout last night that killed a Sox rally late in the game. Price is up to 86 pitches.
PENNY HANGING IN (8:34 p.m., END 4, RAYS LEAD 4-1)
The Rays put another man on – and stole another base – but they went scoreless in the fourth to keep the score at 4-1. B.J. Upton’s steal made opponents 21 of 22 against Penny this year. The 21 steals are currently the most allowed by any pitcher in baseball. Penny is up to 76 pitches.
SOX LEAVE ANOTHER (8:22 p.m., MID 4, RAYS LEAD 4-1)
The Red Sox got a one-out double from Kevin Youkilis, but David Price retired Jason Bay (foul pop) and Mike Lowell (strikeout looking) to end the threat. All three Sox hits in this game are for extra bases. Price is up to 64 pitches unofficially, 41 of them strikes.
RAYS OPENING IT UP (8:12 p.m., END 3, RAYS LEAD 4-1)
Turns out the Rays may not need the running game tonight after all – mostly because they keep hitting it out of the park. After a leadoff single by Michel Hernandez, Carl Crawford poked a two-run homer to left center that gave the Rays a 4-1 edge. The Rays also stole another base for good measure – this one by the heavy-legged Evan Longoria, this third of the year – as Penny’s pitch total reached 60.
Given the Sox’ pitching issues, don’t be surprised if Penny stays in for 100 or more pitches regardless of the score. The Sox may have to take a bullet in this one.
SOX STRAND ONE (7:57 p.m., MID 3, RAYS LEAD 2-1)
The Red Sox wasted a leadoff, broken bat double by Jason Varitek, the inning ending when Dustin Pedroia grounded to third. Varitek broke his bat and was left with nothing but the handle in his hands – and ball still hit the top of the left field wall at the Trop. Price is up to 48 pitches unofficially.
PENNY COUGHS IT UP (7:47 p.m., END 2, RAYS LEAD 2-1)
Well, so much for that lead. Brad Penny needed just three batters and 15 pitches to give away that 1-0 edge, allowing a titanic two-run homer to Carlos Pena (No. 27) after a leadoff single by Ben Zobrist. (Zobrist also stole a base for good measure, making opponents 19 of 20 against Penny this year.) Unofficially, Penny is now up to 35 pitches after throwing 25 in the inning. He actually threw 10 pitches – and not 12 – in the first
BAY BUSTS OUT (7:30 p.m., MID 2, SOX LEAD 1-0)
Jason Bay just returned to the lineup with a bang, belting a 1-0 offering deep into the left field seats for a solo homer that gave the Sox a 1-0 edge. Price retired the other three batters he faced, but he threw 20 pitches in the inning and is now up to 32 for the game. The homer was Bay’s first homer since July 7. Might he be ready to bust out?
By the way, that was the 12th homer Price has allowed in 62 innings this year. Eleven of those have come against right-handed batters.
PENNY MATCHES ANTE (7:21 p.m., END 1, NO SCORE)
The Red Sox have concerns about dipping into their bullpen too early tonight, but they’re off to a good start. Brad Penny just retired the Rays 1-2-3, needing just 10 pitches. Given Penny’s problems with base runners, it’s important that he keeps the Rays off the bases in this game.
PRICE LOOKS RIGHT (7:14 p.m., MID 1, NO SCORE)
David Price has been inconsistent this season, but if the first inning is any indication , the lefty has his good stuff tonight. Touching 95 on the stadium gun, Price retired the Sox in order in a 1-2-3 first, throwing12 pitches, nine strikes. Brad Penny now goes to the mound.