Continuing a dominant run of starting pitching for the Red Sox, Ryan Dempster notched 10 strikeouts over seven strong innings but again didn’t factor into the decision in the Sox’s 3-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.
With Joel Hanrahan nursing a hamstring injury, Koji Uehara came on to pitch a clean eighth, his 17th straight scoreless inning. Andrew Bailey, who had been more than reliable in 4.1 scoreless innings as a setup man (seven strikeouts, just one hit allowed) came on in the ninth for his first save opportunity of the year, but fumbled it.
He gave up a leadoff single to Desmond Jennings, who got himself into scoring position by stealing second. Then Ben Zobrist brought him around with a line-drive to left that Jackie Bradley Jr. couldn’t come up with.
The Sox needed a blast off the Monster by Mike Napoli to win in walk off fashion for the second time this season. It was the third walk-off hit of Napoli’s career. With Dustin Pedroia at first, he ripped 2-and-2 splitter for the game-deciding double.
The Sox swept the Tampa Bay for the first time since a 2010 series in Tampa. It had been four years since they took every game in a Fenway set with the Rays since.
The Sox jumped out to an early lead in the first thanks to a leadoff triple by Jacoby Ellsbury, who was then driven in by a Shane Victorino ground ball. Victorino, who came in hitting .566 with runners in scoring position, now has seven RBI on the year.
Challenged offensively, the only run Tampa Bay was able to muster up was Evan Longoria homer in the fourth. The Sox reclaimed the lead in the fifth when Jarrod Saltalamacchia smacked an 0-and-2 pitch over the Sox bullpen.
The Sox, who have won all four of their series to start the season, improved to 8-4, second in the American League behind the Oakland As.
Bottom of the ninth, Red Sox 2, Rays 2: As a setup man, Andrew Bailey couldn’t have been more reliable. He had four holds in five outings. His 4.1 were all scorelss. He had only allowed one hit. He piled up seven strikeouts.
With Joel Hanrahan struggling and nursing a hamstring injury, the Sox turned to Bailey to close out the game with a one-run lead, but he couldn’t slam the door.
He gave up a leadoff single to Desmond Jennings, who then swiped second. Ben Zobrist shot a line drive to left that Jackie Bradley Jr. couldn’t come up with and Jennings came around to tie the game up.
Bailey, who blew three of his nine save chances last season, botched his first opportunity this year.
Bottom of the seventh, Red Sox 2, Rays 1: Ryan Dempster makes it seven solid innings, adding another outing of two runs or less for Sox starters and setting up Koji Uehara for the eighth and likely Andrew Bailey in the ninth.
Meanwhile, the attendance for today’s game is 37,449. It’s the first Fenway sellout since the streak ended last week.
Top of the sixth, Red Sox 2, Rays 1: Ryan Dempster got himself into a two-out, first-and-third jam and the only way out of is was through Evan Longoria, who homered in his last at-bat.
Longoria shot one up the middle and it looked like it would be a run-scoring single, but shortstop Stephen Drew smothered it then got up in time to fire a through that was strong enough to make it a bang-bang play at first.
As soon as he got the emphatic punch out from umpire Angel Hernandez, Longoria hung his head. Rays manager Joe Maddon had a talk with Hernandez between innings.
But with a big defensive play, Dempster was able to get through the sixth for the first time this season and with no one warming up in the Red Sox bullpen will come out for the seventh.
Bottom of the fifth, Red Sox 2, Rays 1: Jarrod Saltalamacchia just mashed his second home run of the season on an 0-and-2 pitch to give the Sox the lead again.
At the very beginning of the year, there was a point when Saltalamacchia saw more than 50 pitches in the first two games, being more selective after striking out a career-high 139 times.
He said, “I think it’s the same approach I’ve had in the past. Obviously, my strikeout numbers were high last year but I think I still saw pitches. It seemed like every time I was going 2-2, 3-2 and just not getting the hit.
“So it’s the same approach, I’m just trying not to miss pitches when I get them and limit the bad pitches I swing at.”
The last part is pretty important. According to Fangraphs, he’s still swinging at a lot of pitches (38.1 percent), but not nearly as much as years past. Last year he swung at 49.1 percent of the balls he saw. The year before that it was 51 percent.
Bottom of the fourth, Red Sox 1, Rays 1: Some fun facts on Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson from the good folks at the Tampa Tribune.
1. He played shooting guard at Hoover High in Des Moines, Iowa
2. He basically only owns Call of Duty, NBA 2K, and Madden for PS3.
3. He is 11-8 with a 2.91 ERA in 22 career day-game starts.
The last one explains the way he’s thrown it so far today. He’s allowed just one run on one hit through four innings. Right now, it’s easily the best of his three starts this season. He’s in a stare-down with Dempster right now.
One last thing.
This is the most amazing thing he’s ever seen as an athlete. I’ll see him that and raise him this.
Top of the fourth, Red Sox 1, Rays 1: Evan Longoria had never gone this deep into the season without an extra base hit. All 11 of his knocks this year had been singles until he decided to jump on a belt-high fastball from Dempster with two outs and none on.
He shipped it over the Wall and knotted the game up.
Bottom of the third, Red Sox 1, Rays 0: Jackie Bradley Jr.’s now hitless in his last 15 at-bats with eight strikeouts.
He hasn’t seemed too shaken by his struggles, and neither has manager John Farrell
“He’s also human and there’s some frustration involved,” Farrell said. “But we knew that there were challenges likely to emerge. If we didn’t feel like he had the capacity to respond or handle those in a stable way, we wouldn’t have taken the gamble to bring him with us.”
Top of the third, Red Sox 1, Rays 0:Ryan Dempster’s still faced the minimum, a bunt single standing as the most damage done to him so far.
He’s up to five strikeouts already. He got Jose Lobaton with a slider on a full count and he got Kelly Johnson staring at an inside fastball to end the inning.
Meanwhile, in his off time, Dempster goofed around with some kids for NESN. It’s cute.
Bottom of the first, Red Sox 1, Rays 0: Shane Victorino’s sort of a master of the minutiae. He drove in his seventh run of the season, brining in Jacoby Ellsbury with a ground all to second.
He’s reached base in all but one game. He’s tied with Pedroia for the team lead in multi-hit games. But moreover, he’s second in the American League with a .556 average with running in scoring position.
Top of the first, Red Sox 0, Rays 0: Ryan Dempster’s got 15 strikeouts and a 3.60 era, but he’s still looking for his first win.
He hasn’t been able to push past five innings yet this year but with a pretty efficient first (three up, three down, two strikeouts, 12 pitches) that might change.
Pregame: Dustin Pedroia can set a personal milestone today. After a three-hit day Sunday, he’s at 11 straight games with either a walk or a hit to start the season, matching a career-high.
He’s hitting .333 for the year with four RBIs. His OBP is .810. He’s got hits in eight off 11 games and he’s walked a team-high seven times.
Manager John Farrell said it’s in his DNA.
“Consistent with who Dustin is,” said Farrell. “He never gives an at-bat away. Even on days when he might be scuffling a little bit at the plate, he’ll find a way to get on base, find a way to steal a base, as it was two days ago.
“I thought yesterday was probably the best day at the plate he’s had to date — couple of base hits, the other way, then he gets a pitch on the inner half that he drives off the Wall. That to me shows that his timing and what he’s looking to do at the plate is starting to become a little more consistent.”
The last Red Sox second baseman to reach base in the first 12 games of a season was Felix Mantilla in 1965, who did it in 14 straight.
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