Red Sox drop back to .500 after loss to Rays
It’s almost as if Will Middlebrooks heard Wade Boggs in the NESN booth last night when the Red Sox legend spoke of the tremendous pressure on young players who replace beloved veterans. Almost on cue, Middlebrooks hit a two-run homer with an 0-2 count in the fourth inning to put the Red Sox up 2-1 over the Tampa Bay Rays, but his heroics wouldn’t be enough as the Sox dropped Saturday night’s game to the Rays, 5-3.
The loss puts the Sox back at .500 and increases their deficit to 10 ½ games behind the first place New York Yankees. It’s their largest of the season.
Saturday night’s loss also marked the return of Clay Buchholz, who pitched a solid first six innings despite receiving the loss, allowing two runs while striking out eight. When he returned for the seventh, his outing started to sour with a walk then a hit batter. Buchholz allowed a sacrifice bunt to move those runners into scoring position, and the bullpen was unable to bail Buchholz out.
Manager Bobby Valentine told reporters he was unsure as to whether he should send Buchholz back out for the seventh inning.
“I had questions about sending him out, bug he didn’t have many pitches and he said he hadn’t even broken a sweat yet,” Valentine said.
– Jacoby Ellsbury led off the eighth inning with a double, giving him three hits in his last two games back from a rehab assignment in Pawtucket. Although injuries aren’t to blame for the lack of success from the Sox, having this team back in one piece, and producing, in the second half of the season will be key.
– The Rays scored two runs in the seventh once Matt Albers came in to relieve Buchholz, but both came without a single hit. With two runners already on base when he entered the game, Albers was in a tight spot. You have to wonder if Valentine left Buchholz in too long considering it was his first start since coming off the disabled list, leaving Albers to try to clean up what was left for him.
– With Ellsbury and Buchholz back, it looked like the Sox might be back in one piece soon, but Adrian Gonzalez and Ryan Sweeney are both questionable with a tight back and left hamstring, respectively. They were both unavailable to pinch hit in the ninth on Saturday.
Josh Beckett makes the start in a day game on Sunday against James Shields. Beckett’s last appearance came during the first night of the Yankees series where he gave up five runs in the first inning and the Sox eventually went on to take a 10-8 loss. Beckett has allowed just three earned runs in 15 innings against the Rays. He has not won a game since May 20, but with the Sox so far behind the AL East race, now is as good a time as any to start.