Final, 3-2 Red Sox: Mike Napoli gets it done, and the Red Sox win 3-2.
After Dustin Pedroia worked a walk in a very close ball four, Napoli had to endure a long break in play after Jose Molina’s catching mask broke on a foul tip. Napoli stayed relaxed though, fouling off a pitch before making solid contact despite being out on his front foot. He managed to get the ball off the Monster (remember all that offseason talk about his swing fitting in nicely at Fenway?), and Pedroia hustled all the way from first, beating the throw from left and giving the Sox the series sweep.
Middle ninth, 2-2: Bailey got off to a rough start there, but he responded very well, getting Longoria to strike out swinging, Joyce to strike out looking and Roberts to pop out to end the inning.
Victorino, Pedroia and Napoli are due up in the bottom of the ninth with a chance for the second walk-off win in three days. Joel Peralta is on for the Rays.
Top ninth, 2-2: Fans were likely happy to see Bailey on the mound instead of Hanrahan, but they didn’t get the results they wanted.
Facing the top of the order, Bailey surrendered a hard hit single to left field by Desmond Jennings to begin the inning. Jennings then stole second with Zobrist at the plate, before Zobrist hit a line drive to left. Bradley made a diving attempt out in left but was unable to make the catch, and his throw home went wild past home plate as Jennings strolled home. Zobrist advanced to second on the play, and Bailey’s yet to record an out.
End eighth, 2-1 Red Sox: Jackie Bradley Jr. struck out swinging, dropping his average down to .o96 on the year. That’s not what he or the Sox were hoping for in his first major league action, but that tends to happen from time to time.
Andrew Bailey is now coming on for the ninth inning, with Joel Hanrahan still out with a hamstring injury that many of us find to be dubious. Regardless, Bailey is getting his chance to close right here.
Middle eighth, 2-1 Red Sox: Koji Uehara continues his incredible start to the season with another 1-2-3 frame. Escobar sent a long fly-ball to left-center field, but Ellsbury camped under it. Sam Fuld, pinch hitting for Lobaton, then tapped out to first base before Uehara got Johnson to strike out swinging to end the inning.
Uehara then ran off the field and barreled into the dugout looking fired up.
(If you’re following any box scores online, they’re saving it was Tazawa pitching, but it was indeed Uehara.)
End seventh, 2-1 Red Sox: The Sox had a chance to get something going after a one-out walk by Saltalamacchia. However, Middlebrooks struck out swinging, and Saltalamacchia — who took off with the 3-2 pitch — got thrown out second to end the inning.
That will likely put the wraps on Hellickson’s day. His only real blemishes are the leadoff triple to Ellsbury and the homer by Saltalamacchia, as he struck out nine but is in line to pick up the loss if the Rays don’t score in the final two frames.
Kojie Uehara and his 0.71 opponents’ batting average comes on for the Red Sox.
Middle seventh, 2-1 Red Sox: How about that performance from Ryan Dempster? He just walked off the mound after recording his 10th strikeout of the day, allowing one run on two hits and two walks in 101 pitches.
He’s likely done for the day, but that was a great outing from Dempster, whose ERA is now at 2.65 through three starts and has now averaged more than eight strikeouts per start. It’s his first double-digit strikeout performance since last April 5.
End sixth, 2-1 Red Sox: The top of the Red Sox order got nothing done in the sixth, with Ellsbury and Victorino flying out before Pedroia grounded out to third.
In a bit of a make-up call, Loney’s toe looked to come off the bag on Longoria’s throw to first on the Pedroia grounder, but the Rays got the out call. It hardly evens things out, with the missed call in the top of the inning costing the Rays a run, so it’s not really a make-up call.
Middle sixth, 2-1 Red Sox: Ryan Dempster just got through his toughest inning yet, but not without a big assist from Stephen Drew.
With Kelly Johnson on third base (walk, stolen base, advanced to third on wild pitch) and Zobrist on first (walk), Longoria worked the count full against Dempster.
Longoria hit a ground ball up the middle that looked to be trouble, but Drew made a diving stab to his left, jumped quickly to his feet and fired a strike to first base. Longoria looked to be safe, but he was called out by first base ump Angel Hernandez. The Red Sox caught a big break with the call, but it was still a great effort by Drew to even make the play close enough for Hernandez to call Longoria out.
End fifth, 2-1 Red Sox: Hellickson tried to gas up with a high fastball on an 0-2 count, but Saltalamacchia was ready for it and crushed it into the bullpen in right field for his second home run of the year.
In keeping with the them of the day, the long bomb didn’t come before or after any other hits, with Middlebrooks following up the homer with a swinging strikeout. Stephen Drew stepped up with one out and connected on another high fastball and doubled off the base of the Green Monster. Gomes then struck out swinging before Bradley flew out to center.
Middle fifth, 1-1: This one’s halfway over, with Dempster continuing to cruise with his third 1-2-3 inning thus far. He’s struck out seven batters and has faced just one batter over the minimum through five, and he’s needed just 64 pitches thus far.
End fourth, 1-1: The Red Sox’ bats continue to be silenced by Hellickson, with Victorino, Pedroia and Napoli going down in order in the fourth. Again, with neither team able to really string together any hits, this game is flying by.
Middle fourth, 1-1: Dempster left a fastball over the heart of the plate, and Longoria made him pay, sending the pitch high over everything in left field to tie the game at 1-1.
It was Longoria’s first homer of the year.
End third, 1-0 Red Sox: Hellickson’s certainly settled in quite nicely himself as well, getting Gomes and Bradley to go down swinging before inducing a harmless pop-up from Ellsbury.
It’s been a lightning-fast first three innings at the Fens thanks to the work of Hellickson and Dempster thus far.
Middle third, 1-0 Red Sox: Ryan Dempster is dealing today, as he just picked up strikeouts No. 4 and 5 of the day to end the third.
He’s being mighty efficient, too, at just 36 pitches through three.
It looks like Clay Buchholz’s dominant performance on Sunday had a carry-over effect on the Tampa bats, because they only have one bunt single through the first three innings.
End second, 1-0 Red Sox: Good bounce-back inning for Hellickson there, as he makes short order of Saltalamacchia (strikeout swinging), Middlebrooks (fly-out to right) and Drew (strikeout looking).
Hellickson’s at 35 pitches through two, while Dempster’s thrown just 22 pitches (16 for strikes).
Middle second, 1-0 Red Sox: Dempster picked up another strikeout, his third of the day, and then got James Loney to ground into a routine 4-6-3 double play to end the inning. Matt Joyce had beaten the infield shift to lead off the inning with a bunt down the third-base line, which was probably the best strategy, considering he entered today’s game hitting .133.
End first, 1-0 Red Sox: Jacoby Ellsbury led off the first with the type of at-bat you might not expect at 11:15 in the morning. He patiently worked the count full and then fought off two fouls before launching a fastball over the head of Desmond Jennings and off the center-field wall for a leadoff triple.
Shane Victorino then grounded out to second to drive in the run and give the Sox a 1-0 lead.
Pedroia then grounded out to third, and Napoli struck out swinging but the Sox got on the board first.
Middle first, 0-0: Ryan Dempster’s arm is up early for this one, as he sent the first two batters of the game (Jennings and Zobrist) back to the dugout with swinging strikeouts. Longoria then rolled out to third to end the first frame.
11:05 a.m.: This one is under way at Fenway.
9:45 a.m.: Baseball in the morning — what a concept.
Today is one of the best days on the entire calendar for the city of Boston, as thousands of runners make their way from Hopkinton to Boylston Street and the Red Sox host their annual 11 a.m. game at Fenway Park.
For the Red Sox, it will be the first time in a long time that they host a Patriots’ Day game while owning first place. They were 4-5 going into Marathon Monday last year, 4-10 in 2011, 4-8 in 2010 and 6-6 in 2009. They were 13-7 heading into the game in 2008, which was the last time the Sox laid claim to first place on Patriots’ Day.
That is, until now, as the Sox have won two straight against the Rays and sit atop the division at 7-4. They can sweep the Rays with a win today, which would be a big deal, considering they haven’t swept any team since June of last year against the Marlins. They haven’t swept the Rays since May 2010 and haven’t swept them at Fenway since September 2009.
It’s also Jackie Robinson Day, so all players will wear No. 42 on their backs to honor the 66th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s first major league game.
Here’s what the Sox lineup looks like:
1. Jacoby Ellsbury CF
2. Shane Victorino RF
3. Dustin Pedroia 2B
4. Mike Napoli 1B
5. Jarrod Saltalamacchia C
6. Will Middlebrooks 3B
7. Stephen Drew SS
8. Jonny Gomes DH
9. Jackie Bradley Jr. LF
Ryan Dempster SP
The Rays lineup:
1. Desmond Jennings CF
2. Ben Zobrist RF
3. Evan Longoria 3B
4. Matt Joyce LF
5. Ryan Roberts 2B
6. James Loney 1B
7. Yunel Escobar SS
8. Jose Lobaton C
9. Kelly Johnson DH
Jeremy Hellickson SP