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Red Sox vs. Rays Game 2 Live Blog, August 16

08.16.11 at 7:15 pm ET
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The Red Sox will look to sweep today’s day-night doubleheader against the Rays on a night when they send newcomer Erik Bedard to the hill against Rays right-hander Jeff Niemann. For all the latest news, analysis and updates from Fenway Park, join the Live Blog below:

Red Sox vs. Rays, Game 2

Dynamic duo in Red Sox bullpen proves key late in games

08.16.11 at 5:40 pm ET
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With Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon controlling the back end of the Red Sox bullpen, the Sox can feel pretty safe when they have a lead in the late innings of games.

After Tuesday’s 3-1 win over the Rays in the first game of a day-night doubleheader, the Red Sox are 62-2 when leading after seven innings and 63-0 when leading after eight innings. The majority of the credit goes to Bard and Papelbon.

“It is fun when you know those guys are coming in the game,” said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. “It gives us a sense that we can breathe a little bit and just let them pitch their games. They have great stuff.”

Bard pitched a scoreless eighth inning, only needing 12 pitches and striking out two hitters in the process to earn his 28th hold of the season, which leads the American League.

After seeing his 25 scoreless appearance steak come to an end on Aug. 1, and giving up another run in his next outing, he has settled down nicely. In his last four appearances he has not allowed a hit while striking out eight over 4 2/3 innings.

Papelbon closed the game by pitching a perfect ninth, only needing 10 pitches to do so. It was Papelbon’s 28th save of the season, which is fourth in the AL. He has converted each of his last 23 save chances dating back to May 13, which is the longest such streak of his career and the second-longest save streak in the AL this year. He has only allowed two hits in his last 10 appearances.

Papelbon says repeating his delivery has been the key to his recent success.

“My delivery has been consistent and that usually happens when you are consistent and you go on a streak,” he said.

Saltalamacchia says Papelbon has done a better job of hiding the ball this season, which has also played a part in his success of late.

“He is pounding the strike zone and he worked on some stuff in spring training that has carried over,” he said. “He is hiding the ball a little better and just going after guys. His velocity has been great and he is challenging hitters.”

The Red Sox closer has also noticed an increase in his velocity and it is something he started to work on towards the end of last season.

“It is something [his velocity] I have done to keep my delivery consistent like I have been doing,” Papelbon said. “If I can do that, I am going to be able to put together scoreless innings more often than not.”

Added Papelbon: “I think all that started in August and September of last year. I kind of realized what I can do to create life and deception. I wasn’t doing that early in the season last year and I was able to figure it out and I have just carried it into this year, that’s all I have done.”

Read More: Daniel Bard, jarrod saltalamacchia, Jonathan Papelbon,

Despite gem, Jon Lester didn’t feel quite right until the middle innings

08.16.11 at 5:18 pm ET
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You look at Jon Lester‘€™s line from the Red Sox 3-1 win over the Rays in the opener of Tuesday’€™s doubleheader, and you’€™d think it represented something perhaps Pedro-esque:

7 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K, 1 HBP

The lone earned run. The sub-1.00 WHIP. The 8-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Those are the pitching lines that define aces.

But it wasn’€™t until the fourth inning that Lester was spinning something special. In fact, with the way his outing started, the Sox simply were hoping that he would be able to hang on.

Lester gave up doubles to two (Desmond Jennings and Evan Longoria) of the first four Rays he faced Tuesday, allowing a run mere minutes after he’€™d thrown his first pitch. The next inning he allowed two runners to reach on a walk and hit batter. Usually an impatient lineup, the Rays forced Lester to finish the second at 42 pitches, not exactly what he or the team was looking for given a doubleheader’€™s ability to screw up a bullpen.

But then Lester set down the side in the third, fourth and fifth innings ‘€“ ultimately retiring 12 batters in a row at one point ‘€“ and that ability to settle things down propelled him to his outstanding line.

Lester said he finally felt comfortable in the fourth, the inning in which he struck out the side for the first time since May 3. (On that point, he said, ‘€œI threw enough pitches. I should have felt comfortable by that point.’€) However, the fifth frame, during which he set down all three Rays hitters on two pitches a piece, may have been the official tipping point. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Jon Lester,

Tampa Bay sees a different Jacoby Ellsbury in 2011…sort of

08.16.11 at 4:40 pm ET
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In some respects, the Jacoby Ellsbury bandwagon was first revved up — albeit prematurely — by members of the Rays organization. First, of course, there was the fact that Tampa Bay (then the Rays) drafted Ellsbury out of Madras High School in the 23rd round in 2002, making a hard charge at a player who was then viewed as a raw but wildly athletic talent with significant upside potential.

But years after Ellsbury turned down Tampa Bay’s six-figure bonus offer, members of the Rays organization (which had turned over almost completely) remained major proponents of the Red Sox outfielder. Tampa Bay had first-hand experience seeing the impact that five-tool players can make, having featured the likes of B.J. Upton and Carl Crawford in their athletic primes. Members of the Rays organization saw a similar phenomenon unfolding in Ellsbury.

‘€œA guy like Ellsbury can bring up the power,’€ Rays manager Joe Maddon said in spring training prior to the 2010 season. ‘€œHe’€™s going to get beyond just being speed. He could end up hitting 20-plus home runs this year.’€

That didn’t happen in 2010, when Ellsbury missed almost 90 percent of the season due to multiple rib fractures. But this year, Ellsbury is living up to those projections. In the first game of Tuesday’s day-night doubleheader against Tampa Bay, Ellsbury jumped on an elevated James Shields changeup on a 1-1 count and crushed it over the visitor’s bullpen to deliver all the Sox’ runs in a 3-1 victory. Read the rest of this entry »

Tuesday’s Game 2 Red Sox-Rays matchups: Erik Bedard vs. Jeff Niemann

08.16.11 at 4:32 pm ET
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The Red Sox and Rays will face off in Game 2 of a day-night doubleheader Tuesday night at Fenway Park. The pitching matchup features left-hander Erik Bedard (4-7, 3.55) against right-hander Jeff Niemann (7-4, 3.43 ERA).

Bedard will be making his third start for the Red Sox since being traded to the team at last month’s trading deadline. In two starts, Bedard has two no-decisions. In his first start on Aug. 4, he gave up three runs on seven hits in five innings against the Indians. The Sox lost the game 7-4. In his last start on Aug. 9, Bedard gave up two runs on three hits in five innings. All the runs came in the first inning when he walked four batters, one forcing in a run. Bedard settled down after the first inning and pitched well.

Bedard has enjoyed a great deal of success against the Rays. He has started 21 games against them and compiled a 11-4 record with a 3.41 ERA. Bedard has faced the Rays twice this season with the Mariners. On June 5 he went seven innings, giving up three runs on eight hits, but did not factor in the decision. He also faced the Rays is his last game before being traded — his first game back from a stint on the disabled list with sprained knee. The southpaw struggled, only going 1 1/3 innings, allowing five runs on three hits and walking four. He took the loss in the 8-0 defeat.

As for Niemann, in five career starts against Boston he is 2-2 with a 4.56 ERA. He has faced the the Red Sox once before this season. He started the July 17 game at Fenway Park. He pitched quite well, throwing eight shutout innings, striking out 10. He took a no-decision as the the Red Sox ended up winning 1-0 in 16 innings.

Niemann has pitched well of late, earning wins in each of his last three starts. His last outing came on Aug. 11, when he pitched 6 1/3 innings, allowing one run on nine hits, in the Rays’ 4-1 win over the Royals.

Red Sox hitters do not have much experience against Niemann. Only Marco Scutaro and David Ortiz have double-digit plate appearances against him, both not fairing too well. Scutaro is a career .167 hitter and Ortiz a .222 hitter against the right-hander.

Like the Red Sox, the Rays do not have too much experience against Bedard. Only four Rays hitters have more than 10 plate appearances against the Sox lefty. B.J. Upton leads the team with 29, but he is only hitting .185 and has struck out 10 times.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: David Ortiz, Erik Bedard, jeff niemann, marco scutaro

Closing Time: Jon Lester’s masterpiece leads Red Sox to 3-1 win in doubleheader opener

08.16.11 at 3:32 pm ET
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With two All-Stars on the mound in Jon Lester and James Shields, Tuesday’€™s opening game of a doubleheader between the Red Sox and Rays promised to be somewhat of a pitchers’€™ duel.

It ended up being more than that.

The two teams scattered only six hits and four runs combined Tuesday afternoon at Fenway Park, but ultimately it was Lester who got the better of  Shields and the Tampa Bay offense in the 3-1 Boston win at Fenway Park.

The 27-year-old lefty was the best he’€™s been since returning from the disabled list on July 25. Over seven innings of work, Lester (12-6, 3.22 ERA) allowed just the one earned run (which came in the first inning) on three hits, one walk, one hit-by-pitch while striking out eight Rays batters. After giving up the lone run in the first, Lester allowed just three more baserunners to reach the rest of the way and retired as many as 12 Rays in a row at one point.

Shields (11-10, 2.83 ERA) was nearly as masterful as he too scattered just three hits over eight innings while walking one and striking out six. However, a couple of missed locations in the third inning led to his 10th loss despite the strong outing. Following two singles by Josh Reddick and Mike Aviles, Jacoby Ellsbury sent a three-run bomb over the Rays bullpen in right field ‘€“ his 21st home run this season ‘€“ to give Lester all the run support he would need. Despite pitching well, Shields’ record in Boston moved to 1-8 while his ERA improved to 6.99 over nine outings at Fenway. It was the first time that Shields had gone more than seven innings at Fenway Park.

Here’€™s what else went right in the Red Sox win Tuesday afternoon as well as a few things that went wrong:

WHAT WENT RIGHT

–Lester’€™s biggest strength was his ability to get the K. After striking out just four Twins in his last outing, the lefty ace rebounded in that department to strike out eight Rays Tuesday afternoon. At one point between the third and sixth innings, he went on a run in which he struck out six of the 11 batters he faced, including the fourth where he struck out the side for the first time since May 3 against the Angels. In that one 11-batter stretch, Lester struck out more hitters than he had in 11 of his 23 starts this season. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Jacoby Ellsbury, james shields, Jon Lester,

Tuesday’s Game 1 Red Sox-Rays matchups: Jon Lester vs. James Shields

08.16.11 at 1:11 pm ET
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The Red Sox and Rays will play three games in two days at Fenway Park beginning with a day-night doubleheader on Tuesday. The first game will feature a pitching matchup of two 11-game winners this season in Jon Lester (11-6, 3.32) and James Shields (11-9, 2.80).

This will be Lester’s fourth start since coming off the disabled list on July 25. He has won only one game since making his return — a 10-2 win over the White Sox on July 30, a game in which Lester went eight innings and gave up two runs.

Lester has lost his last two outings. On Aug. 5 Lester gave up three runs and six innings against the Yankees in the Sox’ 3-2 loss. Then on Aug. 10 he gave up four runs in 7 1/3 innings in a game the Sox lost 5-2 to the Twins.

Tuesday will be Lester’s 18th career start against the Rays, the most against any major league team. Over the course of his career Lester is 9-4 with a 3.81 ERA against the Rays. He pitched against the Rays last on April 12, a game that the Sox lost 3-2. He went seven innings, giving up three runs on seven hits, suffering the loss in the process.

Shields is also no stranger to facing the Red Sox. This will be his 19th start against them. He is 6-10 with a 4.95 ERA lifetime against the Sox. He has pitched in two games this season against the Red Sox. On June 14 he pitched a complete-game shutout in the Rays’ 4-0 win. Most recently on July 16 he went six innings, giving up six runs on six hits and suffered the loss in the Red Sox’ 9-5 win.

The right-hander has won his last two starts. He is coming off of a complete-game shutout of the Royals on Aug. 9 in the Rays’ 4-0 victory. Shields allowed six hits and struck out eight.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: adrian gonzalez, David Ortiz, james shields, Jon Lester
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