|Closing time: Red Sox beat Rays in Jacoby Ellsbury’s return||07.13.12 at 11:14 pm ET|
The Red Sox returned from the All-Star break by taking a step in the right direction with a 3-1 win over the Rays at Tropicana Field Friday night.
The victory improved the Sox to 44-43 on the season, moving them one game behind the Rays (45-42) as they look to work their way up the AL East and Wild Card standings.
Boston took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when David Ortiz launched a 3-1 offering from Jeremy Hellickson to right field. They added two more in the second inning when a Pedro Ciriaco single scored Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ryan Sweeney.
The Rays got on the board in the bottom of the sixth inning thanks to a throwing error from Mike Aviles and an RBI double from Sean Rodriguez.
Franklin Morales improved to 2-2 with the win Friday. He threw five scoreless innings for the Sox, allowing two hits and walking three while picking up five strikeouts on 95 pitches. His fastball stayed around 94 miles an hour throughout the night, though he was able to dial it up to 96 mph as his outing went on.
Alfredo Aceves threw a scoreless ninth inning to earn his 20th save of the season.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
- Sweeney came up with some defensive heroics in the bottom of the eighth inning, sliding to catch a B.J. Upton line drive and getting the ball in quickly to Aviles with Ben Zobrist trying to advance from second to third. Aviles’ throw to Nick Punto was accurate enough to get Zobrist, whose base-running decision with one out was rather questionable.
- Ciriaco had big night in the ninth spot for the Red Sox, going 3-for-3 with two RBI and a stolen base. His biggest hit of the game came in the form of his second-inning single to drive in a pair of runs. In addition to his contributions with the bat, Ciriaco stole third base in the top of the seventh inn in on a hit-and-run that saw Daniel Nava strike out swinging. Ciriaco bunted Aviles over to third in the top of the ninth inning, but had to slide head-first into first base to avoid colliding with Jeff Keppinger.
- Jacoby Ellsbury made his long-awaited return to the lineup after being out with a right shoulder injury since April 13. He went 1-for-5 with a pair of strikeouts, and the addition of a healthy Ellsbury will undoubtedly add some stability and star power to an outfield that has seen some musical chairs throughout the season.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
- Morales cruised through the first three innings but ran into some series control issues in the fourth. After handing out free passes to B.J. Upton and Keppinger with two out, Morales balked on a 3-0 count to Rodriguez. Morales tried to throw to first on a pickoff attempt, but Mauro Gomez seemed unaware that a play was on, causing Morales to hold the ball during his delivery before finally tossing it to first. The balk advanced both Upton and Keppinger, and Morales ended up walking Rodriguez anyway, good for his third consecutive walk of the inning.
Morales would end up getting out of the jam in dramatic fashion, getting Luke Scott to strike out on a 2-2 fastball up in the zone that clocked in at 96 miles per hour.
- For whatever reason, Mauro Gomez dropped a throw from Will Middlebrooks in the bottom of the first inning. The throw to first got there in enough time to beat Upton, but there seemed to be some sort of webbing issue with Gomez’ glove that prevented him from holding on. Gomez was a late replacement for Adrian Gonzalez in the lineup.
- Gomez’ glove malfunction wasn’t the only error of the Sox on the night. Zobrist grounded to Aviles to lead off the sixth inning, and Aviles’ throw was well over the head of Gomez. Zobrist advanced to second on the play, giving the Rays a man in scoring position with nobody down and it cost the Sox when Rodriguez hit a Scott Atchison offering down the third base line to score the run.
- Ortiz’ first-inning bomb earned him some respect when he came to the plate later in the game, and it hurt the Sox. The Rays elected to give him two free passes in order to face Gomez in jams, and it worked out in Tampa’s favor both times. With two out in the fifth and Nava (walk) at first, Hellickson and the Rays elected to give Ortiz a free pass, and Gomez grounded to third to end the inning. Ortiz was intentionally walked again in the top of the seventh with two men on and one out, and Gomez grounded into an inning-ending double play.
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