SEE YOU TOMORROW (11:57, END 9, 4-2)
The Red Sox, behind Josh Beckett's gutsy start, Jason Varitek's sixth-inning home run, and four innings of no-hit relief, have forced Game 7, to be played tomorrow at 8:07 at Tropicana Field. TBS, check your router and your backup router now!
In the ninth, Longoria grounded the second pitch he saw to Lowrie's right, and the shortstop made the play. Crawford struck out swinging at a 1-2, 91-mph heater. Aybar lined out to Youkilis.
Last word: Big Game James Shields needs a new nickname.
HERE COMES PAPELBON (11:49, MID 9, 4-2 SOX)
Miller threw one pitch, and Kotsay popped it up to Longoria at third. Now one of the best postseason relievers in baseball history needs to get three outs to force Game 7.
BRADFORD OUT, MILLER IN (11:47, TOP 9, 4-2 SOX)
After retiring Drew and Bay to lead off the ninth, Bradford has ended his night. Lefty Trever Miller has entered to face Kotsay.
FARRELL WORKS MAGIC (11:41, END 8, 4-2)
After Farrell talked with Masterson, Masterson threw nine consecutive strikes and retired the Rays in order. He struck out Iwamura, got Upton to pop to second after fouling off a few pitches, and then getting Pena to pop up to Lowrie on the first pitch he saw. The Sox are three Papelbon outs away from Game 7, and he'll have at least a two-run lead. Great job by the set-up men.
ROCKY START FOR MASTERSON (11:35, BOT 8, 4-2)
Bartlett led off and reached when Masterson plunked him on the elbow with a 3-2 pitch. Iwamura quickly looked at two balls, and John Farrell came out for a chat. He threw a strike with the next pitch.
STRATEGY PAYS FOR RAYS (11:29, MID 8, 4-2 SOX)
Pedroia ripped one back at Bradford, who barely knocked the ball down, recovered, and submarined a throw to first to nab Pedroia. With Crisp on second, Bradford intentionally walked to Ortiz to set up the double play and to pitch to Youkilis, who has arguably been the best player for the Red Sox in this series. The move worked to perfection -- Youkilis grounded to third, beginning a 5-4-3 double play that kept the Rays within striking distance.
Masterson has entered after Okajima gave the Sox exactly what they needed. Papelbon is up and throwing.
BRADFORD COMING IN (11:22, TOP 8, 4-2 SOX)
After the Coco Crisp led off with a walk, Balfour ended his most recent subpar outing and yielded to Chad Bradford, whose entrance song is "Gimme Back My Bullets." Strong. The submarining righty will face Pedroia with no outs.
OKAJIMA PERFECT (11:16, END 7, 4-2 SOX)
Three up, three down for the Rays in the seventh. Aybar popped to Youkilis, Navarro flied to left, and Zobrist drilled a ball to the warning track in left center, but Crisp tracked it down.
The Red Sox are set up perfectly for the final two innings. They can bring in Masterson for the eighth, and then at the first sign of trouble, bring in Papelbon for the rest of the way.
BALFOUR SHAKY, LIMITS DAMAGE (11:08, MID 7, 4-2 SOX)
Balfour walked Lowrie, then watched Bay moved to third and Lowrie to second on a passed ball by Navarro on a high fastball. He worked a 3-2 count to Varitek, who could not build on his prior heroics.
Okajima remains in the game. He will pitch to Willy Aybar, pinch hitting for Cliff Floyd. Justin Masterson is warming up.
HOWELL OUT, BALFOUR IN (10:58, TOP 7, 4-2 SOX)
With two outs and Bay (hit by pitch) on second, Joe Maddon has brought in Grant Balfour to replace Howell. Lowrie is up
OKAJIMA GETS IT DONE (10:51, END 6, 4-2 SOX)
Longoria walked with two outs, but Okajima was nails otherwise. Upton lined to third, Pena struck out looking at an 84-mph fastball, and Crawford grounded to short. Red Sox are nine outs away from Game 7.
BECKETT DONE, OKAJIMA IN (10:40, MID 6, 4-2 SOX)
After his best start of the postseason, Beckett is finished after only 78 pitches. Okajima is entering. If the Red Sox can get an inning from him and one from either Manny Delcarmen or Justin Masterson, it will set up Jonathan Papelbon to pitch two innings for the save. Beckett 50 strikes.
Delcarmen is warming up.
ORTIZ EXTENDS LEAD (10:34, TOP 6, 4-2 SOX)
The Rays should be out of the inning. Instead, Ortiz smacked an RBI single. Pedroia chopped to shortstop, and Bartlett misfired badly to the inside of first base, a throw that missed a lunging Pena by several feet and hopped off the camera well. Ortiz roped a single to right-center, scoring Crisp from third and sending Pedroia to second.
VARITEK! (10:27, TOP 6, 3-2 SOX)
With two outs, Varitek rocked a home run into the first row of the seats in right center, an improbable and extremely significant feat. By emphatically snapping his 0 for 15 slump, Varitek gave the Red Sox a one-run lead.
Crisp followed with his third single of the game, enough to knock out Shields. Howell is the new pitcher, and he'll face Pedroia.
BECKETT THROUGH FIVE (10:21, END 5, 2-2)
Beckett got Iwamura to ground to third to end the fifth, but he could not hold the one-run lead. He was muttering to himself after the Barlett home run, and for good reason -- Bartlett hit one homer all season, against Baltimore here in August. Beckett has allowed only four hits, but two have been solo home runs.
Shields is still in, but J.P. Howell is warming.
X-rays negative on Cousins. He's got a bruised collarbone.
BARTLETT TIES IT UP (10:15, BOT 5, 2-2)
Varitek nabbed Navarro trying to steal, and that ended up saving a run. Bartlett crushed a 2-2, 74-mph curveball just inside the left field foul pole for a solo home run. Navarro had not stolen a base all season. Zobrist flied to center.
STATEMENT FROM TBS (10:10, BOT 5, 2-1 SOX)
Amalie Benjamin passes along this official e-mail from TBS regarding the technical difficulties at the beginning of the game:
"Two circuit breakers in our Atlanta transmission operations tripped causing the master router and its backup – which are necessary to transmit any incoming feed outbound – to shut down. This impacted our live feed from being distributed to any of the other networks in the Turner portfolio and caused the delay in our coverage. Both our primary and backup routers were impacted by this problem. We apologize to baseball fans for this mishap that caused a delay in our coverage."
Dioner Navarro led off with a sharp single to right, bringing up Ben Zobrist, who has entered for the ineffective Gross.
SHIELDS STRANDS BAY (10:08, MID 5, 2-1 SOX)
Drew doubled to right, over Gross's head, with two outs, giving the Sox a chance to extend their lead. Bay could not deliver, flying out to right. Shields has thrown 95 pitches already, despite only needing nine that inning.
Hideki Okajima is warming up despite Beckett's continued solid pitching. Something's got to be up.
BECKETT ROLLING (9:59, END 4, 2-1 SOX)
This isn't quite the Beckett that dominated last year, but the results are very close. Longoria followed Pena with fly to center. Crawford busted Beckett's streak with a bloop to left; of the past 10 batters he had faced before Crawford's single, only Bartlett reached base, and that was on a questionable hit-by-pitch. Crawford stole second, choosing the right time run -- on a 73-mph curve for strike two. On a 2-2 pitch, Floyd bounded a ball toward Kotsay, who ranged far to his right, gloved it, and made a strong flip to Beckett to retire the side.
Beckett has thrown about 60 pitches.
The Rays have stolen 10 bases this series and have not been thrown out once.
LOPEZ WARMING (9:49, BOT 4, 2-1 SOX)
Althought Beckett has thrown just 45 pitches and has allowed one hit, Javier Lopez is warming in the Boston bullpen. Pena led off by popping foul.
CRISP STILL HOT, NO RUNS (9:47, MID 4, 2-1 SOX)
Crisp lined a single into right with two outs, but Pedroia struck out to end the inning. Shields settled down after that rocky last inning. Perhaps the 15-minute delay helped him?
COUSINS UPDATE (9:40, TOP 4, 2-1 SOX)
Cousins took a blow to the chest area, is currently being examined, and he's expected to be OK.
Lowrie flied to right center to lead off, and Varitek grounded to first.
PLAY BALL (9:37, END 3, 2-1 SOX)
Shields is throwing warm-up pitches, and we should get back to the game in a moment or two. The umpires have also emerged. Tim McClelland, the crew chief and formerly the first base ump, has taken over behind the plate.
UMPIRES, RAYS WALK OFF (9:25, END 3, 2-1 SOX)
Home plate umpire Derryl Cousins seems to be suffering some after effects from taking a foul tip by Jason Varitek to the facemask in the second innings. The players and umpires have walked off, and we're in a delay. Jim McKean, the umpire supervisor, is down there helping them figure this out.
BECKETT HOLDS LEAD (9:20, END 3, 2-1 SOX)
Beckett sailed through the third, maintaining a lead the Sox offense gave him for the first time this postseason. He struck out Gabe Gross, who's been dreadful this series, looking at a fastball. Beckett went 0-2 to Jason Bartlett, then tried an inside curve. Bartlett barely moved and allowed the pitch to hit him in the elbow, inducing Beckett to yell toward the plate while Bartlett trotted to first. Iwamura popped a 90-mph fastball to Pedroia, bringing up Upton. Finally, he found a way to get him out -- after a lengthy at-bat, Upton chopped back to Beckett for an easy out.
SHIELDS WIGGLES OUT (9:06, MID 3, 2-1 SOX)
Kotsay looked at three balls, and it seemed Shields was about to totally lose his control. But he threw a strike to make it 3-1, and then another that Kotsay struck quite well. But the deep fly to center was tracked down by Upton, and the Sox stranded three runners. Shields was fortunate to get out of that with allowing only the one run.
BAY LOADS BASES (9:03, TOP 3, 2-1 SOX)
Bay watched an outside fastball on 3-2 to bring up Kotsay with the bags juiced and Shields unable to locate.
DREW WALKS, HICKEY VISITS (9:01, TOP 3, 2-1)
Shields walked Drew on an outside fastball that missed by about three feet. Pitching coach Jim Hickey came out for a chat with Shields. First and third for Bay.
SOX TAKE LEAD (8:59, TOP 3, 2-1 SOX)
Youkilis added another RBI, scoring Pedroia on a groundout to shortstop. Pedroia had walked and was pushed to third by Oritz's double down the first base line, which Pena dove for but could not glove.
BECKETT LOOKS SHARP (8:50, END 2, 1-1)
Still not himself, but effective. Carl Crawford grounded to second, Cliff Floyd struck out looking at a 71-mph curveball (not fastball, as originally written), and Dioner Navarro belted a 92-mph fastball straight at Drew in right. I haven't seen the scoreboard radar gun give Beckett credit for more than 92 all night. He's going to have to find a way to compete with diminished stuff -- which he could not do in Game 2.
SOX THREATEN, VARITEK ENDS INNING (8:44, MID 2, 1-1)
After Youkilis's homer, his second of the postseason, the Red Sox kept getting to Shields, but they couldn't push a run across. J.D. Drew walked, and Jason Bay pulled a hot grounder down the third base line. Longoria shuffled quickly, made a slick backhand stop, and fired to second. Iwamura relayed to first, just barely late to snare Bay for what would have been an amazing double play.
Mark Kotsay stayed hot with a single through the right side. Lowrie flew to center, and Upton's cannon arm prevented Bay from tagging. Shields went 3-1 on Varitek, who eventually lofted a lazy fly to left, the opposite field.
Shields has thrown roughly 35 pitches.
GAME BACK ON TV (8:35, END 1, 1-1)
The game is back on in Boston -- just in time for you to watch Kevin Youkilis line a home run into the second row of the seats in left-center. We'll keep the updates flowing, but at a more relaxed pace. Tie ballgame. Settle in.
PENA WALKS, BECKETT ESCAPES (8:30, BOT 1, 1-0 RAYS)
Pena walked with Longoria coming up. No one was warming in the Red Sox bullpen, and then Beckett got Longoria to ground out to Jed Lowrie out at short. He made a nice backhanded stop and fired to Dustin Pedroia, who turned the double play.
Amalie Benjamin has posted an explanation of the TBS outage in the post below this one. How upset are you? I liked this e-mail from an angry reader: "Absolutely ridiculous…They don’t even have a Seinfeld rerun on……"
UPTON BLASTS ONE (8:26, BOT 1, 1-0 RAYS)
Upton hit a 3-2 92-mph Beckett fastball off the C Ring catwalk, his seventh homer of the postseason and fourth of the ALCS
NOT BRINGING THE HEAT (8:21, BOT 1, 0-0)
Beckett's first pitch was a 91-mph fastball, well below his typical velocity. But Terry Francona said yesterday Beckett can be dominant even without his best stuff, and he struck out Iwamura on four pitches, throwing a 90-mph fastball by him for strike three. B.J. Upton is now up, 1-0 count.
BACK FROM BREAK (8:20, BOT 1, 0-0)
Josh Beckett is on the mound, ready to face Akinori Iwamura.
SOX GO IN ORDER (8:16, MID 1, 0-0)
Dustin Pedroia popped foul to first baseman Carlos Pena, and David Ortiz struck out swinging at an 88-mph cutter after fighting from an 0-2 count to a 2-2 count by fouling off several pitches. Shields got out of the first by throwing 15 pitches, only four balls. He relied heavily on his outstanding changeup, throwing in the low 80s.
PICKED OFF (8:12, TOP 1, 0-0)
With Dustin Pedroia batting, James Shields made a quick pick-off move and nabbed Crisp, who was just caught napping a bit flat-footed. Could be a big momentum swing early.
CRISP STAYS HOT (8:10, TOP 1, 0-0)
Coco Crisp led off with a bunt single on the first pitch. Great drop bunt down the third base line. Evan Longoria got a hand on it.
TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES FOR TBS (8:07, PRE 1, 0-0)
Until this is solved, I'll do my best to offer more and more desrciptive updates. Unreal.
SEEN BEFORE THE GAME (7:59, PRE 1, 0-0)
-Chicago Bulls legend Scottie Pippen, hot dog in hand, walking around the upper concourse. Scottie, the upper level? Pippen becomes the odds-on favorite to win this year's award for Completely Random Athlete At A Sporting Event.
-BK Jackson, absolutely killing the national anthem again on his saxophone. This kid, who's only 17, is the man.
-Rob Schneider offering a brutally unfunny greeting on the outfield scoreboard.
-Florida Governor Charlie Crist, wearing jeans and a Rays t-shirt, throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. Ball one, low.
Big Game James Shields will throw the actual first pitch to Coco Crisp in moments.