SOX DEFEAT RAYS (10:25, END 9, 6-3)
Papelbon slammed the door in the ninth, striking out two batters and inducing a deep fly to center by Iwamura to end the game. He crushed the Rays this series, as did the Sox, who now lead them by six games in the wild card race. Texas did not play, and the Sox now lead the Rangers by three games.
Clay Buchholz turned his fifth quality start in his past six outings, allowing three runs over six innings on six hits. The Red Sox' bullpen dominated the Rays, Billy Wagner, Daniel Bard, and Jonathan Papelbon each throwing one scoreless inning a piece. Combined, they allowed no hits, two walks, and struck out five. Kevin Youkilis had three of the Red Sox' 12 hits, and Jason Bay sparked a balanced attack with a two-RBI double in the first.
ON COMES PAPELBON (10:14, MID 9, 6-3 SOX)
After the Sox went down quietly, Papelbon will try to close it out.
BARD BREEZES (10:08, END 8, 6-3 SOX)
The Sox are three outs away from dealing a significant blow to the Rays' wild card hopes. Bard walked Pena with one out, but the Rays never threatened. To end the inning, Bard struck out Longoria on three pitches, all sliders. Longoria looked at the first two and missed the third.
SOX SQUANDER OPPORTUNITY (9:56, MID 8, 6-3 SOX)
Daniel Bard will replace Wagner and try to protect a three-run lead, but it probably should be more. Drew singled to lead off the inning, and the Rays' botched Gonzalez's sac bunt, putting two men on. Ellsbury pushed them into scoring position with a bunt. Pedroia had a chance to open it up, but he grounded to second and Iwamura nabbed Drew at the plate. Martinez grounded a hard shot back at Cormier, who gloved the ball and tossed to first.
Hideki Okajima is warming.
TWO MORE Ks FOR WAGNER (9:47, END 7, 6-3 SOX)
This Billy Wagner thing is working out. After a leadoff walk to Kapler, Iwamura popped up, and then Wagner struck out the final two batters he faced -- Bartlett trying to check his swing on a changeup, and Crawford looking at a 3-2 fastball over the outside corner. Another impressive performance.
With Lance Cormier entering the game, J.D. Drew will pinch hit for Baldelli.
LOWELL OUT, WAGNER ON (9:33, MID 7, 6-3 SOX)
Lowell popped up to Bartlett in shallow left, leaving the bases loaded. Manager Terry Francona called on Billy Wagner, who has been lights-out in his first two innings with the Red Sox. Gabe Kapler will pinch hit for Gross and lead off the inning.
LOADED UP (9:31, TOP 7, 6-3 SOX)
Lowell has a chance to bust the game wide open. Bay doubled to left, and Ortiz was intentionally walked.
SOX PROVIDE INSURANCE (9:28, TOP 7, 6-3 SOX)
Pedroia lined a single to right, his first hit of the series. Martinez came up with a chance to extend the lead, and he bounced a chopper over the leaping Pena at first base. Ellsbury, who had stolen his 58th base of the season, scampered home and Pedroia went to third. Youkilis grounded in the hole at short, and he beat a would-be 6-4-3 doubloe, allowing Pedroia to give the Sox a three-run advantage.
ANOTHER PITCHER (9:24, TOP 7, 4-3 SOX)
After Gonzalez grounded out and Ellsbury singled to left, we've moved on to the Chad Bradford portion of tonight's game. He will face Pedroia with one out. Bradford's warm-up song is "Gimme Back My Bullets," which is pretty badass.
STRONG IN THE SIXTH (9:19, END 6, 4-3 SOX)
Buchholz retired the Rays in order, his second scoreless inning in a row. Burrell popped foul to Martinez, Longoria struck out, and Zaun grounded to Gonzalez. Buchholz has needed 81 pitches so far. Billy Wagner was up in the bullpen last inning.
Maddon being Maddon, he replaced Springer with lefty Brian Shouse to pitch to Gonzalez.
SOX LEAD (9:09, TOP 6, 4-3 SOX)
Lowell greeted Springer with a fly ball to center, deep enough to score Youkilis from third. Buchholz will have a lead to protect.
SOX THREATENING, PRICE LEAVING (9:08, TOP 6, 3-3)
Russ Springer is on, replacing Price with men on first and third and one out. Youkilis singled to lead off, his third hit tonight. Bay walked. Ortiz blasted a deep fly to center. Zobrist tracked it down, but Youkilis moved to third.
BUCHHOLZ TO THE RACES (8:57, BOT 5, 3-3)
Strange play for Buchholz, who is making an adventurous night for himself. With one out, Zobrist dribbled a ball down the first base line. Rather than letting Youkilis take it, Buchholz zipped across the infield and scooped the ball himself, at which point Zobrist was right behind him. Buchholz could have turned and Zobrist. Instead, he pushed Youkils out of the way and raced Zobrist to the bag, and first base ump ruled Buchholz got there just before Zobirst. Anyway, Pena grounded to first to end the inning.
An earlier update that was wiped away because of a server issue: Upton rolled his left ankle and had to leave the game in the top of the fifth. Zobrist went from second to center, and Akinori Iwamura is in the game at second.
Youkilis will lead off the sixth against Price. Brian Shouse is warming for the Rays.
CALMING DOWN (8:31, END 4, 3-3)
After the consecutive doubles to start the inning, Buchholz retired the Rays in order. Gross, the anti-Longoria, flied to left. Upton struck out. Bartlett ground to Lowell.
RAYS TIE IT (8:23, BOT 4, 3-3)
Longoria led off the inning with a double to left-center. Maybe the Red Sox should just walk him every time. He's unreal against them. Zaun followed with a weird chopper off the plate down the leftfield line, which bounced over Lowell's head and rolled into the outfield for an RBI double. Still no one out with Gross batting (which means there will be an out very soon).
QUICK ONE (8:18, MID 4, 3-2 SOX)
We're going to see some pitching tonight after all. Ortiz flied to left, Lowell flied deep to left-center, and Baldelli sent one to the warning track in right, where Gross made the catch.
For the record, Joe Maddon has used one pitcher so far tonight.
BUCHHOLZ SHARP (8:13, END 3, 3-2 SOX)
That was a nice inning for Buchholz. Zobrist grounded to second, Pena lined out to center, and Burrell popped to second. He's thrown 48 pitches, 31 for strikes.
PRICE PUTS UP A ZERO (8:08, MID 3, 3-2 SOX)
The Sox did not score in that inning, a first tonight. Youkilis doubled on an odd hit to right, a soft line drive that Gabe Gross and lost somehow in the lights. He let the ball roll past him and Youkilis scooted to second. He stayed there when Bay grounded to third.
BUCHHOLZ SETTLES DOWN (7:59, END 2, 3-2 SOX)
Buchholz got the game under control, allowing only a single to Upton with one out. Upton stole second despite a pitch-out, which Martinez had some trouble getting out of his mitt. With two outs, Pena popped foul to Lowell, stranding Upton in scoring position.
ROCCO ROCKS ONE (7:47, MID 2, 3-2 SOX)
What got into Rocco Baldelli? He hammered a low fastball from Price about 420 feet to left, over the fence for a solo home run with one out. He did a nice little hop out of the batter's box, like he knew he got that one. To lead off, Mike Lowell grounded to third. Alex Gonzalez grounded out, and Ellsbury flied to center.
BUCHHOLZ GETS OUT (7:42, END 1, 2-2)
We're still tied afer Buchholz stranded two men in scoring position. He struck out Gregg Zaun after John Farrell came out for a chat.
LONGORIA STRIKES AGAIN (7:39, BOT 1, 2-2)
The Rays tied the score when Evan Longoria -- who else? -- when Longoria ripped a double to right. Carlos Pena reached on a fielder's choice, took second when Buchholz lost track of him, and then Pat Burrell walked to bring up Longoria, who is like some unstoppable monster out of a horror film for the Red Sox.
RAYS RESPOND (7:29, BOT 1, 2-1 SOX)
Jason Bartlett led with off with a bloop single down the right field line, out of Rocco Baldelli's range. Crawford blasted a deep, high fly ball to right-center, and Bartlett alertly tagged up as Ellsbury made the catch on the track. Ben Zobrist made it pay off with an easy single to left-center, scoring Bartlett.
ORTIZ STRANDS BAY (7:23, MID 1, 2-0)
After Bay's clutch, two-out double, Price struck out Ortiz. Clay Buchholz is getting ready to start his night.
FUN WITH TWO (7:21, TOP 1, 2-0 SOX)
David Price was rolling, retiring Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia to start the night. With two outs, Victor Martinez singled to left. Kevin Youkilis followed with a line drive over Carl Crawford's and off the wall. It seemed like a sure double, but Martinez runs like a catcher and he did not attempt to make third base. Jason Bay rocked a double to the gap in left-center, and both Martinez and Youkilis scored to put the Sox ahead.