Game over: Red Sox 11, Rays 3
Joe Nelson mopped this one up, allowing a homer to Zobrist.
The Sox are now alone in third place, winners of five straight, eight of nine and 16 of the last 23. They outscored the Rays 19-4 in these three games. Pretty big statement by the Sox, who now trail the first-place Rays by only 5.5 games with 114 to go.
Back with more later from the clubhouse.
Middle of the 9th: Red Sox 11, Rays 2
The only people left in the stands are chanting "Let's go Red Sox" as the cowbell clangers depart downcast. Ortiz singled before Youkilis walked. Beltre then just missed his third homer with a triple off the base of the wall in right center.
Ortiz jogged home with Youk on his tail. Hermida followed with an RBI single. After Cameron singled, McDonald crunched a two-run double down the left-field line.
Beltre's night: 4 for 5, 2 HR, a triple, six RBIs (matching his career high) and three runs scored. He's up to .341 and has 33 RBI.
Top of the 9th: Red Sox 6, Rays 2
No-drama inning for Ramirez. The Sox are three outs away from a sweep.
Middle of the 8th: Red Sox 6, Rays 2
Dan Wheeler, the pride of Rhode Island, retired the side in order. Ramon Ramirez in for the Sox. He could stand to regain some faith here.
Top of the 8th Red Sox 6, Rays 2
Lackey got an out before Longoria singled. That was it for him after 115 pitches. Okajima came on and got Jaso to foul out before Blalock dunked a single into left center. But Pena fanned to end the inning.
Ramon Ramirez was warming up. Wonder if the Sox can avoid using Bard or Papelbon in this game?
Middle of the 7th: Red Sox 6, Rays 2
Beltre (now hitting .337) singled with one out. But Hermida flied to left and Varitek popped to third. Varitek is 0 for 8 since his single in the fourth inning on Monday. That catching every inning stuff isn't easy.
Lackey back out there. Sox will empty his tank tonight.
Top of the 7th: Red Sox 6, Rays 2
Lakey just had his first 1-2-3 inning of the game. He is at 103 pitches.
Middle of the 6th: Red Sox 6, Rays 2
With Andy Sonnanstine now pitching, Cameron and McDonald singled before Pedroia walked with two outs. Ortiz had a chance to put the game out of reach but struck out.
Lackey stays in but he could be on a short leash.
Top of the 6th: Red Sox 6, Rays 2
Jaso singled and Blalock walked with one out as Lackey was shaky again. But he got Pena on a comebacker and Rodriguez flied to right. Lackey has thrown 96 pitches through five inning and Hideki Okajima is warming up.
Middle of the 5th: Red Sox 6, Rays 2
Youkilis grounded out and Hermida flied to left to end the inning. Let's see if John Lackey can hold the Rays down.
Top of the 5th: Red Sox 6, Rays 2
Pedroia singed before Ortiz hammered one to right for his 10th homer, the sixth in the last 11 games. That's 23 RBI this month for Ortiz.
Top of the 5th: Red Sox 4, Rays 2
Lackey will be lucky to get through five inning as he again is not pitching well. He put the leadoff hitter on for the third consecutive inning as Pena doubled. He moved to third on a groundout and scored on a single by Brignac.
Bartlett then walked and stole second. Crawford grounded to short but the Red Sox were a second late trying to complete the double play. With Brignac on third, Crawford stole second without a throw. Zobrist grounded to first to end the inning.
Middle of the 4th: Red Sox 4, Rays 1
Uneventful inning there as the Sox went in order. Garza needed that.
Top of the 4th: Red Sox 4 Rays 1
Lackey started the inning by giving up a bomb double to center by Crawford. But Zobrist grounded out before Longoria (1 for 10 in the series) fanned for the fourth time in the last three days. Jaso walked but Blalock fouled out to Varitek.
Lackey has not been sharp but he has avoided big damage.
Middle of the 3rd: Red Sox 4, Rays 1
You see cool stuff every day in baseball. Pedroia walked with one out before the Rays put on their defensive shift for Ortiz.
Papi hit the ball hard but Brignac made a terrific diving stop and threw to first. Pedroia, seeing third base uncovered, took off. Pena made a throw like a quarerback, leading Longoria to the bag. He dove to try and make the tag and was just a second late.
How big was that? Youkilis walked and Beltre got up and hammered a curveball into the left-field stands. His second dinger of the day. Garza is closing in on 80 pitches and isn't long for this one.
Beltre hit the ball so hard he ended up on one knee. Now that is when you get a pitch.
Top of the 3rd: Red Sox 1, Rays 1
Lackey could not hold the lead for long. Blalock singled before Pena drew a walk. Rodriguez laid down a surprise bunt and Beltre made a spectacular play to throw him out at first.
(A surprise because few AL teams would bunt down 1-0 at home in the second inning. Especially a team 18 games over .500.)
Brignac grounded to shortstop to drive in a run. Brignac then grounded to short to end the inning.
Middle of the 2nd: Red Sox 1, Rays 0
Varitek drew a walk with one out but Garza came back to strike out Cameron and Garza with good sliders. Garza is up to 43 pitches as the Sox grind out their at-bats against him.
Mike Lowell just warmed up Lackey as Varitek was getting his gear on.
Top of the 2nd: Red Sox 1, Rays 0
Garza threw a fastball on the inner half of the plate to Beltre and he crushed it to left field for his fourth home run of the season. He's 16 of his last 40 with eight RBI over the last 11 games.
Top of the 2nd: Red Sox 0, Rays 0
Lackey allowed one-out singles by Crawford and Zobrist. But he got Longoria to pop up to short right field as Youkilis made a terrific catch with his back to the plate. Jaso then flied to right.
Longoria is 1 for 8 in the series. Good advance scouting by the Sox perhaps. He was 5 for 15 back in that April series.
Middle of the 1st: Red Sox 0, Rays 0
Garza walked Scutaro and Ortiz, bringing the red-hot Youkilis to the plate with one out. He grounded a 3-2 fastball to third to start a double play that ended the inning.
Garza did throw 22 pitches, so it wasn't a total loss.
Top of the 1st: Red Sox 0, Rays 0
We're about to get going here at Tropicana Field as the Red Sox and their makeshift lineup take on the Rays. David Ortiz is batting third for the first time since last May 29.
The Rays fans remain upset at the umpires and booed their arrival loudly. Bob Davidson ejected Carl Crawford and Joe Maddon for arguing balls and strikes last night.
Hope you enjoy the game wherever you are and, please, feel free to add your comments.