First Things First: Rays-Sox Gamer XIV

Did you think we would be here? Because I didn’t.

A little more than week ago, the Red Sox were 5.5 games out of first. A little more than a month ago, they were playing sub-.500 baseball. This was a team that didn’t look ready, didn’t look prepared, didn’t look good. Tonight, they could take over the AL Eastern Division lead.

It’s been a great run, these 34 games since the trading deadline. They just need to continue it a little longer — preferably through tomorrow night. It’s not going to be easy.

For one, Scott Kazmir is on the mound for the Rays. He used to be their best pitcher, and he used to give us fits. It’s been a while since either, and Kazmir has had all sorts of problems with control this season. But he’s still Scott Kazmir, holder of a 2.99 ERA and a dominant win over the Yankees last time out.

For another, David Ortiz is out of the lineup, sitting against the tough lefty and keeping the pressure off his clicking (and probably postseason surgery-bound) wrist. That should be a pretty big sign of the relative unimportance the Red Sox see in a divison title when the Wild Card is all but won. To replace him, Jeff Bailey is in at DH (and it’s a shame I didn’t mention his own nifty .357/.438/.607 line in 28 at bats since Aug. 1), and the lineup has been reshuffled to include Coco Crisp as the leadoff hitter.

For a third, Daisuke Matsuzaka takes the hill with the same concerns as Kazmir. He could dominate tonight. He could walk eight guys and still manage five shutout innings. Or he could be shelled. He has somehow never faced the Rays in his career, so perhaps that’s an advantage.

Yesterday was a terrific start to an important series. A win tonight will ensure a successful series and send the Rays reeling and the Red Sox back to the top of the hill. I didn’t see it coming, but I’m sure glad it’s here.

Tampa Bay

  1. Akinori Iwamura, 2B
  2. Dan Johnson, LF
  3. Carlos Pena, 1B
  4. Cliff Floyd, DH
  5. Willy Aybar, 3B
  6. Eric Hinske, RF
  7. Dioner Navarro, C
  8. Gabe Gross, CF
  9. Jason Bartlett, SS

— Scott Kazmir, SP

Boston

  1. Coco Crisp, CF
  2. Jed Lowrie, SS
  3. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
  4. Kevin Youkilis, 1B
  5. Jason Bay, LF
  6. Mike Lowell, 3B
  7. Mark Kotsay, RF
  8. Jason Varitek, C
  9. Jeff Bailey, DH

— Daisuke Matsuzaka, SP

123 comments… add one
  • stuck in meeting with an ability to periodically check here. If anyone feels like posting updates, I’d be forever grateful.

    rootbeerfloat September 9, 2008, 7:05 pm
  • Daisuke with a big K!

    Atheose September 9, 2008, 7:14 pm
  • I got your back, RBF.
    Daisuke gives up a single but strikes out two to end the first. 15 pitches so far, not too bad.

    Atheose September 9, 2008, 7:15 pm
  • Coco hits a 2-0 fastball very well, but it ends up being a fly-out.
    Lowrie then crushes a ball to the deepest part of the field, but it’s caught at the wall. At least Kazmir is being hit hard.
    Who would have ever guessed the Red Sox would use a lineup of Crisp, Lowrie, Pedroia and Youkilis in arguably the most important series of the season thusfar?

    Atheose September 9, 2008, 7:20 pm
  • Jed Lowrie hit a quasi-rocket there, but center field is not in his limited power range. After lifting some weights and doing some hardcore pilates next year, that’d be a Lowrie double.

    Hit Dog September 9, 2008, 7:21 pm
  • Pedroia singles and Youk doubles, scoring Laser Show from first base. 1-0 beeotches.

    Atheose September 9, 2008, 7:24 pm
  • If you’d told me we’d be batting Pedroia and Youklis 3-4 this time last year, I would have reached for the Bushmills to drown my misery. Now, I reach for the Bushmills to celebrate. Or because I have a problem. Whatever.

    Hit Dog September 9, 2008, 7:25 pm
  • God Bless Atheose! You (and Laser Show) are making this meeting bearable.

    rootbeerfloat September 9, 2008, 7:25 pm
  • “Now, I reach for the Bushmills to celebrate. Or because I have a problem. Whatever.”
    Nice. I laughed (out loud and everything).

    Devine September 9, 2008, 7:31 pm
  • Well said Hit Dog!

    Atheose September 9, 2008, 7:39 pm
  • Rays threaten, don’t score. Daisuke nigh on invincible with runner at 3rd.

    Devine September 9, 2008, 7:40 pm
  • Warren Buffett’s an incredibly smart man. Didn’t expect him to sound like a giggly school girl on NESN. Albeit, a 75-year-old school girl.
    /shudders at self-created imagery

    Hit Dog September 9, 2008, 7:45 pm
  • Red Sox go down 1-2-3 in the 2nd, but Kazmir is at 38 pitches.
    The, uhh, PITCHCOUNT, not the website run by Schilling.

    Atheose September 9, 2008, 7:45 pm
  • Yeah Hit Dog, he’s pretty awesome. I saw a history channel about him a few months back–he’s an incredibly simple man. He eates at the same small restaurant in his home town three nights a week; he always gets the steak, baked potato and an icecream sundae. He has NEVER slept in a hotel; he always takes his personal jet back home to Nebraska, because he hates sleeping somewhere other than his own bed. He lives in the same house he’s always lived in, since he and his wife first got married.

    Atheose September 9, 2008, 7:48 pm
  • A bunt single and a walk, and suddenly Daisuke is in trouble.

    Atheose September 9, 2008, 7:53 pm
  • Pena walks… the good news is that Daisuke is pretty much guaranteed to not allow any of these runs to score.

    Atheose September 9, 2008, 7:54 pm
  • Loaded. Something tells me the 0-for bases loaded isn’t going to last.

    Devine September 9, 2008, 7:55 pm
  • Floyd hit on the foot with a slider that does a little too much sliding.

    Atheose September 9, 2008, 7:56 pm
  • HITS HIM! UGH!!!

    Devine September 9, 2008, 7:56 pm
  • Sac fly makes it 2-1. Bah.

    Atheose September 9, 2008, 7:58 pm
  • The fact that there hasn’t been a real hit this inning makes these runs at once frustrating, and quintessentially Daisuke. Still no hits against him with the bases loaded. And…still 2-1 Them.
    And yeah, Atheose, Warren loves that Omaha, NE.

    Hit Dog September 9, 2008, 8:03 pm
  • Under the circumstances, I’ll take that. What an ugly inning.

    Devine September 9, 2008, 8:05 pm
  • Sure as hell don’t know why, Hit Dog!

    Atheose September 9, 2008, 8:10 pm
  • Innings like that one are why Daisuke will not be even sniffing the Cy Young this year despite traditional numbers that should at least put him in contention…

    Paul SF September 9, 2008, 8:11 pm
  • *sigh* Pedroia hits it well but all it is is a double play. It’s going to be one of those games…

    Paul SF September 9, 2008, 8:14 pm
  • Walking away for a bit with those two hits. Will check back in later.

    Devine September 9, 2008, 8:18 pm
  • Another walk. I somehow just knew this would happen when we most need him to not be a shitty pitcher…

    Paul SF September 9, 2008, 8:24 pm
  • Ridiculous. Well, down by 2 isn’t the worst I can imagine.

    Devine September 9, 2008, 8:29 pm
  • The “ridiculous” was for Daisuke changing “runner at 3rd, no outs” to “no more runs scored”.

    Devine September 9, 2008, 8:32 pm
  • Lowell! One-run game.

    Devine September 9, 2008, 8:35 pm
  • Daisuke needs a short inning with the quickness now. Then and only then have we got us a ballgame.

    Hit Dog September 9, 2008, 8:40 pm
  • And there goes that. God, never has a pitcher frustrated me so.

    Hit Dog September 9, 2008, 8:42 pm
  • Ridiculous: 2nd and 3rd, 1 down.
    Strike out, pop-up. I imagine that’s it for the 5-inning wonder.

    Devine September 9, 2008, 8:49 pm
  • If only Daisuke could imagine the 3rd base coach was an opposing player with a strange lead…

    Devine September 9, 2008, 8:52 pm
  • Nobody can pop it up like Tek. Ugh…

    mattymatty September 9, 2008, 8:53 pm
  • Should Daisuke start pitching from the stretch always, just like a reliever? Even if it didn’t work strategically, the time taken off of games just by taking his ass wiggle out of play could add up to a good 20 minutes.

    Hit Dog September 9, 2008, 9:00 pm
  • Youk: liner, smoked, caught.

    Devine September 9, 2008, 9:20 pm
  • Thats probably it for Kazmir. He’s at 108 pitches now. Looking at his line I’m not that impressed. 4 Ks and 3 BBs and a bunch of hard hit balls right at people. Not that Daisuke pitched much better.

    mattymatty September 9, 2008, 9:28 pm
  • They’ve had a ton of lucky ground ball singles this game. Seems like one each inning for Tampa.

    mattymatty September 9, 2008, 9:30 pm
  • Agreed, mattymatty RE: lucky singles.

    Devine September 9, 2008, 9:32 pm
  • UGH! Lopez walks the pinch-hitter. 1st, 2nd, none down. Here comes MDC. Eesh.

    Devine September 9, 2008, 9:33 pm
  • Wow, that was a real almost-bomb. Horseshoes and hand grenades. 1 down, runners at corners.

    Devine September 9, 2008, 9:37 pm
  • Pop up, 2 down, MDC has a chance to really keep the Sox close.

    Devine September 9, 2008, 9:38 pm
  • Two down after a pop up to left. Come on, MDC!

    mattymatty September 9, 2008, 9:39 pm
  • Manny is living veeeery dangerously here.

    mattymatty September 9, 2008, 9:41 pm
  • Man, that inning couldn’t have been any closer. That catch Kotsay made at the track is out in Tampa (as Orsillo noted), that foul ball down the left field line missed being a two run double by less than the length of this sentence, and then that play by Lowell at second to end the inning looked as bang-bang as you can get. Maybe it’ll be clearer on replay, but that looked real close to me.

    mattymatty September 9, 2008, 9:43 pm
  • I’m starting to pin all hope on Percival coming in for the 9th.

    Devine September 9, 2008, 9:48 pm
  • Looked like Ortiz just missed that one. Of course, that can be said probably three to four times a game.

    mattymatty September 9, 2008, 9:50 pm
  • Alright, this is the time for them to get it done.

    stuck working September 9, 2008, 10:03 pm
  • Just got back, still 3-2. Come on Laser Show!

    Atheose September 9, 2008, 10:04 pm
  • Finally we get a baserunner. Youk walks. Here comes Bay…

    mattymatty September 9, 2008, 10:10 pm
  • Woo Hoo! Jason being Manny!

    stuck working September 9, 2008, 10:12 pm
  • BAY HOMERS! RED SOX LEAD! FUCK YES! HELL FUCKING YES!

    Atheose September 9, 2008, 10:12 pm
  • I think I just woke up my sleeping and pregnant wife! YEAHHH!!! Jason Bay gives the Sox the lead!

    mattymatty September 9, 2008, 10:13 pm
  • Sum-BITCH!!!!

    I'mBillMcNeal September 9, 2008, 10:14 pm
  • And what timing. Just got the boy in bed.

    I'mBillMcNeal September 9, 2008, 10:15 pm
  • whee!

    SF September 9, 2008, 10:15 pm
  • “Jason being Manny”
    Thats some good stuff there, stuck working.
    Now we need Paps to bring this home.

    mattymatty September 9, 2008, 10:15 pm
  • YES!

    Hit Dog September 9, 2008, 10:15 pm
  • Oki’s back out there. Not enough time for Paps to warm up?

    I'mBillMcNeal September 9, 2008, 10:15 pm
  • Nope. Here comes Paps.

    I'mBillMcNeal September 9, 2008, 10:16 pm
  • Dude did you guys see Bay’s expression when he rounded first? Holy crap he was pumped. That was awesome.

    Atheose September 9, 2008, 10:16 pm
  • This is Paps third day in a row throwing. I know why he’s in the game, but this is exactly why I don’t like Francona using him in a 7-1 game.

    mattymatty September 9, 2008, 10:17 pm
  • I agree that I’m a little worried about Paps throwing again, mattymatty, but I think throwing him in that Texas game was defensible. Dude hadn’t thrown in like a week, and you could he see he was a little rusty in that game, giving up the run.

    stuck working September 9, 2008, 10:20 pm
  • Aw, fuck.

    I'mBillMcNeal September 9, 2008, 10:21 pm
  • Sigh, tie game. That 7-1 appearance hurts now.
    Kotsay-Varitek-Ortiz in the bottom of the inning. Setting up for a walk-off? Please

    Atheose September 9, 2008, 10:22 pm
  • He just fucking grooved it.

    I'mBillMcNeal September 9, 2008, 10:22 pm
  • Shit. Game tied.

    mattymatty September 9, 2008, 10:23 pm
  • Looking at replay that was a pretty lousy pitch. Couldn’t have put it in a worse place. Paps can get away with that lots of times because of his great velocity and movement, but I guess not that time. Hopefully we can get out of this without any further damage.

    mattymatty September 9, 2008, 10:24 pm
  • A double off the monster… all three batters have hit the ball hard, Paps obviously doesn’t have it tonight.

    Atheose September 9, 2008, 10:25 pm
  • Well, no one said taking 1st place would be easy…

    stuck working September 9, 2008, 10:26 pm
  • Boy, really doesn’t look like Paps has much tonight. He’s give up a homer, a double and a rocket to center in three batters.
    Gotta love Sox fans though. They’re chanting and supporting Paps through this whole thing.

    mattymatty September 9, 2008, 10:27 pm
  • Another double gives the Rays the lead. Pull Paps NOW.

    Atheose September 9, 2008, 10:27 pm
  • Thats gotta be it for Paps. Please.

    mattymatty September 9, 2008, 10:28 pm
  • This has turned into a nice little gutpunch of a game, huh?

    mattymatty September 9, 2008, 10:30 pm
  • Well, that sucked. Hopefully we can come back against whatever blowout patch the Rays are throwing out there.
    Lets go Sox!

    mattymatty September 9, 2008, 10:33 pm
  • Seriously, that’s like the 30th 9th-inning comeback the Rays have had this season. They’re obviously cheating.

    Atheose September 9, 2008, 10:33 pm
  • If it was easy, evryone would be doing it.
    Now a little drama of our own.

    I'mBillMcNeal September 9, 2008, 10:33 pm
  • Obviously.

    I'mBillMcNeal September 9, 2008, 10:33 pm
  • Given how elated I was by the Bay HR, i feel like I’m taking this rather well.

    stuck working September 9, 2008, 10:35 pm
  • I’m too drained after The Dreamboat got knocked out for the season on Sunday. I’ve got nothing left.

    I'mBillMcNeal September 9, 2008, 10:37 pm
  • Kotsay walks.
    Here we go.

    I'mBillMcNeal September 9, 2008, 10:37 pm
  • I’m with you, IBM. I think my being in shock from that is cushioning the ups and downs of the Sox games.

    stuck working September 9, 2008, 10:38 pm
  • Lead-off walk! Someone should be pinching for Varitek, in order to bunt Ellsbury to 2nd.

    Atheose September 9, 2008, 10:38 pm
  • Wait why isn’t Ellsbury running for Kotsay?

    Atheose September 9, 2008, 10:39 pm
  • Crap. Two foul bunts.
    Crap.

    I'mBillMcNeal September 9, 2008, 10:39 pm
  • Looks like Tek is going to bunt. Personally, I’d rather not have Tek bunt.

    mattymatty September 9, 2008, 10:39 pm
  • Kotsay’s got decent speed, eh?

    I'mBillMcNeal September 9, 2008, 10:40 pm
  • Fuck. Wasted at-bat.

    I'mBillMcNeal September 9, 2008, 10:40 pm
  • I’m a bit behind cause of MLB.tv.

    mattymatty September 9, 2008, 10:40 pm
  • Gorgeous curveball to freeze ‘Tek. Lame.
    Why isn’t Ellsbury running?!!

    Atheose September 9, 2008, 10:41 pm
  • I’m not a demanding man. I just want a short little homer around the Pesky Pole from David Ortiz. I don’t need a majestic bomb or a tape-measure shot. A little dinker is all I ask.

    Paul SF September 9, 2008, 10:41 pm
  • At least now they have to pitch to Papi.

    I'mBillMcNeal September 9, 2008, 10:41 pm
  • Ellsbury has had quad problems, so thats why he isn’t in there.
    At least now they’re going to have to pitch to Ortiz.

    mattymatty September 9, 2008, 10:41 pm
  • That sounds reasonable, Paul. I don’t see why Papi can’t accommodate you

    mattymatty September 9, 2008, 10:42 pm
  • 2-0 to Papi. Time to groove one!

    Atheose September 9, 2008, 10:42 pm
  • Bunt by Papi?

    I'mBillMcNeal September 9, 2008, 10:42 pm
  • Thanks, Castig, for the, “THERE’S A DRIVE” opening to that routine flyout… Ugh.

    Paul SF September 9, 2008, 10:44 pm
  • Crap … crap … crap … crap … crap … crap … crap …

    I'mBillMcNeal September 9, 2008, 10:44 pm
  • That was a disappointing fly out. My breath caught for a second.
    Wow, Ellsbury NOW running for Kotsay. Quad injury must not be too bad I guess?

    Atheose September 9, 2008, 10:44 pm
  • Now, up comes Coco, the real threat…

    stuck working September 9, 2008, 10:44 pm
  • Yeah, Paul, Joe jumped the gun a bit there.
    Here’s Jacoby to run.

    I'mBillMcNeal September 9, 2008, 10:45 pm
  • Ellsbury to third on the SB/E-2!!

    Paul SF September 9, 2008, 10:45 pm
  • and now Ellsbury comes in? Huh?

    mattymatty September 9, 2008, 10:45 pm
  • Ellsbury steals 2nd, then takes 3rd on the throw!
    Seriously, why the hell didn’t this happen when there were 0 outs? He would have scored on Ortiz’ flyout!

    Atheose September 9, 2008, 10:45 pm
  • SB, E2, Jacoby goes to third!!!!

    I'mBillMcNeal September 9, 2008, 10:46 pm
  • Crisp picked a fine time to turn into himself. *sigh*

    Paul SF September 9, 2008, 10:46 pm
  • Shit.

    I'mBillMcNeal September 9, 2008, 10:47 pm
  • Coco pops up. Sigh.
    What the fuck kind of managing was that in the 9th? Absolutely horrible. Disgusting.

    Atheose September 9, 2008, 10:47 pm
  • Shit.

    I'mBillMcNeal September 9, 2008, 10:47 pm
  • Shit.

    I'mBillMcNeal September 9, 2008, 10:47 pm
  • Shit.

    I'mBillMcNeal September 9, 2008, 10:48 pm
  • Shit.

    I'mBillMcNeal September 9, 2008, 10:48 pm
  • Shit.

    I'mBillMcNeal September 9, 2008, 10:48 pm
  • Well that really sucked shit.
    I don’t get the whole Ellsbury thing. Not like we really deserved to win that game, but it would have been nice… We’ll get ’em tomorrow with Beckett on the mound.
    ‘night all.

    mattymatty September 9, 2008, 10:48 pm
  • Night Matty, everyone else.

    Atheose September 9, 2008, 10:49 pm
  • Just craptastic.

    I'mBillMcNeal September 9, 2008, 10:49 pm
  • Goddamn, that stinks.

    Devine September 9, 2008, 10:50 pm
  • Ok, I look at it this way:
    1. The Sox shouldn’t even be this close to first.
    2. With the way Daisuke and Kazmir pitched, the Sox shouldn’t have been this close to winning the game.
    3. You cannot be mad about games blown by Papelbon. They’re going to happen; tip your cap and move on.
    4. Jason Bay was freaking clutch. We shouldn’t forget that.
    It is a bit mystifying why Francona didn’t pinch-run Ellsbury when Kotsay drew the leadoff walk. Did he forget he had him available on the bench? Was he afraid a steal would take the bat out of Ortiz’s hands? If so, who the hell cares if the Rays wanted to walk the winning run on base?
    Questions I wonder if anyone will ask after the game.

    Paul SF September 9, 2008, 10:50 pm
  • Also, before the series I tagged this game as the one the Sox would lose. So they did the expected … in the most terrible, punch you repeatedly in the stomach kind of way, but the expected nevertheless. If Beckett plays the stopper tomorrow, this is still a highly successful series.

    Paul SF September 9, 2008, 10:53 pm
  • Yeah, especially after Beckett’s great start last week tomorrow should be good. We’ll just have to delay the capture of first place for a few more days!

    Atheose September 9, 2008, 10:57 pm
  • I’m listening to the highlights on EEI (or is it RKO? Whatever. It’s on XM), and I think, all told, it would have been better if Bay’s bomb just hit off the top of the Monster instead. It would still have been great, but none of that adrenaline and euphoria that made the come-down so much worse.

    Paul SF September 9, 2008, 11:00 pm
  • I’m glad I missed the end of the game (8th inning on). I was angry and upset enough finding out the circumstances without actually seeing them unfold, and Paul’s right, the comedown would have been worse. At least we know that Bay doesn’t lack the clutchiness.
    The only loss I’ve been more fuming, raging mad at this year was the Joba vs. Beckett game.

    Devine September 9, 2008, 11:42 pm

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