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Thursday, September 20, 2012
Sox stumbling home after Rays walk off

By ESPNBoston.com




Now there are only 11 games remaining in the 2012 regular season for the Boston Red Sox.

It can't end soon enough.

Boston surrendered a three-run lead and lost to the Tampa Bay Rays 7-4 on a three-run, walk-off home run by B.J. Upton in the bottom of the ninth inning Thursday night at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.

The Red Sox finished their recent road trip with a 4-3 record.

The Sox's season is lost, but they will have a chance to save face at home when they host the Baltimore Orioles and the Rays in their final homestand, beginning Friday night at Fenway Park.

Clay Buchholz
Clay Buchholz blanked the Rays for 7 innings, but was betrayed by Boston's bullpen.
In the road trip finale in Tampa, Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz worked seven scoreless innings and allowed only four hits with two walks and four strikeouts. The right-hander has been consistent and has worked at least seven innings in 11 of his past 12 starts.

Offensively, Cody Ross provided an RBI double in the top of the sixth inning to score Jose Iglesias to give Boston a 1-0 lead. Red Sox rookie catcher Ryan Lavarnway followed with an RBI single as Boston gained a 2-0 advantage on the Rays.

Boston added to its lead when Mauro Gomez hit an RBI triple in the top of the eighth inning for a 3-0 advantage.

Tampa pushed across its first run of the game in the bottom of the eighth inning when Ben Zobrist's sacrifice fly scored Upton.

Iglesias hit a solo home run, his first in the big leagues, in the top of the ninth inning to give Boston a 4-1 lead. He finished the night with three hits.

Tampa scored in bottom of the ninth inning when Carlos Pena drove in Matt Joyce with a base hit to right field to cut the Rays' deficit to two runs. Tampa tied the game at 4-4 when Desmond Jennings provided a two-run double off Red Sox closer Andrew Bailey.

Bailey was lifted for right-handed reliever Vicente Padilla, who promptly surrendered the game-ending, three-run homer to Upton.

CENTER OF TROUBLE: There's no denying the athletic ability of Red Sox infielder Pedro Ciriaco. But after he was penciled into the lineup as the starting center fielder, his versatility didn't prevent a few mishaps in the outfield.

In the bottom of the second inning, the Rays' Evan Longoria lifted a high fly ball to right-center field, but Ciriaco and right fielder Daniel Nava had a bit of miscommunication and the ball fell in for a two-base hit.

In the bottom of the third inning with two outs, Upton hit what should have been a routine fly ball out to center field, but Ciriaco appeared to have trouble picking up the ball and it fell in for a double. Fortunately, Upton was left stranded and the game remained in a stalemate.

After that, it didn't take long for Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine to make a change and replace Ciriaco with Jacoby Ellsbury in center field to start the bottom of the fourth inning.

HE'S ON THIRD: Since the Red Sox will miss the postseason for the third consecutive season, the club has decided to give the rookies a chance to show what they can do at the big league level on a daily basis. That includes giving Iglesias a chance to start at shortstop. That means Mike Aviles was moved to third base on Thursday night.

"Mike's played great. He's played more than he's ever played. He's played consistently. His defense has been, I think, amazing," Valentine told reporters prior to Thursday's game. "His offense has been very productive. Obviously the walks aren't there, but he's gotten big hits and he's hit good pitching and he's run the bases well. He's stolen bases when we need them. Mike's had a very -- and it's not over yet, and sitting isn't his cup of tea for sure, but he should be very proud of the way he's played. And I also am very proud of the way he's played and happy. I did mention to him the outfield. He wasn't very receptive to that. I guess if you see him, it would be short or second or third. And DH -- he's such a thick guy, it would be tough to keep him loose at DH."

UP NEXT: The Red Sox begin the final homestand of the 2012 season with left-hander Jon Lester (9-12, 4.95 ERA) going against the Orioles' Miguel Gonzalez (6-4, 3.57). Lester has dominated the Orioles in his career, posting a 14-0 record with a 2.49 ERA in 20 starts. In fact, he's 7-0 with a 2.47 ERA in 10 starts against Baltimore at Fenway Park.