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Thursday, May 1, 2014
Rapid Reaction: Rays 6, Red Sox 5

By Gordon Edes

BOSTON -- Takeaways from the Fens, where perhaps the Red Sox will now think twice about insisting that a reluctant opponent play a doubleheader when one game would have sufficed.

The result: The Tampa Bay Rays swept the Red Sox in a split doubleheader, coming from behind to win the nightcap 6-5 on Yunel Escobar's tiebreaking home run off Sox closer Koji Uehara in the ninth inning. The Rays won the opener 2-1, benefiting from a controversial call at the plate that deprived the Sox of what would have been the tying run.

The shock value: Uehara had faced 168 batters in the regular season between the time he gave up a home run on June 30, 2013, to Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays in Fenway Park, and Bautista taking him deep again Saturday in Rogers Centre. Escobar made it two home runs in five plate appearances when he homered Thursday night to lead off the ninth. There was no doubt about this one, either, as Escobar hit a hanging slider over the Monster onto Lansdowne Street.

Déjà vu: Uehara also gave up one home run in the postseason last October, and it came against the Rays in the AL Division Series: a walk-off home run by Jose Lobaton in Game 3 of the ALDS in Tropicana Field.

Hits in scarce supply: Last season, the Sox were held to six hits or fewer in 35 of 162 games, or 21.6 percent of the time. With only six hits in both games Thursday, the Sox have been held to six hits or fewer in 12 of 30 games, a 40 percent rate.

Third base a lonely outpost: The Red Sox put runners on third base in the first, eighth and ninth innings with fewer than two outs and failed to score. They scored all of their runs Thursday night in the fifth inning, on three walks, a wild pitch, a hit batsman and three straight two-out hits by David Ortiz, Mike Napoli and Grady Sizemore.

Walks don't translate: The Sox drew seven walks in the first game and scored one run, stranding 11 runners on base. They drew 10 walks in the nightcap, but left seven men on base in the last four innings.

Brass-knuckled Balfour: Rays closer Grant Balfour talked manager Joe Maddon into letting him face Ortiz with two outs and first base open in the ninth inning of the matinee, and retired the Sox slugger on a tapper back to the mound. In the nightcap, Balfour gave up a leadoff Wall-ball double to Shane Victorino in the ninth, and had the tying run 90 feet away after retiring Ortiz on a ground ball to first. But he caught Mike Napoli looking at a called third strike, and after walking Grady Sizemore on a full count, also punched out Xander Bogaerts on a called third strike.