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Saturday, August 28, 2010
Updated: August 29, 3:30 PM ET
Red Sox let a close one slip away

By Joe McDonald
ESPNBoston.com

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona sat in his office in the visitor's clubhouse at Tropicana Field following Saturday night's game and unwrapped a package of Alka-Seltzer Plus.

Plop. Plop. Fizz. Fizz.

Before the antacid medication, Francona witnessed his club lose on an agonizing walk-off home run by the Tampa Bay Rays' Dan Johnson in the bottom of the 10th inning en route to a 3-2 victory.

Victor Martinez
Victor Martinez was 4-for-5 with a solo homer for the Red Sox in the loss Saturday to the Rays.

It was Johnson's first career walk-off homer. In fact, since joining the Rays in 2008, three of his four home runs have come against Boston, including a game-tying, pinch-hit home run in the ninth inning Sept. 9, 2008, at Fenway Park.

"I don't care who hits it. It hurts any way," Francona said.

With the game knotted at 2-2, Francona decided to bring in Scott Atchison to start the 10th inning before Johnson led off with his homer.

"I was trying to go fastball in," Atchison said. "I felt like that was probably the right pitch. I haven't looked at it on video. Maybe it came back over and got a little more of the plate than I wanted, but credit him. He got the pitch and he hit it out."

The series is tied at a game apiece with the rubber game set for Sunday night. Even though Boston's chances of sweeping the three-game set are kaput, taking two of three would be an accomplishment.

After Jon Lester produced a tremendous outing in Friday's 3-1 victory, fellow Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz followed it up with his own solid performance. The right-hander worked 7 1/3 innings and allowed two runs (one earned) on four hits.

He entered his 23rd start of the season without allowing an earned run in 20 consecutive innings. He had his scoreless streak snapped at 26 innings when he surrendered an unearned run in the seventh inning that tied the game at 1-1.

With one out and slow-footed Carlos Pena on first, Buchholz attempted a pickoff move but made an errant throw, allowing Pena to reach third and later scored on a sacrifice fly in foul territory to right field.

Buchholz said that call to throw over came from the dugout.

"That was called," he said. "So I just tried to throw it too quick and get it over there. It was basically just a check-over throw, so he knew I knew he was still over there. I screwed up."

Francona admitted the Sox knew Pena wasn't planning on going anywhere.

"Yeah. He wasn't going to run there. That's a tough way to give up a run," Francona said.

Red Sox catcher Victor Martinez is on a tear at the plate and gave the Red Sox the lead in the eighth. He went 4-for-5, including a solo home run in the top of the eighth inning that gave Boston a 2-1 advantage. The Sox's lead didn't last long, as the Rays' B.J. Upton tied the game with a home run to lead off the bottom of the eighth off Buchholz.

"I actually looked back at it, the pitch was pretty good that B.J. hit out," Buchholz said. "He just hit it. I was committed to throwing a curveball there. I hadn't thrown him one at any time previously. It was the first one he had seen all night and he caught it. It is what it is."

Martinez was clearly disappointed with the loss and wasn't focused on his personal performance.

"It's tough. It's definitely tough," Martinez said. "But like we've been doing the whole season, tomorrow's a new day. We need to come back, keep fighting and see what happens."

There's no time to be giving away wins at this point, as the Red Sox are still in contention in the AL East.

"It's important. We're getting down to the last month of the season, so every game is important," said the Red Sox's J.D. Drew.

If the Red Sox lose again like they did Saturday night in the remaining five weeks, their season will fizzle away like the powdery tablets Francona was ingesting after this one.

Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox and Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.