The Sox have had some crazy late inning games this spring, but none quite as crazy as this one.
It all started with Daisuke Matsuzaka being what we have sadly come to expect. The first batter of the game, Ben Zobrist? A walk. The second batter of the game, Johnny Damon? A walk. The third, Evan Longoria? An RBI single.
But wait! There's more!
After a sacrifice fly brought in a second run in the first, Daisuke brought his talents to inning number two. There were no walks this time, and only one hit, but that one, coming off the bat of Jon Jaso, did not come back, making it 3-0 Tampa Bay.
The third inning was a lot like the first, except this time Zobrist and Damon doubled before being brought in by Matt Joyce's singled. When all was said and done for Daisuke, there were two outs in the fourth inning, and five runs on the board.
The bullpen did a rather better job, on the other hand. Andrew Miller picked up four outs, allowing just the one ground ball single, and Bard struck two batters out in his perfect inning. Alfredo Aceves' first two innings were also fairly impressive, with, again, just a ground ball single.
By the ninth inning, the Red Sox had managed to fight back to get within just a run of the Rays at 5-4. A few singles in the fifth inning had brought the first run in before the Sox turned on the power in the sixth. Carl Crawford led off the inning with a single, and moved to third on Kevin Youkilis' double. Nate Spears kept the pattern going with a two-out triple, scoring both runners before coming home himself on Tim Federowicz' base hit.
All that was left was to get one more to tie the game. With two outs in the ninth, Oscar Tejeda came to the plate as the team's final chance. That's when things got weird.
On a 3-1 count, Brandon Gomes delivered a fastball down the middle. Tejeda took advantage, belting one deep to center field. Desmond Jennings fired back into the infield. The relay throw went to third, where Tejeda was looking for his third triple of the spring...and where no Rays were covering the bag. Hesitating at third as Gomes ran to grab the loose ball, Tejeda turned home, and was just barely caught at the plate.
Except none of that mattered. The second base umpire was pointing out to the stands. The ball was gone, and the score was tied at five-all. Drew Sutton quickly added another to the Sox' total by blasting a rather more obvious home run of his own.
Entering the bottom of the inning with a 6-5 lead, the Sox just needed three more outs from Alfredo Aceves. They would only get one. Desmond Jennings quickly scored to tie the game after leading off the inning with a single and being doubled home by former Red Sox Casey Kotchman, who then scored the winning run on Robinson Chirinos' walk-off bomb to left, leaving the final at 8-6, Rays.
That's about as good as they get in Spring Training, folks.
The Offense: Seven of the starters and three of the replacements collected a total of thirteen hits. With homers from Tejeda and Sutton, a triple from Nate Spears, and doubles from Youkilis and Che-Hsuan Lin, who needs walks?
Daniel Bard, Andrew Miller: The bullpen continues to impress, with both Bard and Miller working to lower their ERAs after each suffered a bad appearance.
Alfredo Aceves: This deserves a big asterisk, and really I hesitate to include him here because of the situation. Aceves is, after all, working on making the jump from the reliever he was with New York to the starter the Sox want him to be, it's tough to blame him for coming out flat in his third inning of work.
Daisuke Matsuzaka: He came into camp in great shape, but we haven't seen anything come of it yet. While it's always easy to excuse a bad performance in spring training, it's telling just how many Sox fans don't seem to want to excuse it any more.