Things opened up pretty badly for Jon Lester, who allowed four baserunners and a run in his first two innings, having his pitch count driven up to the point where the Sox would be lucky to have him pitching in the sixth. Meanwhile, James Shields came out and, though he gave up some long fly balls, sat the Sox down 1-2-3-4-5-6. It was an ugly start that hardly spoke to the eventual outcome.
But then came the third, and everything changed. Jon Lester came out, sat down the Rays in order--he would do the same in the fourth and fifth, only ever giving up another hit with two down in the sixth--and James Shields...did not.
Instead, he allowed his first baserunner of the game, leaving a changeup where Josh Reddick could line it into right field. Jed Lowrie, too had good contact, hitting a foul ball that would have been a homer had it been a few feet to the left before being called out on a borderline strike. Mike Aviles lined a single up the middle, putting two men on for, amazingly, the Sox' greatest home run threat this year: Jacoby Ellsbury. And while it's been a rough month so far for the center fielder, he did not disappoint today. Again, Shields threw a changeup, and again it got him in trouble. Ellsbury took a big swing, and lost the ball into the stands just behind the dugouts in right to give the Sox the 3-1 lead.
Shields would allow just one more baserunner for the rest of the game, walking Kevin Youkilis in the fourth, but it didn't matter. Lester brought his pitch count in line with a quick six-pitch fifth, came out for innings six and seven, and then handed the ball to Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon who recorded a pair of clean innings thanks in part to a diving, game-ending grab by Dustin Pedroia which you may well see on ESPN at some point tonight.
Bedard - Niemann starts in a couple of hours, but at the very least the Sox have avoided the sweep that would be the only truly impactful outcome of the series.