The Rays vaunted pitching staff has been decimated by the Red Sox lineup everyone seems to have forgotten about. Bobby Valentine stacked the deck with right-handed hitters today, and it paid off against lefty Matt Moore, with Boston winning 6-4.
Felix Doubront was excellent for the most part, but ran into trouble late in his start. He struck out seven and walked just one, but once again he had trouble throwing a high percentage of strikes (59 of 96, 61 percent). Just one of his four-seamers induced a whiff, but it was missing with his change-up that got him in trouble (48 percent strikes). The lefty looked like he was out of gas in the sixth as well. Not entirely unexpected, given his low innings totals of the past, but at least he survived long enough to let the Red Sox bullpen close things out.
Scott Atchison (1/3 of an inning, one strikeout and walk), Vicente Padilla (1-2/3 IP, two punch outs), Franklin Morales (one inning, no runs), and Alfredo Aceves (the save and a strikeout) combined to bail out the inefficient Doubront, who once again was lifted after five complete innings. While it's disappointing that Doubront couldn't go at least six innings -- and snapped Boston's streak of three-straight starts of seven innings or more -- the performance of the bullpen is encouraging.
Mike Aviles smacked a homer late, and is now hitting .290. It's only been two games, but the leadoff experiment has worked out to this point. Kevin Youkilis picked up another hit and a walk today, and he looks like he's quietly coming alive at the plate. He did, however, miss making a play a third. One that, if fielded cleanly, could have kept Doubront's pitch count down a bit more.
David Ortiz and Cody Ross were the offensive stars for the Sox, with the former going 3-4 with two runs and an RBI, while Ross drew two walks and smacked a three-run homer against Moore. Jason Repko, called up today to be the fourth outfielder, left three men on base, but made a sliding/diving/tumbling catch in center that reminds Red Sox fans that it might only be Ellsbury's bat we'll miss the next two months.
That's three in a row for the Red Sox, and also their first series win of the season. Tomorrow on Patriot's Day they'll go for the four-game sweep of the Rays, with Daniel Bard taking on James Shields.