The Red Sox made it four straight series wins Wednesday night, taking a tight 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays thanks to Alfredo Aceves and Daniel Nava.
In his latest spot start for the Red Sox, Alfredo Aceves was unorthodox, but effective in keeping runs off the board. After a remarkably quick nine-pitch first, Aceves would walk the bases loaded in the second, but escape on a Yunel Escobar groundout. Another pair of baserunners in the third, this time with zero outs, led only to a big double play. Aceves would again avoid damage despite allowing two early hits in the fifth, only allowing the Rays to score on a home run from Evan Longoria. And, frankly, that will happen.
While Chris Archer was a bit more strikeout happy than Aceves, the up-and-coming Rays starter was having a similar night on the whole. A lengthy first inning ended scoreless with Jacoby Ellsbury stranded at second, the first of five baserunners Archer would strand in four laborious innings of work, three of them having reached via the walk.
The difference between the two pitchers was a matter of timing more than anything. Timing and efficiency. As far as timing is concerned, it was the timing of the home run allowed that spelled the difference. Whereas Alfredo Aceves surrendered his shot to Evan Longoria with the bases empty, Archer's mistake--a breaking ball to Nava that ended up in what might be called Nava's wheelhouse--came with one man on, and ended up quite a few rows deep in right.
Boston's homer was worth two, Tampa's was worth one, and that was that.
While Archer only lasted four innings, Tampa Bay got some superlative relief pitching, with five different arms combining to hold the Red Sox to just one hit. If Boston had needed five innings from their fatigued bullpen, it's hard to say how this game would've ended. Instead, they needed just three. Tazawa breezed through his outing, and while Craig Breslow let Evan Longoria come to the plate as the go-ahead run, Koji Uehara came in to strike him out on three pitches. All that was left was Andrew Bailey, and if he gave Sox fans a scare by giving up a very loud single to James Loney, that was all the Rays would muster off of him. Jose Lobaton struck out to end the ninth, and the Red Sox made it 8-3 to start a very difficult June.
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