Friday, September 16, 2011

Red Sox Wild Card Lead Falls to Three After 9-2 Loss

AP/Charles Krupa

Rays 9 Red Sox 2
Winning Pitcher: Jeremy Hellickson (13-10)
Losing Pitcher: Kyle Weiland (0-2)

The Red Sox continued their September woes on Thursday night, falling 9-2 at the hand of the surging Rays. Red Sox starter Kyle Weiland was at a big disadvantage going up against fellow rookie Jeremy Hellickson, and it showed last night. Weiland was actually very good to start, especially in the first inning. For the first time in his career, he recorded two straight 1-2-3 innings to start off a game, throwing just eight pitches in the first inning, and 16 in the second. It was interesting because so far this year, prior to last night, he had always unraveled in the second. In his previous three second innings, he had allowed nine runs on twelve hits. However, the wheels came off in the third, partly due to bad luck. He gave up a double off the wall and a walk, but had recorded two outs when BJ Upton walked to the plate. He got Upton to break his bat, but the head of the bat followed the same path as the ground ball to short, and just beat it there. Scutaro waited for the ball, but eventually jumped out of the bat's way, allowing the ball to sneak through and a run to score. After that bizarre play, Evan Longoria came up and smacked a three run shot off Weiland to give the Rays an early 4-0 lead. Weiland was clearly rattled, and pulled after 3.1. Weiland was extremely fastball-reliant last night, throwing it 44 of 61 pitches. He had good velocity on it, maxing out a little over 95 MPH, but could not command it. The whole outing I had the feeling he was just throwing it with no idea where it would end up. While the broken bat play could have changed everything, it still was not a good outing for the rookie.
As for the Red Sox offense, although they could not get any production, I did like their approach to hitting Hellickson. Coming into last night, the Rays' rookie was having some control and pitch count problems, and the Red Sox did an excellent job of working the count. In their first five at bats, they worked three full counts. That trend continued all night, but the hits never came along with it. David Ortiz and Marco Scutaro were the only Sox starters with hits (they each had two), although the team did draw five walks. Although they forced Hellickson to throw 117 pitches in just 5.2 innings, without any production, the Rays will take that any day of the week. The Red Sox only runs came on an Adrian Gonzalez ground out and a Darnell McDonald RBI single which scored Joey Gathright. Not exactly what you'd hope from this lineup in such a huge game. 

Quick Hits
  • The bullpen for the Red Sox is not scary for opponents right now. The early-season surprise, Matt Albers, has regressed rapidly, and allowed three runs last in 1/3 of an inning last night, including a two run homer to Upton. Since the start of August, he has allowed 23 runs on 27 hits in just 17 innings of work. He has almost certainly worked his way out of a prominent postseason role.
  • The Wild Card lead, once nine games as recently as September 3rd, has fallen to three. These two teams have that many more games together in this series.

The Red Sox and Rays continue their monstrous four game series tonight at 7:10 PM ET. Boston will send Josh Beckett (12-5 2.49) to the mound against Tampa's James Shields (15-10 2.70).    

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