The Boston Red Sox rattled off their 12th straight win at Fenway Park Wednesday night, beating the Tampa Bay Rays 5-1 in front of a sold out crowd of 37,474 fans. Josh Beckett led the way hurling 6 strong innings in which he allowed only 1 run on 7 hits while striking out 5 Rays to earn his 6th victory on the season.
The win helped move the Red Sox back into first place in the AL East by half a game over the Rays who had been in the top spot for almost two weeks.
There was plenty of excitement during the action and tempers flared on both sides of the field in this one. Dustin Pedroia grew very angry over a foul ball call that appeared to be a home run. B.J. Upton was ejected for arguing balls and strikes, and words were exchanged between Coco Crisp and Rays manager Joe Maddon after a hard slide into second on a steal attempt.
That’s what happens when you put the two best teams in MLB on the field together, no matter how early or late in the season, something is always at stake.
“We’re neck and neck and they have a good ballclub,” Crisp said. “So when you’re playing a team like that, you have to be at your best.”
Jacoby Ellsbury, J.D. Drew, Kevin Youkilis and Crisp all ended the night with 2 hits a piece. Drew hitting in the 3rd spot in the lineup for injured DH David Ortiz continued to pick up the sluggers slack by scoring 2 runs and also adding an RBI plus a walk to his line.
The bullpen continued to pitch well in relief. Manny Delcarmen struck out the side in the 7th, Hideki Okajima hurled a scoreless 8th and Craig Hanson shut the door in the 9th to preserve the win for Beckett and the Sox.
If the Sox can continue to rattle off wins without stars like Ortiz in the everyday lineup and pitchers Dice-K Matsuzaka and Clay Buchholtz in the five man rotation, just think about the possibilities when they are all healthy and return.
Tampa Bay had won 8 of their previous 10 games before heading into Fenway. On the season, the Sox are now 23-5 in Boston for the best home record in MLB. Tonight, they will go for their 4th consecutive series sweep at home by sending Jon Lester to the hill.
Lester’s last start at Fenway Park resulted in a no-hit effort against the Kansas City Royals on May 19th. He is 3-3 on the year with a 3.67 ERA.
The Rays will counter with Jamie Shields who is 4-3 on the year with a 3.24 ERA. He beat the Sox back on April 27th in Tampa when he tossed a complete game 2 hit shut out in the Rays 3-0 win at Tropicana Field. Six days later he couldn’t make it out of the 4th inning against the Sox who blasted him for 7 runs on 10 hits in Boston’s 12-4 win on May 3rd.
Tonight’s first pitch has been moved up to 6:05pm EST due to the start of Game 1 of the NBA Finals featuring the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers.