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Rays shutout Boston; run win streak to 9

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Goin' up- seeya Boston

The streaking Tampa Bay Rays defeated the sinking Boston Red Sox 3-0 Saturday night at Tropicana Field behind an excellent effort from the bullpen. Grant Balfour received credit for the win, pitching 1.2 shutout(!) innings in relief, with Red Sox starter John Lackey getting tagged with the loss.

The action started with two outs in the first with David Ortiz hitting a double off of Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson that a fan (dressed in Red Sox gear) caught in the field of play. The ball appeared as if it may skim over the top of the fence and leave the yard for a home run but was caught as the fan reached over the fence. It seemed as if the Red Sox fan tried to frame the ball as if it had cleared the fence. The play was reviewed and the call on the field stood- no home run. Hellickson struck out Mike Napoli to end the inning with no damage.

The Rays' offense got off to a quick start in the bottom half of the first thanks to some from the Boston defense. Desmond Jennings, leading off for the Rays, laid down a bunt that was fielded by Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez. Unfortunately for the Red Sox, Napoli was unable to come up with Vazquez's throw at first and the ball ended up in the Rays' bullpen. Jennings, running hard, ended the play on third base. Red Sox manager John Farrell complained about Jennings interfering with the throw with his route to first. Jennings was in the basepath and remained on third. Ben Zobrist worked a walk off to give the Rays men on first and third without the benefit of a hit. Matt Joyce followed the walk with a single laced into right field, scoring Jennings to give the Rays an early lead. Lackey, appearing visibly frustrated, managed to recover and retire the next three batters to limit the damage.

Red Sox rookie Brock Holt committed a baserunning gaffe in the top of the third that helped the Rays end the inning. Holt, having worked himself a walk and on second base after a groundout, attempted to score on a groundout by Ortiz. James Loney, who was apparently warned that Holt may try to score on a grounder by the dugout prior to the play, caught Zobrist's throw from right field, turned and threw to Jose Molina, who easily applied the tag in front of home plate for the inning ending out.

The Rays added a run in the bottom of the fourth inning. Yunel Escobar led off the inning with a single to left and moved to second base on a solid sacrifice bunt from Molina. Lackey, during the ensuing at-bat, threw to second and picked off Escobar, with Stephen Drew applying the tag. Escobar was called safe on the field but replays showed that he was most likely out. Farrell came out of the dugout but the Red Sox elected not to challenge the call. Kevin Kiermaier, the batter at the plate, then singled home Escobar with a single to center to give the Rays a 2-0 lead.

Hellickson's night ended in the top of fifth inning after a two out single by Dustin Pedroia brought up Ortiz. Jeff Beliveau came on in relief and retired Ortiz on a scorched ball hit right at Loney at first base.

Boston again mounted a threat in the top of the sixth, with Napoli hitting a leadoff single and moving to third base with no outs on a pinch hit single from Jonny Gomes that Escobar and Evan Longoria both ignored in the infield. Neither player attempted to collect the ball as it appeared that both assumed the other would handle it. The ball rolled out of the infield and allowed Napoli to sprint to third. After Beliveau struck out a helpless Drew at the plate, holding the runners, Grant Balfour came on to get the Rays out of a jam. He did just that by striking out slumping Xander Bogaerts and getting a grounder from Jackie Bradley Jr.

Zobrist gave the Rays some insurance in the form of a two out seventh inning home run off of Lackey. Joyce and Longoria both drew follow up walks but were stranded when Loney grounded out.

Brad Boxberger pitched the eighth inning, allowing a walk to Napoli but no runs to keep the score 3-0 in favor of the Rays.

Koji Uehara pitched the bottom of the eighth with no runs for the Red Sox.

Jake McGee, touched for a run Friday night against Boston, pitched a perfect top of the ninth, striking out Boston youngsters Bogaerts and Bradley and getting Vazquez to fly out to end the game for his eleventh save in twelve opportunities.

Notes

-The Rays threw 173 pitches in a combined shutout- the Rays have never thrown more pitches in a shutout.

-The Rays will go for another home sweep of the Red Sox and a tenth consecutive win on Sunday afternoon with Chris Archer taking the hill against Alan Webster, called up to replace the recently traded Jake Peavy.