Rapid reaction: Rays 5, Red Sox 3

July, 14, 2012
7/14/12
10:32
PM ET



ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Clay Buchholz made an impressive return, allowing three hits in 6 1/3 innings, and Will Middlebrooks broke out of a mini-slump with a two-run home run off one of the best lefties in the league, David Price, but the Boston Red Sox still wound up on the short end of a 5-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays Saturday night, a couple of critical backfires costing them dearly.

Backfire 1: Bobby Valentine elected to issue an intentional walk to pinch hitter Hideki Matsui, who is batting .175 and just about at the end of the line, to load the bases in the seventh and set up a double play for sinkerballer Matt Albers. Defensible strategy, except that Albers walked the next pinch hitter, Jose Lobaton, to force in the tying run. Then Valentine left Albers in to face switch hitter Elliott Johnson, even though Johnson is batting .169 against lefties. Valentine didn't summon Andrew Miller until after Johnson hit a fly ball deep enough to center field to score the go-ahead run.

Backfire 2: After a leadoff double by Jacoby Ellsbury in the eighth, Pedro Ciriaco, already 0-for-3 with two strikeouts against Price, tried to bunt for a hit, according to Valentine. But that ended up as a wasted out, as Ciriaco fouled out to catcher Jose Molina. David Ortiz worked a full-count walk, leading to Price's departure, but reliever Joel Peralta induced fly balls from Cody Ross and Will Middlebrooks to end the threat.

Seventh-inning retch: The Rays scored two runs in the seventh without a hit. Buchholz issued his first walk of the night, then hit Jeff Keppinger with a pitch. Desmond Jennings bunted over the runners, and Valentine went to Albers. You know the rest.

Fifth-inning fizzle: The Sox loaded the bases with one out in the fifth on a walk and singles by Brent Lillibridge and Jacoby Ellsbury, but failed to score when Ciriaco flied out to right, and right fielder Ben Zobrist threw out Kelly Shoppach at the plate.

Fifth-inning fumble: The Rays, who trailed 2-1, tied the score when Keppinger doubled, took third on a sacrifice bunt, and scored when shortstop Mike Aviles mishandled Jose Molina's ground ball. The Rays' first run had come on a couple of singles and a sacrifice fly by Sean Rodriguez in the second.

Lights out: Fernando Rodney made it 26 saves in 27 chances, setting down the last three Sox hitters in order after Aviles led off with a single.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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