A young Tampa Bay Rays team re-gained sole possession of first place in the American League East tonight. Going into tonight's game one of the questions being discussed was how would the Rays respond to the surging Red Sox and the pressure of the playoff push down the stretch; however none of that seems to be bothering this team.
Dioner Navarro singled to deep center with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 9th off Justin Masterson to give the Rays the 2-1 win. Last nights game was was a slug fest with the Red Sox hitting 6 home runs while beating the Rays 13-5. Tonight the pitchers stepped up. Josh Beckett threw 8 brilliant innings of 3 hit ball giving up a lone home run to Carlos Pena while striking out 7. Perhaps equally impressive was Andy Sonnanstine for the Rays as he kept the Sox bats silent over 6 innings before handing the ball over to the bullpen.
Both teams played well enough to win, and in the end the Rays proved to Boston and maybe the rest of the baseball world that they are not going to crumble under the umbrella of inexperience in September. The rubber game of the series, and final match up of the season is Wednesday night; the Sox send Tim Wakefield to the hill as he opposes Matt Garza for the Ray's. Wakefield is 9-10 with a 3.92 era while Garza is 11-9 with a 3.62 era.
Despite the loss Red Sox fans can take some comfort in Josh Beckett's performance tonight. Although he picked up a no decision Beckett's command and velocity were very good, and his curve ball had really good break on it. Beckett has been on a pitch count since coming off the disabled list logging 95 pitches tonight. I believe that in Beckett's next start and into the playoffs we'll see him throw 110-120 pitches if need be.
ITM notes from the game:
-The Red Sox are the best fielding team in the American League, sporting a fielding percentage of .986. They've come a long way since the beginning of the year with Lugo at short.
-Bartolo Colon is apparently heading to the bullpen for the first time in his career as the Sox finish out the season.
-Mike Lowells' partially torn labrum in his right hip is looking like it will play a factor down the stretch. Lowell was pinch run for in the 9th inning after singling to left field. After making a running play in the 4th inning Lowell came up grimacing in pain, I wouldn't think he'd be in the line up tomorrow night, especially with the day off Thursday.
-Masterson has had better outings than tonight as he picks up the loss. A bit of bad luck with Barlet's bloop single and some control issues loaded the bases before Navarro won the game. His slider and sinker did have really good movement, ask Evan Longoria who looked foolish in his 9th inning at bat.