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Starting pitching lets Rays down in Fenway sweep

Dan Wheeler paces after giving up Kevin Youkilis’ homer in the seventh.

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Dan Wheeler paces after giving up Kevin Youkilis’ homer in the seventh.

BOSTON — In detailing how the Rays went from sweeping the Red Sox last weekend to being swept this weekend, it's best to start with the starting pitching.

At Tropicana Field, the Rays got an okay outing from Matt Garza and stellar work from Edwin Jackson and James Shields, a combined 21 innings with a 1.33 ERA, and won all three.

At Fenway Park, they got poor performances from Jackson, Shields and Scott Kazmir, a combined 112/3 innings and a 12.34 ERA, and lost all three.

"We just didn't pitch as well starting pitching-wise this series," manager Joe Maddon said. "Overall, more than anything, we probably were not as sharp in our strike-throwing this series as we were in our last series."

Maddon said the weather was one factor, as several of the pitchers mentioned how slick the ball was in the damp cold. Another was the hot Boston hitters who broke out of a weeklong slump, where they hit .153 and scored four runs in five games, in a big way, hitting .368 (39-for-106) with 18 extra-base hits and 26 runs in the three games, showing their trademark patience and power.

"They worked our starting pitchers pretty well," Maddon said.

As a result, the bullpen had to work heavily (121/3 innings in the three games) as none of the Rays starters worked more than four innings.

"We've put a lot of stress on the bullpen the last three games," Maddon said.

"Like a good offensive line, (the Sox) just wear you down."

B.J.'S BACK: CF B.J. Upton returned to the lineup for the first time since leaving Thursday's game with a strained left shoulder, going 0-for-3 with a walk.

Upton said he felt no pain but admitted he wasn't able to swing freely. "When it was warm it was fine, but going in and out of the cold weather (from the field to the dugout) it tends to get a little stiff," he said.

Plus, he acknowledged there were some mental barriers he has to overcome. "Definitely there was a little hesitation," he said. "It'll come."

Said Maddon: "He was maybe a little bit tentative. Probably in the back of his mind he didn't really want to turn it loose."

ROUGH DAY: C Shawn Riggans had an eventful afternoon with two passed balls, a throwing error on a double steal and a wild pitch that scored a run. Plus he was 0-for-2 with a walk.

"I couldn't catch the ball at times," he said. "That's my job, catching. That's why they call it catching. You've got to catch the ball. Anything that hits your mitt, you should catch."

TOUGH DAY: Maybe the Rays should have known things weren't going to go their way when what looked to be a break, the Sox scratching dangerous DH David Ortiz from the lineup due to tightness in his right knee, worked against them.

The Sox moved Manny Ramirez to DH and put Jacoby Ellsbury in left, and he made a running catch — that Ramirez would not have — to rob Evan Longoria of what would have been a two-run double in the first. And in the second, Jonny Gomes laced a ball that replays showed clearly hit the yellow stripe on the leftfield wall, but it was called foul and he instead struck out.

"Everything was going Boston's way," Riggans said.

MISCELLANY: Carlos Pena's seventh homer of the season was his first since April 12, the 18 games his longest drought since a 22-game stretch in September 2003. … RHP Gary Glover, on the DL with shoulder tendinitis, flew back to Florida on Sunday to begin a rehab program. … Class A Vero RHP Jeremy Hellickson improved to 3-0 with a 1.29 ERA and a remarkable strikeout-to-walk ratio of 46-2. … Kazmir was the 10th player added to the Rays roster since opening day and the major-league-high 35th player used this season.

Starting pitching lets Rays down in Fenway sweep 05/04/08 [Last modified: Monday, May 5, 2008 7:43pm]
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