Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay Rays hammer struggling Boston Red Sox 9-2, cut AL wild-card lead to three games

BOSTON — Having lost momentum and opportunity in Baltimore, and off to a sluggish start Thursday, the Rays needed something to break their way.

Turned out it was B.J. Upton's Louisville Slugger.

And if the Rays somehow pull this off and beat out the Red Sox for a playoff spot, the shattered piece of ash — 34 inches long, 31 ounces and black — will take on legendary status as the broken bat that broke the hearts of the Fenway faithful.

Sparked by Upton's unlikely hit, the barrel of the bat flying at shortstop Marco Scutaro just before the ball went through his legs, the Rays rolled to a 9-2 win in the opener of this showdown series.

"You're always looking for signs, man," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "You're looking for signs from the baseball gods. They've got to throw you a sign once in a while, got to give you something to further the belief.

"Believe me, when I saw that I thought, 'Hey, let's see what's going to happen for the rest of this game.' "

What happened was the Rays rolled, their silenced bats coming to life. Evan Longoria followed immediately with a three-run homer for a 4-0 lead, and Casey Kotchman and Upton added two-run shots. Starter Jeremy Hellickson battled into the sixth on a chilly, damp and windy night, and four relievers teamed for 10 outs.

And what happened then was the Rays took a vital step in the right direction, the first of several required, as they closed to within three games of the Sox in the AL wild-card race, though with only 13 remaining. (They also clinched the season series by improving to 10-5 vs. the Sox, ensuring a one-game playoff would be at the Trop.) The four-game series continues tonight, with James Shields facing Boston's Josh Beckett.

"It's one game, and it's great to get the first one, and we can move on to (tonight)," Maddon said.

The struggling Sox helped with another poor effort as they lost for the seventh time in their last eight games and ninth in 11, including four straight to the Rays.

The Rays had their first two men on of the night with two outs in the third when Upton hit a sharp grounder to short. The barrel of the bat got to Scutaro just before the ball, and both ended up going through his legs.

"I saw the bat at the last moment," Scutaro said. "I just jumped. Couldn't do anything else about it. I thought maybe (today) I'm going to tell (coach Tim Bogar) to hit me ground balls and also bats so I can work on that."

Upton breaks a lot of bats — three or four already on this road trip, so he's got more being shipped to him — but never one that worked out so well. Or featured such good timing.

"That is definitely a first for me, but I'll take it," Upton said. "I think enough things haven't gone our way this year."

Maddon had pretty much the same take: "Obviously we got a break with the broken bat, my God, never seen that one before, ball and bat arriving at about the same time in the hole at shortstop. That was fortuitous, but we took advantage of it."

It took only four more pitches from Kyle Weiland, the first of seven Boston pitchers, as Longoria delivered, his 27th homer overall, and 22nd since June 11. His 75 RBIs since then are the most in the majors over that span.

The Sox got one run back as Hellickson teetered a bit, but the Rays tacked on two in the sixth on a homer by Kotchman. And then Upton struck again with a seventh-inning blast against the wind over the Green Monster in left-center — "punctured," Maddon said — to make it 8-1.

The Rays have beaten the Red Sox six straight times, and 10 in 15 overall, including five of six at Fenway, and the key has been their pitching, holding the Sox to a .178 average.

"Pitching, man," Boston DH David Ortiz said.

Tampa Bay Rays hammer struggling Boston Red Sox 9-2, cut AL wild-card lead to three games 09/15/11 [Last modified: Friday, September 16, 2011 7:26am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Brian Boyle says returning to Lightning a 'huge option'


    As former Lightning forward Brian Boyle approaches free agency this week, he said he's trying to stay busy.

  2. Rays journal: Blake Snell to rejoin rotation, Erasmo Ramirez heads to bullpen

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — LHP Blake Snell is rejoining the Rays' rotation, but the move has as much to do with helping the bullpen as it does with Snell's improvement during his time at Triple-A Durham.

    Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Erasmo Ramirez (30) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Cincinnati Reds Wednesday, June 21, 2017 in St. Petersburg.
  3. Rays' bullpen stars lit up in loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Saturday it was the soft underbelly of the bullpen that let one get away from the Rays, incurring the wrath of the team's faithful followers, who wondered why the high-leverage guys weren't pitching.

    Rays closer Alex Colome, coming in with the score tied in the ninth, allows three runs in his second straight poor outing.
  4. Lightning among early suitors for defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said he planned to explore free agency for potential needs, which include bolstering his blue line and adding a wing or two.

  5. Roger Mooney's takeaways from Sunday's Rays-Orioles game

    The Heater

    RHP Erasmo Ramirez is not happy about moving back to the bullpen, and can you blame him? But that's the best move for the Rays now. He can fill several roles: long man, setup man, even closer in a pinch. The Rays need to settle the bullpen, and Ramirez has proven he's capable of doing that.