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Well, that backfired.
After rain postponed Wednesday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays, the Boston Red Sox invoked an obscure rule that gives them (and the Chicago Cubs) the authority to schedule doubleheaders without their opponent’s consent. The Rays wanted to wait until their next visit to Fenway Park to make up the rain out because their bullpen was taxed and their team was struggling (so much for Ernie Banks’ “Let’s play two!” mantra); the Red Sox pushed for the doubleheader for those very same reasons.
Naturally, the Rays proceeded to sweep the Red Sox, taking the day game 2-1 and winning the nightcap 6-5 to drop Boston into a tie for last place in the AL East (with Tampa Bay, of course). Then, to add insult to injury (because sweeping a doubleheader isn’t enough), Rays manager Joe Maddon took to Twitter to brag about it:
Proud of our boys . All the convoluted stuff yesterday, then spending all day in Fenway’s diminutive clubhouse made it tough to win a split.
— Joe Maddon (@RaysJoeMaddon) May 2, 2014
You stay classy, Joe Maddon!
In Game 1 of the doubleheader, another strong start by Jake Peavy (6.1 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 5 BB, 4 K) was wasted when the Red Sox yet again wound up on the wrong end of a replay review that may have cost them the game. Trailing 2-1 with one out in the seventh inning, Dustin Pedroia attempted to score from first on a double to center by David Ortiz. He was called out on an extremely close play at the plate, a call that was upheld when replays were deemed inconclusive after the Red Sox challenged. It’s hard to take my (or John Farrell’s, or Pedroia’s, or anyone connected to the Red Sox) opinion as objective, but Pedroia really did appear to sneak his left foot past the swipe tag of Jose Molina and graze the back of the plate. Instead of tying the game, though, there were two outs (and a new third base coach, since Brian Butterfield earned himself an ejection — and I do mean earned), and Mike Napoli would strike out to end the threat.
The Red Sox would have one more chance to drive in the equalizer in the bottom of the ninth. With Pedroia on second and Ortiz coming to the plate (again), Rays closer Grant Balfour insisted on pitching to the Red Sox DH despite the open base. The move paid off in the end when Ortiz grounded out to second to end the game.
In the second game, Grant Balfour earned his second save of the day at the expense of Red Sox closer Koji Uehara, who took the loss after giving up the tie-breaking home run to Rays shortstop Yunel Escobar leading off the ninth inning.
The Red Sox took a 5-2 lead when they tagged Rays starter Chris Archer for five runs in the fifth, all with two outs, on a Shane Victorino hit-by-pitch (classic Shane!) with the bases loaded, then three consecutive singles by Ortiz, Napoli, and Grady Sizemore.
Sean Rodriguez pulled the Rays back within one the very next inning on a two-run homer off Felix Doubront, then scored the tying run on a single by James Loney off Junichi Tazawa in the eighth.
The Red Sox again had the tying run in scoring position in the bottom of the ninth when Victorino led off with a single, but Balfour retired Ortiz, Napoli, and Xander Bogaerts (after walking Sizemore) to let Escobar’s go-ahead solo shot stand.
Sadly, the Red Sox will have to try to regroup against the Oakland Athletics, who come to Fenway with the best record (18-10) and run differential (+59) in the American League. Clay Buchholz will take the mound Friday night opposite the A’s Dan Straily.