Closing time: Groundhog Day for Red Sox as David Price, Rays retake first place with 2-1 win

July 29, 2013 - 6:16 pm
David Price has done it again. Five days after he stymied the Red Sox with a complete-game effort in a 5-1 Rays win, the left-handed Tampa Bay ace repeated the feat by shutting the Red Sox down for 7 1/3 more innings Monday night at Fenway Park '€” an outing that could not even be shortened by a 39-minute rain delay in the middle of the eighth. He allowed one run on two hits while walking none and fanning eight en route to a 2-1 win for the Rays, who re-claimed the AL East lead from the Red Sox by half a game. Just like last week, a solo home run '€” this time from Brandon Snyder in the sixth '€” was the only thing to mar Price's otherwise sharp performance. It capped a month in which Price, the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner, was as dominant as he has ever been in the major leagues. He spent a month and a half on the disabled list with a strained left tricep, but returned at the start of July and proceeded to give up nine earned runs in 48 innings (1.68 ERA), striking out 35 and walking one. He also posted a 0.70 WHIP in that span. WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX -- A combination of poor baserunning and poor officiating did the Red Sox in after Joel Peralta entered with one out in the eighth. Ryan Lavarnway doubled on a line drive off the Monster, then Daniel Nava came in to pinch run. Stephen Drew lined a double that bounced and hit the wall in right field, but Nava got a poor read on the drive and failed to score, even though Drew ended up at second with a double. Up next was Snyder, who sent a liner to left and defensive replacement Sam Fuld, who had misplayed the ball that went for Lavarnway's double, made the catch. Fuld came up firing and home plate umpire Jerry Meals called Nava out at the plate. Replays showed Nava appeared to beat the tag. -- Well, Price pitched. He followed the same recipe he did last week '€” throw strikes to force the Red Sox to swing early in the count '€” to keep his pitch count down, and the Red Sox bats were hapless even when they were able to somewhat work the count. Price's 15-pitch fifth inning, for example, consisted of three strikeouts. After Mike Napoli went down swinging, Jonny Gomes looked at strike three on the lower outside corner and Lavarnway did so on the lower inside corner. Both were mid-90s fastballs. The Red Sox went down 13 in a row between their two hits off Price. All that, and the rain delay may have even given the Red Sox a break. Price was cruising at 82 pitches through seven innings before the skies opened up, and even though he returned when the game resumed, he faced just one batter. Gomes went up 3-0 before he struck out looking again on a full-count, 94 mph fastball '€” a pitch he thought was ball four '€” on the eighth offering of the at-bat. That pitch, Price's 90th of the night, proved to be his last, as Joe Maddon brought in Peralta immediately after. -- Felix Doubront's streak of five consecutive quality starts over the last month came to an end. The southpaw allowed just two runs in five innings, and pitched out of a number of jams, but was extremely inefficient in doing so. Doubront needed 104 pitches '€” only 57 of which were strikes '€” while scattering eight hits and walking three, including catcher Jose Molina, the No. 8 hitter who entered the game with a .236/.290/.313 slash line in 2013, to prolong the second inning. After stranding three and grounding into two double plays in the first three innings, the Rays broke through in the fourth. Yunel Escobar reached on a single through the right side barely out of reach of Dustin Pedroia's glove, then Molina singled him to third. One batter later, Sean Rodriguez sent a line drive off of a jumping Napoli's glove for what ended up a double as Escobar scored. Evan Longoria led off the fifth with a ground-rule double to center, then came around to score on Wil Myers' groundout. Still, it could have been considerably worse for Doubront, whose ERA stands at 3.77 after the outing. The Rays left eight men on base and managed just two hits in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position in Doubront's five innings. Part of the escape act included an inning-ending double play off the bat of Myers, the Rays' powerful rookie outfielder, in the third, as well as a 6-3 twin killing to erase a baserunner in the second. -- Fernando Rodney pitched a scoreless ninth to solidify the Tampa Bay win, but it wasn't easy. Napoli came to the plate with two on and two out, and after going up 2-0 he struck out swinging to end it. WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX -- John Farrell's lineup tweaking paid off again. He gave Snyder the start at third over Jose Iglesias, and Snyder rewarded him by ringing a homer off the Pesky Pole in the sixth. Including last week's game, it was the Sox' first run and second hit in nine innings against Price. -- A day after hitting his first left-field homer of the season, David Ortiz nearly did it again to lead off the second inning. He took a first-pitch fastball and sent it high off the Monster in left-center for a double, missing his 21st long ball by just a couple feet. Ortiz also hammered the first pitch he saw in his second at bat, but it was right at first baseman James Loney. -- After Doubront exited, Jose De La Torre put on Molina (walk) and pinch-hitter Matt Joyce (single) to get into his own jam to open the sixth. The right-handed reliever, however, proceeded to strikeout the next three batters '€” the top third of the order, consisting of Desmond Jennings, Longoria and Ben Zobrist, no less '€” to keep the deficit at two. Drake Britton followed suit when he inherited De La Torre's runner '€” a Myers walk '€” in the seventh and needed just seven pitches to end the inning. He got Luke Scott to fly out and Escobar to ground into an around-the-horn double play, eliciting a big fist pump from the rookie lefty who has given up two hits and one walk in six scoreless innings to start his big league career. The most recent of those innings came in the top of the eighth when Britton set the Rays down 1-2-3 with a pair of strikeouts. -- On a night when a threatening cloud provided a considerable amount of the excitement, a trio of Shane Victorino catches also served as a highlight. With two outs and runners on second and third in the fourth inning, Victorino made a running grab on a sinking liner to prevent further damage. One inning later, the right fielder ran the opposite way to track down Loney's shot before it fell and rolled to the corner. Victorino also robbed Scott of a homer in the fifth when, with his back against the short right-field wall, Scott's long fly ball safely found Victorino's glove.