Drew’s Slam, Lester’s Arm Propel Sox over Rays, 9-2

Jon Lester pitched seven solid innings, Stephen Drew hit a grand slam, and the Boston Red Sox took the middle game against the Tampa Bay Rays, 9-2.  The nine runs marked the highest tally for a struggling Sox lineup since putting up 10 on the Toronto Blue Jays on May 1st.

Rays lefty David Price, the defending AL Cy Young Award winner, struggled mightily as has so often been the case this season for him.  Price tallied just a single strikeout, while allowing five hits and four runs as his velocity was well off from where it was a year ago.  Price lasted just 2 1/3 innings in the outing.

The Red Sox grabbed doubles in the first and second innings, but stranded base-runners each time to continue their problems hitting with runners in scoring position.  By the time the third inning was over, however, all those recent struggles would seem a distant memory as eight runs were pushed across.

Stephen Drew and Jacoby Ellsbury led off with a walk and single, respectively, and Dustin Pedroia lined an RBI single to center.  Pitching with discomfort, Price gave up an RBI single to David Ortiz, and he seemed to grimace on the last pitch.  After a brief meeting on the mound, Price exited the game in favor of Jamey Wright. Wright was met harshly with a Mike Napoli double, and a Jonny Gomes single, making it 4-0 Red Sox.  The Rays were still in the game at that point, and after a two-out walk to Jarrod Saltalamacchia, they still needed just one out to get out with minimal damage.  But Drew would have none of it, as he took a 1-1 pitch from Wright over the right-field fence for his second career grand-slam.

“It goes back to us controlling the strike zone, putting up quality at-bats,” John Farrell said. “When we’re right and we’re clicking offensively, that’s when we grind deep into each at-bat, and I thought we did that multiple times tonight. … We had a good offensive approach.”

While Jon Lester wasn’t electric, he was certainly solid, and put in another seven innings of two-run ball to run his record to 6-0.  He is the Sox slump-buster of the year so far, as he is 4-0 coming off a Red Sox loss, which of late have been piling up like credit card bills after the holidays. Lester looked very comfortable with the run production, and settled down after allowing two runs in the bottom of the third.

Jon Lester again played slump-buster for Boston, improving to 4-0 after a Sox loss.

Jon Lester again played slump-buster for Boston, improving to 4-0 after a Sox loss.

“We haven’t been scoring a bunch of runs lately and (the 8-run inning) takes a lot of pressure off so I could just go out and execute pitches,” Lester said.

Will Middlebrooks added his seventh home run in the eighth off Kyle Farnsworth to make it a 9-2 final score. Koji Uehara and Jose De La Torre added two innings of scoreless relief for the Red Sox, and Boston improved to 4-1 vs. the Rays this season. The Red Sox look to win two in a row for the first time since May 1st and 2nd at Toronto when Felix Doubront (3-1, 6.40 ERA) goes Thursday night against another talented young pitcher for the Rays, Alex Cobb (4-2, 3.09 ERA).

Inside the Game

-Stephen Drew is hitting himself out of the nine-spot.  Over his last 22 games, Drew is hitting .293 with an .879 OPS.  Oh, he’s also hitting .308 with RISP, as well as .467 with two-outs in those situations

-For the seventh time in his last ten games, Dustin Pedroia had two or more hits.  He’s now hitting .340 to lead the Sox with a .428 OBP (5th in the AL).

-In the “Why can’t we get players like that” category, Tampa 1B James Loney went 1-3, and is your AL batting leader at .379

-With losses by the NY Yankees and Baltimore Orioles, the Sox are now tied for 2nd place, two games behind NY.

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