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Thursday, September 11, 2008

which hurts more: a ninth-inning comeback or an extra innings marathon loss?

If the Tampa Bay Rays defy the odds and somehow win the 2008 World Series, the last two nights at Fenway Park will no doubt figure prominently in the official championship DVD narrated by Dick Vitale.

After stunning Jonathan Papelbon and the Red Sox in the ninth on Tuesday night, Tampa Bay (87-57) hung around last night and eventually won 4-2 thanks to Carlos Pena's three-run homer off Mike Timlin in the top of the 14th.

With the win, the Rays move back to 2.5 games ahead of Boston (85-60). The teams only have three more games left in the regular season, beginning Monday at the Trop (where the Red Sox are 0-6 this season).

Josh Beckett looked good once again on a low pitch count (84 pitches in 6 innings, are you taking notes Dice-K?). He allowed one run on six hits with two walks and seven strikeouts.

One of the worst aspects of the loss was 7.1 innings of scoreless relief by four Boston relievers was thrown out the window after Timlin's work. Hideki Okajima (1 inning), Justin Masterson (2 innings), Manny Delcarmen (2 innings) and even Javier Lopez (2.1 innings-which has to be a career-high) allowed only three hits and three walks over their combined seven innings.

Timlin's had two outs in the 14th before giving up a 3-0 hit to Akinori Iwamura and another single to Rocco Baldelli before Pena hit his 28th homer of the season. Timlin's (4-4) ERA is now 6.09. He shouldn't be on the postseason roster, there I said it. If you're only let in the game in the 14th (despite not working in days) that should let you know how much confidence Terry Francona and the rest of his staff have in you.

Tampa Bay starter Andy Sonnanstine pitched seven innings, giving up one unearned run on four hits with seven strikeouts.

Willy Aybar (2 hits, 1 RBI, walk) tripled home Cliff Floyd in the second to put Tampa up 1-0. Boston responded in the third when Dustin Pedroia (2 hits, RBI, walk) hit an RBI double which scored Jed Lowrie.

It looked like the Red Sox might pull off a ridiculous comeback of its own in the 14th when Troy Percival couldn't get anyone out (I'm sure he's hurt again) and left with the bases loaded. Jason Hammell came in and got Kevin Youkilis to fly out to right which scored Jacoby Ellsbury. Jason Bay (0 for 7, 3 strikeouts) struck out and Alex Cora popped out to end the game.

Toronto-the hottest team in the American League-comes to Boston tomorrow with four games in three days (doubleheader on Saturday). The Sox have had plenty of trouble with the Blue Jays this season so they'll have their hands full.

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