Clay Buchholz’s outing ended Boston’s string of five consecutive quality starts. He lasted only five innings (plus two batters in the sixth) and allowed two runs on six hits with one walk and five strikeouts. He tossed a total of 87 pitches (59 strikes). He also hit a batter and was called for a balk.
In fact, for the second time in the last nine games a Red Sox starter balked in a run. Buchholz became the latest victim on Wednesday during a scoreless game in the bottom of the second inning.
With two outs and runners on the corners, Buchholz was called for the miscue, which allowed Tampa’s Carlos Pena to score, giving the Rays a 1-0 lead. Fellow Red Sox starter Daniel Bard had a similar brain freeze last week.
Tampa starter Jeremy Hellickson worked six innings and allowed only one run on five hits with two walks and six strikeouts.
With the score 1-1, the Rays’ Matt Joyce led off the bottom of the sixth with a comebacker off Buchholz’s left heel. Joyce was safe on the play. Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine and team trainers came out to examine Buchholz, who stayed in the game for one more batter before he was removed in favor of lefty Andrew Miller.
“It’s a little sore but nothing big,” Buchholz said after the game. “I didn’t even need to get X-rays or anything like that. I’ve had broken bones before and it doesn’t feel like a broken bone.”
With no outs and runners on the corners, Tampa’s Luke Scott lifted a high fly ball to right field. Cody Ross had trouble with the lights and roof at the Trop and could not position himself properly to make a strong throw home, as Joyce scored from third on the sacrifice fly to give the Rays a 2-1 lead.
BALK AGAIN: The balks didn’t end with Buchholz. In the bottom of the seventh, reliever Franklin Morales balked and allowed a runner on first to advance. In the bottom of the eighth, he again was called for a balk, allowing Scott to advance to third.
SCARY MOMENT: Morales was removed from the game after he drilled the Rays’ Will Rhymes on the elbow with a pitch with one out in the eighth. After Rhymes was checked out by trainers, he made his way to first base, then collapsed. He remained on the ground for a few minutes before he was taken off on a golf cart.
TWO IS A LONELY NUMBER: Entering Wednesday’s game, Red Sox cleanup hitter Adrian Gonzalez had hit safely in seven of his previous nine games, carrying with him a .287 average with 20 RBIs this season. However, he has only two homers, with his last one coming on April 17.
NAVA-BOOM CONTINUES: Red Sox outfielder Daniel Nava continues to be an on-base machine. He entered Wednesday’s game with a .708 OBP since his recall on May 10. He provided a RBI single in the top of the fourth with a sagging liner to left-center that tied the game at 1-1. He has hit safely in all seven games since his call-up. He has also reached base safely in 18 of 28 at-bats.
DO I, OR DON’T I: Red Sox rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks, along with his timely and consistent offensive surge, also has played solid defense since being called up from Triple-A Pawtucket on May 2. In the bottom of the third Wednesday night, he quickly found himself in the midst of having to make a split-second decision when the Rays’ Elliot Johnson dropped a bunt down the third-base line. Middlebrooks had a good jump on the ball, and even though it appeared to be rolling foul, he snared it in fair territory and had to hold it as Johnson reached base safely to lead off the inning. Buchholz retired the next three batters to get out of the inning.
YOUK’S REHAB: Third baseman Kevin Youkilis (back strain) began his minor league rehab assignment with the PawSox in Wednesday night in Durham, N.C. He served as Pawtucket’s DH against the Durham Bulls and went 1-for-2, including a double, a walk and a run scored. He’ll have Thursday off before playing third base for the PawSox on Friday. If he continues to progress, it’s possible he could rejoin the Red Sox on their three-city road trip.