OK, the Red Sox got their first loss out of the way, and are now 1-1, as the defending AL champion Rays (still tough getting used to writing that) had their way with Jon Lester, getting five runs off him in five innings and cruised to a 7-2 at Fenway last night.
Lester looked very sharp the first two innings, striking out five of the first six hitters. But the fifth inning was his undoing. The Rays got two runs off him with the benefit of only one sharply hit ball. But Carlos Pena hit a long bomb into the bleachers that made it 5-1.
Terry Francona turned it over to the bullpen after that. In a scene eerily similar to Hideki Okajima in April 2007, Takashi Saito gave up a home run to Evan Longoria, the first batter he ever faced in a Red Sox uniform. The Sox had one last shot in the eighth, as Jed Lowrie came up with the bases loaded as the tying run with two out and the score 6-2. But he was called out on strikes to basically put the game on ice. (And what was with that strike zone by Bob Davidson last night? He was calling pitches six inches outside strikes for both teams. Brought back memories of the late Eric Gregg in the playoffs in 1997.)
It was a memorable night for Rocco Baldelli, as the Rhode Island-born outfielder made his Red Sox debut in right. He got one hit, and made a terrific sliding catch as well.
The only saving grace of the night was the Yankees, now alone in last in the AL East, got whacked by the Orioles, 7-5. Another starting pitcher of theirs, Chien-Ming Wang, got blasted for all seven runs. They have surrendered 17 runs in their first two games to the O's, and their newest Mr. Clutch, Mark Teixiera, went 1-fo-5, and is now batting .111.
Red Sox and Rays meet this afternoon with Daisuke Matsuzaka taking on Matt Garza. Make no mistake, the Rays are still a very good team, and this should be another grind-it-out race in the AL East.