Brad Penny pitched well yesterday after a tough first inning, allowing just three runs in six innings while striking out eight. He was done in by two cheap hits that gave Tampa Bay two runs, and they went on to win 5-3. Julio Lugo also botched what could have been a double play that ended the fourth inning, and that led to the Rays adding a run. (Tampa Bay also left runners everywhere, so it could have been a lot worse.)
But the story of the day was Carl Crawford, who wiped six bases against Jason Varitek and the Red Sox pitching staff. He leads the AL with 17, and Jacoby Ellsbury is now second with 13. Crawford set a team record, and was just one short of the all-time MLB record (and tied the modern-day record). The Rays also swiped eight bases in total yesterday. Tek has now allowed the most steals in the AL with 26, and no one is close to him.
There's no easy solution to the Red Sox catching problems. George Kottaras is not much better, and doesn't have as strong an arm as Varitek. The opposition will exploit this weakness, especially those teams that like to run (Tampa Bay, LA Angels, and New York, for example).
Tampa Bay took the series, 3-1. They have now won both series against the Sox this season, and have won 11 of the last 14 in the regular season. Who would have thought the Tropicana Dome has turned into a House of Horrors for the Red Sox? Make no mistake. Despite the slow start, Tampa Bay is still a very good team, and one long winning streak will put them right back in the thick of it.
Tonight the Red Sox are scheduled to start a two-game series in The Wind Tunnel (aka Yankee Stadium). The weather here in New York has been rotten for the last few days, and there's a 90% chance of rain tonight. Tonight at Thom's we are having a benefit for The Jimmy Fund, which I am hosting. There should be a good crowd anyway, as the Celtics open their second round playoff as well.