Buchholz had a no-hitter until B.J. Upton hit a leadoff double in the bottom of the fourth inning. The right-hander cruised
through seven shutout innings, fanning eight Rays before his fateful pitch to Iwamura.
"He hit a good pitch," Buchholz said. "He was sitting all over it, so hats off to him. I threw a pitcher's pitch, and he hit it."
Iwamura, like most of the Rays, had been left in fits all night dealing with Buchholz's pitching. But Tampa Bay's second baseman had a hunch about what the hurler would throw next in what had become a chess match.
"Curveball," Iwamura said. "I took a pretty good swing against his changeup to center field [previously], and probably [Sox catcher Jason] Varitek knew I had good timing on the changeup. And my first three at-bats, I had bad timing on the curveball, so I thought
he would throw me a curve."
And with that lucky guess, the Sox saw their own luck sail over the fence at Tropicana Field in front of the sellout crowd of 36,048.
"Overall, I felt great tonight," Buchholz said. "Just a little misfortune, I guess."
The misfortunes seem to be piling up, as slugger David Ortiz was scratched from the lineup with a bruised right knee.
Francona said that the slugger was still sore and not expected to start on Sunday. Before the game, first baseman Sean Casey was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a right hip strain, an injury he sustained in Friday's game.
"[We] need to get this team back on track -- get some Ws," Kevin Youkilis said. "You know, we're pretty unlucky right
now. We're hitting the ball pretty well, [but] we're not catching too many breaks. And you have times in the game like this,
and it works in crazy ways. For us, right now, it's not going our way."
It appeared early on that the Sox might catch a break. With a depleted relief corps and after Friday night's harrowing
extra-innings loss, Buchholz struggled a bit in the first inning, issuing back-to-back walks before taking
command. After the second walk, the right-hander retired 20 of the next 21 batters he faced, allowing only Upton's double
down the third-base line.
"You could see as the game progressed he was coming off the mound with something," Francona
said. "Jumping off the mound in his delivery. He was aggressive; his changeup was fun to watch. It's the kind of pitching
that maybe [isn't going to result in] a two- or three-hitter every time, but that's the kind of pitcher you need. His stuff was electric."
Rays starter Edwin
Jackson also held his own, allowing five hits over seven innings, but he was haunted for most of the game by what looked to be the deciding factor: Coco Crisp's legs.
The speedy center fielder singled to start the fifth inning, and took second and third when Jackson's wild pitch got
behind catcher Shawn Riggans. Crisp scored on a two-out single by Jacoby Ellsbury, who was the only member of the Sox to muster up multiple
hits, going 2-for-4. The rest of the bats were left looking bewildered by Jackson, whose own solid performance was
overshadowed by Buchholz.
"Basically, he was mixing up his pitches. He was a little erratic, so you kind of didn't know where the ball was going,"
Youkilis said. "I think that sometimes helps out a pitcher. And he just settled down and didn't get out of control when he
walked a guy or got a hit. He settled down and didn't let it steamroll from there."
When the dust finally settled, there were two teams in two starkly different positions.
The Rays have now won five straight, whereas the Sox have dropped four in a row, and the reigning World Series champions are no longer alone at the top of the American League East entering Sunday's series finale. Tampa Bay sits one game behind Baltimore and Boston.
"Hopefully, we can get back on track tomorrow, get a win, go back home and enjoy that off-day that we really need." Youkilis said.
"They played well, they beat us both nights, but I think they were an easy two games we should [have won]. ... They got the big hits when they needed [them]."