Quality start for Penny in loss to Rays

Quality start for Penny in loss to Rays

ST. PETERSBURG -- As much as the Red Sox wanted to get out of Tropicana Field with a split of this four-game series, two obstacles prevented that from happening in an eventual 5-3 loss to the Rays.

The first was Tampa Bay starter James Shields, who pounded the strike zone with nasty offerings all day. Then there was Carl Crawford, who treated the basepaths as his personal track meet, tying a modern-day Major League record by stealing six bases to go along with two runs and four hits.

"I didn't know it was a record," said Crawford. "I was just running. I wish I knew. I would have gone for seven. We won the game. That's the most important thing."

Just like that, the Rays took three of four from the Red Sox, who were red-hot entering this series.

"We had eight hits," said second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "It seems like we were that one hit away in this series to get a win. We just didn't get it in this series. Hopefully, we'll get it in the next series."

That next series is in New York, a two-game set with the Yankees that starts on Monday at the new Yankee Stadium.

But on this day, the Red Sox put all their focus on trying to snap their recent misfortune at Tropicana Field, where they are 2-13 over the last two seasons (not including the postseason).

"We were one or two hits away from changing that game," said catcher Jason Varitek. "We hit some balls, we got some guys on base, we hit some lineouts. On the flip side, they got some guys on base and had some balls fall. They were able to capitalize on that. Those things have to go your way, too."

Even with things going against them, and Crawford running wild, the Red Sox were in this game right to the last pitch.

With the Red Sox in a 4-1 deficit, Kevin Youkilis drew Boston within one when he rocketed a two-run homer to right-center with two outs in the eighth against lefty reliever J.P. Howell.

But Crawford again swung the momentum back on Tampa Bay's side, legging out an infield hit to drive in an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth. Shortstop Julio Lugo, Crawford's former teammate, charged the slow roller and fired it to first as fast as he could, but the ball one-hopped Youkilis and got away.

"The only thing you can do when he hits a ball like that is try to charge it, get it, try to throw it as soon as you can," Lugo said. "There's no time to think about it or try to grab the ball and make a perfect throw. Just get it and throw it as soon as you can. He's one of the fastest guys in the big leagues out of the box."

There was one clear bright spot for Boston. Right-hander Brad Penny did his job, allowing six hits and three runs over six innings, walking three and striking out eight. It was the first quality start the Red Sox have had since Tim Wakefield pitched on Monday night in Cleveland.

"I thought Brad really threw the ball," said manager Terry Francona. "It was good, it was strong, it was down, it was over the plate. He got some fastballs for swings and misses. He threw a couple of splits, a couple of breaking balls."

The day started with promise for the Red Sox, as they struck for a quick run in the first on J.D. Drew's RBI single to right. At that point the Red Sox had the bases loaded with one out, but Shields stopped the damage right there. In fact, he didn't allow anything of substance the rest of the day.

"He always locates all his pitches," said Pedroia. "He keeps his team in the game. It was big, getting out of that first inning for him. He kind of settled down."

Penny had some command issues in the bottom of the first, walking Crawford and hitting Evan Longoria. That set up Carlos Pena for an RBI double to right that tied the game.

The Rays rallied again in the fourth with one of those pesky rallies that marked their 2008 season.

Ben Zobrist drew a one-out walk and scooted to third when Akinori Iwamura's double fell just fair down the left-field line. Jason Bartlett followed with an RBI single to left, giving the Rays their first lead. The Red Sox had a chance to get an inning-ending double play on a grounder to second by Michel Hernandez, but Lugo dropped the ball on the transfer after getting the force, and another run came home to make it 3-1.

"That was a big play," Francona said. "We've got their catcher running, and we've got a chance. That's exactly what they were hoping we'd do, hit it right to [Pedroia] and we could turn two and get the heck off the field."

In light of the two-run blast by Youkilis, the Rays got what proved to be a critical insurance run in the seventh, when Manny Delcarmen hit Pat Burrell with the bases loaded. It was the first earned run allowed by Delcarmen on the season.

"I felt like I couldn't get a good grip on the mound. I didn't have it today," said Delcarmen.

More than anyone, though, the day belonged to Crawford.

"Crawford had a phenomenal day on the bases," said Varitek. "The first [steal], he had a terrible jump. I just threw it away. I made a real bad throw on that one. Some of the other ones, I made good throws, and some other ones, I didn't get the ball out. It was a combination of both. Later I made some decent throws, but there's not much you can do about it. He's good. He's got the speed to do things like that."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.