The Game: The Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Boston Red Sox 9-3 on Monday night at City of Palms Park. Jeff Niemann made his final spring start, throwing six scoreless innings in the winning effort.
The Rays took the lead in the first inning. Evan Longoria struck a solo home run, his fourth of the spring, to give Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead.
Tampa Bay added another run in the third inning on another long ball. This time it was Nevin Ashley going yard, increasing the lead to 2-0.
The Rays increased the lead again in the fifth inning. Ashley singled to the mound, then advanced all the way to third on an error by Boston’s Josh Beckett. Jason Bartlett would later drive home the run with a single to center to score Ashley and increase the lead to 3-0.
Niemann continued his amazing performance on the mound while the Tampa Bay offense kept producing, adding two more runs in the seventh inning. Ashley got things going with a single to right, then later advanced to scoring position by stealing second. Bartlett plated the run with a single to short to score Ashley, Bartlett pulled into second on an error during the play. Carl Crawford and Longoria then drew back to back walks to load the bases. The Rays pushed across another run in the inning as BJ Upton drew a bases loaded walk to give the Rays a commanding 5-0 lead.
The Red Sox finally reached the scoreboard in the bottom of the seventh inning. Bill Hall drew a walk and then was replaced by Shannon Wilkerson as a pinch runner. Marco Scutaro followed singled to center, moving Wilkerson to third. Wilkerson then scored on a sac fly by Dustin Pedroia to give Boston their first run on the night, 5-1.
The Rays further increased the lead in the eighth inning. Elliot Johnson led off the inning with a walk but was erased on a force out by Hank Blalock a play later. Blalock was then replaced by Alvin Colina as a pinch runner. Sean Rodriguez singled and Matt Fields drew a walk to load the bases. Reid Brignac drove home two runs with a single to score Colina and Rodriguez. Joe Dillon then drove home Fields with a ball to third. Rashad Eldridge would later drive home Brignac to give Tampa Bay a 9-1 lead.
Boston would add two more runs in the bottom of the eighth inning. Tug Hullett drew a walk and then later scored on an RBI double by Dusty Brown. Brown would later score on an RBI single Kevin Frandsen. But the Rays would hold on for the 9-3 win.
Jeff Niemann picked up the win improving to 3-0 by pitching 6 scoreless innings, allowing 7 hits while striking out 6 and walking 1. Dale Thayer pitched an inning and allowed 1 run on 2 hits with a strikeout and a walk. Mike Ekstrom pitched the remaining 2 innings, surrendering 2 runs on 4 hits with a strikeout and a walk.
RP Top Prospect Watch:
Reid Brignac: 1 for 1 with 2 RBI’s and a run scored.
Ty Morrison: 0 for 1.
A Look Ahead: The Rays (18-7-1) will return home to Charlotte Sports Park for a rematch against the Boston Red Sox (13-14) on Tuesday afternoon. Joaquin Benoit will get the start in the game that will air live on ESPN.
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