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Bad staff infection


Bad staff infection
Rays 6, RED SOX 2

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - With the unemployment rate soaring and businesses shutting down regularly, the workplace is a stressful place to be these days.

And the stress on the Red Sox starting rotation, especially on this road trip, is starting to reach a breaking point.

Last night, Justin Masterson was only the latest in a conga line of starters who could not complete their work in a satisfactory manner. Even though he lasted six innings - which feels like a complete game these days for the Sox - the six runs he gave up in the fifth inning doomed him and the team, as it fell, 6-2, to the Tampa Bay Rays.

Evan Longoria's grand slam off Masterson (2-1) was the biggest blow, especially since the tall right-hander had started the fifth protecting a 2-0 lead. Carlos Pena followed with a solo shot, his league-leading 10th.

Tonight, the Red Sox turn to their blue-collar hero, Tim Wakefield, to lead them out of the wilderness.

Wakefield has gone six, nine, seven and seven innings, respectively, in his first four starts this season. His 2-1 record and 1.86 ERA have made him the ace of a rotation that has compiled a 9-7 record and a 5.68 ERA thus far.

Wakefield began this road trip in Cleveland with a solid, seven-inning effort Monday, but since then the combination of Masterson, Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Brad Penny have combined to go 0-2 with a 10.24 ERA, averaging just 4 2/3 innings per start.

``You can't really put a finger on what it is - I make a better pitch, we might be winning that game today. That's unfortunate for me to have to think about,'' Masterson said. ``You take it and you roll on, to try and get better each time. Everyone's trying to get better.''

Red Sox manager Terry Francona took note of the run of poor results (Wakefield excluded), which was partially obscured by the team's 11-game winning streak.

``Again, it just comes down to attacking the strike zone a little better,'' he said. ``Stuff is plenty good all the way around. When we attack and we work ahead, you'll see guys get better and you'll see more success.''

Tampa Bay starter Andy Sonnanstine (1-3) was able to implement that prescription most of the night, as he held the Red Sox to only two runs on eight hits in 5 2/3 innings.

He loaded the bases and then walked Jason Bay in the third to hand the Sox a 1-0 lead. An inning later, Kevin Youkilis and J.D. Drew hit back-to-back doubles for another run and a 2-0 advantage.

Masterson's two-seam, sinking fastball was in fine form most of the night, but he left the pitch to Longoria up and over the plate, allowing the Rays third baseman to go deep for the second night in a row against the Red Sox .

This one, however, hurt more than a home run in the middle of a 13-0 rout like Thursday.

``We've been looking for the big hit, Longo gave it to us (Thursday) and today in a very crucial moment,'' Rays manager Joe Maddon said. ``Masterson was throwing the ball very well I thought, but that's just how it comes down.''

Particularly for the Red Sox' pitching right now.

And one of these days, somebody besides Wakefield will have to lift everybody else up.

- msilverman@bostonherald.com


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 2, 2009

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