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No Sunshine at Fenway: Rays lose 5-3

Rays fans had to wait an extra day to see the 2008 AL Champs take the field at Fenway Park in Boston in the 2009 season opener and the skies were grey once again. The undeniably amazing pitching match-up between James Shields and Josh Beckett was not exactly what Rays fans were looking for. Hitting on the Tampa side was also not at its best but all hope is not lost and everyone had better “believe” that this is just the beginning.

Shields started off by giving up a home run to Dustin Pedroia right in the first but gets out of it leaving the bases loaded. Rays offense in the second brought a run in by Crawford’s base hit but in the third, Shields was in trouble again. An excellent play by Rays first baseman, Carlos Pena, prevented the Sox from scoring another run other than the two scored by Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis. Rays pitching coach, Jim Hickey, made a visit to the mound but that didn’t prevent Shields from giving up another run on a two base hit by Mike Lowell making the score 4-1 Boston.

Rays defense really shone with great plays throughout the game by third baseman, Evan Longoria, and also Carl Crawford and Gabe Gross in the outfield. Rookie Matt Joyce played center field today and was advised by Rays newcomer, Gabe Kapler, to “just have fun.”

At the bottom of the fifth, James Shields found himself in another dilemma and Jim Hickey paid a visit to the mound once again. Crawford’s play prevented a score by Youkilis to retire the side. In the sixth, Shields gave up a home run to the veteran catcher, Jason Varitek, and Maddon made the call to the bullpen. He was replaced by Lance Cormier who carried the Rays out of the inning at a score of 5-1 Boston.

In the eighth, the Sox made a pitching change to Hideki Okajima and Akinori Iwamura walked and Jason Bartlett got a base hit forcing the Sox to make another pitching change putting in Justin Masterson. Evan Longoria brought in two runs making the score 5-3.

The closing pitcher for the Boston Red Sox was Jonathan Papelbon with Joe Nelson finishing it up for Tampa. The final score was 5-3 with the win going to Boston.

So, a sad day for Rays fans around the globe, but hey, it was opening day. The first of many games and many tough pitching match ups like today’s. The Rays were without BJ Upton who is on the DL list with a shoulder injury and also have added Pat Burrell to their roster and he is sure to add a lot of power to their lineup this season.

Defense is right where it should be and in all honesty, Maddon should have pulled Shields before he had the opportunity to give up the home run to Varitek. We all know that James pitches better at home in the dome anyway. Boston pitching was just better today and that will happen as we see more and more teams really developing a strong bullpen. The Rays still have that on their side and a whole lot more to show the fans as the season unfolds!

-Jennifer Neal