After trip down memory lane, Sox fall to Rays

After trip down memory lane, Sox fall to Rays
BOSTON -- Memories of much happier times were on display before Tuesday's game, when the Red Sox held a ceremony to commemorate that fabled curse-busting team of 2004. But once it was time to play baseball, a familiar theme unfolded for this year's edition of the Olde Towne Team.

American League Cy Young Award candidate David Price was his typical overpowering self in lifting the Rays past the Red Sox, 5-2.

Clay Buchholz gave up eight hits and five runs -- four earned -- to take the loss.

Price went the distance, scattering seven hits while allowing two runs and striking out 13. In mowing down the Red Sox, Price improved to 19-5 and lowered his ERA to 2.56.

Manager Bobby Valentine doesn't have a vote for the AL Cy Young Award, but it seems obvious who he would pick if he did.

"He can win the Cy Young, yep," said Valentine. "He's got a shot at 20 games and 200 strikeouts and a lot of innings. He has great durability. He's a great competitor. Yeah, he could be a Cy Young Award winner."

Buchholz has been in that conversation before, and likely will be again in the future, but this isn't one of those years.

The righty (11-7, 4.22 ERA) hasn't won a game since Aug. 16, though much of the drought has been due to a lack of offensive support or a late-inning malfunction by the bullpen.

"I feel good," said Buchholz. "That's the best part about it. My body feels strong. I don't feel hampered in any fashion as far as my shoulder or elbow being tired. I feel good."

On some nights, Buchholz could have gotten a win the way he pitched in this one, but not when he was facing Price at his best.

"He's one of the best pitchers in baseball," Buchholz said. "It's tough. Nobody can expect these guys to go out there and put up eight runs against him. Runs are at a premium with the way he's pitching. Everybody knows that. They fought back and made things look a lot better than I thought they were going to look after giving up three in that one inning. Like I said, just one of those games."

Buchholz got himself into a bad situation in the second, opening the inning with walks to Evan Longoria and Luke Scott. Jeff Keppinger followed by belting a three-run homer over the Monster, putting the Red Sox in a 3-0 hole.

"I thought Clay was really good," said Valentine. "The second inning, first time in a long time, he walked two guys in a row. He just didn't have a good feel for any of his pitches and threw one down the middle to put us down 3-0. Other than that, he was really good, until we didn't turn the double play, and he left one up to [Jose] Molina for a couple of runs."

Danny Valencia put Boston on the board in the bottom of the second, smacking an RBI single.

Price balked in Daniel Nava from third in the third, and the Red Sox were down by just a run at 3-2.

But the Rays opened it back up against Buchholz in the sixth. Keppinger got it started with a one-out single to left. Matt Joyce lined a single to right. With two outs, Molina banged a single off the wall in left and two runs scored. Molina was credited with just one RBI, because Nava bobbled the ball for an error.

The three-run deficit looked enormous to the Red Sox the way Price was going.

"I felt like their approach to me in the second and third inning was very good," said Price. "I felt like they were trying to hit all the fastballs to right field, [and] that put 'em on time with the cutter. Granted it was catching too much plate and it was too much middle away. Molina came and talked to me after the third inning, told me we're going to switch some stuff up and give them some different looks and we kept doing that and it was pretty smart words."

The Red Sox couldn't do much besides tip their caps.

"He's just as good as anyone," said right fielder Cody Ross. "He got himself in a little trouble and then all of a sudden, he was like, 'That's enough,' and he really turned it on and pitched lights-out. That's what the elite of the elite do. There's only a handful of them in the game, and he's definitely one of them. He proved that tonight in a big game that they need to win and a game where he probably didn't feel like he had his best stuff early, he made the adjustment and came back and just slammed the door."

When Price struck out Mauro Gomez to end the game, his fastball checked in at 96 mph.

"He's just dominating -- 97, and then the curveball that's almost unhittable and then he mixes in the changeups and the backdoor cutter," said Ross. "There's so many different weapons he can use -- and he did."

Ian Browne is a reporter for Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.