Red Sox unable to hold lead, drop DH to Rays

Uehara gives up leadoff HR in ninth after club once held three-run edge

Red Sox unable to hold lead, drop DH to Rays

BOSTON -- Not even Koji Uehara, the normally dominant closer, could rescue the Red Sox from being swept in a day-night doubleheader on Thursday at Fenway Park.

Sent in for the ninth inning in the nightcap with the game tied, Uehara's second pitch was nailed over everything in left field by Yunel Escobar.

The final in Game 2 was Tampa Bay 6, Boston 5.

The Red Sox took a 2-1 loss in Game 1 and are 13-16 on the season.

"I mean, we're not out here trying to lose," said Mike Napoli. "Yeah, it's very disappointing. But it was a tough day, and we're going to have to regroup, get back out here tomorrow, get our game plan and get back after it again."

Uehara having a rare mishap is the least of Boston's worries. He simply left a splitter up, and Escobar made him pay.

"I think I'm just pounding the strike zone too much," Uehara said.

What has thoroughly frustrated the Red Sox for much of the early part of the season is their penchant for creating opportunities and not capitalizing on them.

It happened again in the bottom of the ninth of Game 2.

Shane Victorino led off with a double off the Green Monster and David Ortiz moved him to third with a grounder to third, and the Red Sox were a mere 90 feet from tying the game.

But Napoli struck out looking. And after Grady Sizemore drew a walk, Xander Bogaerts also struck out looking against Grant Balfour to end the game.

It was a big day for Balfour, who saved both games.

"I mean, it's awesome to do it in any stadium," Balfour said. "But, yeah, definitely against a team you're fighting against in your division, it's huge. Any win is great, but especially against these guys. They're a great team. You know they're going to be there until the end. These one-run games are huge, you know."

The Red Sox will always feel good about their chances when Napoli is up with a chance to decide the outcome.

"I'm going up there trying to give a tough at-bat every time," Napoli said. "It's just not happening. But we've got to keep pushing and keep grinding. The type of guys we have in this clubhouse, we're not going to give up. It's still early in the year. We've got to figure this thing out and move forward."

In Napoli's at-bat, he was simply looking slider and got a fastball.

"He threw me like five straight sliders, then threw a heater right down the middle and it froze me," Napoli said.

In the eighth, the Red Sox had an eerily similar rally unfold, only to fall short. Bogaerts led off with a double to left-center and A.J. Pierzynski sacrificed him to third. But Will Middlebrooks struck out and, after a walk by pinch-hitter Jonny Gomes, Dustin Pedroia grounded out.

The missed opportunities were harder to take, considering Boston left 11 runners on base in the Game 1 loss. There were 10 in the LOB department in Game 2.

"Seemingly, it was the story of the day, considering the number of opportunities we created for ourselves," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "The one thing I will say is that we continue to create those opportunities. Things will turn. And yet that RBI base hit with runners in scoring position is elusive right now."

The Red Sox seemed in control of Game 2, holding a 5-2 lead after they put a five-spot on the board in the bottom of the fifth.

Lefty Felix Doubront gave up five hits and four runs (three earned) over six innings.

One thing that hurt was a popup between shortstop and third that fell between Bogaerts and Middlebrooks.

Sean Rodriguez belted a two-run homer off the light stanchion in left later in the inning to trim Boston's lead to a run.

"The play that drops in prior to the Rodriguez home run, that's a ball Bogey's got to take charge on," said Farrell. "They get caught up a little bit, and it ends up falling in, which, at the time, doesn't seem like a whole lot, but following the unearned run in addition to the home run, that was the two-run momentum swing right back to them."

The Rays tied it in the eighth against Junichi Tazawa when Rodriguez belted a double off the Green Monster and James Loney came through with an RBI single to left.

It was a tough day for Boston's normally stalwart Japanese relief duo.

"Guys that have been extremely dependable for us," said Farrell. "Rodriguez has never faced [Tazawa] before. He gets a 1-0 fastball that he doubles off the wall. Loney gets a pitch up on the plate. Within two pitches, they've tied the score with two quick outs. A split that stays up to Escobar from Koji, who had come in and pretty much dominated in the number of at-bats he's had against him."

Rodriguez, who had a monster night, got the Rays started in the second with a double and scored on a single to right by Loney.

Desmond Jennings made it a 2-0 game by lining a solo homer over the Green Monster with one out in the second.

Chris Archer stymied the Red Sox early on, but completely lost his command in the fifth inning. The righty loaded the bases on three walks and then hit Shane Victorino to force in a run. David Ortiz ripped a two-run single to right and Boston had a lead at 3-2. Napoli and Sizemore followed with RBI singles and Doubront suddenly had a three-run lead.

It wound up not being enough. The Red Sox have lacked their usual magic at Fenway thus far, going 6-10.

"We want to play good on the road and at home, but that was one of our strengths last year," Napoli said. "We've been struggling lately [at home], but everyone in here is trying. Everyone's going out there, trying to have a good at-bat and play the game the right way. If we keep at it, things are going to turn our way."

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.