De La Rosa's rough 8th costs Sox

De La Rosa's rough 8th costs Sox
September 13, 2013, 12:15 am
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(AP Photo)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The Red Sox haven't clinched anything yet, but with 14 games remaining, they remain in firm control of their own playoff fate and first place in the division.

So it was Thursday night that, with Koji Uehara unavailable, Craig Breslow being rested after a heavy workload of late and Brandon Workman coming off a two-inning stint the night before, John Farrell could use some high-leverage opportunities to further evaluate his bullpen options.
      
Drake Britton passed his test. Rubby de la Rosa wasn't as fortunate.
      
With the Sox locked in a 3-3 tie, Britton, who had already pitched a scoreless seventh, got lefty James Loney on a comebacker for the first out.
      
De la Rosa then came in and gave up and 0-and-2 double to Evan Longoria. Then, after getting Matt Joyce on a popup, De la Rosa surrendered a run-scoring double to rookie Wil Myers, with the ball falling just an inch or two fair inside the right field line and scoring  Longoria to give the Rays a 4-3 win.
      
"He attacked the strike zone,'' said John Farrell of De la Rosa. "He threw strikes. He got ahead of Longoria and the slider doesn't get to  the edge, or off the plate away, and we saw what a very good hitter can do with [a pitch like that].
      
"But I thought he and Drake came in, they threw the ball over the plate and had quality stuff.''
      
Britton was making only his second appearance in September, and was sharp. He issued a one-out walk to pinch-hitter Delmon Young in the seventh, but then helped start a nice 1-6-3 inning-ending double play.
      
"I've been in some of those [high leverage] spots when I first came up,'' said Britton. "I haven't been in any in a while. It was nice to get back in there. I think it's key because they want to see us be able to execute in tough situations with the playoffs coming up and all that.
      
"We can't really look too much into it. All we can do is be ready when our name is called and go out there and execute, so that's all we're focused on. Anything we can do to contribute to the team's win, that's what we're here for.''
      
"For Brit to come and pitch after not pitching for a while,'' said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, "and to keep his cool and get the outs [was big].''
      
De la Rosa was less successful.
      
"When we get two strikes,'' said Saltalamacchia, "we've got to be able to put the guy away. But those guys have such good stuff, you've got to kind of trust what they have. It's a learning process and it's a good time to do  that.''
      
As it stands, only a few relievers are guaranteed spots on the playoff roster for the first round. The Sox could take as few as 10 pitchers, and with four starters set, that means six relievers.
      
Uehara, Tazawa, Breslow and Workman would seem set. That leaves two spots, at least one of which will go to another lefty.
      
Pitching coach Juan Nieves said the evaluations are ongoing.
      
"I think consistency is the most important part,'' Nieves said. "I think the best pitchers in baseball have bad outings, good outings. It's consistency and how they handle stressful situations. Do they stay composed, not overthrow and trust their stuff?''