Rally fizzles; Pedroia scuffles

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Rally fizzles; Pedroia scuffles

BOSTON With the Red Sox trailing by three runs going into the eighth inning Friday night against the Braves, there were fleeting thoughts that they might be able to duplicate their eighth-inning dramatics of the night before.

After all, the sparkplug to Thursdays three-run, game-winning rally, Will Middlebrooks, was leading off, followed by Ryan Kalish, Mike Aviles, and Daniel Nava, who all played key roles in the outburst.

Middlebrooks and his teammates had been virtually stymied up to that point in the game by Braves right-hander Jair Jurrjens, making his first big league start since April 23. Jurrjens had allowed just three baserunners through the first seven innings a first-inning single by Adrian Gonzalez, a third-inning walk to Nava, and hitting Middlebrooks with a pitch in the fifth.

Middlebrooks came through in the eighth with a lead-off double, off the wall in center field. After Kalish flied out to center field and Aviles grounded out to shortstop, Nava doubled to center, scoring Middlebrooks and ending Jurrjens outing.

Chad Durbin replaced Jurrjens on the mound to face Dustin Pedroia. But Pedroia grounded out to short to end the Red Sox hopes, as they fell to the Braves, 4-1.

Pedroia missed six games after leaving the May 28 game against the Tigers with a slight tear in the adductor muscle of his right thumb. He avoided the disabled list. But, in 15 games since returning to the lineup, Pedroia is batting .145, going 9-for-62, with three extra-base hits, all doubles, five RBI, five walks, and 10 strikeouts. His average has fallen from .295 to .264 in that span.

Today he actually said he felt fine, like its over, manager Bobby Valentine said. It probably did take three weeks plus to heal. And I thought his swings tonight were pretty good. The ball he hit to right field in the sixth was one of the best balls he hit to right field in a long time.

Just pitchers, theres a lot of pitchers that theyre pitching him tough. He hasnt gotten those pitches that he can really drive. And hes battling. Hell get hot. Hotter than a firecracker.

Asked if he would consider moving Pedroia out of his customary No. 2 spot in the lineup, Valentine replied:

Theres been a lot of consideration but I think Pedroia getting hot is right around the corner.

Boston pitchers strike out 14, but Red Sox still fall to Rays, 7-3

Boston pitchers strike out 14, but Red Sox still fall to Rays, 7-3

The appearance of Tampa Bay Rays lefty Ryan Yarbrough almost got the Boston Red Sox back in their spring training exhibition game. The Sox managed to score all three of their runs against the 25-year-old in their 7-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Florida on Sunday.

But the Rays, who scored runs in five different innings, managed to widen their lead in the eighth inning by beating up on Sox lefty Luis Isla, a 24-year-old who spent last season with Portland and Pawtucket. In the eighth, Rays' Joe McCarthy homered and Luke Maile managed an RBI single, which cappped off the scoring in the contest. Sox starter Hector Velazquez allowed three hits and an earned run in his two innnings. The 28-year-old, who spent 2016 in the Mexican League, still managed to amass four strikeouts.

"I was a little nervous at the start, being in the United States for the first time and playing for a big league club for the first time," Velazquez told RedSox.com through an interpreter. "But once I got the first out, all the nerves went away, and I was able to bear down."

Despite allowing two homers, Boston pitchers combined for 14 strikeouts.

With the exception of the Sox' inning against Yarbrough, Boston's veterans and prospects struggled mighltily against the Rays pitching staff. Chris Archer started for Tampa, and set the tone in the first two innings, where he threw two strikeouts, one walk and allowed one hit and no runs. Andrew Benintendi (0-for-3), Sam Travis (0-for-2) and Bryce Brentz (0-for-3) went hitless on the day. Travis, however, reached base on balls.

"I felt good. I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish," Archer said, via the Red Sox' team website. "Just out there having fun, it was really fun to be out there in the spectrum with the umpire, the fans, the batter. It was fun."

Marco Hernandez's triple got the Sox' eighth-inning off to a strong start, and singles from Matt Dominguez, Deven Marrero, Rusney Castillo and Cole Sturgeon followed. The Sox' eighth inning scoring ended after Castillo got thrown out by left fielder McCarthy at third. Six Red Sox finished with one-hit outings, including Brock Holt and Blake Swihart.

The Sox will next host the St. Louis Cardinals in Fort Myers on Monday at 1:05 p.m. ET.