Chirinos gives Rays another walk-off win
Damon goes 1-for-2, scores two runs against Red Sox
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Although the focus was on Carl Crawford and his first game vs. the Rays, Robinson Chirinos stole the show when he hit a two-run walk-off homer in an 8-6 win over the Red Sox at Charlotte Sports Park on Thursday afternoon.
Tampa Bay had a one-run lead entering the ninth inning, but Oscar Tejeda and Drew Sutton hit consecutive two-out homers off Brandon Gomes to give Boston a one-run lead.
The Rays quickly tied things up when Desmond Jennings, who hit a leadoff single off the Red Sox's Alfredo Aceves, scored on Casey Kotchman's double into the right-field corner. After Stephen Vogt flied out to third baseman Yamaico Navarro, Chirinos blasted a 1-1 pitch over the left-field wall to give Tampa Bay its third consecutive walk-off victory.
While Tampa Bay starter Andy Sonnanstine turned in his best outing this spring, Boston right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka was roughed up for the second consecutive outing.
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"I think one of the biggest things was strike one, getting ahead," Sonnanstine said. "I'm just ecstatic about the way everything went today."
Sonnanstine hurled four scoreless innings and scattered two hits while striking out one to lower his spring ERA to 10.13. Dice-K, however, surrendered five runs on five hits and two walks over 3 2/3 innings to see ERA climb to 11.42.
After Matsuzaka walked the first two hitters he faced in the first inning, Evan Longoria singled up the middle to score the Rays' first run. Matt Joyce followed with a sacrifice fly to right to put Tampa Bay up, 2-0.
"It's difficult to say in words how I performed today," Matsuzaka said. "[While warming up], I threw very good pitches in my delivery. However, the result is not following through in the game. That's something that I need to work on."
John Jaso added to the damage in the second when he hit a 1-2 pitch from Matsuzaka over the right-field wall for his first home run of the spring and a 3-0 lead.
Ben Zobrist and Johnny Damon recorded back-to-back doubles to score the Rays' fourth run before Joyce singled home Damon for a 5-0 lead in the third.
Crawford, who went 1-for-3 and was making his first start against his former team since joining the Red Sox, gave Boston a glimpse of what it will be getting this season -- and what Tampa Bay will be missing -- when he made a diving catch of Sam Fuld's sinking liner to end the fourth inning.
Tejeda got the Red Sox on the scoreboard in the fifth, when he grounded out to shortstop with one out to cut the Rays' lead to 5-1. Boston pulled within one in the sixth when Nate Spears, who notched three hits, roped a two-run triple and then Tim Federowicz followed with an RBI single.
Up next for the Red Sox: Boston will split up on Friday, with one group playing the Twins at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla., and the other making the long bus ride to Kissimmee, Fla., to play the Astros. Both games are at 1:05 p.m. ET. Jon Lester, Tim Wakefield and Hideki Okajima will all pitch against Minnesota, while prospect Kyle Weiland, Dan Wheeler, Dennys Reyes and Rich Hill will pitch and Dustin Pedroia will start at second base against Houston. Brian Duensing will start for the Twins, and Brett Myers will start for the Astros.
Up next for the Rays: Tampa Bay will host the Pirates on Friday afternoon at Charlotte Sports Park in a 1:05 p.m. contest. Wade Davis will start for the Rays, and he will be followed by Jeremy Hellickson, who is making his first appearance after nursing a strained right hamstring, Kyle Farnsworth, Joel Peralta, Adam Russell and Alex Cobb. James McDonald will start for Pittsburgh.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.