Jarrod Saltalamacchia #39 of the Boston Red Sox reacts after hitting a home run against the Tampa Bay Rays in the bottom of the ninth inning at Fenway Park on May 26, 2012 in Boston, Massachusetts

Hindsight is 20/20 but the moves Boston Red Sox skipper Bobby Valentine made during the game last night almost cost his team the game.

Luckily for him, one of his later moves bailed him out when he had Jarrod Saltalamacchia pinch-hit for Marlon Byrd in the 9th inning. All Salty did was deliver a two-run walkoff homer against Tampa Bay Rays closer Fernando Rodney to give the home team a 3-2 win in dramatic fashion.

Obviously the Red Sox are in a strange predicament having to have Adrian Gonzalez play right field to keep both Will Middlebrooks and Kevin Youkilis in the lineup. Nothing against David Ortiz at all but having him on the team hamstrings Valentine’s decisions as what to do with three of his better hitters. If Middlebrooks had struggled when called up for Youk, it would have been easy to send him back to Triple-A.

Instead, Valentine is now having to find ways to keep all of his bats in the lineup at the same time.

So last night, Valentine put Gonzo in right and had Youk play first with Middlebrooks at third. Gonzo had volunteered to play right last weekend and did so in Baltimore as well. Last night he made his first start in the cavernous Fenway right field. During his six innings out there, he didn’t see the ball once. But we all knew he would be taken out of the game in the later innings especially with the game was tight.

But in a tight pitcher’s duel between David Price and Josh Beckett, Valentine made the switch a little earlier than I think we all expected.

After Big Papi had single Dustin Pedroia who reached on a walk to start the 6th, Gonzo laced a single to center that we all thought would easily score Pedey. Instead, a great throw from B.J. Upton nailed him at the plate to keep the game scoreless. Then Valentine made his move and inserted Che-Hsuan Lin as a pinch-runner for Gonzo. Lin would only get to third base on a Middlebrooks single that scored Big Papi.

The Rays would respond back in the 7th with two runs off of Beckett who had been cruising through the first six innings. But then the questions arose of would this move backfire.

When Lin’s spot came up in the 8th, he didn’t even get a chance to bat. Instead, Valentine pinch-hit Scott Podsednik for him. That move didn’t work out as Pods popped out to third. And as I stated earlier, Valentine was bailed out by the Salty walkoff homer.

We know this isn’t an ideal situation for the Red Sox to be in. But you’re paying Gonzo $154 million over the life of his contract. You got him for both his glove and his bat. Youk hasn’t played first base in a year or so. Wouldn’t you rather see Gonzo at first base than Youk with the game on the line? I know I would. And I have nothing against Youk playing there especially since he won a Gold Glove at first base.

Gonzo’s just the better first baseman.

Something tells me this isn’t going to be the last time this happens either. But it’s obvious the Red Sox need to do something with the situation.

The problem is they just can’t trade Youk, at least not yet. With him coming off the injury, he needs to play to show possible suitors that he’s healthy and can play on a daily basis.

You don’t want Middlebrooks sitting on the bench. He needs to play every day. He’s proven he belongs. But right now, the Red Sox may be better served with having Middlebrooks going back to Triple-A until a possible Youk move.

And before you crazy kids say anything, the Red Sox ARE NOT going to trade Middlebrooks. That won’t happen with Youk in the final year of his contract even with the Red Sox holding a club option for next year.

So as the days go on, we’ll just have to sit back and watch to see what happens.

Click on the read more button below to see today’s lineups, batter/pitcher matchups and links from the day if you’re on the home page.

Jeremy Hellickson (L), Clay Buchholz (R)

After winning on a walkoff home run last night, the Boston Red Sox look to take the rubber game of a three-game set this afternoon against the Tampa Bay Rays at Historic Fenway Park.

First pitch is scheduled for 1:35 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on NESN in the Red Sox television market. If you live in the Rays television market, you can catch the game on Sun Sports. And if you don’t live in either market, you are in luck as TBS will have national coverage of the game outside of the Red Sox and Rays television markets. If you can’t catch the television broadcast, you can always listen to it on the Red Sox radio network.

Clay Buchholz looks to give the Red Sox another series win in his 10th start of 2012. In his previous nine starts, Buchholz is 4-2 with a 7.84 ERA. He’s made two starts against the Rays this season and is 1-1 with a 5.25 ERA (7 ER/12 IP). Buchholz has made 10 career starts against the Rays and is 5-3 with a 2.48 ERA.

Last year’s AL Rookie of the Year, Jeremy Hellickson, makes his 10th start of the season for the Rays. In his previous nine starts, Hellickson is 4-1 with a 2.73 ERA. He’s made two starts against the Red Sox this year and is 1-0 with a 4.91 ERA (6 ER/11 IP). He’s made seven career appearances (six starts) against the Red Sox and is 3-1 with a 4.42 ERA. Four of those appearances (three starts) have come at the Fens where he is 2-0 with a 5.60 ERA.

Here are today’s lineups:

Tampa Bay Rays28-19 Boston Red Sox23-23
1. Carlos Pena 1B 1. Mike Aviles SS
2. B.J. Upton CF 2. Dustin Pedroia 2B
3. Matthew Joyce LF 3. David Ortiz DH
4. Ben Zobrist RF 4. Kevin Youkilis 1B
5. Luke Scott DH 5. Adrian Gonzalez RF
6. Sean Rodriguez SS 6. Jarrod Saltalamacchia C
7. Drew Sutton 3B 7. Will Middlebrooks 3B
8. Will Rhymes 2B 8. Daniel Nava LF
9. Chris Gimenez C 9. Scott Podsednik CF
Jeremy Hellickson SP Clay Buchholz SP

And here is how the hitters have fared against today’s starting pitchers:

Tampa Bay Rays @ Boston Red Sox batter/pitcher matchups


To open the links up in a new tab or window, use Control+click

Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s blast gives Red Sox walkoff win [Boston Globe]

Injury epidemic a pain in the neck [Boston Globe]

Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine rips Tampa’s coaching staff [Boston Globe]

Josh Beckett strong again for Red Sox [Boston Globe]

Hometown winner Alex Cobb lost in Red Sox-Rays scuffle [Boston Globe]

Pinch of Salt for Sox [Boston Herald]

Beckett in nice groove [Boston Herald]

Atchison’s hard work helps turn around ‘pen [Boston Herald]

Gonzo feels the pinch [Boston Herald]

Sun could be setting on Gonzalez’ RF stint [Clubhouse Insider]

Salty gives Sox sweet walk off homer [CSN New England]

Beckett sounds like a leader [CSN New England]

Saltalamacchia savors first walk-off homer [CSN New England]

Gonzalez not happy to be pulled [CSN New England]

Gonzalez back in right field for Red Sox [CSN New England]

Sweeney (concussion) hopes to play tomorrow [CSN New England]

Rapid Reaction: Red Sox 3, Rays 2 [ESPN Boston]

Gonzalez roams RF at Fenway for first time [ESPN Boston]

Ryan Sweeney could return to the Red Sox on Monday [Extra Bases]

Closing Time: Jarrod Saltalamacchia only needs to see two pitches to deliver win for Red Sox [Full Count]

The reason why Bobby Valentine took Adrian Gonzalez out in the sixth inning [Full Count]

Josh Beckett offered another not-so-subtle reminder [Full Count]

Jarrod Saltalamacchia Fights Through Dehydration, Launches Walk-Off Home Run for Red Sox [NESN.com]

Bobby Valentine Knows Baseball, From Beanballs to Walk-Offs, and Red Sox Respond [NESN.com]

Adrian Gonzalez ‘Not Happy’ With Early Exit, But Bobby Valentine Defends Decision to Yank Him [NESN.com]

Report: Roy Oswalt Was Eager to Work Out for Red Sox, But Would Still Rather Play for Cardinals or Rangers [NESN.com]

B.J. Upton on a Tear, Looking to Maintain Hot Streak Against Clay Buchholz, Red Sox [NESN.com]

Carlos Pena, Rays Express Confidence that Former Teammate Carl Crawford Will Impact Red Sox Upon Return [NESN.com]

Nava lives, learns, draws key walk in ninth inning [Projo Sox Blog]

Sweeney passes test, could play Monday [Projo Sox Blog]

Adrian starts in right for first time at Fenway [RedSox.com]

Crawford resumes swinging; not throwing yet [RedSox.com]

Returns for Sweeney, McDonald imminent [RedSox.com]

Kalish opens rehab assignment with Salem [RedSox.com]

Valentine bashes ‘immature’ Rays coaches [RedSox.com]

Dice-K strong in second rehab assignment [RedSox.com]

Buchholz aims to put Sox above .500 [RedSox.com]

For more slices of Red Sox goodness, head over to the Boston Globe, Boston Herald, CSN New EnglandESPN Boston, NESN, Providence Journal, RedSox.com and WEEI websites.

And if you must check out the enemy news, head over to the Tampa Bay Times and Tampa Tribune websites.

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photo credit: Getty Images, AP Photo, AP Photo