The Red Sox failed to complete their sweep of the Rays Thursday night thanks to a shaky performance from Jake Peavy and a bad eighth from Rubby De La Rosa.
Even when Jeremy Hellickson is stuck in a bad year, the Red Sox don't quite seem capable of breaking out against him like they can against so many other pitchers. Tonight was certainly not a classic example of Hellickson dominance, however. While he started off mowing down the Red Sox with strikeout after strikeout, the lineup would eventually get some level of offense going against him. Jarrod Saltalamacchia would get Boston on the board by turning on a straight inside fastball for a solo blast to right, breaking up a lengthy slump surrounding his back injury.
While the lineup would go quiet again for the fifth, in the sixth they were back to work, starting with another solo shot. This time the mistake from Hellickson came on a curveball that stayed up against the worst possible man: David Ortiz. While Papi had been quiet in the first two games of the series, he left a mark on this pitch, going opposite field to give the Sox their second run of the game.
The fifth inning attack didn't stop there, either. Hellickson would leave the game after walking Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and before Jamey Wright could get the third out, Stephen Drew slapped a line drive double into the right field corner to make it three runs for Boston.
With Jake Peavy on the mound, Red Sox fans might expect that to be enough to give the Red Sox the lead heading into the later innings of the game. Thursday, however, Peavy was just not at his level best. A line drive to right had netted Evan Longoria three bags and, after a Wil Myers single, the first run of the game back in the second, and a one-out walk to David DeJesus and two-out James Loney double had given Tampa Bay the second. The final valley would come against Desmond Jennings, who took a slider that stayed way too high and hit it a mile to left, leaving the Rays with three runs. So it was that when the Red Sox scored there third, it didn't put them ahead, but merely drew them even.
Now, at a different point in the year, or if the Red Sox hadn't taken the first two games in the series, this might have been where the Sox went to the best arms in their bullpen. Instead, they went to Drake Britton and Rubby De La Rosa. For Britton, who recovered from Tommy John Surgery years ago, that wasn't such a big deal. Four plate appearances led to four outs with the help of a double play.
For Rubby De La Rosa, who missed all of last year after undergoing the same surgery, it was not quite so easy. Hard hits from Evan Longoria--a ground-rule double to center--and Wil Myers--a line drive double to right--allowed the Rays to push across the go-ahead run. And while the Red Sox attempted another comeback in the top of the ninth, putting two men on with one out, a line drive out from Will Middlebrooks would take the wind out of Boston's sails, allowing the Rays to finish the series with at least one win.
But for the Red Sox, who remain 8.5 games up with all of 14 games to play, that's just not a big deal. Their job in Tampa was already done.