If you had to pick a game for the Red Sox to lose in this three-game set in Tampa, the choice was obvious: Wade Miley vs. Chris Archer. That game is now in the books as a 1-0 win for the Red Sox, who combined some good pitching, good defense, and good luck to upset Archer.
Wade Miley may have left with the win, but there's no real question who outpitched who. Chris Archer was one tough assignment for Boston's lineup, even with John Hirschbeck calling a tight game behind the plate. Archer cruised through the first inning, with a tough fight against David Ortiz the only thing keeping him from a two-minute frame against the top of the lineup. And while Hanley Ramirez managed to single to start the second, Archer sat down Pablo Sandoval and Daniel Nava on strikes before getting Shane Victorino to pop out to end the threat.
On a night where he put together nine strikeouts in less than six innings of work (again, in spite of the zone), Archer's greatest weakness turned out to be the defense behind him. Facing trouble after a Ryan Hanigan single and Mookie Betts walk in the third, Archer got a ground ball from Dustin Pedroia that should have been enough to end the inning with a double play. But with Mookie Betts sliding hard into second base, Ryan Brett was unable to deliver an accurate throw to first, letting Hanigan come around from second to score.
It was one run, and somehow, it proved enough. Wade Miley was not quite as impressive on the mound as Chris Archer, especially when you take into account the competition he was up against, but there's no shame in that. If he wasn't quite as capable of dealing with the small zone, walking four batters over the course of the night, he rarely felt particularly out of control. In fact, his ability to spot the ball low in the zone was what saw him through five easy innings to start his night.
The sixth would prove the inning that decided the game, and that's where the good luck and/or defense comes into play. With one out, Brandon Guyer produced a line drive single to give the Rays a to-that-point rare baserunner against Miley. A few pitches later, and Steven Souza Jr. hit a ground ball to third, where Pablo Sandoval scooped up the ball and fired to second for a close force out.
Only...on replay, it doesn't quite look like the ball beat Guyer there. But that was the league looked at when Rays manager Kevin Cash challenged, and they apparently didn't see anything conclusive enough to overturn the call. To put it generously, it's one of those plays that goes the other way if the call on the field isn't important. But the Red Sox got their out, and instead of two on with one down, it was one on with two down.
That would prove important indeed, as Miley started to slip both literally and figuratively, allowing walks to both Logan Forsythe and Evan Longoria while hitting the dirt in his follow-through to the latter. But with the call having gone against the Rays earlier in the inning, they only had the bases loaded rather than a tying run. Alexi Ogando was called on to get that last out, and induced a ground ball to Brock Holt. Holt produced a pair of outstanding defensive plays on the night, but this one was simple: a quick throw to Dustin Pedroia to end the inning.
The Red Sox nearly scored a second run in the eighth after a leadoff double from Shane Victorino, but Ryan Hanigan failed to bring him in from third with one down, and Mookie Betts flew out to left to end the frame. So when Koji Uehara allowed a first-pitch single to Logan Forsythe, it was a nervous minute before Evan Longoria hit into a double play, leaving Desmond Jennings the game-ending out on a long throw from Pablo Sandoval and impressive scoop from Daniel Nava.
With the hardest game of the series out of the way, the Red Sox will send Joe Kelly to the mound looking for yet another series win Wednesday night.