The Red Sox had a lead going into the eighth, but one inning from the bullpen was all it took for this game to end up in disaster territory.
Wade Miley would actually finish his night quite strong, but in the beginning, he was the one giving the Red Sox little hope to win the game. The Sox would start off well enough, enjoying a productive first against Chris Archer as David Ortiz doubled home Xander Bogaerts with two outs to give Boston the early 1-0 lead. But in the bottom of the inning, Miley came out with nothing. Brandon Guyer led off the frame with a double, then quickly scored on Mikie Mahtook's liner to center to tie the game. Longoria sent a double down the left-field line to make it a 2-1 Rays lead before an out had been recorded, and by the time Miley was finally able to end the inning, the Rays led 3-1 on a Steven Souza single.
It was a beginning which spoke of disaster, but it would take a long while for that disaster to come. Given a lead to work with, Chris Archer would prove extremely reluctant to surrender it back, striking out the next six batters he saw in the second and third, giving him seven straight overall. But while Miley faced a little trouble again in the second, he worked through an easy third, then fourth and fifth, settling down in admirable style to keep the game in reach.
And, ultimately, it would be Miley who managed to have the better night. While Archer had been racking up the Ks, it had cost him quite a few pitches, leaving him with more than 100 on his arm as he came in to pitch the sixth. The first two batters of the inning didn't exactly hit the ball hard, in fairness to Archer, but both Bogaerts and Ortiz reached, ending Archer's night and bringing Enny Romero into the game. It was not his night. Travis Shaw immediately doubled to right to get the Sox within one, and the rare infield single from Pablo Sandoval on a throw wide of first allowed Boston to even things up. One sacrifice fly from Ryan Hanigan later, and it was 4-3, Boston.
For two more innings, Miley would hold that tie, even working around a leadoff double (and wild pitch) in the seventh when Sandoval managed to throw Kevin Kiermaier out at home trying to score on a ground ball. But even with Miley managing seven, that left two innings for the bullpen to handle, and they couldn't even manage one. Junichi Tazawa entered the game, and pitched worse than even Miley did in his first inning. Evan Longoria doubled right off the bat, and Logan Forsythe bounced a single into right field to quickly tie the game. Five pitches later, and Asdrubal Cabrera was golfing a low fastball into right-center for a two-run homer to make it 6-4.
That was not the end of it, with the Rays ultimately producing another two-run shot in the frame to leave the Sox behind 8-4. But it was already enough, with Boston not scoring again in the ninth. Ultimately, a Red Sox bullpen loss is kind of difficult to care about at this point. You'd certainly prefer it not be Junichi Tazawa who ultimately screwed things up, but...well, we know the bullpen is in for an overhaul already. At least when it came to the starting nine and the starting pitcher, Wade Miley and the Red Sox managed to outperform the Rays.
It's cold comfort. But it's something. And this late in a lost season, you take what you can get.