An extra-innings loss would be bad enough by itself, but the Red Sox didn’t just lose the game, but also their young left fielder. The only question now is for how long.
The Red Sox could never quite get to a comfortable position in this game, despite taking a 2-0 lead in the first when David Ortiz found the distance for the 30th time on the year. Porcello found himself in more than a few jams early, with only the threat of Jackie Bradley’s arm keeping the Rays from getting on the board in the second. They would build their lead to 3-0 when Mookie Betts drove in Dustin Pedroia to end the top of the third, but in the bottom of the frame, the Rays got two back when Porcello struggled to put away Brad Miller after getting ahead 0-2, eventually allowing a ground ball down the right field line that bounced around long enough in foul territory to let the Rays pull within one.
Porcello would pitch out of trouble in the fourth, however, and start cutting through the Rays with relative ease from there. Tampa Bay would go in order in the fifth and sixth innings, leading to a seventh inning which would mark the point where the game started to head downhill in a hurry.
For an inning that ended so unfortunately, the seventh started with a ton of promise. Travis Shaw led off the frame with an infield single up the middle, then moved to third when Andrew Benintendi doubled to give the Red Sox two men in scoring position with zero outs. But as he has done quite a few times this year, Dustin Pedroia hit a ground ball right to an infielder when the Red Sox needed something else. This time, it went straight to Matt Duffy who tagged Benintendi as he tried to retreat to second, then fired to first for the double play as Shaw had to hold at third.
That all sounds bad, but it’s not even the half of it. Benintendi had to dodge a tag in trying to get back to second and, in attempting to do so, had thrown his left leg straight out in front of him, a bit too far. In one fell swoop, Benintendi appeared to roll his ankle, and then have his knee buckle, leaving him crumpled in pain at second and unable to leave the field under his own power. The initial diagnosis is a sprain that the Red Sox will re-evaluate in the morning, but until advanced scans show that the ACL, MCL, and all those other Ls have survived, nobody’s going to be feeling too good about that cursed left field position.
Still, Benintendi or no, the Red Sox had a game to win. And...they didn’t do a great job of that, really. In the eighth, John Farrell elected to stick with Rick Porcello. That wasn’t exactly a bad idea at first, given that Porcello had been on a roll and Boston’s bullpen isn’t great. But if the decision wasn’t clearly wrong, the result was, as Porcello delivered an atrocious curveball to Evan Longoria and was punished with a game-tying homer. Farrell bafflingly chose to stick with Porcello not just for another fly ball the warning track, but also a base hit to Matt Duffy in an at bat Porcello started with 118 pitches on his arm.
Finally, Farrell would turn to the bullpen, and after a couple baserunners loaded the bases, Brad Ziegler was finally able to strike out Corey Dickerson to keep the game ties. And there it would stay despite plenty of hard-hit balls from the Red Sox in the ninth, tenth, and eleventh innings. But finally, Boston’s bullpen would prove the first to blink, just in an unconventional manner. With two outs and a man on second, Hembree got the relatively easy ground ball he needed to first base, but couldn’t make the catch as he ran to receive the throw, and Sandy Leon never caught the ball when the throw went home trying to catch Luke Maile as he scored the winning run.
With the Jays also losing, the Red Sox do get to spend another night in first place. But what would have been a bad loss just by virtue of the late blown lead and the walk-off error is made an absolute horror show by a potentially major injury to Andrew Benintendi. This was a night the Red Sox really, really didn’t need.