Most of this game was frustrating and straight-up bad from the Red Sox perspective. The offense couldn’t do anything against Rays starter Alex Cobb for the majority of the night. Rick Porcello wasn’t nearly as sharp as he’s been in his past few outings and was surrounded by poor defense, which certainly didn’t help matters. Heading into the bottom of the seventh, Boston was down 5-0 and this night seemed like it’d be a quick, forgettable loss for the Red Sox.
Then, in that inning, things started to change. To be fair to Cobb, much of it wasn’t his fault.. After a quick first out, Chris Young hit a lazy pop up in shallow right field. For whatever reason, Colby Rasmus made damn-near no effort to get to the ball, leaving Logan Morrison to attempt an over-the-shoulder catch. He couldn’t, and the Red Sox had a base runner. After Moreland drew another walk, Josh Rutledge came through with a little swinging bunt down the third base line. Cobb picked it up, but rather than just eating it and accepting an unlucky bases loaded situation, he made the throw to first and it got into the stands. That gave the Red Sox their first run of the game and put two more in scoring position. They’d come around to score on a ground-rule double from Sandy Leon. Boston would get one more on yet another error, with Brad Miller being the culprit this time. That brought them within one, but neither Mookie Betts nor Dustin Pedroia could bring the run around to score.
After Heath Hembree came through with a quick eighth, the Red Sox came back looking to at least tie this game. Things got off to a promising start with Xander Bogaerts ripping a double down the third base line and Andrew Benintendi drawing a walk. After a Chris Young fly ball would move Bogaerts to third, Boston had a real chance. They failed to capitalize, though, with Mitch Moreland striking out and Josh Rutledge grounding out to end the inning.
The Red Sox would go down 1-2-3 in the ninth and their late-innings rallies were too little, too late.
Prior to those late rallies, the story was the utter domination being put forth by Tampa pitching. Specifically, it came from Cobb. The Red Sox were utterly dominated by the Boston-born righty, whose funky rotation and changed repertoire kept the offense off-balance all night. If you watched the NESN broadcast, you know what I mean by the last part. As Jerry Remy pointed out, the typically changeup-heavy pitcher didn’t go to his offspeed pitch much at all on Friday night.
It was a strategy that worked wonders for Cobb, who was commanding his fastball and snapped off some truly impressive breaking balls to boot. The Red Sox lineup that had looked mostly good on their road trip to the upper Midwest never really got anything going against Cobb. Bogaerts would reach on a two-out single in the first before the Rays starter retired eight in a row. After walking Bogaerts in the shortstop’s next at bat, Cobb got two more quick outs. Moreland drew a walk to lead off the fifth, representing the first leadoff baserunner for Boston all night. He wouldn’t come around to score, and they’d go down 1-2-3 in the sixth.
Meanwhile, Porcello’s last bad start came in the middle of April. In that outing, the reigning Cy Young winner failed to make it out of the fifth, allowing eight runs in a shellacking that included four home runs. It also happened to come against the Rays. Since that night, he had started to get on a roll. He was commanding his pitches nearly perfectly and was controlling the ball. He looked damn close to the 2016 version of himself, minus the run support from his offense. The run support was lacking again tonight, but in his first start against the Rays since that April massacre Porcello once again didn’t look like he was at his best.
It wasn’t nearly as bad as the last outing, and the results were actually pretty good early on. He did give up a double in the first inning to Evan Longoria, but it was a Fenway double. In other words, it looked like a pop up but carried enough to hit off the Monster. He’d get avoid a run by inducing a ground out in the next at bat.
Porcello would give up another double in the second, and this time it was no cheapie. Rickie Weeks smashed one into left-center field. The Red Sox would catch a break later in the frame when Weeks caught caught between second and third on a grounder, and once again Porcello would escape danger.
After a 1-2-3 third inning in which he induced three ground balls, Porcello’s shaky command would come back to bite him. The inning started with an error, and wouldn’t you know it the error came from the third baseman. Rutledge made a weak throw to first base that Moreland couldn’t pick. It was certainly a bad throw, but Moreland absolutely should have been able to make that play as well. Weeks would come through again with a single to put runners on first and second, and he and Longoria would each move up a base after Leon allowed a passed ball. Leon has had a lot of instances poor receiving that have led to passed balls this year, and this one looked like he may have been expecting a fastball rather than a sinking changeup. Either way, it led to two runners in scoring position, and they’d each come around to score on an RBI base hit from Tim Beckham.
The next inning was even worse for Porcello. After allowing a leadoff single, Corey Dickerson hit a shot to center field on a fastball left up in the zone. The Rays outfielder missed a home run by about a foot, but still knocked in the run with a double. After giving up another deep fly ball to center — this time being caught at the track — Longoria smashed a high fastball way over the Monster and the Rays suddenly had a 5-0 lead.
Porcello would come back out for the sixth and get a 1-2-3 inning, but the outing was mostly poor. His line actually doesn’t look too bad — only three of the five runs he allowed were earned and he struck out seven without walking a batter — but the command wasn’t there. The Rays made good contact off him for much of the night, and particularly in the fourth and fifth innings. Tampa seems to have Porcello’s number this year.
This one got more exciting than it originally looked like it’d be, but in the end it was still a disappointing result. This Red Sox team still hasn’t been able to carry any momentum from one game into the next. Hopefully, they can turn things around with tomorrow’s afternoon contest* with Chris Sale on the mound.
*In case you missed it, Saturday’s game has been moved from 7:10 PM to 1:05 PM due to inclement weather late in the day.