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Red Sox 1, Rays 4: The Red Sox bats prevent a sweep

The offense couldn’t make it five in a row.

Tampa Bay Rays v Boston Red Sox Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Looking for a sweep, the Red Sox couldn’t get much going against Rays pitching. The offense did suffer a blow from a questionable call from the umpires early in the game, and that did seem to blow the momentum. However, to blame this game on the umps would be entirely disingenuous. Simply put, it was a bad day for Boston’s offense. They had a few scoring chances that they couldn’t do much of anything with, and other than that they were quiet all game. On the mound, Porcello was kind of the opposite. He was good for most of the outing, but he had one really bad inning and it was enough to give Tampa the win.

After exploding early in the first two games of this series, the Red Sox offense was held off by Alex Cobb on Sunday. He always seems to be solid against this lineup — and, really, against everyone — with his unconventional wind up helping his stuff play up a bit. Whatever the reason, the Red Sox couldn’t put too many runs on the board early in this game.

Cobb had their number in the first inning, racking up a couple of strikeouts and inducing a ground out. The second inning was better for the Red Sox, and while they did get on the board it certainly seemed like they should have been able to do more. That rally started on a walk from Mitch Moreland, who would move to second on a ground out. From there, Christian Vazquez came up and hit a soft line drive into right field to score a run. The run was aided by some bad defense, as Mallex Smith’s throw from right field was horrendous and landed short of the cutoff man. It then caromed into foul ground on the first base side, and Vazquez managed to get to third when the dust cleared. With one out and one run on the board, Sam Travis hit a fly ball to right field that wasn’t too deep, but after Smith’s last throw the Red Sox were ready to challenge him again. His throw was much better this time around, but it still appeared Vazquez made it in safely at the plate. He was originally called out, and the Red Sox challenged. Upon seeing the replay on the big screen, even the Rays believed he was safe and took the field again, but the umpires somehow saw something different and upheld the original call to end the inning with just one run on the board.

Tampa Bay Rays v Boston Red Sox Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

After that, the Red Sox didn’t get much going for a few innings. They did get a runner to second in the third, but he was stranded there. After that, they didn’t threaten again until the sixth. In that inning, Andrew Benintendi started things off with a single and Mookie Betts followed it up with a walk to put two on with nobody out. That was the end of the day for Alex Cobb, but Dan Jennings came in to induce a double play and a ground out against Moreland and Rafael Devers to end the inning and keep Boston at one. There is an argument that a pinch hitter should have been brought in with a lefty on the mound and a couple lefties coming up (an argument I’d probably agree with), but Farrell stuck with his starters. That was the last sign of life from the offense in this game.

Meanwhile, Porcello did look really good in the beginning of this game, and it looked like it was going to be a positive day at the least. The hope, of course is that he can string together a few good outings but he needed one to get things rolling.

The first few innings certainly looked like that was what he was doing. Porcello was particularly sharp in the first two frames, allowing just a walk and getting through six outs facing the minimum number of batters. He stayed strong in the third, too, though he had to face an extra batter thanks to a throwing error by Rafael Devers.

When the fourth inning began, and the Red Sox still held the 1-0 lead, it started to look like the Rays were picking up on Porcello’s pitches a little better. He allowed his first hit of the game in the first at bat when Lucas Duda smashed a groundrule double to the corner in right field. He’d end up stranded there, but Porcello also walked his second batter of the game.

Tampa Bay Rays v Boston Red Sox Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

That inning ended up being a little bit of foreshadowing for the fifth, when the wheels came off for the 2016 Cy Young winner. Brad Miller started things with a double down the left field line, then Wilson Ramos hit a pop up out to right field that found no man’s land and dropped in, allowing Miller to score. Porcello would then record two outs that were sandwiched by a single, but another single scored Ramos and put runners on the corners. After walking Logan Morrison for the third time in the game, Porcello mercifully ended the inning by inducing a flyout to strand the bases loaded. The Rays did only score two runs in the inning, but they took the lead, drove up Porcello’s pitch count and knocked him out of the game.

Things got worse as the Red Sox turned to their bullpen, with Brandon Workman coming up first. In the sixth, he recorded two quick outs before leaving a fastball in the middle of the zone to Ramos who hit a no-doubt home run out to center field. In the next inning, Robby Scott left a sinker up in the zone to Duda who smashed a homer of his own. Addison Reed came in and finished off the seventh, but the Red Sox trailed 4-1 at this point. Fernando Abad, Matt Barnes and Craig Kimbrel combined to finish off the game.

This was not the way the Red Sox wanted to end this series, to be sure. With a chance at a sweep, the bats fell asleep and the pitching couldn’t perform a miracle. It is, of course, won game and they still won two series in a row. However, the bad news is that the Yankees are cruising against the Rangers and will almost certainly pick up a game in the AL East. Assuming New York doesn’t collapse in their game, the lead in the division will be down to 3.5 for the Red Sox. They’ll have a day off on Monday before starting a three-game set against Oakland on Tuesday.