This was a tough loss, with it being yet another game in which the offense struggles to get anything going. To make matters even more frustrating, they were going up against Jake Odorizzi, a pitcher they’ve been able to crush before and who hasn’t had great results in his career or this season. They simply struggled to get much of anything going, and while their one hit was a big one, it wasn’t enough to pick up the win. To make matters even worse, the Red Sox lost Mookie Betts in this game to a right thumb contusion. The injury occurred on a tag play at first base in which he collided a bit with Lucas Duda at the bag. The good news is they are calling this injury day-to-day, so hopefully he’ll be back in the lineup in Baltimore on Monday.
On a more positive note the Red Sox did get some good pitching in this game. Eduardo Rodriguez got into some trouble in a few different spots, but was able to limit the damage in these jams. The game-winning home run he allowed against the final batter he faced could very well go against John Farrell, who tried to squeeze a little extra out of his starter. All tool, this was a positive outing for the Red Sox lefty. Additionally, we saw the return of David Price in this game, and he looked outstanding over two easy innings of work.
We’ll start with Rodriguez, who mostly did his job on Sunday afternoon. It wasn’t a perfect outing for the young lefty, but he cruised through a good portion of this game and continues to solidify himself as someone who should be pitching in postseason games. It’s true that he did get himself (with a little help from his defense) into some tough situations, but he was able to get out of trouble with very little damage against him. That’s a huge thing for someone like Rodriguez, who shouldn’t be expected to dominate every time out. He’s going to get himself into some trouble at some points, but if he’s able to make big pitches when he needs them like he did in this one, he’s more than capable of pitching in the biggest games.
The first inning was one of those situations in which Rodriguez found himself in a major jam, though it’s hard to put much of it on him. That started with an infield single on a weak chopper that just found room up the middle. Rodriguez got another ground ball in the next at bat that appeared to be a double play ball, but Rafael Devers just failed to squeeze his glove enough and made a costly error. Instead of a double play, there were two on with nobody out. Evan Longoria followed that up with a well-hit single, and that gave Tampa a 1-0 lead. Jackie Bradley even made an error in center on that play and allowed Peter Bourjos to get to third base. From there, Rodriguez stepped up and got two strikeouts and a pop out to leave the frame with just the one run on the board.
After that, Rodriguez settled in for the next three innings, getting through them with just one Ray reaching on a single. In the fifth, he got himself into more trouble. The lefty allowed two singles to start the inning, and then after getting a big strikeout he issued his first walk of the day to load the bases. That brought up Longoria, and he got another RBI. This one was just bad luck for the Red Sox, though, as his grounder found a hole on the left side of the infield and Bogaerts made the stop but had no shot at a play. The Rays had their second run on the play. Once again, though, Rodriguez got himself out of a jam with a pop out and a strikeout. With over 100 pitches after that inning, it seemed like that should be the end of the day for Rodriguez, but Farrell had other ideas. More on that in a minute.
First, we look at another frustrating day for the offense. There really wasn’t a whole lot going on with this side of the game early on, as Odorizzi was just cruising through the Red Sox lineup like it was nothing. The Tampa righty did look better than most other times we’ve seen him, but he certainly didn’t look as good as the line through the first half of this game would indicate.
In the first inning, Dustin Pedroia drew a one-out walk. And....that was all the Red Sox offense for a while. Through the first five innings, Odorizzi did not allow a hit and retired 15 of the 16 batters he faced including 14 in a row. There was some hard contact in the first inning, but mostly it was a lot of weak contact and a lot of swing and miss for Boston’s offense.
In the sixth, things took a turn. Trailing 2-0, the Red Sox got a little something going on a Brock Holt walk, giving them their first baserunner since that first inning. Jackie Bradley came up next, and gave his team their first hit in the most emphatic of ways. Odorizzi left a fastball up in the zone over the middle of the plate, and to say Bradley didn’t miss it would be an understatement. He absolutely destroyed the pitch and sent it over all of the seats in the power alley in right field, tying the game at two.
That was all they’d score in that inning, bringing us to the bottom of the sixth when Rodriguez came back out. As I said above, it seemed like a strange decision at the time, particularly when the Red Sox have a full bullpen. Farrell stuck with his starter, though, and Rodriguez rewarded him with two quick outs. Then, against Jesus Sucre, he hung a slider that caught too much of the plate and the Rays catcher blasted it into the seats to give the lead right back to the Rays. With the score 3-2, Rodriguez was done for the day. It wasn’t a perfect outing, but he ended up only allowing the three runs and struck out seven batters with just one walk. Austin Maddox would come in and finish the inning with the same one-run deficit on the board.
In the seventh, the Red Sox would welcome Price back to action. They were supposedly trying to avoid a high-leverage spot for him in his first game back, but so much for that. He came in to a one-run game and handled himself extremely well, picking up a 1-2-3 inning on just seven pitches including one strikeout. He’d come back out for yet another 1-2-3 frame in the eighth, and he looks like he can be a legitimate weapon in this role.
Unfortunately, the Red Sox couldn’t pick him up with any runs late in the game, and this would end in a loss.
So, the Red Sox couldn’t get the sweep but they did take another series. It doesn’t feel good in the moment, of course, and there were both bad performances and questionable managerial decisions that make this loss even worse. Still, the Red Sox are picking up series wins when they need them. As I type this, the Yankees are trailing Baltimore by three runs in the eighth inning. If that score holds, Boston will keep their three game lead in the division and the magic number will fall to 11. The Red Sox will look to start off another series strong in Baltimore on Monday with Doug Fister on the mound seeking out a bounce-back start.