A bad stretch of baseball continued for the Red Sox on Saturday, and it was not fun. A staple of this week-long run of futility is that the team has often found different ways to be frustrating, and while it’s not fair to base your view of the team solely on how they are playing right now it’s certainly hard not the be frustrated in the moment. David Price seemed like he had his good stuff in this game, and yet his command was just a little off and he suffered from some weird luck — including a strange-as-hell inside-the-park home run — leading to his worst line of the year in a full start. The offense was probably as frustrating as lineup could possibly be in a game where five runs are scored. Through the first three innings they left 47 runners on base (at least it felt that way). Oh, and Mookie Betts left the game about halfway through with hamstring tightness. Good times all around!
This was a weird, frustrating, weird, long, and did I mention weird? game. Price had some really good stuff — I’m not sure his fastball has had this much life all year — but his command was a bit off and the Rays did more damage against him than any team has while he’s been able to feel his throwing hand. The offense was a constant machine for the first half of this game, until they got multiple runners on base and then they just completely turned off. It felt like things were going poorly at every turn, but they were right in the game or tied pretty much the whole way through.
The top of the first may actually have been the least eventful inning of the first half of this game. The Rays did get a leadoff double but that was quickly erased by a nice double play from Rafael Devers that was helped by some poor baserunning. The bottom of the first was a sign of what was to come for Boston’s lineup in this game. The first three runners reached base when Betts was hit by a pitch, Andrew Benintendi hit a single and Hanley Ramirez drew a walk. It seemed like a perfect spot to open up a big lead, but they’d only manage one run on a Xander Bogaerts sacrifice fly.
The Rays would quickly answer in the top of the second, and they answered in truly bizarre fashion. After a leadoff double and a fly out, Denard Span hit what looked like your run-of-the-mill single on a little line drive into center field. It turned to anything but that as it took a weird bounce on Jackie Bradley Jr., who tried to recover but instead fell on his face as the ball rolled by him and all the way to the wall. Span would go all the way around for an inside-the-park home run (it was originally called an error on Bradley but later changed) to give Tampa Bay a 2-1 lead.
The Red Sox would once again come out and get some early baserunners in the second against Yonny Chirinos. Eduardo Nuñez and Bradley led off with back-to-back singles, and Nuñez would get to third on a wild pitch to put runners on the corners with nobody out. Once again, though, they’d only get one as Christian Vazquez followed that up with a double play that scored the run but killed the rally. The game was tied at two, but it felt like the Red Sox should have been up by at least a couple scores.
The Rays would continue to follow the theme of the day and quickly get the runs right back from the Red Sox in the top of the third, this inning was sort of a microcosm of Price’s day. He did get a pair of strikeouts against the first three batters with impressive fastballs, but he also allowed a well-hit double and then hung a curveball to Wilson Ramos who put it way out to left-center field for a two-run blast. After having so much success with the cutter and fastball all inning, it seemed like a weird time to turn to his rarely-used breaking ball, and it cost him.
And in the bottom of the third, well, I’m sure you can guess what happened. Much like in the first, the Red Sox loaded the bases with nobody out and Bogaerts came up to the plate. This time it seemed like they may break through as the shortstop kept it going with an RBI single, but then everyone else failed. The next three batters went strikeout, lineout, strikeout to end the inning with just the one run crossing the plate. Ahhh!
The fourth was a big “shutdown” inning for Price, as he allowed a leadoff walk but got out of it with a fly out and a big double play ball. The Red Sox did continue their streak of scoring one run per inning in the bottom half, though it wasn’t quite as frustrating as the previous three instances. This time, Betts hit a one-out double and with two outs Ramirez came through with an RBI single. This was when Betts started grabbing his hamstring, and crossing the plate would be his last act in this game.
The fifth is when Price started to lose his command a bit and the stuff on his fastball and cutter stopped making up for the issues. There wasn’t a ton of hard contact in the inning, but after a quick first out he’d give up a pair of singles and a walk to load the bases. With two outs, he lost the strike zone at an inopportune time, walking Daniel Robertson on four pitches to allow a go-ahead run to the Rays. Fortunately, that was all they’d score, and the Red Sox quickly tied things back up in the bottom half when Rafael Devers took a fastball the other way into the Monster Seats to tie the game right back up.
Here, we got the all-too-common inning that was undone by poor Red Sox defense. The first baserunner wasn’t really poor defense as much as bad luck, as Adeiny Hechavarria hit a little pop up behind the mound that Bogaerts dove for but came up just short for one of the weakest singles you’ll ever see. During the next at bat, Christian Vazquez just straight-up missed a fastball on the inner half of the strike zone to allow Hechavarria to advance, and that would prove costly. After two outs, Price left the game with the runner on second and Heath Hembree tried to get out of it. Matt Duffy, the first batter he faced, hit a chopper over the pitcher’s head and Nuñez got it charging in. He had a chance to make the play at first but he would have had to make a perfect throw to first while off-balance and with his momentum carrying him towards the plate. The smart play would have been to just eat it and try to get the next guy, but that’s not what happened. Instead, he sailed one past Ramirez into the dugout to allow a run to score and give Tampa the lead.
Hembree would get out of it from there, but after a quick sixth for the Red Sox offense the righty came back out and immediately allowed a solo home run to Carlos Gomez to give the Rays a big insurance run. After Hembree allowed a couple more baserunners with no outs in that inning, Matt Barnes came on with a huge outing, getting a couple of Ks along with a groundout to escape.
It looked like the Red Sox might be able to get something back in the seventh when J.D. Martinez got to second on a two-base error and Devers managed an infield single with two down, but Nuñez struck out to end the rally.
Brian Johnson came on for the eighth and things continued to go poorly for the Red Sox. The Rays would get a couple of singles to lead things off and then after Johnson got two big outs and looked like he might escape, Jesus Sucre came through with an RBI double to extend Tampa’s lead to three.
That would prove to be the back-breaker for this one, as it mercifully came to an uneventful close from here. The Red Sox went down 1-2-3 in the eighth, and then the Rays came out and put four runs on the board in the ninth to really put a nail in this one.
So, Boston will look to get back on track and avoid a sweep at the hands of the red-hot Rays on Sunday afternoon in the series finale. The Sox send Rick Porcello to the mound to go against....the Rays bullpen. First pitch is at 1:05 PM ET.
Also this has nothing to do with the game but Pablo Sandoval threw a 1-2-3 inning for the Giants today, because why not.