The same issues exist for the Red Sox that have existed for the entire early part of this season, but the good results have also stayed the same. The bad news is the offense looked totally anemic for almost the entire game and the bullpen had a blow-up that looked catastrophic at the time. The good news is that they got phenomenal starting pitching again, this time from David Price, a huge bullpen appearance from Bobby Poyner and clutch hitting from Xander Bogaerts and Hanley Ramirez. That’s six wins in a row, and they are making sure all of these games are as close and sweat-inducing as humanly possible. The end results are fun as hell, though.
It was the same old story for the Red Sox offense in their first game at Fenway this season. For the sixth time in seven games, Boston’s offense just wasn’t able to get anything going early on to give their starting pitcher a little bit of security with which to work. To make things more frustrating, they were going up against Yonny Chirinos, who is a plenty talented pitcher and showed off that talent in this game, but also one who was making his second trip to a major-league mound and his first career start. It seemed like a good time for the Red Sox to get the bats going, even with temperatures barely hitting 40 degrees at Fenway.
That didn’t happen, though. In fact, they didn’t even really threaten to do much of anything against Chirinos. They did get a baserunner in the first on a one-out single from Andrew Benintendi, but Hanley Ramirez struck out in the next at bat. Strike three was in the dirt and got behind Wilson Ramos, which prompted Benintendi to try for second base. As has become far too typical for the Red Sox, he was thrown out to end the inning. Things were even more frustrating in the second, when J.D. Martinez was gifted a triple on a flyball to center field that got caught in the wind and flew over Kevin Kiermaier’s head. With a man on third and nobody out, it seemed like an opportune time to get some early runs. Instead, the next three batters grounded out and Martinez was stranded on third. For what it’s worth, the first grounder was a weak one to the first base side and it seemed like Martinez may have had a chance to score on it, but with nobody out he wasn’t taking chances. For all of the damage over-aggressive baserunning has done with this team, I can’t fault him for not taking that chance with nobody out.
That was all the Red Sox would manage to do against Chirinos. The Rays righty would allow just one more baserunner on the day when Mookie Betts singled with two outs in the third. In total, after that Martinez triple (which probably would have been an out on most days), Chirinos retired 12 of 13 Red Sox hitters. It was an ugly performance with a pitcher on the mound against whom the Red Sox probably felt they could do some damage.
Fortunately for Boston, they got yet another incredible performance from their starting pitcher. Price was phenomenal in his first start of the year against Tampa, and once again he was able to put up zeros against his former team. He wasn’t quite as sharp as he was in his 2018 debut, but that’s a near-impossible standard to set for anyone.
Like the Red Sox, the Rays didn’t even really get a chance to even threaten for some runs against their opponent’s starter. Price shut Tampa’s hitters down through the first two innings with just one single in that span before they got a little rally going in the third. The frame started with a Daniel Robertson double that was smoked out to center field followed by a Rob Refsnyder walk to put two on with nobody out. It looked like Matt Duffy had hit an easy double play ball in the next at bat, but Eduardo Nuñez bobbled the ball on a really bad defensive play and the Red Sox were only able to get the man at second. That put runners on the corners with just one out, but Price battled through and induced two pop outs to escape the inning unscathed.
That was about it for Tampa against their former ace. Price did walk a couple more batters in the fourth inning, but once again he got out of that little bit of trouble. In all, the lefty was able to make it through seven scoreless innings in which he allowed just three hits and three walks with five strikeouts. He’s not tossed 14 runs on the young season without allowing a run, and the excitement around Price throughout camp is appearing to be completely justified.
So, now it turned into a bullpen game between the two sides in a scoreless affair, but the Red Sox didn’t have a change of pace against a new pitcher. Chaz Roe came out first and he shut down the Red Sox 1-2-3 in the sixth. Sergio Romo then came out for the seventh and after two quick outs he issued a walk to Xander Bogaerts. The Red Sox shortstop then moved over to second on a wild pitch, giving Rafael Devers a big RBI shot late in the game. He couldn’t come through, though, instead striking out to end the inning with Bogaerts in scoring position.
That brought up the Red Sox bullpen, and Carson Smith was the first to emerge for the eighth. It was not an outing to remember. It was immediately clear that he just wasn’t having an easy time finding the zone and he walked Mallex Smith to start the inning. It was dangerous to have that kind of speed on to lead off an inning, but that didn’t end up mattering because he left a fastball over the heart of the plate up in the zone to Matt Duffy and the former Giant crushed it out to straightaway center field for a two-run home run. Just like that, the Red Sox found themselves in a 2-0 hole. Smith was able to recover after that and retire the next three batters, but the damage was already done. It has not been a great start for the Red Sox righty or for Red Sox relievers in the eighth inning in general.
Now the Red Sox had six more outs to get at least two runs across the plate, which was asking for a lot in this game. The left-handed Jose Alvarado came in for the eighth for Tampa, and they went down 1-2-3.
After that, the Red Sox brought Hector Velazquez out for the ninth, which was very interesting given that he had been scheduled to start on Sunday. This would suggest the team is confident that Eduardo Rodriguez could be ready to return to the club this weekend for his 2018 debut, which is obviously very good news. Velazquez set the Rays down 1-2-3 in his outing.
That brought Alex Colomé out to close things out in the ninth, and he got into some early trouble. To start things off, Betts ripped a single and Benintendi drew a walk to bring Hanley Ramirez to the plate representing the winning run. He didn’t hit the winner, but he did put a single on a soft liner into center field to score Boston’s first run and cut the lead in half. That brought Martinez up to be a hero in his first game at Fenway, but it didn’t work out that way. In fact, it was quite the opposite as he hit into a double play to put a runner at third with two out, giving Bogaerts a shot to at least tie the game. Bogaerts didn’t miss his chance, smashing a double off the Monster that just avoided being caught to tie the game at two. After Devers was intentionally walked, it was up to Nuñez to try and win it. The infielder did what he could, absolutely smoking a ball to the left side, but Duffy knocked it down and kept in the infield to load the bases for the scuffling Jackie Bradley Jr., who came up rather than getting someone like Mitch Moreland up to pinch hit. Bradley didn’t come through, grounding out to second base on an extremely close call that was challenged but ultimately held up.
So, on to extras we went, and Craig Kimbrel came on for the Red Sox in the tenth. The closer got into some trouble here, starting things off with a single before getting two quick outs. At this point, though, he just totally lost the zone. He walked Kiermaier and Carlos Gomez back-to-back to load the bases with two outs for C.J. Cron. Kimbrel came through in the big spot, though, getting a huge strikeout to escape the inning with the game still tied.
After that, the Red Sox went 1-2-3 in the bottom half and Bobby Poyner came out and set the Rays down 1-2-3 in the eleventh. Boston would get a runner in the bottom half on a Martinez single, which brought Blake Swihart in to pinch run. Bogaerts looked like he got another big hit with a scorched line drive towards third base, but Duffy made a huge snag to record the second out. Devers would eventually be intentionally walked after Swihart moved to second on a wild pitch, bringing Nuñez up with a chance to be the hero. He wasn’t a hero, instead grounding out to strand the runners.
Poyner would then come back out for the twelfth, and he immediately allowed a single to Joey Wendle, who was then moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. The runner then moved to third on a flyball to right, putting the go-ahead run 90 feet away with two outs and Kiermaier coming to the plate. Boston’s rookie southpaw wasn’t afraid of the moment, striking out the Rays outfielder to get out of the inning with the tie in hand.
In the twelfth, facing Andrew Kittredge for the third straight inning, the Red Sox made some noise. Bradley started it off with one of his first big swings of the year, smashing a double to the right-center field back. Vazquez bunted him over to third, and Betts was intentionally walked to put runners on the corners with
two one outs for Benintendi. The Rays would bring in a lefty to face the Red Sox left fielder, and he drew a walk to load the bases. Ramirez then came up, and Hanley continued his big start to the year by crushing a ball to the warning track in right field to score a run and send Boston home with a win.
The Red Sox have a day off on Friday — a day they schedule off in case the home opener is postponed due to April weather — but they’ll be back in action Saturday afternoon with Rick Porcello facing off against Jacob Faria. First pitch will be at 1:05 PM ET.
(I saw a couple other SBN blogs include this in their recaps, so I’m gonna copy them.)