This Red Sox team just refuses to lose. Sunday was one of the most incredible victories for this team in the last few years as this game had appeared to have gotten away from them for the majority of the contest before an absolutely amazing two-out rally in the eighth. Things got off to a rough start, beginning with Eduardo Rodriguez’ 2018 debut. The young lefty had excellent stuff, at least, but he suffered through a lot of pitches (largely due to him trying to be too cute around the edges of the zone rather than attacking hitters when necessary) and was the victim of bad luck on weak contact along with poor defense from his teammates. The Red Sox also lost Xander Bogaerts in this game on a play explained here, and we’re still waiting to hear the latest.
Some poor bullpen performances then put the team in a five-run hole and it looked all but certain that the win streak was over, but the team had different ideas. Boston’s lineup put forth a wild two-out rally in the eighth inning in which they scored a whopping six runs off the Rays late-inning relievers to take a lead at the last second and extend the win streak to eight games. This team, you guys.
Rodriguez had a hell of a task in front of him on Sunday trying to match what Red Sox starters had done this year up to that point. He obviously didn’t reach those heights, though in hindsight that probably should have been expected given his lack of a real spring training and lack of any real rehab appearances. That’s not to make excuses, though as mentioned above the southpaw really wasn’t terrible or anything in this game. He just got caught in some bad luck while bringing some of it upon himself by not attacking the strike zone and piling up a pitch count very quickly.
He actually started this outing off with a bang, coming out in the first inning and setting the side down in order, all by strikeout. The stuff was clearly there from the start for Rodriguez, who was throwing his fastball around 93 in that first inning and getting all three strikeouts with different pitches (fastball, cutter and changeup). The second provided the first bit of trouble for Boston’s starter, however, as C.J. Cron led that frame off with a solo shot out to the seats in straightaway center field. To be fair to Rodriguez, it was more good hitting than bad pitching as the Rays DH took a ball just below the strike zone and drove it a long way.
After getting out of that second without any more damage, Rodriguez fell victim to some bad luck and bad defense. In the third it was luck and his own doing. He issued a one-out walk to Rob Refsnyder despite getting up 0-2 to start the at bat, just one example of Rodriguez getting a little too cute instead of just attacking and making the Rays do damage. After that walk he allowed an infield single on a swinging bunt and then with two outs Carlos Gomez hit an RBI double on a pitch at which he didn’t even mean to swing. He made contact on a little half-swing and sent it into right field.
The fourth featured more trouble brought on by Rodriguez as well as some really poor defense. To the Red Sox’ credit, the defense hasn’t really been too bad this year, but it cost them in this inning. After an infield single and a walk put two on right off the bat, Rodriguez induced a ground ball to shortstop but Bogaerts couldn’t handle the short-hop and couldn’t get the double play. The Red Sox did get one on the play, but it moved both runners in to scoring position. Adeiny Hechavarria took advantage, hitting a bloop single to center field — on a ball that Jackie Bradley Jr. may have been able to had he gotten the start in center field over Andrew Benintendi — to score one run. Then, Refsnyder hit a flyball to left field and Martinez had a chance to double up the runner at second, but he completely airmailed the throw to keep the inning going. Fortunately, the Rays didn’t take advantage of the situation. Rodriguez was lifted after that fly out and he ended his day after just 3 2⁄3 innings in which he allowed three runs on five hits and two walks with seven strikeouts. Not the greatest season debut, but we can at least hang our hats on the stuff being there.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox offense wasn’t great early on against the Rays on one of Tampa’s bullpen days. They did get on the board early though, and in fact took the first lead of this game. Mookie Betts led things off with a double off the Monster, and a couple of groundouts advanced him around the bases to give Boston an early 1-0 advantage.
That was all they’d do for a while, though. That is, until the fifth when the Red Sox were trailing 4-1 and Boston looked like they could at least tie the game. Rays lefty Ryan Yarbrough was struggling with control and he loaded the bases on two walks and a single with just one out. Benintendi struck out for the second out before Hanley Ramirez came through with a ground ball towards the middle. Hechavarria made a tremendous diving stop to prevent the ball from getting to the outfield and saving one run, though Boston did get the runner from third home to cut the lead to two. That brought up Martinez with a chance to make up for his earlier throwing error, but he also struck out and stranded the bases loaded.
It was at this point that things appeared to fall apart and put the game out of reach. Bobby Poyner came into the game in the sixth with one on and two out, trying to get Kevin Kiermaier to get out of the inning. Instead, he allowed a flyball to the triangle for an RBI triple. In the next inning, the Rays scored on yet another triple followed by a a sacrifice fly to extend the lead to five. To make matters even worse, the triple involved horrific defense from Martinez and resulted in an injury to Bogaerts, and you can read about that play here if you want to be sad.
After Rodriguez left, the Red Sox used a whole bunch of relievers and none of them really looked that great. Velazquez allowed a couple runs in a couple innings. Poyner gave up that RBI triple. Brian Johnson walked a batter and allowed the triple that ended with the Bogaerts injury while recording just one out. Heath Hembree allowed an inherited runner to score, though it was on a sac fly. Carson Smith threw a scoreless eighth, but his command was still off and he loaded the bases. In hindsight, it was huge that he got out of that bases loaded situation even if it didn’t feel that momentous at the time.
This is where things took off in the blink of an eye. Hanley Ramirez led things off with a single, and then after two outs the Red Sox came out firing. Mitch Moreland hit an RBI double. Nuñez hit a single to put runners on the corners. Rafael Devers doubled down the left field line to knock in a pair and cut the lead to five. At this point, the Rays turned to closer Alex Colomé but things didn’t get much better. Christian Vazquez finished a tough at bat with a single through the middle to cut the lead to one, and then moved to second on a wild pitch in the next at bat. Instead of walking Betts with first base open, Colomé pitched to him and allowed an RBI single to tie the game. That brought up Benintendi with a chance to take the lead, and he did just that with a fly ball to the warning track in left field that was misplayed by Mallex Smith, allowing Betts to score.
All of a sudden, in improbable fashion, the Red Sox had an 8-7 lead and were heading to the ninth with Craig Kimbrel in for the save. Boston’s closer did just that, setting the Rays down in order finishing off one of the most incredible wins for this team in recent years and giving this team their eighth straight win. My goodness.
The Red Sox now try to take this momentum into a big April series at home against the Yankees. They’ll have a day off on Monday before starting that three-game set on Tuesday, and in the meantime we’ll wait for word on Bogaerts. The first game of the New York series will pit Chris Sale against Luis Severino, and first pitch will be at 7:05 PM ET.