This was a frustrating game for much of it from a Red Sox perspective, as their offense couldn’t do anything against Chris Archer (though Archer deserves most of the credit there, since he was awesome). They did get a couple of big chances in the middle of this game but failed to take advantage in incredibly frustrating fashion, and if they had lost it would have left a terrible taste in all of our mouths. Fortunately, David Price was great for his second straight outing and kept his team in the game for just long enough to come through with a big ninth inning rally. With the win, the Red Sox clinched their second straight series victory, and third in their last four.
This one was a pitchers’ duel, through and through. That means, of course, that we were quickly alternating between being psyched about David Price and being annoyingly frustrated by Chris Archer. We’ll start with the part in which we were psyched, though, because for the second straight outing we got an outstanding version of Price. While the results were similar, this was a different kind of outing for the lefty than we saw his last time out against the Orioles. That time out, he was pumping mid-90s fastballs much more frequently than we’d seen at any other point this year while showing off impeccable command. The velocity/command combination meant he didn’t have to utilize his offspeed stuff much. In this outing, the velocity wasn’t quite there — he was more 90-92 with the fastball — but the command still was. As a result, Price leaned more on his changeup than he did against Baltimore, and that offering looked outstanding. The Red Sox starter also benefitted from a large strike zone, though that was the case on both sides.
Really, there wasn’t a whole lot of excitement through the early parts of Price’s outing. The Rays really didn’t manage to get any sort of rally at all going against the Red Sox lefty. They got one runner on a single in the first, but he was stranded at first. After a 1-2-3 second, they got another runner on a walk in the third, but again he was left at first. He’d get through a 1-2-3 fourth before allowing one baserunner in the fifth that was immediately caught stealing second. So, yeah, there was no pressure put on through the first half of the game.
Meanwhile, Archer was cruising through the Red Sox lineup with just about as much success as Price against the Rays. Boston got just one baserunner through the first two innings, and he was immediately eliminated on a Hanley Ramirez double play. Boston did get their first hit in the third on an Eduardo Núñez single, and he’d get to second on a hit and run play. However, he’d be stranded there.
After Archer struck out the side in the fourth, the Red Sox had the best scoring chance to that point in the game in the fifth against the Rays ace. This one also started with a Núñez single, this one with two outs. That brought Jackie Bradley Jr. to the plate, and he continued to swing a much better bat than he had for most of this season. The outfielder ripped a double into the left-center field gap, and Núñez attempted to score. From replay we could see that Christian Vazquez, who was on deck, had his hands up while Núñez was coming down the third base line. As a result, he did not slide into the plate and was thrown out at home to end the inning. It certainly looked like he’d be safe if he slid (it at least would have been close), but it was instead a costly mistake from both Núñez (he appeared to get deked by Rays catcher Jesus Sucre) and Vazquez.
The sixth brought another scoring chance for the Red Sox against Archer as he went out to face the top of Boston’s order for the third time. Vazquez led that one off with a single, and that was followed by a pair of walks to load the bases for Ramirez with nobody out. It was a big chance to put up a crooked number, but that didn’t happen. Boston did get one to take a 1-0 lead, but it came on a Ramirez double play that killed the rally. J.D. Martinez would then ground out and Boston had to settle for just one.
That brought Price back out with a 1-0 lead, but for the first time in this game he struggled a bit against the Rays. Things started off with a leadoff walk from Denard Span — the first time Tampa got their leadoff man on all game — and that was quickly followed up by a double from C.J. Cron. It seemed as though the ball could have been caught at the wall by Bradley, but it’s entirely possible I’ve been too spoiled by his usual amazing defense. Either way, the double scored the run, and the Rays tied the game while having a runner in scoring position with nobody out. Fortunately, Price settled down from there with a strikeout, a ground out and a fly out to end the inning with the tie still intact.
That brought Jose Alvarado out of the bullpen for the Rays, and he set the Red Sox down in order in the seventh. Boston countered with Matt Barnes in the bottom half, and he went out and got a 1-2-3 of his own that included a pair of strikeouts.
In the eighth, Alvarado came back out and got a couple of quick outs before the Rays turned to Chaz Roe to face Mookie Betts. Roe walked Betts, then followed that up by also walking Andrew Benintendi to put two on for Ramirez with two outs. The Red Sox first baseman did make solid contact, but his fly ball was caught on the warning track in straightaway center field to end the inning.
Joe Kelly came in and tossed an easy 1-2-3 eight, giving the Red Sox one more chance to win in regulation. They would have to do it against Rays closer Alex Colomé, and things got off to a good start when J.D. Martinez hit a ground ball into the shift that should have been an out. Instead, rookie shortstop Wily Adames threw the ball in the dirt and past his first baseman, allowing Martinez to get to second with nobody out. Xander Bogaerts made sure to immediately capitalize on that, ripping a double into the right field corner to score Martinez and give Boston the 2-1 lead. The Red Sox kept things going with a Devers walk and a double steal moving two into scoring position. Núñez hit a sacrifice fly to score the second of the inning, and a passed ball got the third run home.
That was all they’d get, but it left a 4-1 lead for Craig Kimbrel to protect in the bottom of the ninth. The closer didn’t have nearly as much trouble as he had on Tuesday, getting an easy 1-2-3 to end this game. With the victory, the Red Sox now have six in their last seven games.
So, the Red Sox will go for a sweep on Thursday before heading back to Fenway. They’ll be sending Rick Porcello to the hill to take on Blake Snell, with first pitch coming at 7:10 PM ET.