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Red Sox 3, Rays 6: Rick Porcello and the defense falter early

That was worse than the final score indicates.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Pretty much everything about this game sucked, even if the final score really doesn’t look that bad. Rick Porcello looked really bad. The defense behind him was atrocious. And the offense couldn’t get anything going against Rays starter Blake Snell.

So, uh, yeah. That was rough. The Red Sox dug themselves into an early hole in this game and were never able to recover. Porcello hasn’t really looked quite as sharp lately as he did to start this season, and it all culminated with some major struggles in this game. It’s true that his defense did him absolutely no favors, and we’ll get to that, but only focusing on the defense is letting the pitcher off the hook. The truth is that Porcello was off all game, missing the zone way more than we’re used to and throwing it into hittable zones when he did toss a strike. The Rays were all over him right from the get-go, and it didn’t take long at all for this game to feel like it was over.

In fact, as I said, Tampa got rolling right at the start of the game, though that’s also when the Red Sox defense started to....well, whatever the opposite of roll is. Denard Span led off with a line drive to deep left field that fell in for a double. It was smoked and a bad pitch from Porcello, but J.D. Martinez also took an atrocious route to the ball and almost certainly would have made the out if he was smoother. After a walk to the next batter, Matt Duffy reached on an infield single to load the bases. The defense struck again on the next play as Porcello got a ground ball back to the mound. He threw home to get the out at the plate, but Sandy León dropped an easily catchable ball. The run scored, the bases stayed loaded and the scoreboard still showed no outs. Not great!

Things kept going from here, too. Porcello followed that error up by allowing a fly ball to center field. This one was caught, but it was deep enough for the run to score and give the Rays a 2-0 lead. Daniel Robertson then came up and laced a ball into left field for a single to re-load the bases. For what it’s worth, Statcast ruled the hit (that landed right at Martinez’ feet) to have a 95 percent hit probability, but at the time I didn’t think it was that easy of a play. I think many other left fielders get that ball, but the first fly ball appeared to be a worse play in my humble opinion. Either way, it wouldn’t prove to be too costly as Porcello induced a big 1-2-3 double play to end the inning. Honestly, as bad as that inning was in just about every aspect, it felt like a win to only be trailing by two.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Unfortunately, that small victory wouldn’t last long. Porcello immediately got back into trouble to start the second inning when he gave up an infield single, doled out a walk and hit a batter. He did mix in a couple of outs in there, however, and brought Wilson Ramos to the plate with the bases loaded and two down. The Rays executed a hit-and-run play to perfection, with Ramos spraying the ball through a huge hole on the right side for what should have been a two-run single. However, Eduardo Núñez inexplicably dropped the cutoff throw from Mookie Betts — and Betts even more inexplicably was charged with the error — allowing a third run to score and Ramos to advance to second base. Porcello quickly got a pop up to escape further damage, but the Rays had a 5-0 lead after two.

From there, things weren’t quite as bad. The Red Sox righty got a quick 1-2-3 inning in the third before coming back out for a tough fourth. Though he recorded a couple of outs in the inning, he also allowed three singles to put another run on the board, and he left the game with a runner on first and two outs in the fourth. In all, he lasted just 3 23 innings, allowing those six runs on eight hits and two walks with two strikeouts. It was bad.

Meanwhile, Boston’s offense was having a hell of time at the plate. To be fair, they were going up against Blake Snell who is in the midst of a breakout season and has given the Red Sox fits all year long to this point. A not-insignificant portion of their struggles against lefties can be attributed to Snell dominating them multiple times this year. He had his stuff working extremely well in this game, and his command was mostly on for the entire night.

Really, Boston didn’t get very many encouraging rallies going against the southpaw. He retired the first seven Red Sox batters he faced, and through the first four innings Boston managed just one baserunner on a León single. The fifth brought some better fortune but was killed by poor sequencing. Xander Bogaerts led off with a walk, but he was quickly eliminated with a Núñez double play. That turned out to be costly, as Rafael Devers and León each reached after that. They’d both be stranded.

The sixth gave the Red Sox a leadoff baserunner on a Betts single, and he got to second on a stolen base, but again, they’d strand him. In the seventh, they’d actually get a little going with Snell out of the game and Matt Andriese coming on. Núñez started the rally with a one-out double, and after that Devers grounded out to third base. Núñez went for third on the play and Rays first baseman Brad Miller tried to get him out there, but his throw was wild and allowed Núñez to score on the error. That was all they’d get, though, and they still trailed 6-1. They’d then go down 1-2-3 in the eighth.

While all of this was going on, Brian Johnson had come on for the Red Sox and pitched decently well in a long relief outing. The lefty got out of the fourth for Porcello, and then allowed one single in the fifth and two in the sixth without allowing any runs. It wasn’t a perfectly clean outing, but he stopped the bleeding and got them into the later innings without having to burn multiple arms.

Hector Velazquez, in his first game back from the disabled list, came on for the seventh and tossed a scoreless frame with a walk but also a double play. The eighth was given to Steven Wright, who had also warmed way back in the first, and he also tossed a scoreless inning that included a walk.

The Red Sox did try to make it a little more interesting in the top half of the ninth. Mitch Moreland destroyed a baseball for a solo home run to cut the lead to four. After that Núñez singled and eventually scored on a Devers RBI double to cut it to three. That was all, though, and the Red Sox had to leave Tampa without a sweep.

The Red Sox will look to put this one in the rear view as they head back to Fenway to start a weekend series against the Braves. They’ll send Eduardo Rodriguez to the mound for the first game to take on Julio Teheran. First pitch is at 7:10 PM ET.


Courtesy of Fangraphs