Well, that wasn’t ideal. The Red Sox headed into Sunday’s game looking for a sweep over the Rays, but they couldn’t come through. It hasn’t happened often this year, but on this day Boston’s bats were completely shut down by the opponent’s pitching. In this case, that was a whole host of arms that included old friend and former Red Sox prospect Jalen Beeks. Tampa’s pitching was impressive and in control for most of the game, and the Red Sox grounded into a couple of big double plays that prematurely ended potential rallies. Can’t win them all, of course, but it’s still hard to watch.
Sunday was supposed to be a Sale Day, but the Red Sox ace was of course placed on the disabled list Saturday, forcing Boston to change their plans. In his stead, Hector Velazquez got the start. Because of this, it was logical to think if there was going to be a problem for the Sox in this series finale against Tampa Bay, it was going to be on the bump. Instead, the Red Sox got some solid pitching but couldn’t get it going with the bats. Going up against the Rays opener strategy and eventually old friend Jalen Beeks, the best offense in baseball was kept quiet.
Tampa Bay started things out with their opener, and on this day that meant it was Diego Castillo taking the mound for the first inning. He did well for himself, setting down the first four batters he faced. With one out in the second the Red Sox got their first baserunner, and it came in the form of a double from Xander Bogaerts. With a runner in scoring position, though, they couldn’t come through. Eduardo Núñez grounded out to move Bogaerts to third, and after the Rays turned things over to Beeks the lefty got Brock Holt to strike out and strand the runner 90 feet away from home plate.
After the former Red Sox prospect, who was sent to Tampa Bay in exchange for Nathan Eovaldi just last month, got a 1-2-3 third, Boston threatened to finally do some damage in the fourth. That inning started with back-to-back baserunners thanks to an Andrew Benintendi single and a Steve Pearce walk, and J.D. Martinez had his chance to break things open. Instead, after working a full count, he grounded into a big double play. Bogaerts would draw a walk after that, but Núñez stranded the runners with a fly out and the Red Sox remained scoreless through four.
The fifth would be more of the same against Beeks, as Holt reached on an error to lead things off but was quickly taken off the bases thanks to a Blake Swihart double play. They finally got Beeks out of the game in the sixth after two outs, but they still went down in order in that frame.
Boston’s offense wasn’t doing much of anything, but Velazquez and company were doing their part to keep the game within reach with some solid pitching against the Rays offense. The righty had a relatively quick first inning in which he allowed just a walk, but the second saw the first damage from either side. Velazquez threw Joey Wendle a 2-1 sinker that didn’t get far enough down in the zone, and the Rays lefty took advantage. He sent the ball into the Red Sox bullpen, and just like that it was a 1-0 lead for Tampa Bay.
Velazquez would get into a little more trouble in that inning after that as well, allowing a one-out single and then hitting the next batter. He was able to avoid more damage, though, getting Jesus Sucre to ground into a huge double play to end the inning and keep Boston’s deficit at one. After working around a single in the third, Velazquez came out for the fourth. It looked like it could be a quick frame for him, but he uncharacteristically issued back-to-back two-out walks to the bottom of the lineup. Once again, however, he was able to get Sucre to end things with a big strikeout.
That fourth inning would be the last bit of work for Velazquez, who is not really fully stretched out after spending most of this season in the bullpen. With the score still 1-0, Brandon Workman got the call. He made extremely quick work (no pun intended) in the fifth with a seven-pitch inning, and then needed only six more to get through the sixth. All told, the righty tossed two perfect innings on just 13 pitches. That’ll do.
The seventh belonged to Joe Kelly, but he kept up what Workman was doing. He needed a few more pitches, but the righty got through an 11-pitch 1-2-3 inning. Unfortunately, the Red Sox offense followed that up with a 1-2-3 inning of their own.
Alex Cora called upon Heath Hembree in the eighth, and the righty worked around a two-out walk to keep the Rays at their one run. The Red Sox then had six outs to plate at least one run, but all three batters in the eighth struck out.
Matt Barnes came on for the ninth, and he couldn’t keep the deficit to one. After getting a strikeout to start the inning, the Red Sox setup man made an awful pitch. With C.J. Cron at the plate, he tried to sneak a splitter by but it didn’t drop. Instead, it stayed over the heart of the plate and the Rays slugger smashed it way out to left field to give Tampa a 2-0 lead. He’d follow that up with a four-pitch walk and a stolen base, but avoided further damage with two more strikeouts.
So, the Red Sox had one more chance to rally with the top of the order coming up. They would go down in order yet again, though, and the game ended quietly.
So, the Red Sox couldn’t get the sweep and they’ll be right back in action on Monday looking to get back to their winning ways. They’ll welcome Cleveland to town with Rick Porcello taking on Corey Kluber for the opener. First pitch will be at 7:10 PM ET.
With the loss, Boston also dropped a game in the standings. The Yankees were able to take care of business against the Blue Jays on Sunday, and the Red Sox lead in the American League East was down to 9.5.