The Red Sox have lost their first series since late-June, dropping the first two of their games in Tampa Bay. This was a rough one for the offense. The pitching had its issues too, and we’ll get there, but the offense was the story. They had a couple chances against Ryan Yarbrough early on but couldn’t take advantage, then they were totally shut down by the Rays bullpen. It’s been a frustrating stretch for this lineup, and it continued here. Rick Porcello had solid enough results, but he gave up a few too many baserunners and found himself pitching out of trouble too often. Ryan Brasier couldn’t escape a jam created by Porcello, and that was that. Players Weekend is not the Red Sox friend.
This one was a pitchers duel on both sides, though it felt like both offenses could have done a bit more in the early going than what their run totals would have suggested. Granted, that’s not to say Rick Porcello and Ryan Yarbrough were bad. They weren’t, and they did a fine job of escaping trouble whenever they found themselves in it. Still, it was a frustrating day for the lineups, at least early on.
We’ll start with the Porcello side of things. The righty was certainly better and generally more sharp than he had been in his recent bad outings, but this also wasn’t one of the dominant starts he puts forth with perfect command. He did paint plenty of corners with his two-seam fastball and his curveball seemed particularly impressive on Saturday, but he also caught the middle of the plate a little more than you want. In the first inning, he immediately found himself in some trouble when Joey Wendle led things off with a single and stole second right away. With the first batter of the day in scoring position in the blink of an eye, Porcello got a pair of strikeouts and a fly out to get out of the potential jam.
After a 1-2-3 second inning that represented his one clean frame of the night, he found himself in more trouble in the third, though this wasn’t all his fault. There, he walked the leadoff man but then appeared to get a double play ball. Instead, only the runner at second was out because Xander Bogaerts had trouble with the transfer and couldn’t get the ball to first. So, with one out and one on it once again looked like Porcello got a double play, except this time in the strike-em-out, throw-em-out fashion. However, the home plate umpire called ball four on what looked like strike three, so instead of being out of it Porcello had two on and with two outs. From there, he got two big strikeouts to once again escape the jam.
In the fourth, with a 1-0 lead, Porcello wasn’t able to escape the jam. He got into trouble hitting the first batter he faced, and after a bunt the Rays had a runner on second with one out. Porcello got a strike out to get close to escaping, but he allowed a single to Brandon Lowe to get the runner home. He’d escape after that, but the shutout was gone.
The fifth, as you may have guessed, brought some more danger. Tampa Bay got back-to-back singles to start that inning, and it seemed like this could be when the floodgates opened with the middle of the order coming up. Porcello had different ideas, getting a pop out, a ground out and a strike out to end the inning and keep the Rays to one run.
On the other side, the Red Sox were struggling a bit against the left-handed Yarbrough. As I said, it did feel like they could have gotten more, though they didn’t have the same kind of early chances as Tampa Bay. After going down in order in the first, it seemed like they’d be able to open up a solid lead in the second. J.D. Martinez started things off with a double thanks to some great hustle on a simple ball through the middle. That extra hustle was important as he moved on to third on a Bogaerts single. With runners on the corners and nobody out, it seemed like a big chance to jump out and take command of the game. Well, they did get a run but it also cost them two outs as Mitch Moreland hit into a 4-6-3 double play. As a result, they settled for just the one run in the inning.
They got another chance in the third, and though it wasn’t quite as enticing it still resulted in nothing. Eduardo Núñez led off the inning with a single, and he was swapped out for Mookie Betts on a fielder’s choice. The outfielder stole second with two outs, giving the Red Sox a chance at their second run of the game. Instead, Andrew Benintendi struck out to strand the runner. In the fourth, they got a one-out double from Martinez but couldn’t advantage beyond second base.
The sixth didn’t involve anyone getting into scoring position, but it may have been the most frustrating inning in the game. Benintendi led things off with a walk, knocking Yarbrough out of the game. After Steve Pearce flew out, Martinez was looking to do some damage. Before he could do anything, Benintendi was inexplicably picked off first base, and then on the next pitch Martinez struck out to end the inning. It....it wasn’t great.
The bottom half of that inning didn’t get much better. Porcello came back on the mound after escaping a few jams, and it felt like something was going to break at some point. Kevin Kiermaier led things off in a big way, smacking a triple into the right-center field gap. After Porcello hit the next batter, his night was over and Ryan Brasier was called upon with runners on the corners and nobody out. He did not get off to a great start, throwing a wild pitch to allow the go-ahead run to score before walking the batter to put runners on first and second with nobody out. After a bunt moved the runners to second and third, the Rays got a sacrifice fly and left the sixth with a 3-1 lead.
The Sox went down on just eight pitches in the seventh, and Brandon Workman came on for the bottom half. He was not particularly sharp, though he allowed just a solo home run to Tommy Pham before working around two other baserunners.
The eighth brought another quick one for the Boston lineup, this time going down in order in 12 pitches. In the bottom half of the inning, Tyler Thornburg got two quick outs before allowing a walk followed by an RBI triple to make it 5-1.
So, the Red Sox had one more chance to score at least four runs in the ninth. They did not take advantage, going down in order for the third straight inning and finishing up another loss.
So, the Red Sox will look to avoid their first sweep on the year on Sunday, and it will be a tough one. They’ll be going up against Blake Snell and will send Nathan Eovaldi to the mound. First pitch will be at 1:05 PM ET.
As for the division, well, things don’t get better there. The Yankees had a doubleheader in Baltimore today. They took the first one and are currently leading the second game 4-0. If that lead holds, the Red Sox will see their advantage in the AL East fall to seven games.