The Red Sox were trending in the right direction heading into this weekend series against the Rays, winning five of their last seven including their last two against the Tigers. The offense picked it up in those last two games, too, scoring 18 runs over the two nights. After Friday’s rainout, Boston was hoping to keep the momentum rolling with the day off, but things didn’t work out that way. They were unable to get solid contact against Charlie Morton all day long, as the Rays righty allowed only two hits over the course of his start. He did issue four walks, but Boston didn’t do anything with any chances they did get. That poor performance wasted a good day for David Price and the bullpen, and it got Boston off on the wrong foot in what is now a two-game series. They’ll have to try and settle for a split on Sunday.
Coming off a rainout on Friday, which was supposed to be the first game of this series hosting the Rays, David Price was looking for a quick start while the lineup was looking to pick up where they left off against the Tigers. Neither of those things would happen, with Price giving up a lead as quickly as the blink of an eye. It was Yandy Díaz leading off for Tampa Bay, and he continued what has been a breakout season for the former Cleveland Indian. On his second pitch of the day, Price left a fastball up in the zone on the inner half, and Díaz crushed it. The ball went out over the wall in left-center field, and before many fans even got in their seats it was a 1-0 lead for the Rays.
The good news for Boston and Price is that the leadoff home run was not quit indicative of what was to come for the Red Sox southpaw. He did walk the next batter he saw after the home run, but then got a big double play and kept the deficit to one. Price came back strong in the next two innings as well, tossing back-to-back 1-2-3 innings with each including a pair of strikeouts.
On the other side, well, the frustrating that has been here for so much of the Red Sox season made a fateful return on Saturday. Charlie Morton has of course been a very tough hitter to face for a few years now, but Boston had gotten to him consistently. That didn’t just include last year when they got to most everyone, either, because they got good swings in against the righty the previous weekend when they faced off. Morton was very difficult for the Red Sox to get good wood against all day long, though they did have some chances thanks to lapses in control.
That chance didn’t come in the first, however, with Boston looking to answer back for that leadoff home run. They got only one runner on in that inning and that was thanks to an error by Daniel Robertson at second base. In the second they got a runner in scoring position when Michael Chavis drew a walk and moved to second on a fielder’s choice, but Jackie Bradley Jr. and Christian Vázquez failed to drive the tying run in. They had a similar chance in the third when Mookie Betts singled with one out and moved up to second on a wild pitch, but Xander Bogaerts left the runner stranded this time.
Then, in the fourth, Price’s strong run that had come after the home run came to an end. The Rays got started right away against the southpaw here with Tommy Pham driving a double off the Monster in left-center field. After walking Robertson, Price did strike out Avisail García leaving him just a ground ball away from escaping the jam. Instead, Mike Zunino ripped a base hit into left field, and that gave Tampa Bay a 2-0 lead.
To their credit, the Red Sox pitching was good from there and really for the entire day. Price ended up loading the bases after that RBI single but came through with a strikeout and a ground out to limit the damage to just one run. He then faced just three batters in both the sixth and seventh, which finished off his day. Price would likely want better, but ultimately he did his job allowing just the two runs over six innings on four hits and three walks with seven strikeouts. After he left, Brandon Workman, Marcus Walden and Colten Brewer combined to get the Sox through the eighth.
None of this mattered too much because the offense just continued to fail to garner any momentum. They did start the bottom of the fourth with back-to-back walks, but it didn’t matter because Rafael Devers was back-picked off first base before Chavis drew the back end of the free passes. Steve Pearce then grounded into a double play, and Morton only had to face three batters in the frame. The righty put two batters on in the fifth as well, but the leadoff walk was again cancelled out, this time with a double play, and Andrew Benintendi was left at first after being struck by a pitch.
Morton would eventually leave after six shutout innings, and the Red Sox looked to pick up their performance against Tampa’s bullpen. Chaz Roe was the first reliever for the Rays, and he’d walk the second batter of in the inning in Bradley. That was all the Red Sox would get, though.
In the eighth, the Red Sox saw Diego Castillo, against whom Betts and Mitch Moreland went back-to-back last weekend when they last met. Those two led off the inning, and they got halfway to the same result. Betts got a breaking ball that stayed right over the heart of the plate, and last year’s MVP drove it out to straightaway center field for a solo shot, bringing Boston to within one. After Bogaerts drew a one-out walk, Jose Alvarado was called upon to face Rafael Devers. The third baseman pulled a line drive through the right side, putting runners in scoring position for Chavis. The rookie struck out for the second out of the inning, and after a Steve Pearce walk to load the bases, it was all on Jackie Bradley Jr. The center fielder against a tough lefty like Alvarado will rarely go well, and sure enough the inning ended with a strikeout. A special shoutout on Tampa’s side goes to catcher Mike Zunino, who made multiple huge stops behind the plate with a runner at third.
After Matt Barnes worked a scoreless ninth, the Sox had one more chance. Going up against Emilio Pagán, Vázquez started things off with a base hit into left field. That was all they’d get, though, and Boston dropped their 16th game of the year.
So, the Red Sox will look to get back in the win column and salvage a split in this shortened series on Sunday. They’ll have Chris Sale on the mound for this one and he’ll take on Tyler Glasnow. First pitch is at 1:05 PM ET.