Last weekend, the Red Sox had their first high point of 2019 when they swept the Rays, who entered that series as the best team in baseball. Boston came into this weekend having won five of seven games and had a chance to really put themselves back in business with a successful series. Rain shortened it to just two games, and Boston dropped them both. After Saturday’s no-show from the lineup, they followed up with a performance that wasn’t much better. Tyler Glasnow was phenomenal for the Rays, which certainly made things difficult, but it was still frustrating. On the other side, Chris Sale was really good for five innings, but unfortunately that came after two bad innings. Really, the second could have been fine had it not been for a brutal Rafael Devers error. Things are not great with this team right now.
So, where do we start today? Do we start with Chris Sale, who has yet to win a baseball game in 2019? Or do we start with the Red Sox offense, which has shown flashes at various points this year but has yet to look like a consistent force like they were so often a year ago? I suppose we go with the pitcher, because why the hell not?
Like I said, Sale is still looking for his first win of 2019, and that search did not end on Sunday. The good news heading into this game was that things seemed to be trending in the right direction, with the caveat that the bar was set ridiculously low early in the year. He seemed to regress a bit in this outing, though. His fastball velocity was back down with the pitch sitting in the high-80s and low-90s. Perhaps even more concerning was the breaking ball. Sale can get away with his fastball not being at its best if his slider is there, because that pitch is straight-up devastating and he can throw it for strikes with success. That pitch was not there on Sunday, as the movement was lacking too often and even when it was moving it was missing location, often significantly.
Sale did settle in a bit as the game went on even if the stuff didn’t significantly improve, but he got off to a disastrous start. On Saturday, if you’ll recall, Yandy Díaz started the game with a home run off David Price. He didn’t quite do that this time around, but he did hit a double right off the base of the wall in left-center field. After Sale picked up a strikeout, he made a mistake. Daniel Robertson got a first-pitch fastball coming in at 92 mph belt-high on the inner half, and he put it over the wall in left field for a two-run shot. To be fair to Sale, the ball wasn’t crushed and just made it over. To be fair to logic, it was a really bad pitch. Just like that, the Rays had a 2-0 lead.
Things didn’t get any better in the second, either, though that wasn’t entirely Sale’s fault. The southpaw issued a one-out walk to Guillermo Heredia, but then induced what looked like a double play ball to third base. Unfortunately, it was yet another error for Rafael Devers. This time, he simply bobbled it as it got to his glove, turning a relatively easy double play into no outs and putting two on. With two outs, Díaz came up again and hit another one hard. Again it stayed in the yard, but it still brought plenty of damage. The Rays first baseman blasted one out to straightaway center field that just barely made it over Jackie Bradley Jr.’s glove for a two-run triple. It did seem like a play Bradley can very well make, but it also flew about 420 feet so it’s hard to let Sale off the hook there. Either way, it was now 4-0 Rays.
From there, things did improve even if it was too little too late. Sale allowed baserunners to start both the third and the fourth innings on a walk and single, respectively, but his defense did their job in those innings, with both ending in double plays. The fifth included just a two-out walk while his sixth would mark his first 1-2-3 frame of the afternoon.
To make matters even worse, the offense was totally overmatched for the second day in a row. In fairness, both Charlie Morton and Tyler Glasnow are very good at pitching baseballs, though the Red Sox had their chances against Morton. On Sunday, though, you have to give a significant tip o’ the cap to Glasnow. The Rays’ young righty, who they acquired last summer in a lopsided trade with the Pirates, has been incredible all year and he carried it over to Sunday. He featured a huge fastball and mixed in a devastating curveball and changeup combination that likely would have shut down most every lineup in baseball.
That didn’t make it much easier to watch, though. Really, there’s not even much to say about what the Red Sox did in the first half of the game. Over the first three innings they managed just a single with no runners advancing beyond second. In the fourth and fifth they did pick up leadoff baserunners, but Mookie Betts was stranded at first after a leadoff walk and Michael Chavis was eliminated by a double play after a leadoff single.
In the sixth, they finally got a real live rally going. Christian Vázquez made it three innings in a row with a leadoff runner after he singled. Andrew Benintendi followed that up with a terrible at bat that ended with a strikeout in which he watched all three strikes go by, but Mookie Betts doubled to put two in scoring position with just one down. They did get on the board on a Mitch Moreland sacrifice fly, but Xander Bogaerts struck out with Betts 90 feet from home and Boston had to settle for cutting the deficit to three.
Sale then came back out for the seventh, which was surprising given that he was already at 101 pitches. It worked out, though, because the lefty got his second consecutive 1-2-3 inning to end his day. Overall, Sale looked good for five of his seven innings, but the first two were damaging enough to cloud the positives. In all, he allowed the four runs (only two earned due to the Devers error) over the seven innings on four hits and three walks with eight strikeouts.
In the bottom half, the Red Sox continued to chip away a bit. It was the most exciting player of the last week-and-a-half doing the damage, too. Chavis was the second batter to come up in the inning, and he once against showed off his absurd power. Glasnow threw him a first-pitch fastball middle-in, and the rookie smashed it 441 feet halfway up the batter’s eye, cutting Tampa Bay’s lead down to two. Jackie Bradley Jr. also contributed a two-out double in the inning, but for a second straight inning the Red Sox stranded a runner in scoring position.
Marcus Walden continued to impress in relief with a 1-2-3 eighth, and Tampa Bay turned to Jose Alvarado for the bottom half. Their lefty got a 1-2-3 inning of his own.
The ninth belonged to Heath Hembree, and he got off to a rough start by allowing a leadoff double. After issuing a one-out intentional walk, the righty got a double play ball up the middle, but it wasn’t quite hit hard enough. Unfortunately, Chavis still tried to make the throw the first with the runner at second right on top of him, and his throw sailed away. That allowed a fifth run to score for the Rays, putting them up three.
The Rays turned to Diego Castillo to finish off the game, and the righty allowed just a single before closing it out. Thanks, I hate it.
The Red Sox will look to get back on track with another tough series coming up. They’ll take on the A’s for three games starting on Monday. For the first of that set Boston will send Eduardo Rodriguez to the mound to take on former Red Sox prospect Frankie Montas. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET.