Well, the win streak ends at four. The Red Sox offense had been playing well over the four-game run, but their success came to a screeching halt on Friday night against Yonny Chirinos. The Rays starter set a new career high with eight scoreless innings in this game and he executed his game plan to perfection. The righty relies more on great movement and weak contact than pure stuff, and his sinker/splitter combination was deadly in this game. In fact, it was good enough to get through five perfect innings. The Red Sox did get one big chance in the sixth when they loaded the bases with one out, but Chirinos got two huge strikeouts against Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers, and that was pretty much that. On the other end, Rick Porcello had some good moments but also allowed four runs in six innings. That was secondary, though, because he would’ve needed to be nearly perfect to pick up a win.
As the Red Sox had won four consecutive games heading into Friday night’s contest, they were playing good, all-around baseball. That said, the offense certainly stood out for its efforts in these games. Over the four-game stretch they’d put a combined 31 runs on the board and were remarkably consistent with three eight-run games and one in which they scored seven. The pitching was good, too, but they didn’t need to be perfect to be able to score runs. It should of course be mentioned that they were facing the Royals for three of those four games, and Kansas City has one of the worst pitching staffs in the game. Clearly, this series against the Rays was going to be a bigger test.
Things got started against the kind of pitcher that generally gives the Red Sox trouble, too. Yonny Chirinos isn’t someone who overpowers, throwing with solid velocity but not really missing a ton of bats, particularly in the context of today’s game. Instead, he throws with a lot of movement and when things are going well everything is hit weakly and preferably (for him) on the ground. That was the case for the Red Sox here, as Chirinos executed his gameplan perfectly and brought Boston’s offense to a screeching halt.
Really, there’s not much to even say about what the lineup did early on. They went down in order for the first five innings of the game. Of those 15 outs, ten were hit on the ground, two were popped up and two more were strikeouts. That leaves just one out, which came in the second at bat of the game, that reached the outfield. Andrew Benintendi did hit that one fairly well, to be fair, but when a liner right at the right fielder is the best the offense can do over five innings, things aren’t going super great.
Meanwhile, Rick Porcello was looking to recover from a rough start his last time out against the Yankees. The righty had been rolling before that, and the key for him is simply limiting baserunners. For a lot of this year that has meant limiting walks, but it also means limiting solid contact for hits. He was up-and-down in this regard for most of the day.
Things did get off to a solid start, allowing a Fenway Park, Monster-scraping double in the first but nothing more. In the second, though, he would get into trouble. As we all know with Porcello at this point, homers are pretty much inevitable. Coming into this start the righty had allowed a long ball in all but three of his 12 starts this year. That trend continued as the second got started. Ji-Man Choi started that inning off, and Porcello tried to catch him off-guard with a 3-2 changeup. The offspeed pitch did absolutely nothing, though, staying up in the zone on the outer half. Choi jumped all over it and sent it into the bullpen for a solo shot, giving Tampa a 1-0 lead.
Porcello did retire the next six batters he faced after giving up the dinger, but he got into some more trouble in the fourth. Brandon Lowe started that one with his second hit of the game, this one a base hit out to center field. That was followed up with an infield single from Avisaíl García, and then both runners moved up a base after Porcello yanked a fastball that made it to the backstop. So, suddenly there were a pair in scoring position with nobody out. A fly ball too shallow to score a run and a strikeout did get two outs and Porcello was just about ready to escape the jam. He got to a full count against Kevin Kiermaier, too, but then missed his location with a slider. The Rays center fielder pulled one through the right side for a two-run single, and Tampa managed to take the 3-0 lead.
Porcello then allowed just a walk (his first of the night) in the fifth before getting into more trouble in the sixth. There, just like in the fourth, he started the inning with back-to-back base hits, this resulting in runners on the corners with nobody out. Again just like in the fourth, he got a shallow fly ball that kept the runner on third, but he couldn’t get to two outs this time. Instead, it was Kiermaier once again coming through with a big base hit to score another run and extend the lead up to four. Fortunately, that was all they would get.
So, the Red Sox had some work to do to dig out of this hole, but first they had to find a way to get some guys on base. They were able to do just that in the bottom of the sixth when Brock Holt started off the inning with a walk, ending the perfect game bid and getting a big ovation from the crowd. Jackie Bradley Jr. then took it one step further, smacking a single against the shift on the left side of the second base bag, ending the no-hit bid and putting two on with nobody out to start this inning. Mookie Betts then came up and drew a one-out walk, and just like that the bases were loaded for Benintendi. He would strike out, though, leaving it all up to Rafael Devers. He also struck out, and the bases were left loaded and the Red Sox were still trailing 4-0.
After Josh Taylor came in from the bullpen for a scoreless seventh, the Red Sox were looking for more success in the bottom half. Xander Bogaerts did start that inning with a leadoff single, but they wouldn’t get anything more.
In the eighth, Mike Shawaryn came on for his major-league debut. He got throw a scoreless inning in his first taste thanks in part to a great diving catch on a line drive by Brock Holt. Unfortunately, the bottom of the inning included more of the same for the Red Sox, going down in order with Chirinos still in the game.
Shawaryn then came back out for the ninth but wasn’t as successful. The righty started that inning by allowing a solo shot to Kiermaier to cap off the outfielder’s big game. He recovered from there for three more outs, giving his offense one more chance to try and score five runs in the bottom of the ninth.
They were trying to do so against Emilio Pagán, who’d allowed just one earned run in his first 18 appearances of the year. Things got off to a good start with a leadoff double off the bat of Benintendi, and then Bogaerts would knock him with a double of his own to break up the shutout. That was all they’d get, though, as they dropped the opening game of this series.
The Red Sox will be back in action on Saturday for a doubleheader as they look to put this rough game behind them. It’s unclear who will start the first game of the doubleheader, but David Price will take the mound for the second. First pitches are scheduled for 1:05 PM ET and 6:10 PM ET, respectively.