This was a bizarre game that was eventually played under protest. Things were fairly straight forward for the first seven innings of the game. David Price was shaky again, but ultimately only allowed three runs over six innings of work. A bad fifth inning was enough for him to leave this one with his team behind, though. On the other side, Charlie Morton did allow two runs in the third to fall behind, but other than that little stretch the Rays righty was dominant. After he left, however, the Rays got weird and used their left-handed specialist at first base for a batter. All hell broke loose after that as the two sides couldn’t figure something out with the lineup. The dust eventually settled with Alex Cora protesting the game, and after all that the Red Sox offense again failed to get anything going. A weird game that ended with a quiet loss.
The Red Sox had a chance on Wednesday, in a strangely timed game starting at noon, to get a huge sweep of the reeling Rays down in Tampa. It would be their second sweep of their division rivals on the road this season and put them all alone in second place in the division. This one was going to be more difficult than the previous two, however, given the pitching matchup. On one side was David Price, who has been mostly good all year but had been scuffling a bit heading into this outing. On the other side was Charlie Morton, easily the best starter used by Tampa in this series and a legitimate Cy Young candidate at this point in the year.
Despite the more difficult matchup for the offense, this one started similarly to the other games of this series. That is to say the Red Sox jumped out to an early lead. They did go down in order in the first inning and managed just an infield single in the second, but the third saw a big rally at the right time. With the game still tied at zeros Brock Holt started the third with a base hit before Mookie Betts put a pair in scoring position with a big one-out double. That brought Rafael Devers to the plate, and he did what he’s done all year. This one was exactly a scorcher, but the third baseman’s ground ball snuck through the left side and brought home two runs, giving the Red Sox a 2-0 lead.
Unfortunately for Red Sox fans, Morton settled into quite the groove following that two-run single. The righty retired the next eight batters he saw after Devers with five of those outs coming on strikeouts. That got him through five having allowed just the two runs.
On the other end, Price was looking for a bounce-back outing in his former stomping grounds following an absolute disaster of a start in Baltimore. Early on, things didn’t look too bad. The veteran lefty did walk the second batter he faced, who then stole second base, but Price came back with a couple of big strikeouts to keep the runner stranded in scoring position. He settled in for a bit after that, too, getting a pair of perfect innings in the second and third. The latter of which was particularly important having just been handed the lead by his offense in the top half of the third.
In the fourth, though, the Rays got on the board. With the score still 2-0, Tommy Pham came up to lead off the inning. He was the only Ray to reach base in this game to that point, and he did so and then some in this at bat. Price tried to get a 1-1 changeup to fool Pham, but it stayed up in the zone and Tampa’s outfielder was all over it. Pham launched it out to left field for a solo shot, cutting Boston’s lead in half. Price came back from that with three straight outs including a couple strikeouts, though, and the lead was safe for that inning.
The same could not be said for the fifth, when the Red Sox starter fell apart. It wasn’t a total implosion in terms of runs, but he just lost his command and the bottom of the Rays lineup started hitting him all over the place. That inning started with a base hit from Michael Brosseau, who then made it over to second when Christian Vázquez couldn’t stop a pitch in the dirt. Joey Wendle came through in a big spot after that, putting a soft liner into center field and just like that the Rays had tied the game. They kept the rally going when Guillermo Heredia ripped a double out to left field, giving Tampa Bay their first lead of this series.
Price did get out of the inning after that, but not before issuing another walk. The inning was almost extended, too, but Mitch Moreland made a nice pick on a double play bid where the runner at first was originally called safe before the call was reversed upon review. Price then came back out for a big 1-2-3 sixth, keeping the deficit at a run.
The offense still could not get the job done, though. Morton continued to roll in the sixth and seventh, allowing a two-out single in the sixth but nothing more in those two innings combined.
In the bottom half of the seventh, Price was out of the game and Heath Hembree came on for the Red Sox. He got himself into trouble with a double and a walk, ultimately only recording two outs before getting taken out in favor of Colten Brewer. The new righty would issue a walk to load the bases, but was able to escape the jam with a ground out to keep the score at 3-2 in Tampa’s favor.
Morton was finally removed for the eighth inning, with left-handed Adam Kolarek coming in to face pinch hitter Sam Travis. After Travis popped out for out number one, Kolarek moved over to first base as Chaz Roe came on and got Mookie Betts out. Kolarek then came back to the mound with Rafael Devers coming to the plate, and confusion ensued. No one, most of all the umpires, knew what was happening and a lengthy delay took place as everything was sorted out. After a roughly 15 minute delay, Devers grounded out on the first pitch. More frustrating than the long delay, at least in my mind, was the inability for umpires to communicate with fans what was happening. Still, as I write this after the conversations have ended, I have no idea what the now 30-minute delay was even about. That needs to be fixed.
Anyway, we moved on to the bottom of the eighth with the score still 3-2 and Josh Taylor coming on for the Sox. The southpaw did issue a one-out walk but that was all in a scoreless inning of work.
So, now the Red Sox had one more opportunity to at least tie the game up heading into the ninth. They would have to do so against Emilio Pagan. They would not get the job done, with the heart of the order going down 1-2-3 to end the game.
The Red Sox now head back home to take on the Yankees for what will be, inexplicably, the first time they play New York at Fenway. The first game will pit Rick Porcello against Masahiro Tanaka, with first pitch coming at 7:10 PM ET.