The Red Sox lost a baseball game they probably should have, and at the very least could have, won on Tuesday. Unfortunately, that is a story we have gotten used to here in 2019. The good is that the offense had some moments including a massive home run from Andrew Benintendi and another three-hit night for Rafael Devers. They also got some good showings from the likes of Darwinzon Hernandez, Nathan Eovaldi and Matt Barnes. The bad news is that David Price was shaky for most of the start before unraveling in the fifth. The early relievers used were bad and Alex Cora did a weird job of managing them. The offense, for their successes also left a whole lot of runners on base over the second half of the game. In this one, the bad was enough to outweigh the good and end in a loss.
The Red Sox came into this series against the Rays on the heels of an outstanding week of baseball. Now, they are repeating the exact same sequence with three against Tampa and four against the Yankees and looking for a repeat of the results, too. In that week, they got solid performances from all around the roster but the offense clearly stood out above the rest. They were scoring, and more importantly they were scoring early. They were trying to do it again on Tuesday, but with Charlie Morton on the mound for the Rays it was going to be easier said than done.
Despite the talent on the mound, they got it done. The game got started with a leadoff walk for Mookie Betts, a sign of things to come as Morton never really quite had the command we’d been seeing from him most of this year. After a couple of pop outs, though, it seemed Boston would squander the leadoff runner. Instead, J.D. Martinez kept the inning going with a walk and Andrew Benintendi loaded the bases with a walk of his own. That brought Mitch Moreland to the plate in a big spot, and he came through with a single out to right field. With that swing of the bat, the Red Sox had a 2-0 lead after one.
Boston would go down in order in the second and Tampa cut the lead in half in the top of the third — more on that in a minute — but the Sox offense got back to work in the bottom of the inning. This time it was Rafael Devers starting it off with a base hit which was followed by another single from Xander Bogaerts. Eventually, that put runners on the corners for Benintendi who came through with a big single of his own — the third in the inning for the home team — to put Boston up 3-1.
They had a chance to tack on more with runners on the corners and one out for Moreland. The first baseman grounded into an inning-ending double play, though, to quickly bring the frame to a halt. There was another chance in the fourth after Christian Vázquez led off with a double, but three straight outs after that led to a squandered chance. Remember that for later.
On the other side of the ball, David Price was on the mound looking to snap out of a funk in which he’s been mired for about a month now. The southpaw had a bit of a weird night. He was by no means great and relied very heavily on his fastball. He also had bouts of lost command, particularly early and late. For most of his night, though, he did the job and kept runs off the board. Well, at least until he didn’t.
There were signs right away in the top of the first that things were going to get ugly at one point or another against Price, as he had to labor through that one. Matt Duffy led the inning off with a walk, but bailed Price and the Red Sox out with a baserunning mistake after that. Price through a pitch in the dirt that skipped away from Vázquez, but not too far. Duffy got caught in no-man’s land between first and second and was picked off for the first out of the inning. After that gift out, Travis d’Arnaud ripped a single into right field but Price came back with two big strikeouts and got out of the inning with no runners advancing beyond first base despite needing 25 pitches.
Things went more smoothly in the second as the Rays managed just a single, but then they got back to work in the third. There, Duffy got things started with a one-out double, but after a strikeout Price had a chance to get out of it. Instead, Austin Meadows ripped a triple out to the right field corner, and the Rays had their first run of the night. He would be stranded at third, though, and the Red Sox kept the lead.
In the fourth, the Rays were able to load the bases with just one out, a big opportunity to at least tie the game trailing 3-1 at this point. Price buckled down with two massive strikeouts, though, to keep the lead.
Unfortunately, the fifth would go differently. This was after the aformentioned squander of Vázuqez’ leadoff double when the Red Sox had a chance to extend their lead. Instead, they were up only by two and it would be tied in the blink of an eye. Price allowed a pair of solo homers to d’Arnaud and Avisaíal García and just like that the game was tied. He’d then issue a single and a double and that was that for his night.
He’d leave two in scoring position with just one out for Marcus Walden, coming into a huge spot. The righty did get two straight outs, but the first was a ground out with the infield back, allowing the runner from third to come in and give the Rays a 4-3 lead.
The offense came right back this time, with a little help from Kevin Cash. Devers started the bottom of the fifth with a leadoff single, but that was followed by two straight outs. Somewhat surprisingly, Cash went to his bullpen, a move that visibly caught Morton off-guard. Lefty Adam Kolarek came in to pitch against Benintendi, and it didn’t take long for the Rays to regret that. Benintendi launched one into the Monster Seats for a two-run shot on the first pitch he saw, giving the Red Sox a 5-4 lead.
Tampa Bay was not going to die down, though, as the Red Sox bullpen pulled a Red Sox bullpen. Walden came back out for that inning, and after getting two quick outs he issued a walk to d’Arnaud. That brought Josh Taylor out to try and get the third out of the inning but instead he gave up a single. That put two on with two outs for the middle of the lineup, but instead of going to Matt Barnes in the high-leverage spot Alex Cora turned to Colten Brewer. That was a mistake, and García put a double off the Monster to score both runners and put the Rays right back on top.
After the Red Sox went down in order in the bottom of the sixth, it was Darwinzon Hernandez coming on for the seventh. He came through with a 1-2-3 inning of his own.
Bostn then squandered a two-on, two-out situation in the seventh before Nathan Eovaldi tossed a scoreless inning in the top of the eighth.
Now, the Red Sox had six more outs to score at least one more run and try to force extras. They got off to a good start in the bottom of the eighth with Sam Travis coming in to pinch hit for Mitch Moreland and coming through with a leadoff double. They’d get a one-out walk from Brock Holt, too, but eventually it was up to Betts with two on and two out. He ripped one up the middle, but Eric Sogard couldn’t handle it and they were left with the bases loaded for Devers. Couldn’t come through, flying out to left field and leaving the bases full with his team down one.
Barnes then came in for a scoreless top of the ninth, giving the offense one more chance in a one-run game. They got a two-out bloop single from Benintendi, and Travis followed it up with a single of his own. Suddenly, the tying run was on third base for Vázquez. He couldn’t get the big hit, making it one more wasted chance for the Red Sox as he flew out to left field to end the night.
The Red Sox will look to get back on track on Wednesday for the second game of this series. Boston will send Rick Porcello to the mound. Tampa’s starter is still TBD as of this writing. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET.