The Red Sox were riding high just last week after taking two straight series against the Rays and Yankees, but suddenly things are trending down yet again. After the front office opted not to make any trades prior to this afternoon’s deadline, the team on the field went out and lost their third straight game. This one was a familiar story, with Rick Porcello struggling mightily and giving up a ton of hard contact before the bullpen allowed a few more and the offense mounted a bit of a comeback but not nearly enough. Ladies and gentlemen, you’re 2019 Red Sox!
Before this game, Dave Dombrowski essentially told his team that they were not good enough to invest further in when he stood pat at the deadline. Yeah, he said the exact opposite publicly, but it’s not hard to read between the lines of the lack of movement. Where we go from here is a matter of perspective, I suppose. One could look at how the Red Sox started this game — that is to say: Completely flat — and say they proved Dombrowski right. On the other hand, one could say that they are just internalizing the message received from the front office. Funny how interpretations work.
Whether you’re on the side of the chicken or the egg doesn’t really matter in the end. Baseball is, after all, a results-based business and the results were rough right off the bat. As Dombrowski discussed the lack of movement with the media, one (valid) point he brought up was that the starting pitchers need to perform well if this team is going to do anything. One of those pitchers that needs to improve is Rick Porcello. He did not get on that track on Wednesday.
Things got off to a poor start right away for the Red Sox righty, who was struggling with his location right off the bat. In particular, he was having some issues elevating his fastballs and the Rays took advantage. Ji-Man Choi ripped a leadoff double and then two batters later Travis d’Arnaud smacked a line drive single into center field. Three batters into the game, Tampa had a 1-0 lead.
It only got worse in the second inning, too. This was where Porcello blew up in his previous start, and history repeated itself on Wednesday. Kevin Kiermaier, fresh off the IL, led off this one for the Rays and he drove a first-pitch fastball out over the wall in right field for a solo homer. Just like that, it was 2-0. He looked like he was going to recover after that with a couple of outs, but then the Rays got a single and a walk to put two on with two outs for Austin Meadows. Porcello made another big mistake here, throwing a first-pitch fastball in the upper third of the strike zone that Meadows pounded down the right field line. Boston was one out away from getting out of it, but instead it was a 5-0 lead for the Rays.
To Porcello’s credit, he did settle down a bit over the next few innings, holding things steady after burying the team in a hole. The Rays managed just a single in each of the next three innings, with one being the result of a poor defensive play from Rafael Devers.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox offense was trying to bounce back after a frustrating game on Tuesday in which they got plenty going but failed to come through with runners on base as the game went on. Tampa Bay went with an opener in Andrew Kittredge to start this game, and he mostly did the job in shutting down Boston’s lineup. The Sox went down in order in the first and got just a single in the second.
They did finally get going in the third, with a little help from the Rays defense. Jackie Bradley Jr. got on base to start that inning when Nathan Lowe made a bad toss to his pitcher at the first base bag, allowing Bradley to reach second. Mookie Betts then moved him over to third on a single before Devers brought home his team’s first run with a sacrifice fly. Trailing 5-0 with runners on the corners and one out, you are looking for a big rally, but the Red Sox only got the one run.
Ryan Yarbrough had come in midway through that third inning, and the Red Sox got to the lefty in the fourth. J.D. Martinez led off the frame for Boston and he jumped all over an 0-2 changeup down in the zone. The slugger sent it out to right-center field for a solo homer, cutting the deficit down to three.
Unfortunately, Yarbrough started to cruise after the dinger, retiring the next three batters he faced. In the fifth, the Red Sox did get themselves a chance when Michael Chavis led off with a base hit. He would eventually move over to third on a great hustle play after a wild pitch, giving Betts a chance with a runner on third and just one out. Instead, Betts watched a middle-in fastball go by for strike three before Devers grounded out, and the Red Sox were shut out in the inning.
Porcello would come back out for the top of the sixth, and he got off to a good start striking out the first two batters he saw. Then, Willy Adames came up and drove a shot out to center field, ending Porcello’s night. Darwinzon Hernandez came on and allowed a double but nothing more, keeping the score at 6-2 Rays.
After the Red Sox failed to score in the sixth, Heath Hembree came on for the top of the seventh. He looked much like he has since coming back from the IL, which is to say things did not go well. The righty allowed two runs as Tampa opened their lead up to six.
Boston put up some fight in the bottom of the inning, though. Michael Chavis had the big swing of the inning, launching a one-out, solo homer to cut the deficit down to five. After that, Betts came through with a two-out double before coming around to score on a Devers single. Xander Bogaerts then moved Devers up to third with another base hit before Martinez took advantage of a deep outfield and dropped an RBI single into center field. Suddenly, the Red Sox were trailing by only three with Andrew Benintendi coming to the plate as the potential tying run. Instead, he struck out, but the score was cut to 8-5.
After Josh Taylor got through a perfect eighth, Boston had six more outs to complete the come back. Things got off to a good start in the bottom of the eighth when Sam Travis led off with a base hit, but Colin Poche came back and struck out the next three batters to end the inning.
Marcus Walden struck out the side in the ninth, giving the Sox one more chance with the top of the lineup coming up. They did get a leadoff single from Betts, but Devers then grounded out before Bogaerts hit a tapper out in front of the plate for out number two. That put Betts at third but with two outs in a three-run game. Martinez did extend the inning with a walk, giving Benintendi another chance representing the tying run. He couldn’t come through, watching strike three go by and ending this painful day for Sox fans.
The Red Sox will look to snap out of their funk and avoid the sweep with the series finale on Thursday. Boston will send Andrew Cashner to the bump while Tampa Bay’s counters with top prospect Brendan McKay. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET.