It was only a few days ago when it seemed like the Red Sox were Capital-B Back and ready to make noise again in the American League. How did they respond to all that momentum? But losing four in a row, of course. In this game, Andrew Cashner and the pitching staff never let this team get any steam. Every time the Red Sox scored, at least that number of runs was given back and often more. It’s just a bad baseball team right now. Plain and simple.
For all of the (valid, in this writer’s opinion) handwringing after the Red Sox failed to make any improvements to the bullpen at the trade deadline, it’s no secret what the biggest issue with this team right now actually is. That would be the starting pitching. Fans realize it. The starters themselves surely realize it. Dave Dombrowski cited it when talking about the deadline inaction to the media. They aren’t going deep into games, they are putting the offense in a deep hole and they’re failing to come through with shutdown innings after the offense gives them runs. It’s not great, and we saw it on display again with Andrew Cashner on Thursday night.
As the Red Sox were trying to avoid a sweep at home at the hands of the Rays, they needed a stopper performance from Cashner. He did not get off to the start they were looking for, though, when the night began with a double from Ji-Man Choi. After a couple of ground outs, Choi moved over to third but Cashner was one out away from escaping the inning. He then got a weak grounder back up the first base line from Matt Duffy, but his throw to first was too late and the run scored. The play was originally ruled an out, but it was a hilariously bad call and overturned upon review. The end result: A 1-0 Rays lead.
Fortunately, the Red Sox offense was not about to let that lead last too long against rookie and top prospect Brendan McKay. Mookie Betts got things off to the right kind of start when he smacked a base hit into right field to lead off the bottom half of the first. A couple of batters later, Xander Bogaerts stepped to the plate and did what he’s done all year. The shortstop went up 3-0 but eventually the count went full before he drove an inside fastball way out to left field for a two-run shot. Just like that, the Red Sox were up 2-1.
Like I said above, though, the Red Sox rotation has been horrible about taking runs from the offense and letting them marinate. Once again, this time with Cashner on the mound, runs scored were given right back to the opponent and then some. The righty walked the first batter he faced, then allowed a single before walking one more and in the blink of an eye the Rays had the bases full with nobody out. Cashner got a strikeout after that, but then issued a walk to tie the game before Sandy León was crossed up and a passed ball gave the Rays a 3-2 lead. Tampa would get one more on a Tommy Pham double, and it was 4-2 by the end of the inning.
From there, both pitchers settled down for a few innngs. Cashner got through three scoreless innings after that second in which he allowed just two baserunners and faced only ten batters. On the other side, the Red Sox were also held scoreless for three straight innings. The final of those innings, though, they did get a chance with runners on the corners and nobody out but failed to get even a single run home.
They did change their luck in the fifth thanks to the same guy who was responsible for their other two runs. That would be Bogaerts, who launched a two-out, solo homer to get his team back within one.
Once again, it was on the pitching staff to come through and keep the momentum on their side. Once again, that is not what happened. Cashner was back out to start this inning and after a quick first out he gave up a single, a double and a walk to load the bases with just one out. It looked like he may have escaped with a double play ball after that, but Bogaerts and Michael Chavis didn’t have a good turn and Willy Adames is just too fast. He got down the line safely, the Rays scored and Cashner’s night was over.
Curiously, Alex Cora called upon Darwinzon Hernandez after that. I say curiously because not only was it his third straight day of pitching but it was also in a tough spot with a runner on third. We all know the southpaw has huge stuff, but he is also incredibly wild. We saw why that can be an issue in this specific situation when he immediately threw a wild pitch to allow another run to score. He’d then issue a walk and allow a double before the inning ended, but the Rays had their lead up to 7-3 at that point.
I don’t really want to talk about the rest of the game, but I suppose it’s my job so I’ll do it anyway. I’m very brave and honorable, you know. Anyway, the Red Sox got a leadoff double from Andrew Benintendi in the sixth but — guess what?! — they stranded him. Then Colten Brewer came in for a scoreless top of the seventh.
The Red Sox started to chip away a bit in the bottom of that inning when Mookie Betts hit a very rare opposite field home run that just barely snuck around the pole. That brought the Sox to within three, but of course the pitching would give the run back. Brewer was back out for the eighth and gave up a solo blast to Mike Zunino to push Tampa’s lead back to four.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Red Sox got another leadoff double from Benintendi and once again they wasted it. Fun! Heath Hembree came on for the top of the ninth and promptly allowed a solo homer to get Tampa’s lead up to five. The Red Sox then went down in order in the ninth and the Rays finished off a sweep. Not ideal!
The Red Sox now head to New York for another four-game series against the Yankees, this one over the course of three days. The first game will pit Eduardo Rodriguez against James Paxton. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 PM ET.