The following simulation and images are courtesy of Out of the Park Baseball 21.
Our Fake Sox worked around some frankly rough pitching on Tuesday night in their series opener in against the Rays with Bryan Mata walking five in his major-league debut and Martín Pérez coming in after him and walking three more. Despite that, they only allowed one run all night and came away with a victory. They were looking to take the first two of the series with another win on Wednesday, sending Collin McHugh out to the mound to take on Brendan McKay.
The Red Sox were seven games better than Tampa Bay heading into the game, but the Rays had the pitching advantage with McKay pitching well on the year and McHugh struggling mightily for Boston. He got off to a quick start in this one, however, retiring each of the first six Rays he faced to get through the first two innings.
Even better, the Red Sox were able to get some early offense against McKay and establish some momentum on their side. Andrew Benintendi got things started right away in the top of the first with a base hit, and then Alex Verdugo followed it up with a walk to put the first two men on base for Boston. After a J.D. Martinez ground out moved both runners up a base, Xander Bogaerts came through in the first for a second straight night. After a two-run shot in his first at bat on Tuesday, the shortstop ripped a two-run double this time around to give Boston an early 2-0 lead. McKay would settle down, though, and Bogaerts was left standing at second.
They threatened to score again in the second, too, when Mitch Moreland smacked a one-out single and then Benintendi dropped in a bloop with two outs to put runners on the corners for Verdugo. They couldn’t get that last hit they needed, though, with Verdugo hitting a tapper back to the mound to end the inning and keep the score at 2-0.
From there, McKay went into cruise control for a bit. The Red Sox went down in order on just six pitches in the third, then got the leadoff man on with a bunt single in the fourth but still ended the inning with just seven pitches. It was an eight-pitch 1-2-3 inning in the fifth before they finally made McKay work a little in the sixth, and even that was a 13-pitch perfect inning.
On the other side, the momentum that McHugh had built up early on faded pretty quickly in the third. Brandon Lowe gave Tampa Bay their first baserunner of the night with a leadoff single, and then the Red Sox righty lost his control a bit. He issued a walk, then recorded an out before issuing one more walk to load the bases. After coming back from that with a big strikeout, there was two outs and nowhere Austin Meadows. McHugh tried to fit him in, though, issuing his third free pass of the inning to bring home a run and cut the lead in half to 2-1. Fortunately, that was all Tampa would get as McHugh got his third strikeout of the inning to leave the bases loaded.
The righty worked around a leadoff single in the fourth, but then he’d find himself in some more trouble in the fifth. There, Mike Zunino led things off with a base hit — the third straight inning the Rays did that — and Kevin Kiermaier immediately followed it up with a double. Now with two men in scoring position, McHugh got a ground out, but it brought in the tying run. Austin Meadows followed that up with a fly ball out to center field, and just like that it was a 3-2 lead for the Rays.
That was still the score as we headed into the bottom of the seventh, and the Red Sox offense finally got a little going against McKay. Moreland drew a one-out walk, and then a couple batters later Benintendi drew one as well. That brought José Alvarado to the mound with two on and two out and Verdugo at the plate. The rookie came through in a big-time spot, smacking a base hit into right field to bring Moreland home and tie the game up at three. Martinez couldn’t keep it going, though, and the Red Sox settled for the tie after seven.
Neither offense really threatened for the next few innings, with the Rays getting a two-out double off Ken Giles in the ninth but not being able to score, and so we headed into extras. Matt Barnes pitched a perfect tenth, but the Red Sox offense went down in order as well in the bottom of the inning. Boston then tried to squeeze another inning out of Barnes in the eleventh, and it didn’t go well. He did get a quick first out, but then Yoshitomo Tsutsugo made them regret their decision. On a 3-2 count, Barnes made a mistake and Tsutsugo hit it through the wind into the seats in right field for a solo shot, breaking the tie and giving the Rays a lead in the eleventh. Barnes then walked the next batter he faced before making way for Brasier.
The good news is Brasier didn’t let any more runs score. Now, the Red Sox offense needed another rally. They got pretty damn close thanks to Jackie Bradley Jr., as he tagged a one-out triple into right-center field to put the tying run 90 feet away. A fly ball could have tied the game, but Christian Vázquez hit a ground ball right at Willy Adames, who was playing in on the grass. Bradley had to stay home and Vázquez was thrown out for the second out of the inning. Moreland then hit a ground ball right over to first base, and that was that.
The frustrating loss dropped the Red Sox record down to 28-21. On the bright side, the Yankees also lost, keeping the deficit in the division down to one game. Around the league, the Rangers lost utility man Nick Solak for the year, Victor Robles smacked three homers for the Nationals and Julio Teheran tossed a shutout. Down on the farm, the Red Sox suffered an injury with Gilberto Jimenez going down with a rotator cuff strain that’ll keep him out for two weeks. In the games, Rafael Devers went 0-5 in his rehab appearance as the PawSox lost, Johan Mieses hit his tenth home run and Marcus Wilson hit his eighth in a win for the Sea Dogs, Ryan Zeferjahn had more walks than strikeouts in a loss for Salem, and Yusniel Padron-Artilles was knocked out after just 3 2⁄3 innings in a loss for Greenville.