Given the way the roster is constructed, I will never feel good about putting anything all that close to 100 percent blame to Ron Roenicke as the manager. As he has pointed out, he can only use the pitchers he has and, well, they’re not very good. Still, he made a curious decision in this game that featured a whole lot of Red Sox pitchers by giving Jeffrey Springs a third inning of work, and that ended up being the difference. That this team doesn’t have enough starters and had to go with a bullpen game is, of course, the real problem, but the managing left a lot to be desired here. Whichever way you slice it, though, and whether you want to put more blame on the front office or the staff on the field, the Red Sox just don’t have winning pitching, and it caught up to them in a big way on Monday. More positively, the offense did have itself a nice day including Jonathan Araúz, who knocked in a pair and had his first career hit, and J.D. Martinez, who finally got his first homer of the year.
For as bad as the pitching was expected to be this year (and largely has been, to be fair), the offense has been more frustrating of late. There were high expectations for that portion of the roster because there is still a fair amount of talent in the roster that has simply not produced. They sent out a weird lineup against the lefty Ryan Yarbrough for Monday’s series opener against the Rays looking for some crooked numbers.
The good news is they did get things started with a big first inning. Alex Verdugo started the rally with one out as he poked a soft liner into right field for a base hit that was immediately followed by a walk. That put two men on for Xander Bogaerts, and he continued to swing a good bat. The shortstop smacked one high off the Monster for a double to give the Red Sox a 1-0 lead with two more in scoring position. The way this season has been going, that would typically be all they get, but a ground out and a base hit brought two more in and Boston did lead it 3-0 after one.
After a 1-2-3 second, they had another very encouraging frame in the second. This one wasn’t the same kind of long-ish, sustained rally but rather a big swing from a guy who needed it. J.D. Martinez came into the game in the midst of his longest homer-less drought since turning himself into an elite hitter in 2015, but that ended here. The slugger for a cutter right in his wheelhouse middle-in from Yarbrough that ended up over everything in left field for a big solo home run to give the Red Sox four runs through three.
On the other side, it was a straight bullpen game for Boston, and their relievers consistently found themselves having to work out of trouble. For Ryan Brasier, who handled the second, he gave up a one-out double and later a walk to put two on with two out, but he got out of it without any runs.
Colten Brewer came on next as the closest thing to a bulk arm we’d see in this game. After a quick first out, he got himself into some trouble as well with old friend Manuel Margot smashing a double off the Monster in left-center field. That brought Kevin Kiermaier to the plate, and he put one through the right side. Kevin Pillar looked like he was prepping for a play at the plate from right field, but he overran the ball. That did allow Margot to score easily, but it also encouraged Kiermaier to try and push for second, where Pillar threw him out for a big second out. Brewer would exit that inning with just the one run scoring.
After working around a pair of walks in a scoreless third, the righty came back out yet again for a third inning of work, and the baseball gods were not kind to him. First it was his team biting him with the leadoff man reaching after José Peraza simply missed a routine grounder. Margot followed that up with a little bloop to center field that found no man’s land to put the first two men on. After a weak ground ball cut out the middle man and then a stolen base, there were two in scoring position for Michael Pérez. Once again, it was not hit hard but a soft bloop liner fell into left field for a two-run single, and just like that it was a one-run game.
Things only looked like they’d get worse, too, as Brewer served one up to Austin Meadows, who crushed one to center field. It actually looked like Jackie Bradley Jr. should have made the play at the wall, but instead he let it bounce. Pérez tried to score all the way from first and made a great slide. It was so great, in fact, that he was originally called safe. That call was eventually overturned, though, and the lead was still intact, and it would stay through the end of the inning.
Marcus Walden then came on in the 4-3 game in the fifth, and he just wasn’t sharp with his command in this one. The righty issued a leadoff walk before serving up a one-out triple to Joey Wendle to tie up the game. After a huge strikeout for the second out of the inning, Walden issued another walk and that was the end of his night, with Jeffrey Springs coming in to finish the inning and preserve the tie.
The bottom of the fifth was about as frustrating as it gets for this offense and reminiscent of what we’ve seen all year. It started out well with a Jonathan Araúz single, his first of his career. After a fielder’s choice, a walk and a bloop single, the bases were full of Red Sox for Bogaerts, the hottest hitter in the lineup. He couldn’t come through this time, though, hitting into a double play to end the inning and keep the score all knotted up at four.
That brought Springs back out for the sixth, and he gave up a leadoff single before getting two big outs. Díaz then kept the inning alive, though, by finishing off a nine-pitch at bat with a walk to put two on for Ji-Man Choi. Traditionally a lefty, Choi has recently decided he can pinch hit, and it worked here as he sprayed a very weak line drive down the first base line to get a run home and give Tampa the 5-4 lead. Springs would get out of it thanks to a nice play at third by Araúz after that, but now it was up to the offense to come back.
Fortunately, they didn’t waste any time at all. Michael Chavis was kept in the game despite Chaz Roe, a righty-killer, being on the mound for Tampa. That proved to be the right call as he smacked a huge leadoff double off the Monster and was immediately brought home on a base hit from Kevin Plawecki to tie the game. The momentum would quickly be slowed, though, with Peraza grounding into a double play.
Springs, for some reason, came back out for the seventh and with nobody warming up to boot. He quickly got into some trouble, too, with Yoshi Tsutsugo leading things off with a base hit down the first base line. Margot followed that up with a single of his own to put the first two men on. That brought Kiermaier to the plate, and he would be the last batter Springs faced after driving in two on a double to give the Rays a 7-5 lead. Phillips Valdez came in and stopped the bleeding from there.
So the Red Sox were once again playing from behind, and Araúz started the bottom of the seventh with a base hit off the Monster. That was all they’d get, though, and they still trailed by two after seven. Valdez then came back out for the eighth and struggled a bit there, giving up one more run to push the deficit to three.
The offense needed to get to work now, but the bottom of the eighth started with two straight strikeouts. The inning was kept alive, though, by a Plawecki base hit before Andrew Benintendi came in as a pinch hitter and drew a walk. Suddenly, Christian Vázquez was in to hit for Jackie Bradley Jr. and representing the tying run as the Rays went to get the lefty José Alvarado out of the bullpen. Vázquez drew a walk, leaving it up to Araúz with Mitch Moreland and Rafael Devers sitting on the bench. (The latter was almost certainly unavailable due to a minor ankle injury.) The rookie came through in the big spot, knocking in a pair with a big single to bring Boston to within one. They couldn’t keep it going, though, and entered the ninth trailing 8-7.
Dylan Covey came in for a scoreless ninth, giving his offense one more chance with the heart of the lineup coming up. They got the tying run on base with Martinez smacking a one-out single. After Bogaerts lines out to right field, it was all in the hands of Chavis to at least keep the game alive. He couldn’t get it done, striking out to end the game and give Tampa the first win in this series.
The Red Sox will look to bounce back from this one and even up the series with the second game of the series on Tuesday. Martín Pérez goes for Boston while the Rays are going with a bullpen game. First pitch is at 7:30 PM ET.