There was some good for the Red Sox on Saturday night down in Tampa Bay, which mostly had to do with their speed. That’s not a normal sentence for the Red Sox, as even in their best years they’ve never been much of a running team. They found a way to take advantage of Tyler Glasnow’s slow delivery for six stolen bases, though, their most since 2010. They also got homers from Michael Chavis (on a high fastball, no less!) and Chrisitan Arroyo as well as a solid three innings for Nathan Eovaldi. All of that was still not enough. The Rays kept finding ways to counter any time the Red Sox grabbed momentum, and the end result was a close, one-run loss to make it two L’s in a row for Boston.
As the Red Sox were looking to even up the series against the Rays on Saturday, the story of the game from the Boston perspective was clear: Nathan Eovaldi. The righty was making his way back from the injured list for this start, looking to build a little bit of positive momentum before the year ends and eyes turn towards 2021.
The start was about as bad as possible, though. Eovaldi was pumping his normal high velocity, but as we all know you need more than that to succeed in today’s MLB. Austin Meadows led things off for Tampa, and after working a full count he got a fastball on the inner half from Eovaldi. The velocity was there at 99 mph, but Meadows was ready for it. He got the bat around and connected for a no-doubt shot out to right field. One batter into the bottom of the first, it was a 1-0 lead for the Rays.
The good news is, Eovaldi didn’t let that snowball and did decently well during the rest of his short outing. The first provided a few more problems thanks to a double and a hit batter, but he didn’t give up any more runs. The righty then settled down for a three-batter second in which he gave up a base hit but then had Manuel Margot get caught stealing. In Eovaldi’s third and final inning, he had his best frame with a 1-2-3 inning that included a pair of strikeouts. So, it wasn’t perfect and the arm strength needs to be built up a bit stamina-wise, but all in all it wasn’t terrible for Eovaldi and it was just one run on the board.
On the other side, the Red Sox were going up against Tyler Glasnow, who has some of the best stuff in all of baseball. They did get a base hit and a stolen base — the latter of which would become a theme on the night — in the first, but no runs. After going down in order in the second, Michael Chavis stepped in to lead off the third. It’s well known that Chavis’s biggest weakness at the plate is velocity up in the zone. Glasnow tried to get him with some high heat, but Chavis was ready and gave it a ride way out to straightaway center field. The 428-foot homer tied the game up at one run apiece.
Things were still tied heading into the fourth, and Xander Bogaerts started things off with a walk. After the first out, Bogaerts then stole both second and third easily, allowing him to come home on an RBI single from Kevin Plawecki that gave the Red Sox their first lead of the night. The Red Sox would get another runner in scoring position after Jackie Bradley Jr. reached on a fielder’s choice and then stole second for the team’s third steal of the inning, but he was left there.
Now with Eovaldi out of the game, the bullpen was going to have to go six innings and try to protect the lead. It didn’t last very long. Chris Mazza came in for the fourth and had some issues with control, walking two of the first three batters he faced. That brought Nate Lowe to the plate, and he quickly tied things up with a line drive into right field. It should be noted that Ji-Man Choi, who scored the tying run, seemed to pull something on his way home and would have to be removed from the game. The inning continued from there, Margot continued to rake against his former organization. This time he ripped a two-run double out to left-center field, and just like that it was a 4-2 game.
Now it was up to the Red Sox to play catch up, and they caught a break in the fifth to try and do so when Chavis struck out swinging but still reached when the ball got by the catcher. He’d then steal second — Boston’s fifth stolen base of the night — to put a runner in scoring position with just one out. The just one out was key, because Chavis wasn’t aware. Alex Verdugo popped one out that should have given Rafael Devers a chance to get Chavis home, but the latter thought there were two outs and was doubled up on the costly mistake. The Red Sox would similarly get a man in scoring position in the sixth, this time with nobody out, thanks to a Devers infield single and a wild pitch, but he would be stranded.
After Mazza settled down for scoreless frames in the fifth and sixth, the Red Sox had nine more outs to at least score two more runs and tie this game up. They got the start they wanted to start the seventh with a single from Bradley, and with one out he’d then give Boston their sixth stolen base of the night to get into scoring position. Eventually it would be up to Arroyo with two outs and Bradley still on second. Arroyo came through in a big way, getting an 0-1 fastball right over the heart of the plate and sending it way out to left field for a no-doubt shout. Just like that we were all tied up.
With a brand new ballgame on our hands, it was Marcus Walden coming in for the Sox in the bottom of the seventh. The righty got a couple of quick outs to start things out, but Brandon Lowe wasn’t going to let that continue. The Rays second baseman came through with a big swing when he needed it, blasting a solo shot out to right field, giving the Rays a 5-4 lead.
Now with only two more innings to go, the Rays got into the bullpen with Nick Anderson coming on for the eighth. He gave up a couple of long outs, but it was a 1-2-3 inning to keep the lead in hand.
Jeffrey Springs took care of business in the bottom of the inning with a perfect frame, giving Boston’s bats one more chance. Diego Castillo was on the mound to try and close it out for the Rays. He got a couple of quick outs, but Yairo Muñoz kept things alive with a ground rule double out to left field. That was all they’d get, though, as Chavis grounded out to end the game and drop the Red Sox record to 16-31.
The Red Sox will look to salvage a split in Tampa Bay in the series finale on Sunday. They’ll have Martín Pérez going while the Rays counter with Charlie Morton.