Something very strange happened on Sunday: The Red Sox got a win, on the road, against the Rays, and it all felt very normal! Not that wins have become the norm, of course, but it was a fairly non-descript win in a season where wins have been like pulling teeth. Martín Pérez wasn’t great and had his defense betray him a few times, but he got through five solid innings. The bullpen was very good, with Ryan Brasier continuing to look like his 2018 self and Phillips Valdez chugging along. They got two homers from guys name Christian, with Vázquez and Arroyo each smacking one. And the end result was a fairly comfortable victory. More of those this year would have been cool.
As the Red Sox were looking to salvage a split down in Tampa Bay against a Rays team that has given them endless amounts of trouble over the last two seasons, they were looking to get off to a good start. The offense was going up against Charlie Morton, who obviously has plenty of talent but is working his way back from injury. Boston couldn’t have gotten off to a better start, either. Yairo Muñoz was in the leadoff spot today with Alex Verdugo getting the day off — Xander Bogaerts was off for this one as well — and he got things going with a double out to right field. That brought Christian Vázquez up to the plate, and the unconventional top of the order came through. Vázquez followed up the double with a blast way out to left field for his first homer since July 30. It gave the Red Sox a 2-0 lead just two batters into the game.
The bad news is Morton settled into a groove from there, retiring the next nine batters he faced to get through the third inning.
On the other side, Martín Pérez was on the hill for Boston and he didn’t get much help from his defense early on. The lefty made a nice play on a push bunt by Manuel Margot to lead off the bottom of the first, moving to his left to make the stop and flip to first base. Bobby Dalbec was awkward around the bag, though, and straddled the bag without touching it to allow Margot to reach. To be fair, Pérez did get a big double play after that, but then Joey Wendle reached on a high chopper before coming in to score on a Mike Brosseau double. That was all Tampa would get in the inning, but it cut Boston’s lead in half.
Pérez worked around two base runners in both the second and third — the third saw more bad defense when Tzu-Wei Lin and Michael Chavis got in each other’s way on a pop up on which Chavis should have called Lin off — to keep the score at 2-1 heading into the fourth. The Red Sox finally broke up the perfect streak for Morton in the inning thanks to back-to-back singles to begin the inning, including an infield single from J.D. Martinez to break up an 0-22 skid. They’d eventually load the bases with just one out, too, but couldn’t get the run home.
That would prove costly, as the Rays got to work themselves in the bottom of the inning. It was another fielding blunder to start the inning, with Lin making a routine play at shortstop. His throw was a bit low but still above the dirt, but Dalbec couldn’t squeeze it. His second error of the game put the leadoff man on. It proved costly as a couple batters later, Kevan Smith jumped on the first pitch he saw and smoked a no-doubt solo shot out to left field. Just like that, it was a 3-2 lead for the Rays.
Fortunately, the Red Sox weren’t about to back down. Muñoz got things started in the top half of the fifth with a one-out single that put the tying run on base while also knocking Morton out of the game. Vázquez would then draw a four-pitch walk before Rafael Devers came through with a big swing, smacking a double out to right field to tie the game up at three and put a pair in scoring position for Martinez. He didn’t get a hit this time, but his rocket to third base ricocheted off Wendle which was enough to get the run home despite the infield playing in. The ground out gave the Red Sox the lead back.
Pérez now had another lead to work with as he continued to labor through this game, partially due to long at bats and also due to poor defense behind him. The lefty got the job done in the fifth, though, walking one but giving up nothing else in a scoreless frame.
As we moved on to the sixth, the Red Sox offense was ready to add some more to the board. It was Chavis leading things off this time, and he was able to get on base with a walk ahead of Arroyo. The former top prospect has been getting a bit more time lately as the Red Sox look for 2021 contributors, and on Saturday he had what was at the time a huge home run. He made it two days in a row here, this time going the other way for a two-run shot, extending the Red Sox lead to three.
Pérez’s day ended after five innings, leaving it up to the bullpen to protect the 6-3 lead. First up was Phillips Valdez. He did give up a double with just one out and the Rays eventually got the runner to third, but it was ultimately a scoreless bottom half of the sixth.
It was still a 6-3 game after the Red Sox had three singles but no runs in the top of the seventh, and it was Ryan Weber coming on to pitch in the bottom half. The righty got the first two outs in short order, but then gave up a single and issued a walk, suddenly bringing the tying run to the plate. Ron Roencike had seen enough from Weber at that point, and Ryan Brasier came on to try and end this inning. He came through, getting a huge strikeout to end the inning and keep the lead at three.
Brasier got the call for the eighth as well, and he locked it down with a 1-2-3 inning that included a pair of strikeouts.
After the offense went down in order in the top of the ninth, it was all up to Matt Barnes to close things out in the bottom of the frame. He wasn’t perfect, giving up a leadoff single, but the righty got three straight outs after that including two strikeouts to end it. That was enough for the 6-3 victory.
The Red Sox are rewarded for the win with a day off on Monday. They’ll head further south from here to take on the Marlins for a three-game set starting on Tuesday. Tanner Houck will be making his major-league debut for that one. First pitch will be at 6:40 PM ET.