After his last start, Garrett Richards spoke about the league’s crackdown, leading to the impression that he may be affected by the lack of sticky stuff being used now by pitchers. It’s impossible to say for what is causing his recent struggles, and he was getting hit around even before the crackdown, albeit still with solid results. But whatever’s going on, Richards does not have it right now. The veteran struggled once again on Wednesday, this time failing to even make it through two, burying the Red Sox in a whole from which they could not climb.
Things went downhill pretty quickly for the Red Sox on Wednesday as they sought their fifth straight win against the Rays to start their season series, but they did actually get off to a good start. Going up against old friend Rich Hill, Boston got a little momentum on the plate right off the bat in the first, with Alex Verdugo drawing a one-out walk. A couple batters later he’d move up to second base on a wild pitch (that really should have been called a passed ball) before Xander Bogaerts brought him home with a base hit.
So, the Red Sox had an early lead, and they had a chance to add even more after Rafael Devers was hit by a pitch. That moved Bogaerts up to second, and he’d quickly make an ill-advised decision. For whatever reason, he was going to steal second and broke on Hill’s first move, but the southpaw spun for the pick-off and was easily able to recover and cut Bogaerts down at third to end the inning. It was a rare mistake on the base paths for the Red Sox shortstop, and it halted the team’s momentum in its path.
And that momentum would quickly shift over to the Rays, and in a very big way. Richards struggled pretty much all night, and he was throwing a ton of fastballs, showing no confidence in the breaking balls, and he just had no command all night.
He did get off to a quick start in the first with a pair of outs to start things off, but then Wander Franco was able to extend the inning with a walk, bringing Austin Meadows to the plate. This was one of the times Richards did try to spin a breaking ball, but it didn’t do anything. Instead, the slider just floated right over the middle of the plate, and Meadows sent a no-doubt shot to right field for a two-run shot, putting the Rays up 2-1. They’d get another man on with a walk too, but for now the lead was only one.
That would change in the second, when the implosion really started to get going for Richards. He again got the first batter of the inning, but then he issued a walk, bringing Mike Zunino to the plate. The Rays catcher has destroyed Richards in his career, and he did so here as well. This was another hanging breaking ball, and this one was a laser into the left-field corner around the pole for another two-run shot.
After the homer, Richards immediately gave up a double to Brandon Lowe, who’d move up to third on a ground ball. From here, the inning really should have ended when Franco hit a ground ball to Kiké Hernández at second base. It appeared Hernández was thrown off by how quickly the rookie was moving down the line, and he lost his grip trying to transfer the ball from his glove to his hand. He tried to rush the throw without a grip, and it bounced to first. Franco reached on the error, Lowe scored, and it was a 5-1 game. After a walk and a hit batter loaded the bases, Richards’s night was over without the second inning even being over. Brandon Workman came on and finished the inning without allowing another run.
But really, the momentum was all with the Rays right now. The Red Sox offense had a few chances against Hill, who honestly didn’t look all that impressive all night, but they failed to get any more runs home against him as he allowed just the one run through five innings. On the other side, Workman and Yacksel Ríos were able to settle things down and keep the Rays scoreless through the fifth as well.
So it was still a four-run game when the Rays went to the bullpen, but the Red Sox still couldn’t get on the board, wasting a two-out double from Hernández. Josh Taylor would come in for the bottom of the inning, a somewhat surprising decision given the score. However, it was still only a four-run game with the heart of the order due up, so it made sense to give them one last real chance at a comeback. Taylor did his job, though he got into a bit of trouble in the process with Franco reaching third base.
But the offense just continued to scuffle all night, failing to score in the seventh as well. And once the meat of the order failed, Matt Andriese got the call, presumably with the idea he could give them two innings to end the night. His first inning of work was an issue, hitting the first batter he saw before giving up a base hit. He did answer back with two straight strikeouts, but then left a changeup too high in the zone for Lowe, who smashed a three-run shot. That was basically the dagger, making it an 8-1 game.
The Red Sox did add a little bit after things got out of hand, with Devers doubling in the eighth before being brought home on a Christian Vázquez base hit. But that was all they would get, and Matt Andriese tossed a scoreless eighth as well. A 1-2-3 ninth ended things, and the 8-2 loss dropped the Red Sox to 44-30 while allowing Tampa back to within a half-game in the division.
The Red Sox and Rays now have a rubber match on the docket for Thursday, with Nick Pivetta going up against the vaunted TBD. First pitch is set for 7:10 PM ET.