I’m writing this with low battery and no power at home, so I’ll make this section quick. This was a total embarrassment of a loss for the Red Sox with inexcusable defense leading to a total collapse after leading 7-1. The worst loss of the season.
This was a wild game between the Rays and the Red Sox, and it was weird pretty much right from the start. Chris Sale was on the mound for a long time in that first inning, needing about 25 minutes to get through an inning that saw a triple (which could have been caught by Alex Verdugo at the wall, though my personal opinion was that it was a more difficult play than I saw some make it out to be), three singles (two of which were of the infield variety), a walk, three strikeouts, and a foul tip that knocked the home plate umpire out of the game. But amid all of that, the Rays only put one run on the board, stranding the bases loaded with a chance to break this game open early.
And then the Red Sox offense had an answer in the bottom of the inning. They were facing Ryan Yarbrough, who mostly kept them quiet last week but had struggled mightily in three other starts against Boston this season. Monday’s game was more like those first three. Behind three straight one-out singles, the Sox quickly tied the game up, though like the Rays, they left the bases full to end the inning.
But Sale was able to get past that arduous first inning for some quick work over the next couple. He tallied three more strikeouts over the next two innings, allowing two baserunners without any more runs crossing the plate.
And as for the offense, it appeared they were ready to run away with things themselves in the second. Christian Vázquez got things started with a leadoff single before Taylor Motter (who was bizarrely tasked with hitting leadoff in this game) brought him home with a double to give Boston the 2-1 lead. From here, Boston had a batter get hit, a double high off the Monster — Hunter Renfroe had a single and a double in his first two at bats of this game that missed being homers by a combined roughly five feet — an intentional walk, a single, a double, and a sacrifice fly. They would send 10 batters to the plate in the inning, and by the time the dust settled it was a 7-1 lead.
As I said, it sure seemed like this was setting up for an easy Labor Day for the Red Sox with their ace on the mound. But then the fourth happened and this turned into a game again. Sale was able to get a couple of quick outs to start that inning, and he only needed to get through the nine hitter in Taylor Walls to get out of the inning. Instead, Walls reached on a little infield single to keep the inning alive. A couple more singles later, and the Rays had the bases full with Nelson Cruz coming up.
This is when we got to the most frustrating moment of the ballgame, because it looked like Sale had gotten out of it on a fly ball to center field. But Verdugo lost the ball in the sun and it bounced off his glove. That allowed all three runs to score, but it continued to get worse. The cutoff throw went in to Motter, who tried to get the out at third base. Instead, he sailed it, and Cruz came around for what was effectively a Little League grand slam, pulling Tampa Bay back to within two. Sale would have to be pulled after two more singles, but Garrett Richards stranded those two runners to keep it a 7-5 game.
The offenses went quiet for a couple of innings heading into the sixth with the same score, Richards still on the mound for Boston. Here, Tampa Bay got going again. The Red Sox reliever did strike out two of the first three batters he saw in the inning, but the middle at bat ended in a single, as did the fourth. That put two men on for Jordan Luplow, who usually is a platoon player to face left-handed pitching but this time came through with a base hit against the righty to bring another run home. The Rays were now within one, but Richards did leave runners on the corners after that to maintain the shrinking lead.
With the Red Sox now searching for any momentum of their own, Motter got the bottom of the sixth started with a big triple of his own. With a walk immediately following that they had a chance for a big inning, but would settle for one run on an RBI base hit from Renfroe to make it an 8-6 game.
That would bring Josh Taylor out for the seventh, with the southpaw making his first appearance since hitting the COVID list as a close contact seven days ago. He got a quick first out before Mike Zunino hit one off the Monster. Taylor should have caught a break here with Zunino trying to stretch the ball into a double, but Motter dropped a good through from J.D. Martinez in left, keeping the out off the board and the runner in scoring position. Ultimately, Adam Ottavino would be called upon to get the last out, but he wouldn’t do that until after allowing another run to allow Tampa Bay back to within a run.
Fortunately, this game was wacky all the way through, and Boston had a little some still left up their sleeve. This time it was just a good old fashioned long ball, however, though from an unexpected source. That would be Jonathan Araúz, who got a 3-2, two-out slider down and in and cleaned it out for a long home run out to right, upping their lead back to two.
But again, this was a stupid, wild, rollercoaster of a game, and the Rays were not going to lie down. Ottavino came back out for the eighth, and his inning started with Nelson Cruz blasting one out to left field for a solo homer to bring the Rays right back to within one. Austin Davis would have to be called for the last two outs, but the Red Sox did get out of the inning with the lead still in hand.
Now, the bullpen had just one more inning to navigate, and it was up to Garrett Whitlock, but nothing about this game was ever going to be easy. Austin Meadows led off the inning with a ball out to deep center field, and once again Verdugo couldn’t make the grab. He couldn’t initially find it off the wall, and neither Renfroe nor Martinez were backing up the play. As a result, José Iglesias, who had just come in for defense at shortstop, had to run all the way out to back up the play. He couldn’t pick it up barehanded cleanly, and made a terrible throw back into the cutoff man, allowing Meadows to come around for an inside the park home run. You cannot make this stuff up.
That was all Whitlock allowed, and the Red Sox did have a prime chance to win it in the ninth. Travis Shaw came on to pinch hit and led things off with a double to put the winning run in scoring position. But after Tampa Bay issued an intentional walk to set up the double play, Vázquez popped up a bunt attempt for the first out before Araúz gave the Rays their double play to end the inning and send things to extras.
The bad defense would only continue to haunt the Red Sox in the 10th. After Whitlock got a quick first out, he gave up two straight hits with a couple of bad throwing choices from Renfroe after the hits, the second of which was an error and Boston’s fourth of the day. That gave Tampa Bay two more runs and an 11-9 lead heading into the bottom of the 10th.
The Red Sox still had some fight, though the inning started with a bizarre intentional balk to prevent the runner on second from seeing signs. Iglesias then quickly brought Boston back to within one with a base hit, and an error would keep the inning alive with two outs. After Rafael Devers was pitched around and walked, it was up to Kevin Plawecki as a pinch hitter with his team down one, the bases loaded and two outs. He couldn’t get it done. A grounder to shortstop ended the game.
The 11-10 loss dropped the Red Sox record to 79-61. With the Yankees also losing today, to the Blue Jays, Boston wasted a chance to jump back to the top spot in the wildcard race and still trail New York by a half-game. The Blue Jays, meanwhile, are within three games. Seattle also started the day within three games, and they play Houston tonight. Oakland, who started the day trailing by four games, is off.
The Red Sox and Rays continue this three-game set on Tuesday with Eduardo Rodriguez taking on Drew Rasmussen. First pitch is set for 7:10 PM ET.