There are still some issues with the Red Sox that need to be worked out, most notably with the offense scoring the number of runs they should. If we’re being honest, they should have scored more than four runs in this game, getting 11 hits through five innings and having a real chance to take control of this game. Instead, they only scored four and then shut down the rest of the way. That’s the bad news. The good news is they still won the game because Michael Wacha held the non-Wander Franco Rays in check, and the bullpen was again able to hold a long lead, with some help from the defense and more specifically Trevor Story. So improvement is still required, but we’ll take the wins where we can get them.
More robust game notes below.
With the Red Sox offense in a bad way heading into this weekend’s three-game set against the Rays, it couldn’t be a bad thing that they were at least heading down south and into a climate controlled environment after spending the first few series of the year in cold weather environments. Whatever the reason, they did come out swinging against Corey Kluber and the Rays on Friday, getting on the board right away in the top half of the first.
With Trevor Story leading off for the second day in a row, and for the first time with Enrique Hernández also in the lineup, and he did start off this game getting on base with a single. He’d move over to third a couple batters later on a Xander Bogaerts single, before Alex Verdugo gave Boston their third single of the inning, and second relatively weak one, to take an early 1-0 lead. Hernández followed up with one of his own as well, laced into left field and bringing home Bogaerts. After going eight innings without a run the day before, the Red Sox followed up their two-run ninth on Thursday with a two-run first on Friday to take the early 2-0 lead.
On the other end, the Red Sox were looking to Michael Wacha, who signed with Boston this winter after pitching for the Rays last summer, and who has had a nice start to this season for the Red Sox. He had a really nice start this time around as well, at least if you take Wander Franco out of the equation. The Rays star shortstop — who honestly might already be the best player in the division at 21 years old — hit a pair of solo home runs against Wacha, both of which were rockets. The first, in the first inning, came on a first-pitch fastball at the top of the zone that Franco hit 109.7 mph for a solo homer. He’d get another one in the fifth, this time on a cutter that broke onto the inside corner and Franco turned it around at 112.4 mph for a line drive home run.
Aside from the two rocket home runs from the phenom shortstop, though, Wacha was once again really effective. His changeup continued to impress in this game and he threw it just about as much as his fastball, and he only allowed one more hit aside from the home runs in his five innings of work. The peripherals weren’t kind in this one with three strikeouts and two walks to go along with the pair of homers, but the veteran has now allowed only three runs in three starts spanning 14 1⁄3 innings.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox offense continued to pile up hits, although there still were some frustrating wasted opportunities. Still, they got back on the board right away in the third thanks to Rafael Devers, who is pretty high up there in the division player rankings as it is. Kluber threw him a cutter that stayed in the zone down and in, and Devers went down and got it, sending it way out to right field for a solo shot, making it a 3-1 game. Bogaerts followed that up with a double, his second hit of the game, and soon came home on a base hit from Hernández to make it a 4-1 game.
They’d get another runner on base with only one out, too, but Bobby Dalbec and Travis Shaw continued their respective rough starts to keep the runners on base. It was a similar story in the fifth, too, when they kicked off the inning with back-to-back singles. Hernández then hit into a costly double play, but after a walk there were runners on the corners for Dalbec. He had a rough at bat, swinging at strike one way out of the zone before getting a hittable pitch over the plate but weakly grounding out to leave the runners and end the inning.
So it was only a two-run game heading into the bottom of the sixth despite the Red Sox having an 11-3 edge in the hit column, and Austin Davis was on the mound. The lefty has looked sharper this year with his stuff, as noted by Mike Monaco on the NESN broadcast, and he had no issues in a 1-2-3 inning, with some help on an outfield assist from Alex Verdugo.
It was still 4-2 in the seventh, with Matt Strahm coming in looking to continue what has been an impressive start to the season for him. He had a bit of a tougher time this outing, with former Red Sox prospect Manuel Margot leading off the inning with a base hit. A couple batters later, Mike Zunino hit a grounder in the hole on the left side. Bogaerts got to the ball, but tried to make an impossible throw from the hole that ended up bouncing by Dalbec at first, allowing the runner to get to third. Brandon Lowe then hit what would typically be a double play ball to the right side, but with the Red Sox in the shift there was no one covering second. They only had the out at first available, and the Rays brought another run home to cut the Red Sox lead to one. Hansel Robles came in after that and retired Franco to end the inning, but this was a game with two innings to go.
The Red Sox had nothing in the top of the eighth, going down in order, bringing Robles back out for the bottom half. He had to work in the first at bat with Randy Arozarena working a full count and then hitting a moonshot foul ball that was reviewed. The foul call was upheld, Robles came back with a strikeout, and ultimately retired the side in order.
After another quick inning from the offense in the top of the ninth, Jake Diekman got the call for the bottom half trying to lock up this victory. We’ve seen some good stuff from the lefty so far this season, but in this game we got a glimpse of the control issues as he walked each of the first two batters he faced. With two on, Harold Ramirez ripped one to the right side, but Story made a really slick stab and got the first out at second base, putting runners on the corners with one out in a one-run game.
After a third walk loaded the bases, Diekman came back with a huge strikeout against Brandon Lowe, leaving it all up to — who else? — Wander Franco. Will Venable, in the managerial chair in this one for Alex Cora, decided to go to Matt Barnes for this at bat. I’m not sure you can say he won the battle as Franco hit one hard in the hole on the right side, but Story made his second big play of the inning, this time for the final out of the game to save a 4-3 win.
The Red Sox now look to clinch this series on Saturday, with Garrett Whitlock taking on a pitcher yet to be named for the Rays. First pitch is set for 6:10 PM ET.