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Red Sox 2, Rays 3: At least they weren’t no-hit?

That was very much on the table.

Boston Red Sox v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images

We’re a bit late on this recap, so we’ll keep it short, sweet, and to the point. Which, considering how things went for the Red Sox on the road against the Rays on Saturday, is probably for the best anyway.

Heading into the game, the story beyond Boston trying to get some momentum and clinch the series with a second straight win was that Garrett Whitlock was on the mound for his first career start. The righty has been elite in his role in the bullpen, dating back to last season throwing multiple innings in high-leverage spots, but with Tanner Houck unable to travel to Toronto next week due to being unvaccinated, the Red Sox had to switch their rotation plans up a little bit. Whitlock still is not totally stretched out, only being pegged for three or four innings for this start, but there was no reason to think he’d be anything other than superb.

And, as expected, that’s exactly the word to describe his performance. He ended up going the full four innings, and only needing 48 innings in the process. Whitlock was able to get by focusing mainly on his sinker, which was located well all night to limit the Rays to weak contact while also racking up some strikeouts as well. The young righty looked right at home in this role, allowing just a double. That one was hit well by Brandon Lowe, to be fair, but it was the only batted ball Whitlock allowed hit at more than 90 mph. He also didn’t walk a batter while striking out seven in his dominant performance.

The bullpen largely did the job after him as well, keeping Tampa Bay off the board over nine innings. After Whitlock, Austin Davis came on and issued a two-out walk but nothing else before handing things off to Kutter Crawford. It’s been an up-and-down start to the season for the young righty, especially struggling with control, but he was lights out here. Crawford tossed three innings in relief, giving up a bit more hard contact that found gloves than Whitlock, but still not allowing a run in those three frames. Notably, he also did not walk anyone, just giving up a single while striking out five. That just left Tyler Danish, who had another strong showing after being called up, working around a leadoff walk for a scoreless ninth.

Of course, you’ll notice I haven’t even mentioned the offense, because for as great as the pitching was the bats were virtually non-existent. In fact, they almost literally were for the first nine innings. With the Rays going with a bullpen day amid a flurry of injuries in their rotation, Boston only got on base via the walk over through nine innings, drawing five of them but also not managing a single hit. They were fortune their pitching staff allowed this game to get to extras to avoid the history books.

In extras, with the game still tied, things started to get interesting. With the Manfred runner at second, Bobby Dalbec got his bat on an 0-2 pitch, sending it out just past the diving Brett Phillips in the right field corner for a leadoff triple, both breaking up the combined no-hitter and giving Boston the 1-0 lead. Christian Vázquez followed that up with a sacrifice fly, and it was a 2-0 cushion for the bullpen heading into the bottom half of the 10th.

Will Venable, managing for Alex Cora who is still away from the team after testing positive for COVID, turned to Hansel Robles for the final inning, and he started off well with two straight strikeouts before everything fell apart. The righty was called for a balk after a little bit of a double clutch getting into his set position, and he never quite got the composure back. He also didn’t get help from his defense, as Taylor Walls hit a ground ball to second base, which Trevor Story got going towards the middle. His throw was off line, though, too far up towards the outfield and in the dirt. Throw in some rough footwork from Dalbec — a good first baseman makes that play and ends the game, I think — and the ball got by and allowed one run to come home.

That just left things up to Kevin Kiermaier, who got a 3-1 fastball center cut up in the zone and blasted it just up and over the wall for a walk-off, two-run shot. It was a brutal, brutal way to lose a game after being no-hit all game, taking a lead in the 10th, starting the bottom half with two strikeouts, and still losing.

Boston and Tampa Bay now play a rubber match on Sunday with Rich Hill taking on Shane McClanahan. First pitch is set for 1:10 PM ET.

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Courtesy of FanGraphs