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Red Sox 2, Rays 5: Lifeless offense still seeking resuscitation

After a big first, there was nothing the rest of the way.

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

The good news is the Red Sox immediately made sure they were not going to be no-hit through nine innings on Sunday, with Trevor Story jumping on the first pitch for a double. In fact, Boston’s offense looked great against Rays start Shane McClanahan for the entire first inning, taking a 2-0 lead. But they totally fell asleep after that, pretty much not even threatening a rally the rest of the way. Rich Hill did manage to walk a tightrope for four innings to keep his team ahead, but Will Venable for some reason abandoned the plan to piggyback with Tanner Houck, the other relievers coughed up the lead, and that was that. It’s another series loss for the Red Sox.

More robust game notes below.

It’s hard to imagine the Red Sox offense was feeling all that great heading into Sunday’s series finale in Tampa Bay, not only coming off a game in which they were no-hit through nine innings before losing in heart-breaking fashion in the 10th, but also because they were facing Shane McClanahan. The young Rays southpaw has some of the nastiest pure stuff you’ll see from any AL East starter, and with the way Boston’s lineup has been performing it wasn’t too difficult to see this being a long day for them.

However, the one thing that McClanahan does do sometimes is leave too many pitches over the plate, especially early in counts. The Red Sox took advantage of that and immediately showed a different level compared to yesterday, jumping right on McClanahan in the first. Trevor Story jumped on the first pitch he saw, smacking a leadoff double. Enrique Hernández then swung at his first pitch, smoking one right up through the middle to give the Red Sox a 1-0 lead just two pitches into the game. A couple batters later, Xander Bogaerts added a single of his own before Alex Verdugo made it four hits in the inning with Boston’s third single, bringing in Hernández and giving his team a 2-0 lead. Neither Bobby Dalbec nor Christian Arroyo could add any more, but after Saturday night a 2-0 lead was nothing to sneeze at.

Now, they just had to turn to Rich Hill, who was reinstated off the bereavement list prior to Sunday’s game, to hold the lead. It was kind of a weird day for the veteran lefty, who never really looked great but was able to wriggle himself out of jams time and time again. Case in point, in the first inning Hill got two quick outs but then gave up a double, issued a walk, and gave up a single to load the bases. From there he was able to get a pop up from Manny Margot, and the lead stood despite the issues. He’d then get some help in the second when Rob Refsnyder, in right field for this game, made a quick, strong, and accurate throw from the corner to cut down Randy Arozarena trying to stretch a single into a double.

Control issues plagued him a bit for his final two innings, hitting a batter and walking another in the third and then walking the leadoff man in the fourth, but he got through his four innings of work without allowing any runs to the Rays. He only struck out one in the game while giving up four hits along with walking three, but he successfully walked the tightrope, and we’ll take that from him.

After that first inning, the Red Sox offense largely went into hibernation mode, going down in order in each of the second, third, and fourth innings before wasting a one-out double in the fifth. That brought Phillips Valdez, not Tanner Houck as had been expected, in for the fifth trying to protect the 2-0 lead. He had absolutely no control in this game, hitting the first batter he saw, then issuing a four-pitch walk, and hitting another batter with one out to load the bases. Will Venable had seen enough at that point, calling on Ryan Brasier.

The first batter he’d see was the left-handed Ji-Man Choi, and right after a missed call that would have been strike three, Brasier left one over the plate and Choi put it off the left field wall for a two-run double, tying to game up still with a pair in scoring position and just one out. The Rays added one more on a ground out, and heading into the sixth the Red Sox were playing from behind for the first time on the day, trailing 3-2.

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

Following a scoreless top half of the sixth from the Red Sox offense that featured a leadoff single along with a 403-foot fly out, Matt Barnes — notably still not Tanner Houck — got the call for Boston. The righty did record two outs, but also gave up back-to-back one-out singles, before handing the ball off to Jake Diekman, who had to navigate a two-out situation with a pair in scoring position. The first pitch he threw squeaked by Christian Vázquez, and Kevin Kiermaier came in from third to score. Arozarena tried to catch the Red Sox sleeping and came around as well, but Diekman woke up just in time to make the tag and finish off the inning, but not before the Rays took a 4-2 lead.

Diekman came back out for the seventh with the same score, but that score did not last long. The second batter of the inning, Yandy Díaz, put a 3-1 fastball just up and over the wall in right field to extend Tampa’s lead to three. After Diekman followed that up by allowing a base hit, Houck finally entered the inning, but with a runner on and one out, not the clean inning to which he’s accustomed. The unfamiliarity didn’t faze the righty, who needed three pitches to get the next two outs.

Houck gave Boston another scoreless inning in the eighth, and now the offense had just three more outs to get at least three runs and continue this game. They did not do that, instead going down in order to finish off the 5-2 loss.

The Red Sox now head north of the border for a four-game set against the Blue Jays. That series kicks off Monday night, with Nathan Eovaldi taking on José Berríos. First pitch is at 7:07 PM ET.


Courtesy of FanGraphs