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Red Sox 6, Rays 8 (11): Defeat From The Jaws Of Victory

In a must-win game that seemed can-win at several points, the Red Sox, well, didn’t-win.

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

Just when I think I’m out, they pull me right back in!

I flew to Kansas City (more on that later in the week) for this weekend’s series and it was quite the environment to be a middling team playing in the kingdom — no pun intended — that a basement-dwelling ballclub calls home. And, as fate would have it, save for a despicable performance Friday night, the Red Sox looked pretty darn good all weekend! That performance even carried over, after an early hiccup, against the Tampa Bay Rays. Triston Casas extended his hit streak to eleven games, Masataka Yoshida came alive, and Brayan Bello went six innings, which is entirely uncommon for the Red Sox rotation — and for Bello himself in games that start before 7:00.

Now winners of three straight, the Sox would look to pull even closer in the postseason race, which still looks quite damning considering who is ahead of them and the caliber of teams Boston faces during this grueling September stretch. They would trot Kutter Crawford out to the mound, who has been having a season of personal achievement and validation as an effective rotation starter. The Rays would start Zach Eflin, who’s having a pretty great season in his own right, tracking career bests in ERA, WHIP, innings and strikeouts.

This bout seemed very much like a duel of pitchers establishing breakout seasons until — well, not too long, just the second inning — Masataka Yoshida was robbed of an extra-base hit that easily would have been a home run in most baseball parks. On the other side of the frame, Jonathan Aranda smacked a ball a bit short of Wilyer Abreu that the young outfielder tripped over retrieving. Yoshida would recover the bobble, but by then Vidal Brujan had scored from first and Aranda was standing on third base. Rene Pinto made them regret it by hitting a ball into the stands and make this a 3-0 ballgame, causing that error to be quite detrimental.

But not to worry! After Eflin beaned Connor Wong to put him on Enmanuel Valdez made the Rays pay for that to make it a one-run game. The game continued at a blistering pace without much production, as Masataka Yoshida robbed Randy Arozarena of a home run... that may have actually been a home run (To break up this article, to show that he giveth but he taketh away, or perhaps to inject some foreshadowing, I’ve put the clip a bit above this paragraph.) But, the Red Sox’s luck -- or defensive incapacities — would run out in the fourth, when the Rays loaded the bases up, and that ended the night for Kutter Crawford, with yet another sub-5-inning start... not a great habit to continue, and I’d argue that, again, Alex Cora was jumpy with the hook.

That’a where some trouble ensued, after Joe Jacques, of all bullpen arms, would come into the game. Joe Jacques would hit Brandon Lowe to score a run, and then he’d hit Isaac Paredes for another one. Luckily, that would be all the damage done, and the score was 5-2.

The sixth inning would create more opportunity for the Red Sox, with leadoff legend Ceddanne Rafaela scoring and Justin Turner singling and taking advantage of a throwing error to place him and Devers at second and third, respectively. Casas took a walk, and it looked like the 5-3 lead Tampa held would be further carved into. I mean, there were still no outs!

If you know the Boston Red Sox this year, it’s that they will squander these types of opportunities... and squander they did. Colin Poche would come in and strike out Adam Duvall and Yoshida (one of those looked very very questionable, but...) Rob Refsnyder would come into pinch hit for Wilyer Abreu against Eflin, and Kevin Cash would hit Alex Cora with the UNO reverse card and bring Kevin Kelly in for Colin Poche. Refsnyder would pop up, because of course he would.

The seventh inning, well into what is known as the Josh Winckowski Ages, brought more opportunity for the Red Sox. Justin Turner would drive in Enmanuel Valdez in and Triston Casas would bring in Rafaela thanks to Vidal Brujan, Isaac Paredes and Randy Arozarena all being unable to locate a Bermuda Triangle fly and colliding on the play. Tie game.... how?

Enter Jake Diekman, ex-Red Sox and ex-daily headache, who would stretch out the bottom of this Boston lineup’s productivity by walking Rob Refsnyder with one out. After Diekman struck ou Connor Wong, Luis Urias came in for Valdez, who had hit that home run earlier, which felt like another cute, unnecessary substitution. Sure enough, Cora got in his own way. We don’t know for certain what Valdez would have done, but Urias grounded into an easy out.

Into the Chris Martin ages. (Calling measurements of time ages can be fun, unless it’s the Chaim Bloom ages, or, increasingly this season, the Alex Cora ages.) Aranda and Yandy Diaz both got on, just as the “oh, here we go again” vibes were beginning, Yoshida made another smart baseball move, sliding for an out and throwing the ball to second to get the double play on Aranda, who didn’t look to see if it was caught to tag up. Hey, even if it’s a basic baseball play, it’s a fundamental mistake Tampa made that the Sox capitalized on!

Into.... the John Schreiber ages. Wow, this really reflects on how spent this bullpen is when Schreiber, who is far from having a season like he did last year, is the guy to go to in a 5-5 game in the bottom of the ninth. Anywho, he went 1-2-3, much to my surprise.

On to extras! In the tenth, we saw a high fly ball to the wall from Masataka Yoshida on which Manfred runner Triston Casas didn’t advance after tagging up for some reason, despite having the time to do so. And, uhhhhhhh, why was Shcreiber in still? Jose Siri laid a sac bunt down that caught Urias and Casas sleeping, and the “oh, here we go again” vibes returned. And still, the Red Sox got out of it with an incredible double play from the cannon of Adam Duvall.

Refsnyder, the Manfred runner, advanced to third on a wild pitch in the top of the eleventh with no outs. Following a fielding error by Lowe, Urias’ blooper made it 6-5.... somehow. Trevor Story, coming into pinch run, was cut down. Ceddanne Rafaela drove a ball that would have advanced him one pitch later.

We knew this game would come back to bite us eventually. Kenley Jansen was in to close the door, and after walking Diaz, Brandon Lowe smacked one deep, and it was game over.

This was a formulaic loss. Get some hope,., can’t capitalize off of other team’s errors, lose again. It’s all too familiar, and does not signify a playoff team in the least. I have questions, most of them for Alex Cora. Why only 3.2 innings for Crawford? Why put yourself in a situation to be outsmarted and and without one of the most effective hitters on your team for the night? Why, even with an overworked bullpen, do you keep Schreiber in for the tenth inning? Why say the bullpen is overworked and then pull a guy who hasn’t looked that bad less than four innings in? Why use seven men? Why are you in the situation where you have to use seven men? And why is this becoming a habit? And Alex, don’t say the bullpen is tired.... because your choices are running them directly into more decisions to ensure more fatigue. And, after watching games like this so often this season, we are all tired.

Three Studs

Ceddanne Rafaela: 3-6, 2 K, 2 R

Enmanuel Valdez: 2-3, HR, K. Shame he was benched. Can’t imagine why. Ask Cora.

John Schreiber: 2 IP, 1 H, 2 K, 1 BB

I’ll do one more: Chris Martin, 1 IP, 0 H, 1 K.

Three Duds

Kenley Jansen: 0.0 IP, 1 H, 1 HR, 2 ER, 1 BB

Adam Duvall and Masataka Yoshida: a combined 0-10 with 5 K’s, even with their respective web gems. They both went 0-5, they can share a spot here.

Alex Cora: For everything I detailed above. The excuses have to stop. You can dislike how Chaim Bloom configures the roster and also admit that Alex Cora has no idea how to run a bullpen, or much of anything else.

Play of the Game

Overall, it was the Lowe home run. You know the drill. No player of the game poll on losses, especially stupid and preventable one. That Casas single works for this section too, I guess. You could’ve had a couple of those in this gift wrapped game and still squandered a win, capturing defeat from the jaws of victory. I don’t know, as I said before, I’m tired.

Just when I think I’m in, they pull me right back out.