Rays …., Red Sox ….: A Pivotal Road Trip Starts with an…
The Red Sox fought back over the weekend to salvage what seemed, at times, like an improbable series split against the Yankees. After playing Sunday Night Baseball, they jumped on a plane to Tampa and looked like a team that got into town at five in the morning. They fought back in the middle innings but ran out of gas in the house of horrors that can be Tropicana Field. Brayan Bello, again, couldn’t reel things in early, but ended on a positive note and was eventually taken “off the hook”. Yandy Diaz didn’t get out all game long and was the perfect table-setter in the leadoff spot. Hopefully, everyone gets some sleep tonight and is ready for Sale Day tomorrow. Game notes, below.
In the opener of a four-game set at The Trop, the Red Sox sent Brayan Bello (0-1, 9.00) to the hill for his second career start, who was opposed by Matt Wisler (2-3, 2.58) playing the role of the Opener for the Rays, the team that made The Opener fashionable, for better or worse.
Wisler made quick work of the Red Sox in the top of the first, in a 1-2-3 inning. Things weren’t as smooth for Bello in the bottom of the inning. He opened the game hitting Yandy Diaz on an 0-2 pitch, before walking Ji-Man Choi. Both of those runners came in to score on a softly hit single to center by Josh Lowe. A pretty 3-6-1 double play off the bat of Francisco Mejia ended the threat, with Tampa ahead 2-0.
Bulk reliever Josh Fleming replaced Wisler to start the second, immediately greeted by a Xander Bogaerts double. After advancing to third on a wild pitch, Bogaerts scored on a slow chopper to first base by Alex Verdugo, which caught Choi in-between and ended up as a single, narrowing the lead to 2-1. The game should have been tied a batter later, but Trevor Story’s deep drive to left-center field was caught in spectacular diving fashion by Brett Phillips.
As Tampa came up in the second, it was more of the same as Bello walked the lead-off hitter, Luke Raley. After two quick outs, Yandy Diaz doubled down the left-field line to score Raley, 102.9 MPH off the bat. A Choi single to left-center scored Diaz. Randy Arozarena walked before Jonathan Aranda’s single scored Choi, to give Tampa a 5-1 lead. Bello got Josh Lowe to strike out swinging to end the second.
In the third, the Sox began chipping away at the four-run lead. Bobby Dalbec led off the inning with a walk, and after a Jarren Duran fielder’s choice, Christian Vazquez doubled to left, advancing Duran to third. J.D. Martinez doubled into the gap in left-center, plating both Duran and Martinez, and cutting the lead in half, 5-3. After a Bogaerts walk, Verdugo lined out, and Story struck out to end the inning. Bello did allow the lead-off batter to reach for the third consecutive inning, by way of a Mejia double, but retired the next three batters in order.
The Sox added another in the fourth, as Rob Refsnyder singled with one out and moved up to second base on a ground out by Dalbec. Duran then singled to left field to score Refsnyder but was over-aggressive rounding first on a throw that was cut-off to nail Duran heading back to first to end the inning. Bello ran the leadoff batter streak to four, allowing a Diaz single, but a fancy 6-4-3 double play which Story turned with a barehanded catch-and-throw all in one motion to nail Arozarena at first got them out of the inning unscathed.
On the outing, Bello threw 82 pitches (48 for strikes), allowing seven hits and five earned runs, walking three and striking out five, over four innings. He got eight whiffs on the day (five on the four-seamer), and featured the slider more in this outing than the last, throwing it 26% of the time, more often than the changeup which he threw 20%. He was taken off the hook in the subsequent inning for a no-decision.
Fleming (3 IP, 6 H, 4 ER) was replaced by right-hander Luke Bard to start the fifth. Martinez smoked another double at 105.9 MPH, this one to right-field, and then scored when Bogaerts served a ball into right to tie the game at 5-5. After Verdugo singled, and then joined Bogaerts on a double steal with one out, the Sox squandered their last true threat of the night. Story grounded out with the infield drawn in, and then Cordero struck out (one of four K’s on the night). Austin Davis replaced Bello in the bottom of the inning and had some of his nastiest stuff of the season. He struck out two, and after a soft Mejia single, got a groundout from Luke Raley to end the fifth, 5-5.
In the sixth, Refsnyder led off with a walk ahead of a Duran fielder’s choice. Duran was gunned down stealing, but Boston challenged successfully and Duran had his sixth stolen base of the season. Vazquez struck out to end the inning. Jake Diekman replaced Davis in the bottom of the inning and plunked Taylor Walls, yet another leadoff batter to reach, which haunted Boston all night long. After Phillips lined out, the player of the game, Yandy Diaz, doubled in Walls to take a 6-5 lead. Kaleb Ort was summoned in relief, which Tampa countered with Harold Ramirez to pinch-hit for Choi. He singled into right field to score Diaz, a second earned run for Diekman who took his first loss of the season to go with four wins. Tampa led 7-5 after six.
By this point, Bard had settled in and cruised through a 1-2-3 seventh, en route to his first win of the season, throwing three innings total and allowing only one run. He was followed by Colin Poche in the eighth who also made quick work of the Sox.
Phillips Valdez who was recently recalled, and pitched in his first game since June 14th, deserved a better fate in the late innings. After a 1-2-3 seventh, he came back out for the eighth and induced a pop-up to Raley which was simply dropped at third base by Dalbec. After a couple of outs, Valdez, who should have been out of the inning, allowed a series of hits to score three unearned runs. Diaz knocked in a run on a sacrifice fly, Harold Ramirez on a single, and Yu Chang on a single, breaking the game open, 10-5 after eight innings.
Jason Adam struck out the side in the ninth, Dalbec, Duran, and Vazquez, all swinging, and the final score was 10-5. The Rays had 14 hits, to the Red Sox’s 9. Luke Bard (1-0) was the winner thanks to the scorekeeper’s discretion, and Jake Diekman (4-1) took the L. The teams will meet again tomorrow at 7:10 PM, as Chris Sale makes his first start of the season against Corey Kluber (4-5, 3.62).