It may be early, but man, did this one hurt. In their first matchup of the season, the Red Sox outplayed the Tampa Bay Rays for approximately 7.5 innings and they found a way to lose. Embarrasing stuff to say the least.
Chris Sale made his first Opening Day start in a Red Sox uniform and he was as impressive as ever. The southpaw allowed only four baserunners to reach over six innings while striking out nine. Out of those four to reach, only one was via a hit, the rest all reached on walks. This was an important start for Sale. Remember, in his last spring training start on Saturday, Sale took a line drive off the hip in the first inning of that game. He said he was going to be good to go for today and it was reassuring to see him out there performing at a high level. Perhaps that line drive off the hip was why Sale only tossed six innings today. He was at 92 pitches by the time he got out of the sixth, so they could just be preserving him for later in the season as well. Either way, it was a positive first step into the 2018 season for the Red Sox ace, it’s just too bad his team couldn’t give him the win he deserved.
With Sale’s day ending after six innings, Matt Barnes got the ball for his first appearance of the season in the bottom half of the seventh. He too got his season off to a good start, as the Connecticut native retired the side while only needing 13 pitches to do so. It was after Barnes where things got away from the Red Sox.
Joe Kelly came out to start the eighth, and he was wildly inaccurate. Facing five batters, Kelly allowed three of them to reach via walks while recording only one out before getting yanked. In that span, the Rays managed to score once to make it a 4-1 game. New manager Alex Cora went to Carson Smith next, and he was not much better than Kelly. Entering with the bases loaded, Smith walked the first batter he saw to make it a 4-2 game. After striking out Wilson Ramos for the second out of the inning, Denard Span got the best of Smith and unloaded the bases on a triple to right field, putting the Rays on top 5-4. The very next batter, Adeiny Hechavarria, scored Span from third on an infield single to give the Rays some insurance. The disaster of an eighth inning finally ended when Smith got Joey Wendle to strike out, thus ending a humiliating day for the Red Sox bullpen.
Offensively, the lineup did not need to do much with Chris Sale on the mound. Four runs seemed like more than enough to get the Red Sox a win. Unfortunately, that’s not how things went. The top of the lineup was nowhere to be found, really. Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Hanley Ramirez, and JD Martinez combined to go 1-for-11 at the plate with two walks and zero RBIs. In fact, all four runs the Red Sox scored came off the bat of either Rafael Devers or Eduardo Nunez. Devers got the Red Sox on the board in the second inning thanks to an RBI ground out, allowing JD Martinez to score from third. The very next batter in the inning, Eduardo Nunez, followed that up by hitting an inside the park home run. Yes, an inside the park home run. Check it out:
Like the tweet says, not how you draw up the first home run of 2018, but we’ll take it. That put the Red Sox up 3-0 at the time, and they didn’t score again until the seventh inning. Xander Bogaerts led the inning off with a double off of Austin Pruitt, and Rafael Devers drove him in on a double of his own a few minutes later. Bogaerts himself had a solid day at the plate, going 3-for-4 with a double and two runs scored. That looked like that was all the Red Sox were going to need to pick up their first win of the season. It’s too bad the bullpen melted down, because that was a fun game to watch up until the bottom of the eighth inning.
David Price will look to even up the series tomorrow, as the lefty makes his first start in a regular season game since July 22nd of last year. He will be matched up against Blake Snell of the Rays, another lefty. First pitch is at 7:10 PM.