Playing in their first home game of the season, the Red Sox played their second straight game that went into extra innings. They won the first one in Miami, and they won in 12 innings today against the Tampa Bay Rays.
David Price got the start in this one, and he looked just as good as he did last Friday in Tampa Bay. The southpaw once again tossed seven shutout innings, scattering three hits, walking three, and striking out five. He threw 91 pitches on Thursday, 56 of which went for strikes.
Price has yet to yield a single run to opponents, and his start marks the seventh straight start a by Red Sox pitcher where one or fewer runs have been scored off of them. Through those seven games, Red Sox starters own a 0.86 ERA in 42 innings pitched to go along with 39 total strikeouts and just 10 walks. Those are some impressive numbers, but unfortunately, David Price could not get the W today even though he deserved it.
Once Price departed after completing seven innings, Carson Smith took over in the top of the eighth. Smith walked the first batter he saw, and followed that by serving up a home run to Rays third baseman Matt Duffy. Duffy, who owns a career .393 Slugging Percentage, gave his team a two-run lead thanks to his first long ball of the season. Smith was able to get out of the inning, but his start to this season has been far from promising. In four appearances, the Texas native has given up four earned runs in 2.2 innings pitched, making for an ERA north of 10 at 13.50. Not a great look for the righty who still hasn’t settled in with his club despite this being his third season here.
Trailing 2-0 heading into the ninth, Hector Velazquez would be responsible for keeping the deficit at two runs, and that is exactly what he did. Considering the fact he just started a game this past Sunday, I was surprised to see Velazquez come out of the bullpen on just three days rest. He pitched a clean inning though, and the Red Sox managed to score twice in the bottom half of the inning, so credit to Velazquez for holding the Rays in check.
With the game headed to extras, Craig Kimbrel would get the call to pitch in the top of the tenth in a non-save situation. The Red Sox closer was a bit shaky today, which led to him loading the bases while recording the first two outs of the inning. Going up against Rays DH CJ Cron, Kimbrel came through with a huge strikeout, keeping the game tied.
Next up out of the bullpen, Bobby Poyner was the last pitcher used by the Red Sox. The rookie reliever retired the side in order in the eleventh. In the twelfth, Poyner gave up a leadoff single to Joey Wendle, then proceeded to retire the next three batters he faced. With his stellar performance in this one, Poyner was credited with the first win of his young big league career.
Offensively, the Rays held the Red Sox lineup in check yet again. Despite not using a stereotypical starting pitcher, the Rays have found some success in sticking with just relief pitchers on two occasions this season. The first time, March 31st, Rays pitching surrendered three runs to the Red Sox. Today, April 5th, Rays pitching surrendered another three runs to the Red Sox. Both of these games have resulted in losses for Tampa Bay, but the pitching has not been to blame.
Anyway, the Red Sox didn’t score their first run of the game until the ninth inning. A Mookie Betts leadoff single followed by an Andrew Benintendi walk set up Hanley Ramirez in a prime position. On the second pitch of his at bat against Alex Colome, Ramirez lined a single to center field, allowing Betts to score from second to make it a one run game. After JD Martinez grounded into a double play, it came down to Xander Bogaerts to either tie this thing or win it himself.
With Andrew Benintendi just 90 feet away, Bogaerts laced a clutch double off the wall in left field, just out of the reach of Mallex Smith.
This allowed Benintendi to easily score from third and we had ourselves a tied game. Three batters later and the bases loaded, Jackie Bradley Jr. nearly won the game for the Red Sox on an infield single , but he was ruled out at first by just inches.
After going scoreless in the next two innings, the Red Sox offense picked up again in the bottom of the twelfth. A Jackie Bradley Jr. leadoff double was followed by a beautiful sac bunt off the bat of Christian Vazquez. With one out and a runner at third, Rays pitching intentionally walked Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi, loading the bases with Hanley Ramirez at the plate. On the first pitch he saw from Ryan Yarbrough, Ramirez ended things by lining a walk off single to right field, scoring Bradley and giving the Red Sox the 3-2 win.
That marks six straight wins for this Red Sox team. This also marks two straight wins Hanley Ramirez is pretty much responsible for. A healthy Hanley can elevate this lineup, and that is what he has done so far this season. After today’s performance, Ramirez has taken over the team lead in RBIs with six. He has also been playing exceptional defense at first as well. Seven games in and Hanley has definitely proven why Alex Cora wants him batting third in the lineup almost everyday.
Next up for the Red Sox is another off day on Friday. After that, Rick Porcello will make the start on Saturday afternoon against Rays righty Jake Faria, who allowed one run in four innings last time he faced the Red Sox on April 1st.
Also, Eduardo Rodriguez is back and he will be starting on Sunday. That’s probably why Velazquez came out of the bullpen today. Looking forward to that.
We also got Lil Wayne tweeting about the Red Sox, so that’s something.