Less than a full day after getting blown out to open up Players’ Weekend at Tropicana Field on Friday night, the Red Sox and Rays were back it again on Saturday for the middle game of a three-game series with a rare 6:10 PM start time.
Making his 27th start of the season in this one, Rick Porcello entered the evening with a lifetime 2.72 ERA at the Trop, and he did pitch to that level of efficiency tonight.
In five-plus innings of work, the right-hander was charged for three earned runs on six hits, two walks, and two HBPs to go along with eight strikeouts recorded on the night before getting the quick hook in the bottom of the sixth.
Despite the three earned runs, things really could have gone a whole lot worse for Porcello, as he consistently found himself working around traffic on the base paths.
For instance, out of the five full frames he pitched in, only once did the New Jersey native fail to allow a baserunner, which came in the bottom of the second.
Other than that, the Rays had at least one runner on base from the first to the end of the fifth, including a bases loaded situation that Porcello managed to get out of unscathed in the third.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 89 (58 strikes), the 29-year-old hurler departed from this one after allowing the first two batters he faced in the sixth to reach on a leadoff triple and HBP.
Out of those 89 pitches, Porcello turned to both of his fastballs, two and four-seam, a combined 55% of the time tonight. He also topped out at 93.3 MPH with that two-seamer in the first inning.
Falling to 15-7 with a 4.18 ERA on the season now, the former Cy Young Award winner will look to end what has been a rather inconsistent month of August on a positive note in his next time out, which should come against the Chicago White Sox sometime next weekend.
In relief of Porcello, the Red Sox bullpen was responsible for the final nine outs of Saturday night’s contest, but those outs did not come easy.
Ryan Brasier got the first call out of the ‘pen with runners on first and third and no outs in the sixth, and he closed the book on Porcello’s night by allowing both inherited runners to score before eventually retiring the side in the frame.
Brandon Workman, making his first appearance since Wednesday, worked the seventh, and he gave up a one out solo homer to Tommy Pham as well as an additional hit and walk before ending the inning.
Finally, just trying to keep his team within three runs at this point, Tyler Thornburg surrendered the fifth run of the night for Tampa Bay on a two out RBI triple off the bat of Ji-Man Choi in the eighth.
All and all, not the best night for the bullpen.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against rookie left-hander Ryan Yarbrough, who before tonight, had not started a game for the Rays since July 3rd.
Starting the scoring in the second, two straight hits from JD Martinez and Xander Bogaerts put runners at second and third in an ideal scoring spot for Mitch Moreland, who was making his first appearance since leaving Thursday’s contest against the Indians with a left knee contusion.
Although he got ahead in the count 2-0, the best Moreland could do was ground into a run-scoring double play that plated Martinez from third to give the Red Sox an early 1-0 lead.
No RBI on the play though, and that’s all the scoring the team could manage off of Yarbrough and the rest of the Rays bullpen. Not much to talk about there since they were held to five total hits.
Some notes from this 5-1 loss:
Out of those five Boston hits, four came from JD Martinez, who smacked a pair of doubles to overtake Mookie Betts in the American League batting race, and Eduardo Nunez, who hit two singles. Xander Bogaerts was responsible for the other base knock.
Speaking of Mookie Betts, the AL MVP frontrunner has hit a bit of a skid recently, as he is slashing a mere .179/.238/.231 over his last 10 games.
For the first time since June 29th-July 1st, the Red Sox have lost a series. They are 2-5 in their last seven games. Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Rays have won their last seven.
The Red Sox are now 0-5 when wearing the Players’ Weekend jerseys.
Looking to salvage something from this series tomorrow afternoon, it will be ex-Ray Nathan Eovaldi taking the mound for Boston on Sunday.
In three starts at Tropicana Field this season, the right-hander is 1-0 with a 2.12 ERA in 17 innings pitched.
Based on the ups and downs Eovaldi has had in his last three outings (6.23 ERA), hopefully pitching in a familiar ballpark will help get him back on track.
Opposite Eovaldi will be the ace of Tampa Bay’s pitching staff in LHP Blake Snell, who has held Boston to just two total runs in 19 innings pitched over three starts this season, two of which came at the Trop.
First pitch of the series finale is scheduled for 1:10 PM ET Sunday.