After rain postponed their initial series opener on Friday, the Red Sox officially welcomed the Tampa Bay Rays into town for the first time Saturday, and unlike last weekend, things did not get off to that great of a start.
Former Ray David Price made his fifth start of the season for Boston in this one, and he delivered yet another quality performance, which probably goes down as one of, if not the only bright spot for the Red Sox Saturday.
Working six full innings, the left-hander yielded two earned runs on four hits and three walks to go along with seven strikeouts on the evening.
Given the way things began with Rays leadoff man Yandy Diaz taking Price deep on the second pitch of the game in the first, it certainly looked as though it could have been much worse.
But, despite the home run and the five-pitch walk that followed it, the 33-year-old settled in nicely and retired the next eight Tampa Bay hitters he faced before running into more trouble in the fourth.
There, the top of the Rays order gave Price more fits, with Tommy Pham leading off the inning with a double and Daniel Robertson drawing a walk to put a pair of runners on with still three outs to get.
After needing six pitches to strike out Avisail Garcia, Rays backstop Mike Zunino would be the one to break this one open, as he ripped a line drive RBI double to left field on a 1-2 88 MPH changeup from Price to give his team a 2-0 lead.
The Rays would threaten again thanks to a Kevin Kiermaier RBI single moments later, loading the bases with just one out in the inning, but Price pulled through and kept them off the board by striking out Guillermo Heredia and getting Willy Adames to ground into an inning-ending force out at third base. Damage limited.
From the top of the fifth on, the Tennessee native ended his outing on a more positive note, sitting down five of the final six hitters he opposed to lower his ERA down to 3.60 on the season.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 93 (57 strikes), Price turned to his changeup 32% of the time he was on the mound Saturday, inducing nine swings and misses with the pitch. He also topped out at 94.5 MPH with his four-seam fastball.
The recipient of the bad luck losing decision to fall to 1-2 on the year, Price’s next start should come against the Chicago White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field sometime next week.
In relief of Price, the Red Sox bullpen was nearly perfect over the final three innings on Saturday to keep the Rays within striking distance. Brandon Workman recorded the first two outs of the seventh before walking two straight and making way for Marcus Walden, who retired the side in the inning while also getting the first two outs of the eighth.
Similar to Walden, Colten Brewer came to relieve Walden with one runner on and one out to get. He did just that, but did not come back out for another frame of work in the ninth.
That inning belonged to Matt Barnes, who needed just nine pitches to sit down the only three hitters he faced to keep it a one-run contest.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against a familiar foe in Rays right-hander Charlie Morton, who they got to for five runs last Saturday. This time around, it was a different story for both sides.
With JD Martinez a late scratch due to back spasms, the Red Sox were held to just one or fewer runs for the sixth time already this season.
Morton held them to just two hits while also walking four and hitting another over the first six innings of this one, but the Boston bats could not take advantage of any early run scoring opportunities.
It wasn’t until the eighth when the Sox finally got on the board, and that came when Mookie Betts led the inning off against new Rays reliever Diego Castillo with his fifth home run of the season. A 406 foot shot to center field to make it a 2-1 game.
Five batters and two outs later, with Jose Alvarado now pitching for Tampa Bay and the bases now loaded for Boston, Jackie Bradley Jr. came to the plate with the chance to be a hero.
Entering Saturday with a lifetime .300 batting average against Alvarado in 10 career at-bat’s, Bradley Jr. got the count in his favor twice at both 2-1 and 3-2, but came up swinging and missing on a 92 MPH cutter low and away to end the inning and any chance at a rally.
An inning later, a Christian Vazquez leadoff single off righty Emilio Pagan gave a brief glimmer of hope with the tying run on base and the top of the Red Sox lineup due up, but a las, Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts, and Mitch Moreland all went down in order, capping off another disappointing defeat for the defending World Series champions.
Some notes from this loss:
From the Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham:
Since being activated from the injured list on April 4th, Steve Pearce is slashing .114/.184/143 with no home runs and one RBI so far this season.
Jackie Bradley Jr., meanwhile, currently has an OPS of .399.
Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll look to bounce back in the final game of this series on Sunday afternoon.
Right-hander Tyler Glasnow is slated to get the start for Tampa Bay, while Chris Sale will do the same for Boston.
Last time out on Easter, Glasnow limited the Red Sox to two runs in 5.1 innings pitched in a game the Rays would eventually drop.
Sale, on the other hand, has yet to receive the winning decision in any of his first five starts of the year. Even stranger, Red Sox are 0-5 in those games started by their ace.
First pitch Sunday is scheduled for 1:05 PM EDT on NESN.