Exactly one month into the 2019 regular season, the Red Sox have yet to win a series at home following a 5-2 loss at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday, marking their second consecutive defeat to the current leaders of the American League East.
Making his sixth start of the season in this series finale after not pitching in Tampa Bay last weekend was Chris Sale.
Working the first seven innings Sunday for the first time this year, the left-hander surrendered four runs, two of which were earned, on four hits and a season-high three walks to go along with eight strikeouts on the afternoon.
Similar to David Price’s outing the day prior, it was the top of the Rays lineup giving a Red Sox starter a difficult time yet again, this time with Yandy Diaz doubling to lead off the first and Daniel Robertson launching a one out, two-run homer over the Monster two batters later to give Tampa Bay the early advantage.
Entering Sunday, Robertson was just 12-for-71 at the plate to begin the season without a home run.
An inning later, Diaz got to Sale once more in a situation that could have been avoided had Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers fielded a ground ball off the bat of Willy Adames.
Instead, Adames reached safely, as did Guillermo Heredia, who drew a one out walk earlier in the second.
After striking out Christian Arroyo on three straight pitches for the second out of the frame, the Rays leadoff man ripped a line drive triple that had the chance to be caught by Jackie Bradley Jr. in center, but instead landed just out of the outfielder’s reach and two more Rays runs came around to score. 4-0.
Things were not looking all that great from there for the Red Sox, but from the beginning of the third inning on, Sale showed flashes of his 2018 self, retiring 12 of the final 16 hitters he faced to end his day on a more positive note.
Finishing with a final season-high pitch count of 111 (72 strikes), the Florida native topped out at 94.1 MPH with his four-seam fastball while averaging around 92 MPH with the pitch.
In terms of pitch variety, Sale relied heavily on his slider with Christian Vazquez catching him Sunday. According to Baseball Savant, he threw 52 sliders compared to 36 four-seamers while inducing six swings and misses with the heater.
Now sporting an 0-5 record on the season, Sale will look for his first win in his next time out, which should come against his former club in the Chicago White Sox next weekend.
In relief of Sale, the Red Sox bullpen had the responsibility of keeping their team within striking distance over the final two innings of this one.
Marcus Walden got the call for the eighth, and he sat down the only three Rays hitters he faced in order while working in relief for the second straight day.
Heath Hembree, meanwhile, was responsible for the ninth, and he would wind up being charged with an unearned run due to Michael Chavis’ first real defensive miscue at second base.
This happened following an Avisail Garcia leadoff double, a Mike Zunino strikeout, and an intentional walking of Kevin Kiermaier.
With a potential double play in play, Guillermo Heredia grounded into a force out at second recorded by Chavis on a ball that was fielded by Xander Bogaerts at short.
However, when attempting to make the throw over to first, Chavis aired one out way over the head of Mitch Moreland, which allowed Garcia to easily score from second and make it a three-run game.
The Red Sox’ top prospect was charged with his first career fielding error as a result.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against another familiar opponent in Rays right-hander Tyler Glasnow, who allowed two earned runs in less than six innings in his last start against Boston on Easter.
Similar to that last outing, the former Pittsburgh Pirates hurler was dominant yet again to start this one off, holding Boston scoreless over the first five innings while sitting down 14 of the first 17 hitters he faced in this one.
It wasn’t until their half of the sixth when the Red Sox finally got on the board, and that came on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Mitch Moreland to drive in Christian Vazquez, who led the inning off with a single, from third and make it a 4-1 contest.
In the eighth, the aforementioned Michael Chavis continued on with his power surge by mashing his third home run of the season, a one out, 441 foot shot to dead center off Glasnow to cut the Rays’ deficit down to two.
The Red Sox threatened again in the inning thanks to a Jackie Bradley Jr. two out double that put an end to Glasnow’s day, but were unable to score again.
The same can be said for the eighth and ninth as well, with Jose Alvarado and Diego Castillo tossing a scoreless frame each to finish off the sweep for the Rays and another disappointing afternoon for the 2019 Red Sox.
Some notes from this 5-2 loss:
From FOX’s Mike Monaco, on the last seven home runs Michael Chavis has hit at Triple-A Pawtucket and the major league level:
From MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo:
From the Boston Herald’s Jason Mastrodonato:
It’s been tough. the Red Sox currently stand at 11-17 and after this weekend are eight games back in the loss column for first place in the American League East.
Just when you think this team is about to go on a nice run and win a few games, they roll over and play like they been these past two days.
There are still 134 games remaining in the regular season. Still time to figure things out, but it doesn’t get any easier with the pesky Oakland Athletics coming into town for a three-game series to wrap up this homestand.
Losers of their last three after getting swept by the Blue Jays in Toronto over the weekend, the A’s took three out of four from Boston the last time these two clubs met earlier this month.
For the series opener, it will be a pitching matchup featuring right-hander Frankie Montas for Oakland and left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez for the Red Sox.
First pitch Monday is scheduled for 7:10 PM EDT on NESN.