After seeing their four-game winning streak come to an end on Friday night, the Red Sox dropped their second straight to the Tampa Bay Rays in the first of a day-night doubleheader Saturday, falling back to 33-31 on the year.
Making his second start and fifth overall appearance this season for Boston was Josh Smith, who was recalled from Triple-Pawtucket to serve as the club’s 26th man for Saturday’s twin bill.
Working his way through the fourth inning of this one, the right-hander surrendered four runs, all of which were earned, on seven hits, one walk, one HBP to go along with three strikeouts on the afternoon.
All four of those Tampa Bay runs came in their half of the second, with Travis d’Arnaud blasting a two-out, three-run home run to put his team on the board first, and Brandon Lowe following that up with an RBI single three batters later to make it a 4-0 game.
From there, Smith only faced the minimum six hitters over his final two frames, with Sam Travis making a fantastic diving play in left and Jackie Bradley Jr. snuffing out Yandy Diaz at second to retire the side in the third.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 83 (49 strikes), the 31-year-old turned to his four-seam fastball nearly 35% of the time he was on the mound Saturday, inducing two swings and misses and topping out at 93.5 MPH with the pitch while Sandy Leon was behind the plate.
Since he was Boston’s 26th man in this one, Smith will be returned to Triple-A Pawtucket.
In relief of Smith, Colten Brewer walked three in a one-run fifth, Mike Shawaryn punched out three and hit two over a scoreless sixth and seventh, and Ryan Brasier sat down the only three hitters he faced in a 1-2-3 eighth to set up Josh Taylor in the ninth.
Only trailing by a reasonable three runs entering the inning, Taylor seemingly let this contest get away from the Sox, as he yielded six singles, allowed four earned runs, and faced all nine Rays hitters before finally escaping the inning with his team now down 9-2.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against Rays left-hander Ryan Yarbrough, who came into Saturday with a 6.23 ERA through eight outings (three starts) so far this season.
Despite what those numbers may say, Yarbrough, like Yonny Chirinos the night before, was essentially lights out, limiting the Boston bats two just two runs on the day.
That first run came courtesy of Sam Travis in the bottom half of the second, when with Christian Vazquez at third following a fielding error that allowed Eduardo Nunez to reach base safely, the 25-year-old ripped a 2-0 changeup from Yarbrough through the middle of the infield, plating Vazquez and getting his team on the board.
Fast forward all the way to the eighth, after the Rays starter retired 16 of the preceding 18 Red Sox hitters he faced, Jackie Bradley Jr. broke out of a 2-for-20 skid by mashing his fifth home run of the season, a 427 foot shot off Pesky’s Pole that at the time cut the Rays lead down to three runs.
And although they didn’t stage an epic comeback in the ninth in what would turn out to be a 5-2 loss, it was really cool to see Marco Hernandez back on the field and picking up his first base hit in over two years.
Remember, the 26-year-old underwent surgery on his left shoulder in November of that year and just got back to being able to participating in baseball activities this spring.
He was activated from the 10-day injured list Saturday and went ahead and ripped a double in his first big league at-bat since May 3rd, 2017.
Next up for the Red Sox, it’s the second game of this day-night doubleheader later on Saturday.
Left-hander David Price will be getting the start against his former team for Boston, while right-hander Ryne Stanek will serve as the opener for Tampa Bay.
First pitch of Game 2 is scheduled for 6:10 PM EDT. Red Sox turning to David Price for an important outing yet again.