Coming off a 4-2 road trip that was capped off by a three-game sweep of the Kansas City Royals, the Red Sox entered the weekend with the chance to gain some serious ground in the American League East, and they came out completely flat in their first go at it, falling to the second-place Tampa Bay Rays by a final score of 5-1.
Making his 13th start of the season for Boston was Rick Porcello, whose June struggles continued after taking the loss in New York last Saturday.
Tossing six full innings in this one, the right-hander yielded four runs, all of which were earned, on eight hits and one walk to go along with four strikeouts on the night.
Issues arose for Porcello beginning in the second, where after working his way around a two-out double in a scoreless first, Rays first baseman Ji-Man Choi led things off by blasting his sixth home run of the season, a 394 foot shot to the Red Sox bullpen to put his team on the board first.
Retiring the next six Tampa Bay hitters he faced following that mishap leading into the fourth, a pair of back-to-back leadoff singles from Brandon Lowe and Avisail Garcia, as well as a wild pitch from Porcello, put runners in scoring position without an out yet to be recorded in the inning.
It did seem as though Porcello was going to be able to get out of the jam by sitting down the next two batters without allowing either runner to advance, but a poor 3-2 slider to Kevin Kiermaier changed all that, as the speedy Tampa Bay outfielder ripped the 85 MPH pitch through the right side of the infield, plating both Lowe and Garcia in the process of making it a 3-0 game.
From there, the New Jersey native made his way through another shutout frame in the fifth before giving up three more singles, one to Garcia, one to Choi, and another one to Kiermaier, who put his team ahead by four by driving in Garcia from third on an RBI base knock to left in the sixth, which would wind up being being Porcello’s final inning of work.
Finishing with a final pitch count of exactly 100 (68 strikes), the 30-year-old hurler turned to his four-seam fastball 45% of the time he was on the mound Friday, inducing three swings and misses with the pitch while topping out at 93.4 MPH with it while Sandy Leon was behind the plate.
Falling to 4-6 with his ERA on the season jumping up to 4.86, Porcello will look to turn around his month of June thus far in his next time out, which should come against the Texas Rangers next week.
In relief of Porcello, left-hander Josh Taylor maneuvered his way around a leadoff single from Austin Meadows in what would turn out to be an otherwise seventh inning before making way for Mike Shawaryn in the eighth.
Making his big league debut eight days after being recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket, Boston’s 12th-ranked prospect picked up his first career punchout in a perfect eighth and also served up his first home run to the aforementioned Kiermaier in a one-run ninth where he struck out the side after.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against 25-year-old right-hander Yonny Chirinos, who has been used as both a starter and reliever by Tampa Bay this season.
Entering the weekend with just three prior appearances at Fenway Park since the start of last season, Chirinos flat out dominated Friday, taking a perfect game into the sixth inning by retiring the first 15 hitters he faced in order.
A leadoff walk drawn by Brock Holt in the sixth broke the perfecto up, and a single off the bat of Jackie Bradley Jr. two pitches later broke up the no-no.
Following a change that saw Christian Vazquez pinch-hit for Sandy Leon and fly out to right, Mookie Betts found his way to first by drawing another free pass off Chirinos, and just like that, the Red Sox had the tying run at the plate in the form of Andrew Benintendi with two outs to work with.
Unfortunately though, both Benintendi and Devers after him whiffed, meaning Chirinos got out of the jam unscathed, and he was clearly happy about it.
That, as you may have already guessed, was the best chance for Boston to get back into this contest, because they didn’t score again until Chirinos had already gotten through eight shutout innings and they were down to their last three outs in the ninth.
There, with right-hander Emilio Pagan in for the Rays, a pair of doubles from Benintendi and Xander Bogaerts drove in their first run with one out in the frame, but nothing more came out of it and this one ended with a final score of 5-1.
Some notes from this loss:
Mitch Moreland departed from Friday’s game in the seventh inning due to right quad tightness hours after he just returned from the 10-day injured list. He is presumably day-to-day.
Rick Porcello has given up 14 runs (12 earned) on 25 hits over his last three starts going back to May 27th.
Xander Bogaerts in June so far: .375/.407/.750 with two homers, three doubles, and four RBI.
Mookie Betts’ June: 3-for-23 (.130) with one double, one homer, and two RBI.
Next up for the Red Sox, it doesn’t get an easier with a day-night doubleheader set for Saturday.
In the first of the two contests, it will be a pitching matchup featuring both a left-handed and right-handed pitcher, with southpaw Ryan Yarbrough getting the ball for Tampa Bay and righty Josh Smith getting the ball for Boston.
Smith is not yet on Boston’s roster, so he will serve as their 26th-man for Saturday only.
And in the doubleheader finale, it will be David Price getting the start for the Red Sox while the Rays have yet to name a starter themselves.
First pitch for each game is scheduled for 1:05 PM EDT and 6:10 PM EDT respectively.
Although the Red Sox may have lost Friday, at least we got this moment between Brandon Workman and his son.