After taking three out of four from the New York Yankees over the weekend and an off day on Monday, the Red Sox dropped their second straight on Tuesday, as they opened a three-game set with the Tampa Bay Rays with a 6-5 loss to fall back to 59-59 on the season.
Making his 19th start of the season for Boston and fifth against Tampa Bay was David Price, who came into Tuesday fresh off allowing three runs over six quality innings in his last time out against this same Rays club.
Working into just the fifth inning this time around, the left-hander surrendered four runs, all of which were earned, on nine hits and two walks to go along with nine strikeouts on the night.
The first of those four Rays tallies came in the top half of the third, when with two outs and a runner at second following a one-out double from Matt Duffy, Austin Meadows drove him in by ripping a 1-1, 92 MPH two-seam fastball from Price to right field for an RBI triple.
In the fifth, with his team up by two runs, the Tennessee native gave that lead up by first grooving a first-pitch, 90 MPH two-seamer to Travis d’Arnaud, who led the frame off by depositing said pitch 453 feet over everything in left field.
Just seven pitches and one out later, Avisail Garcia punished another first pitch from Price, this one a hanging, 89 MPH cutter that was sent 394 feet over the Red Sox bullpen.
That knotted things up at 3-3, and Price’s evening came to a close quickly thereafter with the last two Rays he faced both reaching with one out.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 94 (61 strikes), the 33-year-old hurler relied on his four-seamer more than 34% of the time he was on the mound Tuesday, inducing four swings and misses and topping out at 94.7 MPH with the pitch while Christian Vazquez was behind the plate.
Ultimately hit with the no-decision while his ERA on the year jumped up to 3.86, Price’s July probably did not end the way he planned. In his final three outings of the month, the southpaw yielded 13 earned runs over 14 1/3 innings pitched. That’s good for an ERA of 8.16.
He’ll look to right the ship in his next time out, which should come against the Yankees on Sunday.
In relief of Price, Marcus Walden entered the fifth with runners at second and third and two outs to get, and he allowed that runner to score from third on an RBI groundout off the bat of newest Ray Eric Sogard before getting out of the inning.
From there, Walden came into the sixth with Boston now up 5-4, and got the first two outs before walking d’Arnaud on five pitches, which in turn led to Sox manager Alex Cora going with the left-handed Josh Taylor against the left-handed Meadows.
Unfortunately, that move did not pan out as expected, as Meadows ripped a single to right to advance d’Arnaud to second with still one out to get.
So, Colten Brewer got the next call, and he saw his side’s lead disappear by serving up a two-run double off the Green Monster to Garcia.
d’Arnuad and Meadows came around to score as a result of the crushing two-bagger, and that gave Tampa Bay a one-run lead at 6-5.
Darwinzon Hernandez, Nathan Eovaldi, and Matt Barnes combined to toss three scoreless innings of relief to keep the deficit at one, but the damage had already been done.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against a fairly familiar foe in Rays right-hander Charlie Morton, who opposed Price the last time these two clubs met this past Wednesday.
Getting the scoring started right away in the first, Mitch Moreland came through with two outs and the bases loaded by lacing a two-run single off Morton to right field for an early 2-0 lead.
Fast forward to the third, and the middle part of the order delivered once more, this time with a red-hot Andrew Benintendi plating Rafael Devers from third on a one-out, RBI single that just got through the right side of the infield. 3-1.
In the fifth, after Tampa Bay had claimed a one-run lead of their own in their half of the fifth, Benintendi got that right back in the bottom half, and the way it happened was pretty spectacular.
That being the case because, with Devers at first and two outs in the inning, Rays manager Kevin Cash wanted to turn to lefty reliever Adam Kolarek with the left-handed Benintendi due up next to hit for Boston.
Morton, with a pitch count of 85, was clearly displeased with his manager’s decision as they argued in the visitor’s dugout.
While that was happening though, Benintendi didn’t waste any time and crushed his 11th homer of the season off the first pitch he saw from Kolarek, an 88 MPH sinker over the heart of the plate.
The Red Sox went up 5-4 on that 358-foot blast, but failed to score again the rest of the night.
Sure, they had their chances, like with runners at first and second in the bottom of the seventh.
Again, Cash turned to left-hander Colin Poche with Benintendi due up, and it paid off in that instance.
Or in the eighth, when Devers came to the plate with the bases loaded, two outs, his team trailing by one run and the bases loaded.
Up against righty Emilio Pagan, the young infielder swung for the fences on a 1-0, 97 MPH heater, came up empty-handed, and eventually flew out to left on the sixth pitch of the at-bat.
Finally, in the ninth, back-to-back two-out singles from Benintendi and Sam Travis off Pagan gave the Sox one more shot in the form of Christian Vazquez.
Having faced Pagan three times before Tuesday, Vazquez worked the count in his favor at 2-1, but could only come away with a pop fly to the warning track in left off an 86 MPH sinker.
That was good for the final out of the ninth, and that is how this one ended with a final score of 6-5.
Some notes from this loss:
The Red Sox went 3-for-15 with runners in scoring position on Tuesday. They left 11 men on base as team.
From Red Sox Notes:
From The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier:
From MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo:
From MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith:
Over his last seven games, Andrew Benintendi is slashing: .500/.531/.900 with three home runs and 11 RBI.
Since being recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket on July 15th, Sam Travis is slashing .360/.407/.720 with two homers and five RBI.
Well, that was the final game before the 4 PM EDT trade deadline on Tuesday afternoon. As things stand right now, the Red Sox sit 1 1/2 games back of the Rays for second place in the American League East and 1 1/2 games back of the second American League Wild Card spot.
Despite dropping their last two games, I still think it’s safe to say that the Sox will be buyers at the deadline. Whether that means major or moderate upgrades are coming has yet to be determined, but it will probably be more moderate ones.
Tuesday night’s loss also proved that this Red Sox bullpen could definitely use some reinforcements. It’s up to president of baseball operations of Dave Dombrowski whether to go for the premium relievers such as Edwin Diaz or Shane Greene, or the cheaper options such as Andrew Chafin or Daniel Hudson.
Anyway, the Red Sox will be hosting the Rays Wednesday night regardless.
Right-hander Rick Porcello will get the ball for Boston, while fellow righty Andrew Kittredge will open for Tampa Bay before left-hander Ryan Yarbrough takes over.
Porcello recently ended a stretch of four straight outings with four or more runs given up in his last time out against the Yankees, where he allowed just three runs over six quality innings of work.
In two starts against the Rays this season, the New Jersey native has surrendered a total of six runs over 11 2/3 innings of work. The Red Sox are 1-1 in those games.
Yarbrough, meanwhile, has both started and been used after the opener for Tampa Bay this year.
Through 12 appearances as a “reliever,” the 27-year-old is 7-1 with an ERA of 3.64 and batting average against of .218 over 47 innings pitched.
First pitch Wednesday is scheduled for 7:10 PM EDT on NESN. Red Sox looking to halt a two-game skid.