After doing nothing as the trade deadline came and went earlier in the day, the Red Sox dropped their second straight to the Tampa Bay Rays and third straight overall in an 8-5 loss on Wednesday to fall to 59-50 on the season.
Making his 22nd start of the season and third against Tampa Bay for Boston was Rick Porcello, who came into the middle game of this three-game set fresh off his best outing in weeks in his last time out against the New York Yankees.
Working into the sixth inning this time around, the right-hander surrendered six runs, all of which were earned, on nine hits and one walk to go along with seven strikeouts on the night.
The first of those six Tampa Bay tallies came right away in the top half of the first, when with one out and a runner at second following a Ji-Man Choi double to lead off the contest, Travis d’Arnaud got his team on the board with a line-drive RBI single to center. Two monitors in the Red Sox dugout were totaled by Porcello as a result of that run crossing the plate.
An inning later, the first pitch out of Porcello’s hand went for a home run, as Kevin Kiermaier punished a 90 MPH four-seam fastball on the inner half of the plate to make it a 2-0 game.
Porcello nearly escaped the second without yielding any more damage, but a two-out, broken-bat single from Willy Adames and seven pitch-walk drawn by Choi resulted in more trouble for the New Jersey native with Austin Meadows also sending the first pitch he saw, a 91 MPH heater at the top of the zone, 393 feet into the right field seats.
Once more in the sixth, Porcello was again just one out away from tossing his first 1-2-2 inning of the night, but served up his third big fly of the night, this one a solo shot off the bat of Adames.
That put the Rays up 6-2, and that would be how Porcello’s disappointing outing came to a close.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 98 (70 strikes), the 30-year-old hurler turned to his two-seam fastball nearly 28% of the time he was on the mound Wednesday, inducing one swing and miss with the pitch. He also topped out at 92 MPH with his four-seamer, a pitch he threw 26 times while Christian Vazquez was behind the plate.
Ultimately falling to 9-8 while inflating his ERA on the season up to 5.74, Porcello’s July went like this: five games started, 28 1/3 innings pitched, 43 hits, 25 earned runs, four walks, and 23 strikeouts. That’s good for an ERA of 7.94, which is far from ideal.
He’ll look to try and turn things around in his next time out, which should come against the Kansas City Royals on Monday.
In relief of Porcello, Darwinzon Hernandez entered with one out to get in the top of the sixth, and he got that out by fanning Meadows on five pitches immediately after giving up a two-out double to Choi.
From there, Heath Hembree allowed two more Rays runs to cross the plate on back-to-back, two-out RBI knocks from Kiermaier and Matt Duffy, and those runs would prove to be costly later on.
Left-hander Josh Taylor impressed by punching out a pair in a scoreless eighth to keep the deficit at three runs, while Marcus Walden struck out the side to do the same in the ninth, although it did not make much of a difference when all was said and done.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was first matched up against Rays opener and right-hander Andrew Kittredge, who eventually made way for the left-handed Ryan Yarbrough in the bottom of the third after Jackie Bradley Jr. reached on a one-out fielding error committed by Nate Lowe and Mookie Betts moved him up to third on a single.
Rafael Devers got the scoring started for Boston by greeting the just-entered Yarbrough with a sacrifice fly to left that allowed Bradley Jr. to come in and score from third.
In the fourth, J.D. Martinez led things off by taking Yarbrough deep to right off an 0-2, 79 MPH curveball for his 23rd big fly of the season to cut the deficit down to three runs at 5-2.
Fast forward all the way to the seventh, after the Rays had added three runs to their lead in the top halves of the sixth and seventh, the Red Sox got all three of those runs back, and it started with a one-out solo shot off the bat of Michael Chavis. His 17th of the year made it an 8-3 game.
Consecutive two-out hits from Betts and Devers trimmed the Rays’ lead to four, with Devers collecting his second RBI of the night on a run-scoring, line-drive single to center.
Following a pitching change that saw Diego Castillo take over for Yarbrough, Xander Bogaerts and Martinez kept the line moving, as Martinez too picked up his second RBI by driving in Devers from third on a run-scoring, bloop single of his own.
That put runners at the corners in an 8-5 contest for Andrew Benintendi, representing the tying run.
Rays manager Kevin Cash responded by turning to the left-handed Colin Poche out of his bullpen, and I have to tip my cap to Poche, as he fanned Benintendi on five pitches to escape the jam in the seventh before getting each of Christian Vazquez, Chavis, and Bradley Jr. to whiff in order in the eighth as well.
Down to their final three outs in a three-run game in the bottom of the ninth, a Betts leadoff single and two-out walk drawn by Martinez off of Chaz Roe brought Benintendi to the plate in another crucial spot.
Having faced off against Roe four times before Wednesday, Benintendi fell behind in the count at 0-2, took a third-pitch ball outside, and struck out looking on a 1-2, 92 MPH two-seamer that was nearly in the same spot the first pitch was.
A rather anticlimactic way to end things, but that is how 8-5 would go on to be Wednesday’s final score. A night of frustration and missed opportunities.
Some notes from this loss:
The Red Sox went 3-for-8 with runners in scoring position on Wednesday. They left nine men on base as a team.
From The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier:
From MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith:
Sam Travis, since being recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket on July 15th: .317/.419/.690 with two homers and five RBI.
The Red Sox have lost three straight to fall 10 games back of the Yankees for first place in the American League East and 2 1/2 games back of the Rays for the second American League Wild Card spot.
Between the lack of activity ahead of the trade deadline and the results on the field, Wednesday was not an encouraging day for this club.
Right-hander Andrew Cashner will take to the hill for Boston in this series’ finale on Thursday, while rookie left-hander Brendan McKay will do the same for Tampa Bay.
Since joining Boston’s rotation earlier in the month, Cashner is 1-2 with a 6.11 ERA over his last three starts, all of which have come against AL East opponents.
That trend will continue on Thursday, as the 32-year-old will bring with him a lifetime 4.03 ERA and .266 batting average against over five career starts against the Rays.
McKay, meanwhile, entered the 2019 season ranked as Tampa Bay’s number-two prospect after being drafted fourth overall in the 2017 amateur draft out of the University of Louisville.
McKay is a two-way player, meaning he both pitches and DH’s.
Through his first four career starts, the 23-year-old is 1-1 with an ERA of 3.72 over a total of 19 1/3 innings pitched.
As a hitter, McKay is 0-for-4, with all four-at bats coming July 1st against the Baltimore Orioles.
First pitch Thursday is scheduled for 7:10 PM EDT on NESN. Red Sox looking to put an end to this skid.