The Red Sox were swept in a three-game series at Fenway Park for the first time this season on Thursday, as they fell to the Tampa Bay Rays by a final score of 9-4 to mark their fourth consecutive loss overall.
Making his fourth start of the season for Boston was Andrew Cashner, who came into this series’ finale fresh off his best outing in a Red Sox uniform in his last time out against the New York Yankees.
Working into the sixth inning this time around, the right-hander yielded a season-worst seven runs, all of which were earned, on seven hits and a season-high five walks to go along with one lone strikeout on the night.
The first of those Tampa Bay tallies came right away in the top half of the first, when with two outs and a runner at third following a Ji-Man Choi leadoff double, Matt Duffy reached first safely on an infield single, narrowly beating out the throw from Cashner to drive in Choi for the early lead.
In the second, Cashner put himself in a tough spot by allowing the first three Rays he faced in the frame to reach base on a pair of walks and an Eric Sogard single, which in turn resulted in three more Tampa Bay runs crossing the plate on a Choi bases-loaded walk, a wild pitch with Tommy Pham at the plate, and an RBI double off the bat of Pham that very well could have gone for two had it not been for Andrew Benintendi and Michael Chavis completing a nice relay to nab Choi at the plate.
To Cashner’s credit, he did settle in a bit by sitting down eight of the next 10 Rays hitters who came to the plate from the start of the third up until the sixth, but that is the point where things really started to fall apart.
That being the case because two-straight hits from Jesus Aguilar and Eric Sogard, as well as a four-pitch walk drawn by Mike Zuninno filled the bases for Tampa Bay once more, and Willy Adames nearly bailed Cashner out by grounding out to Xander Bogaerts at short, but since Bogaerts had to play the ball on the hop, only one out was recorded at second and Aguilar scored from third.
So, instead of escaping another tight spot with the help of an inning-ending, 6-4-3 double play, Cashner’s disappointing evening came to a close with still one out to get in the sixth.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 110 (64 strikes), the 32-year-old hurler relied on his changeup nearly 41% of the time he was on the mound Thursday, inducing five swings and misses with the pitch. He also topped out at 96.5 MPH with his four-seam fastball, a pitch he threw 44 times while Sandy Leon was behind the plate.
Since being acquired from the Baltimore Orioles, Cashner has taken the loss in three of his four outings with Boston. Over that span, he has allowed 19 earned runs in 23 1/3 innings of work. That’s good for an ERA of 7.93, which is not ideal.
His next start should come against the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday.
In relief of Cashner, Darwinzon Hernandez entered with runners on the corners and still one out to get in the sixth, and he allowed two more Rays runs to cross the plate on a wild pitch and a RBI double from Pham to officially close the book on Cashner’s night before retiring the side with a five-pitch punchout of Austin Meadows.
From there, Colten Brewer tossed a scoreless seventh before serving up a leadoff homer to Zunino in an otherwise clean eighth, while Heath Hembree did the same by serving up a leadoff solo shot to Meadows in the ninth.
Meadows’ 17th home run of the season put Boston in a 9-4 hole, or a hole they could not dig out of, in other words.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against rookie left-hander Brendan McKay for the Rays, someone ranked as Tampa Bay’s top pitching prospect who had never pitched at Fenway Park before Thursday.
Perhaps taking advantage of that unfamiliarity, Xander Bogaerts came to the plate with his team down by one run early and got that one-run lead right back by mashing a one-out, two-run homer 383 feet over the Green Monster to score Mookie Betts, as well as himself, to make it a 2-1 contest.
Fast forward all the way to the fifth, and Bogaerts struck again, this time taking McKay deep off a two-out, 2-0, 94 MPH for his 25th big fly of the year. A new career-high for the 26-year-old.
Bogaerts’ second blast of the evening cut Tampa Bay’s lead to just one run at 4-3, but a three-run rally of their own a half-inning later essentially put this one out of reach.
Still, that did not stop Mookie Betts, as the reigning AL MVP came through with a rare opposite field homer off of Rays reliever Oliver Drake with one out in the seventh.
Betts’ 19th of 2019 trimmed Boston’s deficit back down to three runs at 7-4, but as already mentioned, the Rays plated a run of their own in the eighth and ninth innings, and 9-4 would go on to be Thursday’s final score.
Some notes from this loss:
There were three instances on Thursday where Andrew Benintendi led an inning off with a double. He did not score in any of those situations.
The Red Sox went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position on Thursday. They left seven men on base as team.
The Red Sox have been outscored 32-20 during their four-game losing streak.
Andrew Benintendi’s last seven games: .516/.545/1.000 with three homers and nine RBI. He has multiple hits in five of those games.
From Red Sox Notes:
From MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith:
From The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier:
Having dropped four straight, the Red Sox now sit 10 1/2 games back of the Yankees for first place in the American League East and 3 1/2 games back of the Rays for the second American League Wild Card spot.
Next up for the Red Sox, it’s a four-game, three-day series against those Yankees in the Bronx over the weekend.
Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez is set to get the ball for Boston, while fellow southpaw James Paxton will do the same for New York.
Both of these starters will be facing the same opponent on Friday as they did in their last time out.
Rodriguez picked up his 13th win of the year this past Saturday by holding the Yankees to three runs over 5 2/3 strong innings.
Paxton, on the other hand, got shellacked for seven runs on nine hits, four of which were homers, in a 10-5 loss this past Friday.
In his career at Yankee Stadium, Rodriguez owns a lifetime 3.74 ERA and .240 batting average against over eight career starts and 45 2/3 total innings pitched.
Paxton’s first start as a Yankee against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium came back on April 16th, where he tossed eight shutout innings en route to the 8-0 win for New York.
First pitch Friday is scheduled for 7:05 PM EDT on NESN. Red Sox looking to play with some urgency and put a stop to this skid.