It was a close game until it wasn’t. In other words, the Red Sox trailed the Rays by just one run going into the seventh inning of Tuesday’s contest, and wound up dropping their second straight to Tampa Bay by a final score of 8-2.
Martin Perez made his fourth start of the season for Boston in this one and his second straight against the Rays as he was coming off five strong, scoreless innings in his last time out on August 5 at Tropicana Field.
Working 5 2/3 innings at Fenway Park on Tuesday, the left-hander held the opposition to two runs while scattering three hits and two walks to go along with five strikeouts on the night.
The first of those two Tampa Bay tallies came right off the bat in the first, when on his sixth pitch, Perez served up a leadoff homer to Mike Brosseau on a 3-2, 91 mph fastball on the outer half of the plate.
That certainly was not a promising way to begin a ballgame, but Perez was able to settle down a bit. As a matter of fact, the only other time the Rays got to the Sox starter came in the third inning on a one-out RBI single from Yandy Diaz.
Other than those two slight mishaps, Perez looked relatively solid once more, as he retired 10 of the final 11 hitters he faced before a two-out walk to Jose Martinez in the top of the sixth marked the end of his evening.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 94 (57 strikes), the 29-year-old hurler turned to his vaunted changeup 34% of the time he was on the mound Tuesday, inducing seven swings-and-misses with the pitch. He also topped out at 93 mph with his four-seamer, a pitch he threw seven times.
Unfortunately hit with the tough luck loss to fall to 2-2 on the season, Perez did manage to lower his ERA to 3.38. He’ll look to bring that down even more in his next time out, which could come against the Yankees on Sunday Night Baseball.
In relief of Perez, Austin Brice got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen, inherited the man Perez had walked, and ended the top half of the sixth by getting Hunter Renfroe to ground out right back to him.
From there, well, let’s just say things got ugly, as Brice and the recently-recalled right-hander Robert Stock combined to surrender six runs on four hits and two walks in the seventh. Christian Vazquez was also charged with a passed ball in the process that saw the Sox’ deficit grow from one run to seven.
Stock came back out for the eighth, loaded the bases while recording the first two outs of the inning, and was replaced by another relative newcomer in Dylan Covey, who got out of the jam and also worked a scoreless ninth to hold the Rays at eight runs. Not like it mattered much in the end, but still another positive development there.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was first matched up against Andrew Kittredge, who had closed things out for the Rays on Monday, yet opened for them on Tuesday.
The right-hander only recorded one out in the first inning though, as he had to depart earlier than expected due to an apparent right arm injury.
After the dust had settled from all that and right-hander John Curtiss was dispatched by Tampa Bay, Michael Chavis opened up the scoring for his side in the second.
Celebrating his 25th birthday on Tuesday, the second baseman followed up a Christian Vazquez two-out double with a hard-hit RBI single to drive in the backstop and tie things up at one run apiece.
Despite all that early adversity, Curtiss and the rest of the Rays pitching staff held things down against a rather stagnant Red Sox offense.
The only other run Boston pushed across in this one came in the eighth inning on an Alex Verdugo RBI single, but even then, Andrew Benintendi cost his side an out by tripping and getting caught in between second and third base on the play. Very on brand for this season.
Verdugo’s fifth RBI of the year made it an 8-2 game in favor of Tampa Bay, which would go on to be Tuesday’s final score.
Some notes and observations from this loss:
In his second straight start at third base in place of Rafael Devers, Jonathan Arauz went 2-for-3 after going 3-for-4 on Monday.
Michael Chavis, meanwhile, may have made a mental error at second base in that troublesome seventh inning, but he did go 2-for-4 at the plate on Tuesday and is now 6-for-his-last-13.
Andrew Benintendi also had a multi-hit game to raise his batting average on the season to .103.
Martin Perez has allowed four earned runs over his last 19 1/3 innings pitched.
Next up for the Red Sox, it doesn’t get any easier with Blake Snell getting the start for the Rays on Wednesday night. The Red Sox will send out Zack Godley to oppose the 2018 American League Cy Young winner.
Snell has yet to face the Sox this season, but he does own a lifetime 3.75 ERA and .683 OPS against in four career starts and 24 total innings pitched at Fenway Park.
Godley, meanwhile, is coming off four scoreless frames in his second start with the Red Sox against the Blue Jays on August 8. The 30-year-old has only pitched against the Rays twice before in his career and has given up three total runs in those outings.
First pitch Wednesday is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. eastern time.