Garrett Richards has been under the microscope as of late after criticizing Major League Baseball’s decision to crack down on foreign substances, which went into effect on Monday.
In his first start since the league’s new protocols regarding “the sticky stuff” were implemented, Richards could not give the Red Sox much of anything against the Rays at Tropicana Field on Wednesday night.
Lasting just 1 2/3 innings, the veteran right-hander surrendered five runs — four of which were earned — on three hits, four walks, and one hit batsman to go along with zero strikeouts to ultimately take the loss in what would go down as an 8-2 defeat for Boston.
Interestingly enough, Richards got his outing off to a solid start by getting the first two outs of the first inning on five pitches. A five-pitch walk of Wander Franco changed that though, and Austin Meadows followed by taking the righty deep to right-center field off a 1-1, 93 mph fastball on the outer half of the plate to give his side an early 2-0 lead.
In the second, Richards again fell victim to the home run ball followed by a walk, as he served up another two-run shot to Mike Zunino.
A Brandon Lowe double would result in another Rays run crossing the plate on a fielding error committed by second baseman Enrique Hernandez, and Richards’ night would come to a disappointing close after he put the next two batters he faced on via a walk and HBP.
Given the early hook by Red Sox manager Alex Cora, the 33-year-old finished the night having thrown just 54 pitches (28 strikes). Of those 54 pitches, 34 were four-seam fastballs, 11 were curveballs, and nine changeups.
Ultimately falling to 4-5 on the year while inflating his ERA to 4.74, Richards’ next start should come against the Royals back at Fenway Park on Monday.
In relief of Richards, Brandon Workman came on, got out of the second unscathed, and also tossed a scoreless third despite issuing a pair of walks.
From there, Yacksel Rios impressed by punching out two while keeping the Rays off the scoreboard in the fourth and fifth innings and Josh Taylor extended his scoreless appearance streak to 21 consecutive games in the bottom half of the sixth.
Matt Andriese, meanwhile, saw the Sox’ four-run deficit grow to seven runs when he yielded a three-run homer to Lowe later in the eighth. That put the Rays up 8-1.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was held in check by Rays starter Rich Hill even after getting to the veteran southpaw early.
Xander Bogaerts got the scoring started for his side with an RBI single in the first inning that plated Alex Verdugo from second to put Boston up 1-0.
Bogaerts was however thrown out at third base to extinguish the Sox’ threat in the first, and that seemingly halted their offensive momentum as well.
That being the case because despite drawing a total of six walks off Hill and the Rays bullpen, the Red Sox only managed to tack on one more run when Christian Vazquez drove in Rafael Devers on a run-scoring single in the eighth inning.
Vazquez’s 29th RBI of the season made it an 8-2 game in favor of Tampa Bay, and that would go on to be Wednesday’s final score.
With the loss, the Sox drop to 44-30 on the season and maintain just a half-game lead over the Rays for first place in the American League East.
That being said, first place in the AL East will be up for grabs in the rubber match of this three-game series on Thursday.
Right-hander Nick Pivetta will get the ball for Boston, and he will be opposed by fellow righty Michael Wacha for Tampa Bay.
First pitch Thursday is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN.
(Picture of Garrett Richards: Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)