The Red Sox kicked off one of the most crucial stretches of their season with an action-packed, drama-filled 9-5 victory in 11 innings over the Rays at Tropicana Field on Tuesday night.
Eduardo Rodriguez made his 14th start of the year for Boston and was immediately the recipient of some poor defense behind him.
Rafael Devers misplayed a groundball that allowed leadoff man Yandy Diaz to reach base on a fielding error to begin things in the first inning, while a Xander Bogaerts fielding error with the bases loaded resulted in two more Rays runs crossing the plate on what was originally a Francisco Mejia RBI single.
Rodriguez was able to settle in for a bit, however, and the Red Sox lineup backed him up by putting together a five-run rally in their half of the third.
Matched up against reliever Ryan Yarbrough, J.D. Martinez cleared the bases on a two-run double that was followed by a Bogaerts single, a Devers sacrifice fly, and a two-run home run off the bat off ex-Rays outfielder Hunter Renfroe — his ninth homer of the season.
With a brand new 5-2 lead to work with, Rodriguez strung together two more scoreless frames before running into more trouble in the fifth. There, the left-hander set the tone in a negative way by plunking the first batter he faced in Kevin Kiermaier.
A groundball single from Diaz advanced Kiermaier into scoring position and brought the tying run to the plate in the form of Wander Franco, the consensus top prospect in all of baseball who was making his big-league debut for Tampa Bay on Tuesday.
After drawing a walk in the first inning and flying out in the third inning, Franco certainly made this third at-bat of the night count, as he deposited a game-tying three-run home run to deep left field off a slider at his knees from Rodriguez.
Having his seen his side’s three-run lead disappear, Rodriguez did escape the fifth with some help from Christian Vazquez nabbing a runner at second and wrapped up his night by retiring the final three hitters he faced in the sixth to end things on a more positive note.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 90 (57 strikes), the 28-year-old hurler winds up allowing six runs — three of which were earned — on seven hits, one walk, one hit batsman, and seven strikeouts in the process of picking up the no-decision. His next start should come against the Yankees back at Fenway Park on Sunday.
By the time Rodriguez retired the final out of the sixth to send this contest to the seventh inning, the Red Sox offense had gone completely silent after putting up five runs in the third and remained that way for quite a while.
In the meantime, the Red Sox bullpen went to work with Josh Taylor tossing yet another scoreless inning of relief in the seventh, Adam Ottavino dancing his way around trouble in the eighth, and Matt Barnes preserving a 5-5 stalemate in the ninth, but not before issuing a leadoff walk to the potential winning run in Kiermaier and getting out of it on a force out at second base that Kiermaier interfered with since he intentionally knocked the ball out of Enrique Hernandez’s glove while advancing towards second.
Hirokazu Sawamura took over in the 10th, got the first two outs thanks to a bizarre base running decision from Brett Phillips, and made way for Darwinzon Hernandez, who got Brandon Lowe to ground out to second to retire the side.
After an eight-inning hiatus, the Boston bats came to life in the 11th, with catching prospect Connor Wong making his major-league debut pinch-running for Martinez at second base to begin the inning.
Wong would wind up playing a key role in the Sox’ comeback, as he advanced to third on a Bogaerts single and came into score the go-ahead run on another two-run double courtesy of Devers off Rays righty Pete Fairbanks.
Renfroe tacked on a much-needed insurance run by plating Devers on a hard-hit single to pick up his third RBI of the night, while Enrique Hernandez put his side up 9-5 with a sacrifice fly that scored Renfroe from third.
Darwinzon Hernandez remained in the game to close things out, and he did just that by tossing a 1-2-3 11th inning to notch his second win of the season as well as a 9-5 victory for the Sox.
With the win, their fourth of this current eight-game road trip, the Red Sox improve to 44-29 on the year while increasing their lead over the Rays, who have now dropped seven straight, for first place in the American League East to 1 1/2 games.
Some notes from the Red Sox’ 25th come-from-behind win of the season:
From NESN’s Tom Caron:
From Stats by STATS:
From Red Sox Notes:
Next up: Richards vs. Hill
The Red Sox will send right-hander Garrett Richards as they go for the series win over the Rays on Wednesday night.
The Rays will counter with veteran left-hander, former Sox hurler, and Milton, Mass. native Rich Hill as they look to avoid their eighth straight defeat.
First pitch Wednesday is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN.
(Picture of Xander Bogaerts and Hunter Renfroe: Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)