Despite holding leads of 7-1, 8-6, and 9-7 on Monday afternoon, the Red Sox were unable to keep the Rays at bay and ultimately fell to their division rivals by a final score of 11-10 in 10 innings at Fenway Park.
Chris Sale, making his fifth start of the season for the Sox, did not factor into Monday’s decision, though Boston did lose a game he started for the first time this year.
Over just 3 2/3 innings of work, Sale surrendered five runs — only one of which was earned — on 10 hits and one walk to go along with six strikeouts on the afternoon.
The veteran left-hander began his day by fanning Randy Arozarena on three straight strikes, but then issued a 394-foot triple to rookie sensation Wander Franco.
Franco quickly came into score on an RBI single off the bat of Nelson Cruz to give the Rays their first lead of the contest at 1-0.
Sale did manage to get out of the top of the first by escaping a bases-loaded jam, and the Red Sox lineup responded by getting to Rays starter Ryan Yarbrough for an equalizing run on a run-scoring single from J.D. Martinez.
Pushing across one run in their half of the first was not the only damage the Boston bats did while Yarbrough was on the mound, as they plated six additional runs off the left-hander an inning later.
On an RBI single from Taylor Motter, an RBI double from Hunter Renfroe, an RBI single from Rafael Devers, a two-run double from Bobby Dalbec, and a sacrifice fly from Alex Verdugo, the Sox took a commanding 7-1 lead and appeared as though they would be well on their way to a series-opening win.
At that point, Sale had seemingly settled in by putting up a zero in the second and third innings while also recording the first two outs of the fourth rather quickly.
The division-leading Rays, however, did not go down quietly, as Taylor Walls ignited a two-out rally by reaching base via softly-hit, two-foot infield single. Arozarena and Franco followed with singles of their own, loading the bases for the ever-dangerous Cruz.
Sale got Cruz to lift a 370-foot fly ball to center field that had an expected batting average of just .270. Verdugo, the center fielder, was in position to make the inning-ending catch, but instead battled with the sun and was unable to make a clean snag, resulting in the ball rolling towards right field.
On Verdugo’s fielding error, Cruz managed to unload the bases while also advancing all the way up to third base. He then scored from third when Motter, the second baseman, overthrew Devers.
Tampa Bay’s little-league grand slam allowed them to trim Boston’s advantage down to two runs at 7-5 while also getting Sale out of this contest after just 86 pitched (65 strikes).
In relief of Sale, right-hander Garrett Richards closed out the fourth inning, tossed a 1-2-3 top of the fifth, and surrendered one run on three singles in the sixth, with Jordan Luplow making it a 7-6 game on his RBI base hit.
The Sox answered back in their half of the sixth, though, with Motter ripping a leadoff triple off Rays reliever J.T. Chargois and Renfroe plating him on a hard-hit RBI single through the left side of the infield.
Boston’s newfound two-run lead did not last long, with Arozarena driving in Mike Zunino in the seventh while Adam Ottavino was on the mound.
Jonathan Arauz quickly got that run back by clubbing a 416-foot solo shot off J.P. Feyereisen a half inning later, but Ottavino — for the second appearance in a row — served up a leadoff home run to Cruz to begin things in the eighth.
The Rays completed their comeback in the ninth, with Austin Meadows drilling an inside-the-park homer off Garrett Whitlock.
Meadows had scorched a 393-foot line drive to center field to lead off the inning, but it was one Verdugo could not come up cleanly with while leaping in the direction of the wall.
Neither Martinez nor Renfroe backed up Verdugo as the ball caromed away, resulting in recently-signed shortstop Jose Iglesias to hustle out from the infield to make the play himself.
Iglesias, however, bobbled the ball while attempting to corral it, and that allowed the speedy Meadows to complete his trek around the base paths to tie things up at nine runs apiece.
Whitlock did manage to get through the rest of the frame unscathed to keep the 9-9 stalemate intact, and the pinch-hitting Travis Shaw led things off against former Red Sox hurler Collin McHugh in the bottom of the ninth by lacing a leadoff ground-rule double.
The Rays intentionally walked Verdugo and the Sox had Franchy Cordero run in place of Shaw, but Christian Vazquez was not able to advance the lead runner when his botched bunt attempt wound up getting caught by Zunino in foul territory.
Arauz followed by grounding into an inning-ending 5-6-3 double play, meaning the Red Sox had squandered yet another scoring opportunity as this one headed into extras.
Whitlock, back out for the 10th, gave up back-to-back RBI singles to Cruz and the pinch-hitting Brandon Lowe, thus putting his side in a two-run hole while giving the Rays their first lead of the first inning at 11-9.
Down to their last chance in the bottom of the 10th, Iglesias promptly drove in Arauz from second base and later advanced to second himself when Renfroe reached base on a fielding error.
Devers proceeded to draw a two-out walk against McHugh, meaning the potential tying run was just 90 feet away from scoring while the potential winning run was 180 feet away.
In that spot, Red Sox manager Alex Cora opted to have Kevin Plawecki hit for Cordero, but the veteran backstop could only dribble a softly-hit, inning-ending groundout to shortstop that secured a hard-fought 11-10 win for the visitors and a disappointing 11-10 defeat for the home side.
In a game that took 4 hours and 54 minutes to complete, the Red Sox committed four errors, went 6-for-15 with runners in scoring position, and left 12 runners on base as a team in the process of falling to 79-61 on the season.
Next up: Rodriguez vs. Rasmussen
The Red Sox will send left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez to the hill on Tuesday night as they look to halt this latest skid. The Rays will counter with right-hander Drew Rasmussen.
First pitch Tuesday is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN.
(Picture of Alex Verdugo: Rich Gagnon/Getty Images)