If the Red Sox were looking to bounce back and get back on track coming one of their more humiliating losses of the season on Monday, they may have just about done the exact opposite of that against the Rays at Fenway Park on Tuesday night.
Boston fell to Tampa Bay, 12-7, marking their third consecutive loss coming off a four-game winning streak that now seems long forgotten.
Eduardo Rodriguez, making his 27th start of the season for the Sox, was unable to carry over any momentum from his last time out against the Rays last week, which he described as his “best start” of the year.
That being the case because Rodriguez surrendered six runs — all of which were earned — on eight hits and zero walks to go along with three strikeouts over just 3 2/3 innings of work.
The left-hander began his nigh on a positive note by retiring the side in order in the first, but ran into trouble an inning later when he yielded a one-out double to Jordan Luplow that Alex Verdugo was unable to come up with in left field.
Former Red Sox prospect Manuel Margot followed with a double of his own, as he swapped places with Luplow to give the Rays an early 1-0 lead.
A groundball single from Joey Wendle put runners at the corners for Mike Zunino, who got his productive evening at the plate started by ripping a two-run triple to right field that nearly landed in foul territory, but instead landed just short of the fence by Pesky’s pole, hit the chalk, and proceeded to roll away from Hunter Renfroe.
Renfroe, thinking the ball was foul, did not react immediately, allowing both Margot and Wendle to score while Zunino collected just his second triple of the year, though he was promptly picked off by Christian Vazquez before Kevin Kiermaier struck out to end the inning.
The Red Sox lineup, matched up against Rays starter Drew Rasmussen, got one of those three runs back in their half of the second, but could have easily gotten more.
Following a leadoff single from Rafael Devers and 113.2 mph double from Renfroe that put runners at second and third with no outs, Alex Verdugo punched out on three straight strikes. Vazquez was able to plate Devers on a run-scoring groundout, but newcomer Jose Iglesias flew out to right field to extinguish the threat.
The Rays’ bats took advantage of the Sox’ inability to capitalize with runners in scoring position by striking for two more runs in the third, as Randy Arozarena led off with a double and the ever-dangerous Nelson Cruz crushed a two-run home run 410 feet into the Red Sox bullpen off a hanging cutter from Rodriguez.
After giving up that bomb, Rodriguez managed to record just three more outs before serving up a 407-foot solo shot to Zunino with one out in the fourth. That essentially marked the end of the line for the lefty, as he got the hook from Red Sox manager Alex Cora after recording the second out of the inning.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 68 (44 strikes), the 28-year-old hurler averaged just 92.6 mph with his four-seam fastball, a pitch he threw 24 times and only got two swings-and-misses on. He also saw his ERA on the season rise to 5.15 while getting hit with eighth loss of the year.
In relief of Rodriguez, Michael Feliz got the first call from Cora out of the Boston bullpen for what was his Red Sox debut.
Feliz, just selected from Triple-A Worcester earlier in the day, ended the fourth inning rather easily, but yielded a pair of solo homers (one to Cruz, one to Zunino) in the fifth and sixth innings to increase his side’s deficit to seven runs at 8-1.
Brad Peacock, making his first appearance since last Tuesday, did not fare much better than Feliz. The veteran right-hander got shelled for four runs in the top of the seventh, yielding a two-run double to Cruz and two-run home run to Luplow that allowed the Rays to jump out to a commanding 12-1 advantage.
Peacock did manage to put together the first scoreless inning of any Red Sox pitcher since the top of the first in the eighth, though, and the offense responded in the bottom half of the frame.
There, Kyle Schwarber laced a leadoff single off Tampa Bay reliever David Hess, while Bobby Dalbec and Danny Santana — both of whom came on as defensive replacements in the top half of the eighth — clubbed back-to-back home runs to cut into the deficit.
A pair of two-out singles off the bats of Vazquez and Iglesias put runners at first and second for Jonathan Arauz, who drove in Vazquez on an RBI single to center field, putting the Sox behind by just seven runs at 12-5.
After Peacock put up another zero in the top of the ninth, Dalbec brought in Schwarber on yet another two-run blast — this one being his 20th of the season to make it a 12-7 contest.
Alas, even after making things a bit more interesting, the Sox were unable to push across anything else, as 12-7 would go on to be Tuesday’s final score.
With the loss, the Red Sox extend their losing streak to three consecutive games while also falling to 79-62 on the season. They do, however, remain just a 1/2 game back of the Yankees for the top American League Wild Card spot.
Next up: Eovaldi looks to stave off sweep
The Red Sox will send right-hander Nathan Eovaldi to the mound Wednesday night as they look to avoid a three-game sweep at the hands of the Rays, who will counter with rookie left-hander Shane McClanahan in the series (and season series) finale.
First pitch Wednesday is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN.
(Picture of Kyle Schwarber and Bobby Dalbec: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)