The Red Sox delivered a late birthday present to Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier on Saturday night. Kiermaier, who turned 32 on Friday, crushed a two-run walk-off home run off Hansel Robles in the 10th inning to lift Tampa Bay to a stunning 3-2 win over Boston at Tropicana Field.
With the loss, the Sox fall to 7-8 on the season. They have not won consecutive ballgames since April 16-17.
Garrett Whitlock, making his first start and fifth overall appearance of the year, absolutely dominated the Rays’ lineup. In what was his first career big-league start, the right-hander yielded just one hit and no walks to go along with seven strikeouts over four scoreless, near-perfect innings of work.
After taking a perfect game into the fourth inning, Whitlock gave up a leadoff double to Brandon Lowe. He then stranded Lowe at second base by retiring the final three batters he faced in order. The 25-year-old finished with a final pitch count of 48 (33 strikes) and turned to his sinker 58% of the time he was on the mound.
In relief of Whitlock, Austin Davis received the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen from acting manager Will Venable. The left-hander maneuvered his way around a two-out walk in an otherwise clean frame before making way for Kutter Crawford, who twirled three scoreless innings of his own while striking out five.
Tyler Danish walked the first batter he faced in the ninth to put the potential winning run on base, but left him there to send this 0-0 game into extra innings.
To that point in the contest, the Red Sox lineup had been no-hit by six different Rays pitchers in J.P. Feyereisen, Javy Guerra, Jeffrey Springs, Jason Adam, Ryan Thompson, and Andrew Kittredge. They reached base six times over that stretch via five walks and a fielding error, but were unable to do anything with those base runners.
In the top of the 10th, Matt Wisler took over for Kittredge and Jackie Bradley Jr. became the automatic runner at second base. On the third pitch he saw from Wisler, an 0-2 slider, Bobby Dalbec came through in the clutch by lacing an RBI triple down the right field line.
Dalbec’s 322-foot foot triple left his bat at 97.1 mph. It also provided the Sox with their first hit of the night and drove in Bradley Jr. to give them a late 1-0 lead. Dalbec then scored on a Christian Vazquez sacrifice fly to double that advantage to 2-0.
That sequence led to Venable going with Robles in the bottom half of the 10th. With Randy Arozarena at second base and the potential tying run at the plate, Robles fanned Ji-Man Choi and Josh Lowe for the first two outs of the inning.
A balk from Robles allowed Arozarena to advance to third. With the Rays down to their final out, Taylor Walls reached base on a throwing error committed by Trevor Story and Arozarena scored to cut Tampa Bay’s deficit to one.
Robles then fell behind in the count against Kiermaier and served up the game-winning, two-run homer on a 96 mph four-seamer down the heart of the plate. Kiermaier deposited it 372 feet into the right field seats to send the Rays home with a come-from-behind victory.
Next up: Hill vs. McClanahan in rubber match
Despite losing in heartbreaking fashion, the Red Sox still have a chance to win this three-game series against the Rays on Sunday afternoon. Boston will turn to left-hander Rich Hill as he makes his return from the bereavement list in the series finale. Tampa Bay, on the other hand, will roll with fellow southpaw Shane McClanahan.
First pitch from Tropicana Field is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN.
(Picture of Hansel Robles and Kevin Kiermaier: Mike Carlson/Getty Images)