A day that began with so much promise at Fenway Park ended in disappointment. Top pitching prospect Brayan Bello made his highly-anticipated major-league debut on Wednesday night, but the Red Sox still fell to the Rays by a final score of 7-1.
In his first career big-league start, Bello got tagged for four runs on six hits and three walks to go along with two strikeouts over four innings of work. The rookie right-hander got the first out of the first inning on two pitches, then gave up a scorching double to Yandy Diaz that was immediately followed by a run-scoring single off the bat of Wander Franco.
After navigating his way through the first with the help of an inning-ending double play that he started, Bello recorded his first punchout in a scoreless top of the second before running into more trouble in the third. With two outs and runners on the corners, Bello surrendered a two-run double double to Randy Arozarena, who later scored on an RBI double from Kevin Kiermaier.
That made it a 4-0 game in favor of Tampa Bay heading into the fourth, where Bello ended his night by retiring three of the final four batters he faced. Finishing with a final pitch count of 79 (45 strikes), the 23-year-old hurler was only able to induce six swings-and-misses as he was ultimately charged with the losing decision.
In relief of Bello, Jake Diekman received the first call out of the Boston bullpen from manager Alex Cora. The left-hander walked one and struck out two in a scoreless fifth inning before making way for Hirokazu Sawamura, who walked four of the eight Rays he faced while giving up an RBI double to Vidal Brujan and issuing a bases-loaded walk to Ji-Man Choi to give Tampa Bay a 6-0 advantage.
Austin Davis fanned a pair in the seventh while Tyler Danish worked a scoreless top of the eighth. To that point in the contest, a Rafael Devers-less Red Sox lineup had been completely held in check by the opposing pitching staff.
Rays tarter Corey Kluber allowed just three hits and struck out five over six scoreless frames. The Sox had a golden chance to get to the veteran hurler in their half of the second, when a Franchy Cordero ground-rule double put runners at second and third with two outs. But Christian Arroyo popped out to Francisco Mejia in foul territory to extinguish the threat.
In the third, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Christian Vazquez hit a pair of singles to put runners at first and second with only one out. J.D. Martinez then grounded into a force out while Xander Bogaerts fanned on five pitches to end the inning.
It was not until the seventh inning when the Red Sox recorded their fourth hit of the night on a one-out double from Trevor Story. Rays reliever Calvin Faucher prevented Story from advancing past second base, however, as he sat down Cordero and Arroyo to send things to the eighth.
Martinez accounted for Boston’s lone run in the eighth inning, as he drove in Jarren Duran on an RBI single to left field. Tampa Bay got that run back, though, as Arozarena crushed a solo shot off Danish in the ninth to make it a six-run game again.
Down to their final three outs in the bottom half of the ninth, Alex Verdugo, Story, and Cordero went down in order to drop the Red Sox to 45-37 on the season. They went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position on Wednesday and left six runners on base as a team.
Boston has now lost three consecutive series and is a measly 9-18 against divisional opponents this year.
Next up: Winckowski vs. Cole
The Red Sox will now welcome the first-place Yankees into town for the first time this season for a four-game weekend series that begins on Thursday night. In the opener, it will be rookie right-hander Josh Winckowski getting the ball for Boston and fellow righty Gerrit Cole doing the same for New York.
First pitch from Fenway Park is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN and MLB Network.
(Picture of Brayan Bello: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)