Even with new Hall of Famer David Ortiz in the house, the Red Sox lost to the Guardians at Fenway Park on Tuesday night. Boston fell to Cleveland by a final score of 8-3 to drop back down to 49-49 on the season.
In Baltimore, the Orioles defeated the Rays, 5-3, to improve to 49-48, meaning the Red Sox now sit alone in the basement of the American League East for the first time in over two months.
Josh Winckowski returned to the mound on Tuesday after missing the last two weeks on the COVID-19 related injured list. Making his eighth start of the season for Boston, the rookie right-hander allowed five earned runs on six hits, one walk, and one hit batsman to go along with one strikeout over just three innings of work.
Command seemed to be an issue for Winckowski, as only 47 of the 73 pitches he threw went for strikes. Cleveland got to him right away in the first inning, with Jose Ramirez drawing a two-out walk and scoring from second base on an RBI single from Owen Miller.
An inning later, Winckowski grooved a 1-0, 92 mph sinker to Austin Hedges, who deposited it 387 feet over the Green Monster to give the Guardians a 2-0 lead. Nolan Jones broke it open with two outs in the third by crushing a 408-foot, three-run blast off Winckowski to make it a 5-0 game.
The Red Sox were at the very least able to get two of those runs back in their half of the third. Jaylin Davis led things off with a 284-foot double off Guardians opener Bryan Shaw. Rob Refsnyder was hit by a pitch and Alex Verdugo grounded into a force out to put runners at the corners with one out for Xander Bogaerts, who promptly ripped a 106.9 mph RBI single to score Davis and get his side on the board.
Following a Cleveland pitching change, newly-inserted reliever Nick Sandlin plunked the very first batter he faced in J.D. Martinez to fill the bases for Christian Vazquez, who kept the line moving with another run-scoring single. With only one out and the bases still full, Kevin Plawecki lined out to Jones in right field. Bogaerts attempted to tag up from third on the play, but was instead gunned down at home by Jones for the third and final out of the inning. Boston challenged the call on the field, but it was upheld and the rally was over.
At that point in the contest, Red Sox manager Alex Cora elected to go to his bullpen, pulling Winckowski in favor of Austin Davis. Winckowski, who was ultimately took the loss, now owns an ERA of 5.18 this season. Davis, on the other hand, loaded the bases with one out in the fourth before getting Josh Naylor to hit a 66.9 mph groundball in the direction of Yolmer Sanchez at second base.
With his momentum carrying him towards left field, Sanchez attempted to make a behind-the-back toss to Bogaerts, who was covering the second-base bag. Sanchez’s toss, however, was inaccurate and was nowhere near Bogaerts, which allowed two more Guardians runs to cross the plate as Sanchez was charged with a throwing error.
Davis managed to escape the fourth inning without giving anything else up, but the damage had already been done with the Guardians in possession of a 7-2 lead.
While Hirokazu Sawamura and Jake Diekman combined for three scoreless frames of relief of the bullpen, the Red Sox lineup was held hitless from the bottom of the third inning up until the bottom of the seventh, when Rob Refsnyder reached base via a two-out single.
After Tanner Houck, who was making his first appearance since Saturday, surrendered one run in the top of the eighth, Plawecki plated Bogaerts on an RBI double off the Green Monster in the latter half of the inning.
Kaleb Ort retired the side in order in the top of the ninth. In the bottom half, All-Star closer Emmanuel Clase did the very same to end the ballgame.
By losing on Tuesday, the Red Sox are now 6-1 in their yellow City Connect uniforms. Overall, they have dropped eight of their last 10 and their run differential now sits at negative-15 on the year.
Next up: Quantrill vs. Eovaldi
The Red Sox will look to bounce back on Wednesday night by sending right-hander Nathan Eovaldi to the mound for his 15th start of the season. The Guardians will counter with fellow righty Cal Quantrill.
First pitch from Fenway Park is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN.
(Picture of Xander Bogaerts: Kathryn Riley/Getty Images)