Ryan Fitzgerald caps off comeback with walk-off single as Red Sox top Rays, 7-6, for first Grapefruit League win

The Red Sox opened the home portion of their Grapefruit League schedule on Sunday afternoon by walking off the Rays in thrilling fashion at JetBlue Park. Boston defeated Tampa Bay by a final score of 7-6 to notch its first official win of the spring.

Josh Winckowski got the start for the Sox. The right-hander allowed one hit and one walk to go along with three strikeouts over two scoreless innings of work. He retired the side in order in the first before running into some trouble in the second by issuing a one-out walk and giving up a two-out double to Tristan Gray.

With two runners in scoring position, Winckowski kept the Rays off the scoreboard by fanning Greg Jones for his third and final punchout of the day. Following a Tampa Bay pitching change that saw Braden Bristo take over for Taj Bradley, Boston was able to plate the game’s first run in the latter half of the second.

Masataka Yoshida led off the frame by lacing a double to deep right field for his first hit of the spring. He then promptly scored from second base on an RBI single off the bat of Alex Verdugo that deflected off the faux Green Monster in left field.

Taking a 1-0 lead into the top of the third, left-hander Chris Murphy faced the minimum in his lone inning of work by hitting a batter with one out and inducing an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play. Bryan Mata took over for Murphy and maneuvered his way around a two-out walk in an otherwise clean fourth inning. Brandon Walter, too, had little trouble in the fifth, as the intriguing lefty struck a pair in a perfect frame.

In the sixth, Rio Gomez served up a game-tying solo shot to Luke Raley. But the Red Sox quickly responded in their half of the inning. Ryan Fitzgerald, Nick Sogard, and Narciso Crook all drew walks to fill the bases with two outs. The Rays then brought in right-hander Jaime Schultz to face Matthew Lugo, but that move did not pan out as Lugo blooped a bases-clearing double that evaded second baseman Osleivis Basabe and right fielder Ruben Cardenas in shallow right field.

As a result, all three of Fitzgerald, Sogard, and Crook scored, and the Red Sox suddenly found themselves up by three runs. That lead would not last long, however, as Skylar Arias was tagged for one run on two walks in the seventh. In the eighth, Jacob Webb issued three consecutive one-out walks before yielding a go-ahead grand slam to Basabe that gave the Rays a 6-4 advantage.

After Luis Guerrero put the flames out in the top of the eighth, the Red Sox again responded in the bottom half. With two outs and runners at the corners, Lugo came through once more by ripping a two-run triple off Hector Perez that nearly left the yard in the right field corner.

Lugo’s second run-producing hit of the day pulled the Red Sox even with the Rays at six runs a piece. Ryan Zeferjahn kept things that way by retiring the side in order in the top of the ninth. In the bottom half, Stephen Scott and Enmanuel Valdez each took ball four to lead off the inning. Fitzgerald then ended it by scoring Scott on a walk-off single through the left side of the infield.

Fitzgerald, who went 1-for-2 with a walk on Sunday, is now batting .290/.405/.774 with four home runs and 14 RBIs in 21 career Grapefruit League games dating back to the spring of 2019.

Other notable numbers:

Sunday’s contest took two hours and 39 minutes to complete. Justin Turner and Adam Duvall each went hitless and their respective Red Sox debuts while Verdugo went 2-for-2 with one run batted in.

Lugo, who is the youngest player on Boston’s current spring training roster, went 2-for-3 with a three-run double and two-run triple en route to recording a game-high five RBIs.

Next up: The race for the 2023 Chairman’s Cup begins

With their first Grapefruit League victory of the year in tow, the Red Sox will next host the Twins in the opening game of the 2023 Chairman’s Cup on Monday.

Kutter Crawford will get the start for Boston in the opener of this five-game series while fellow right-hander Pablo Lopez will do the same for Minnesota.

First pitch from JetBlue Park is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Ryan Fitzgerald: Elsa/Getty Images)


Author: Brendan Campbell

Blogging about the Boston Red Sox since April '17. Also support Tottenham Hotspur.

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