The Red Sox put an end to their six-game winless streak by coming out on top against the Rays 0n Wednesday. Boston defeated Tampa Bay a final score of 9-1 at JetBlue Park to improve to 10-5-4 in Grapefruit League play.
Fresh off being named the Red Sox’ Opening Day starter, Corey Kluber put together his best outing of the spring on Wednesday. The veteran right-hander allowed just one earned run on four hits, one walk, and one hit batsman to go along with six strikeouts over five solid innings of work.
Kluber began his afternoon by striking out the side in the first inning. He then stranded one runner in the second and faced the minimum in the third before running into some trouble in the fourth.
To that point, the Red Sox were already in possession of a four-run lead. Rob Refsnyder got his side on the board first with a bases-clearing, three-run double off Rays starter Evan McKendry in the bottom of the first. Two innings later, Adam Duvall crushed a leadoff home run — his second of the spring — off Colin Poche to make it a 4-0 game.
Kluber, meanwhile, gave up a leadoff double to Rene Pinto to begin things in the fourth. Pinto then advanced to third base on a Ben Gamel groundout before scoring Tampa Bay’s first run on an RBI double off the bat of Daniel Robertson that eluded Rob Refsnyder in right field. After issuing a walk to Kameron Misner, Kluber found himself in a bases-loaded jam with two outs still to get in the inning. But he got out of the jam by striking out the next two batters he faced and ended his day by picking off Vidal Brujan for the third and final out of the fifth.
All told, Kluber needed 78 pitches to get through five one-run innings. The 26-year-old hurler will likely make two more Grapefruit League starts before taking the mound against the Orioles on March 30.
In relief of Kluber, fellow righty Garrett Whitlock got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen in the sixth inning. Whitlock, facing opposing hitters for the first time since undergoing hip surgery last September, worked a 1-2-3 frame in the sixth and maneuvered his way around a two-out walk in a scoreless top of the seventh. Altogether, he punched out three of the seven Rays hitters he faced.
While Whitlock was in the middle of his 2023 debut, Boston continued to pile on the runs. In the sixth, Raimel Tapia led off by reaching on a fielding error. He then scored all the way from first when Bobby Dalbec laced a one-out RBI triple to left-center field. Moments later, Dalbec scored from third on a Reese McGuire sacrifice fly.
In the seventh, Matthew Lugo loaded the bases with an infield single off Anthony Molina. Molina then issued a bases-loaded walk to Narciso Crook before yielding a two-run single to Christian Koss. That sequence of events gave the Red Sox a commanding eight-run lead heading into the eighth.
From there, Chris Martin fanned a pair in a scoreless eighth inning and left-hander Joely Rodriguez struck out two more in the ninth to put the finishing touches on a 9-1 victory for the Red Sox.
Other worthwhile observations:
In his last five Grapefruit League games, Duvall has gone 4-for-13 (.308) with two home runs and three RBIs.
Dalbec, Boston’s starting shortstop on Wednesday, went 1-for-2 with an RBI triple, a run scored, and a walk. The 27-year-old is now batting .323 (10-for-31) this spring.
Next up: Off day
The Red Sox will enjoy their first and only scheduled off day of the spring on Thursday. They will then return to JetBlue Park on Friday to host the Braves. Right-hander Tanner Houck is scheduled to start for Boston while Atlanta has yet to name a starter.
First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. eastern time on NESN.
(Picture of Garrett Whitlock: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)