After salvaging their series against the San Francisco Giants with a 5-4 win on Thursday, the Red Sox kicked off their final road trip of the season and a four-game weekend set against the Tampa Bay Rays with a 5-4 loss in 11 innings on Friday.
While the Red Sox were in the process of losing their 73rd contest of the year, the Cleveland Indians won their 90th in a 5-2 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies, officially eliminating the defending World Series champions from postseason contention in 2019.
Back to Friday’s game itself, making his 31st start of the season for Boston and fourth against Tampa Bay was Rick Porcello, coming off five strong, two-run innings in his last time out against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Tossing six full innings this time around, the right-hander held the opposition scoreless, scattering three hits and zero walks to go along with six strikeouts on the night.
Two of those three hits came on back-to-back singles from Avisail Garcia and Matt Duffy to put runners on the corners with no outs in the bottom half of the third.
Porcello did not back down though, as he fanned Willy Adames on six pitches, got Joey Wendle to fly out to shallow left to hold Garcia at third. and also fanned Austin Meadows on five pitches to escape the jam.
Other than that, the New Jersey native stranded Ji-Man Choi at first following a one-out single in the fourth before retiring the final eight hitters he faced in consecutive order leading into the conclusion of the sixth, the point in which his outing came to a close.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 87 (59 strikes), the 30-year-old hurler turned to his sinker more than 40% of the time he was on the mound Friday, inducing two swings and misses and 15 called strikes with the pitch. He also topped out at 92.8 MPH with his four-seam fastball, a pitch he threw just seven times while Christian Vazquez was behind the plate.
Ultimately getting hit with the no-decision despite the impressive performance while lowering his ERA on the year down to 5.56, Porcello will make his final start of 2019 in his next time out against the Texas Rangers on Wednesday. It could be his last start in a Red Sox uniform as well, but I don’t want to think about that right now.
In relief of Porcello, left-hander Darwinzon Hernandez entered in the seventh inning for his second-to-last appearance of 2019, and he filled the bases on three of the first four Rays he faced, making way for Marcus Walden to come on with still two outs to get in the frame.
Walden was unable to extinguish the flames left behind by Hernandez, however, as he saw his side’s 2-0 lead become a 2-2 tie on a Nate Lowe run-scoring forceout and Adames RBI ground-rule double.
That forced Josh Taylor to come in with two outs and two runners in scoring position, and he allowed the go-ahead run to score on a wild pitch in the dirt with Wendle at the plate. A two-run lead turned into a one-run deficit just like that.
In the eighth, Andrew Cashner walked the first man he faced in Meadows, and that came back to bite him on a one-out RBI double off the bat of Ji-Man Choi to make it a 4-2 contest.
Some heroics on the part of Mitch Moreland that we’ll get to later knotted things up at four runs apiece in the top half of the ninth though, which set up Ryan Brasier to leave one runner on in a scoreless bottom half of the ninth.
Bobby Poyner followed suit by punching out a pair in a clean bottom of the 10th, but Trevor Kelley could not extend things in the 11th, as he walked back-to-back hitters with two outs before serving up a game-winning single to Adames.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against a familiar foe in Rays veteran right-hander Charlie Morton, who held them to two runs over seven innings the last time he opposed Boston at Tropicana Field back on July 24th.
Kept off the scoreboard through the first six innings of this one, it wasn’t until Brock Holt reached base on a one-out double in the seventh when the bats finally got going.
That two-base hit set up Mitch Moreland with a runner in scoring position, and he delivered big time in his third at-bat of the night, taking Morton deep to dead center off an 0-2, 79 MPH curveball on the outer half of the plate.
Moreland’s 16th homer of the season plated the Sox’ first runs of the contest, but Tampa Bay responded with three runs of their own in their half of the seventh as well as another in the eighth.
So, now trailing by two runs headed into the ninth, a Gorkys Hernandez leadoff triple off of Rays closer Emilio Pagan brought the tying run to the plate in the form of Holt.
Holt was unable to come through, lining out to center on the first pitch he saw, meaning Boston was down to their final two outs.
Coming into the weekend, Moreland had only faced off against Pagan three times before Friday, but he came out well on top in round four.
Yup, the 34-year-old did it again, elevating a 1-2, 96 MPH heater from Pagan and depositing it 379 feet into the seats in left field.
That two-run blast, Moreland’s second of the night and 17th of 2019, pulled the Sox back even with the Rays at 4-4, and ultimately sent this one into extras.
Despite that fact though, Mookie Betts, Sandy Leon, and Rafael Devers went down in order in the 10th and Xander Bogaerts, Gorkys Hernandez, Holt, and Moreland were unable to push any runs across in the 11th.
Because of those late offensive struggles, the Rays eventually broke through in the 11th and went on to take the opener of this four-game series by a final score of 5-4 in walkoff fashion.
Some notes from this loss:
Andrew Benintendi left Friday’s game in the third inning due to a left thumb contusion suffered in his first at-bat of the night in the second. He is considered day-to-day.
Mookie Betts went 0-for-5 with one strikeout in his first game back since September 12th.
From MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo:
All in all, pretty brutal night for the Red Sox if we’re being totally honest. The chance to defend their 2018 crown has been squashed before the calendar even turned to October, which is not great.
Next up for the Red Sox, it’s the second game of this weekend series, with right-hander Travis Lakins getting the ball for Boston and fellow righty Tyler Glasnow doing the same for Tampa Bay.
Last time he got the call to serve as the opener for the Sox, Lakins punched out three over two perfect innings back on September 7th against the New York Yankees.
The 25-year-old rookie has yet to face off against the Rays, nor pitch at Tropicana Field.
Glasnow, meanwhile, has posted a 3.60 ERA in two starts spanning five innings since returning from the injured list on September 8th. The Rays are 2-0 in those games.
In his only two starts against the Sox this season, which came in consecutive order back on April 21st and 28th, the 26-year-old surrendered a total of four runs on nine hits and four walks over 12 total innings of work.
First pitch Saturday is scheduled for 6:10 PM EDT on NESN. Red Sox still looking to play spoiler.