The Red Sox were unable to complete a three-game weekend sweep of the Rays on Sunday afternoon. Boston fell to Tampa Bay by a final score 12-4 at Fenway Park to drop to 62-66 on the season.
Nick Pivetta, making his 26th start of the year for the Sox, ended his month of August on a sour note. The right-hander allowed five earned runs on eight hits, three walks, and four strikeouts over five innings of work.
After retiring four of the first five batters he faced, Pivetta served up a solo home run over the Green Monster to Isaac Paredes with one out in the second inning. It was ruled a single on the field, but it was overturned following an umpire review.
An inning later, a two-out walk of Manuel Margot proved to be costly for Pivetta. That being the case because Margot stole second base and then easily scored from second when David Peralta ripped an RBI double down the right field line.
Trailing 2-0 going into their half of the third inning, the Red Sox were able to cut the deficit in half when Franchy Cordero cranked a 403-foot solo shot off Rays starter Corey Kluber into the home bullpen. Cordero’s eighth homer of the season — and fourth in his last six games — left his bat at 112.3 mph.
While Boston got on the board, Tampa Bay quicky responded. Randy Arozarena led off the fourth inning with a hard-hit double. Paredes immediately followed by crushing his second home run of the day off Pivetta to make it a 4-1 game.
To lead off the bottom of the fourth, J.D. Martinez took Kluber 410 feet over the Monster for his first home run since July 10. Martinez’s 10th big fly of the season once again trimmed the Rays’ lead in half at 4-2.
Pivetta, however, continued to struggle in his fifth and final frame. He surrendered hits to the first four batters he faced in the inning, including an RBI double to Peralta that plated Margot, before getting Taylor Wallks to ground into a force out at third base.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 100 (63 strikes), Pivetta induced 14 swings-and-misses while mixing in a four-seam fastball that averaged 93.3 mph, a slider that averaged 86.3 mph, and a knuckle-curveball that averaged 78.6 mph. The 29-year-old hurler was charged with his 10th loss of the season and his ERA now sits at 4.40. That includes an ERA of 7.24 in 11 starts against divisional opponents.
Moments after Pivetta’s day had come to an end, Tommy Pham brought the Red Sox back to within two runs of the Rays by clubbing another solo blast off Kluber. It left his bat at 104.3 mph and was good for his fourth home run in 22 games with Boston.
Hirokazu Sawamura received the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen from manager Alex Cora. As has been the case throughout the season, Sawamura’s struggles at Fenway Park continued. The Japanese-born righty gave up back-to-back one-out singles, including a 181-foot pop-up off the bat of Jose Siri that Cordero could not come up with cleanly in shallow right field.
With runners on the corners, Margot drove in Siri from third on a sacrifice fly. After issuing a five-pitch walk to Peralta, Sawamura yielded back-to-back run-scoring hits to Harold Ramirez and Arozarena, thus giving the Rays a commanding 8-3 advantage.
Following a scoreless top of the seventh from Ryan Brasier, the pinch-hitting Bobby Dalbec and Pham greeted new Rays reliever Colin Poche with back-to-back hard-hit singles to lead off the bottom half. Xander Bogaerts plated Pham on a sacrifice fly, but that is all the Sox could manage.
The Rays proceeded to pull away from there. A clean-shaven Austin Davis got tagged for four runs (two earned) in the eighth. Following a Rafael Devers fielding error that put runners on the corners with no outs, Arozarena drove in Peralta on a sharply-hit double. Taylor Walls made it an 11-4 game with a two-run single and Siri capped it off with a run-scoring groundout.
Davis retired the side in order in the top of the ninth. In the bottom half, Rays catcher Christian Bethancourt made the ninth relief appearance of his career. He gave up a pair of singles to Dalbec and Bogaerts, but still recorded the final three outs of the contest.
With Sunday’s 12-4 loss, the Red Sox remain seven games back of the Blue Jays for the third and final American League Wild Card spot.
Next up: Quick trip to Minnesota
The Red Sox will now board a flight to Minneapolis and open a three-game series against the Twins on Monday night. Rookie right-hander is slated to get the start for Boston while fellow righty Dylan Bundy is expected to take the mound for Minnesota.
First pitch from Target Field is scheduled for 7:40 p.m. eastern time on NESN.
(Picture of Nick Pivetta: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)