Heading into Players’ Weekend winners of four of their last seven, the Red Sox arrived at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg for their last series of the season against the 67-61 Tampa Bay Rays, who entered Friday on a five-game winning streak.
Less than a week after being on the wrong side of 2-0 loss to Tampa Bay this past Sunday, Hector Velazquez made his sixth start of the season last night and did not have much of anything going for himself.
Pitching into just the third inning of this one, the right-hander ended up getting charged for EIGHT earned runs on nine hits to go along with two walks and four strikeouts.
At one point giving up six straight hits in the second, which led to three Rays runs crossing the plate, what really screwed Velazquez over came an inning later, when with two outs and runners on first and second, Steve Pearce, in the place of Mitch Moreland at first base, could not field a grounder off the bat of Kevin Kiermaier, which led to a single that allowed Ji-Man Choi to score from second.
On what should have been an inning-ending play, the Rays managed to tack on an additional four runs before Velazquez got the early hook in what was all of a sudden an 8-2 game.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 72 (46 strikes), the 29-year-old turned to his sinker the most on Friday, as he threw it a total of 21 times. He also topped out at 92.4 MPH with that same pitch in the second inning.
Falling to 7-2 with a 3.69 ERA on the season now, Velazquez will look to rebound in his next time out, which should come against the Chicago White Sox next weekend, if he remains in the rotation.
In relief of Velazquez, the Red Sox bullpen was responsible for the final five-plus innings of last night’s contest, but thanks to the efforts of Drew Pomeranz, only two other pitchers were used.
Pomeranz, who entered with two outs in the bottom half of the third with a runner on first, surrendered two runs on a two-run home run off the bat of Rays rookie Willy Adames in the fourth in an otherwise solid 4.1 frames of work to end the seventh. Xander Bogaerts came through with some flashy defense as well.
Joe Kelly, making his third relief appearance in the last four days, wrapped up a rather tough night for Red Sox pitching by working his way around two hits and tossing a scoreless eighth.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against Rays “opener” Diego Castillo, who pitched in the same role last Sunday and held Boston scoreless in nearly two innings of work.
Pitching into the second once again, the Rays hurler retired five of the seven batters he faced before getting lifted for Jalen Beeks with two outs and runners on first and second.
Beeks, a former Red Sox pitching prospect who was part of the Nathan Eovaldi deal last month, tossed four scoreless frames and picked up the win in his only other appearance against his former team on Sunday.
Although he was not as effective last night, Beeks did manage to pick up the winning decision, his third of the season, while surrendering three runs on seven hits and three walks to go along with four punch outs.
Starting the scoring in the top of the third with three straight two out hits, Xander Bogaerts stayed hot with a two RBI single to plate both Mookie Betts and Steve Pearce.
Those runs appeared to be crucial at the time, as it cut the Red Sox deficit to one, but as I mentioned before, the Rays went off for five runs of their own in their half of the third.
Fast forward to the fifth, and JD Martinez wrapped up his team’s scoring while collecting his league-leading 110th RBI of the season on a one out single to drive in Andrew Benintendi from second to trim the Rays lead down to only seven.
Some notes from this 10-3 loss:
The Red Sox out hit the Rays 13-12 on Friday, yet got outscored by seven runs. That is mostly due to the fact that none of those 13 hits went for extra bases. Nope, all of them were singles.
In his last 10 games, Xander Bogaerts is slashing .385/.429/.718 with two home runs and 12 RBI.
Since its inception, the Red Sox are 0-4 in Players’ Weekend games. Not great.
Despite the loss, 90-40 is at least satisfying to look at, right?
Looking to get back on the right track later tonight, it will be Rick Porcello getting the start for Boston.
Porcello (15-6, 4.14 ERA) owns a lifetime 2.72 ERA in 14 career starts at Tropicana Field, with the most recent coming on May 24th, an outing in which the right-hander got shelled for six runs (four earned) in less than four innings in an eventual loss.
Opposite Porcello will be rookie left-hander Ryan Yarbrough for Tampa Bay, who has never started against the Red Sox, but does own a 3.00 ERA in four relief appearances against them this season.
First pitch of the second game of the series is scheduled for 6:10 PM ET Saturday.