In a game that saw a drone delay, two position players pitch, and one utilityman catch, the Red Sox were on the wrong side of a 17-8 blowout against the Rays at Fenway Park on Thursday night.
Kyle Hart made his major-league debut and his first career start for Boston to close out this series and, even without fans in the stands and his brother watching from the Bleacher Bar in center field, had a tough go of things.
That being the case because in just two-plus innings of work, the rookie left-hander yielded seven runs, five of which were earned, on seven hits and three walks to go along with four strikeouts on the night.
The first two of those Tampa Bay tallies came right away in the top of the first, when after Mike Brosseau led off with a walk and Jose Martinez reached base on a fielding error committed by Jonathan Arauz, Hart gave up a pair of RBI singles to Yandy Diaz and Willy Adames to put his side in an early two-run hole.
A scoreless second inning made it appear as though Hart was beginning to figure it out on the mound, but even after getting a one-run lead to work with, things took a turn for the worse for the southpaw in the third.
There, a leadoff walk drawn by Diaz, followed by back-to-back home runs off the bats of Hunter Renfroe and Brandon Lowe, as well as three more hits from Adames, Manuel Margot, and Yoshi Tsutsugo, resulted in the Rays jumping out to a 6-3 advantage before Hart got the hook from Sox manager Ron Roenicke earlier than he would have liked to.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 73 (44 strikes), the 27-year-old turned to his sinker and slider a combined 56% of the time he was on the mound Thursday, inducing five swings and misses with the slider alone. He also topped out at 91.2 mph with his four-seam fastball, a pitch he threw 15 times.
Charged with his first loss in his first career start, Hart’s status is up in the air, as Roenicke told reporters postgame that the Red Sox “are not exactly sure” if the hurler will get another start.
In relief of Hart, right-hander Phillips Valdez was dispatched with three outs to get in the third. And he got those outs, but not before allowing one of the runners he inherited to score on an RBI forceout.
From there, like Hart before him, Valdez was also the recipient of some shoddy defensive work from the infielders playing behind him.
Upon giving up leadoff single to Diaz, the lanky righty induced a soft grounder off the bat of Hunter Renfroe, which was promptly fielded by the charging Rafael Devers. Rather than make an apt throw over to second for the force out though, Devers airmailed the throw into right field, allowing Diaz to reach third and Renfroe to reach first safely.
The ever-dangerous Lowe took full advantage of that mishap, as the Rays second baseman laced a sharp RBI single through the middle of the infield to drive in Diaz and make it an 8-4 second.
Just a few moments later, Devers was once again tested when Margot batted another soft grounder towards the hot corner. Once more, the 23-year-old picked the ball with his bare hand cleanly, but rushed his throw to Mitch Moreland over at first and the ball wound up by the tarp in foul territory. That, of course, gave Renfroe plenty of time to score from second. 9-4.
Tsustgo increased his side’s advantage even more with a sacrifice fly to right field, and the Rays were up by six runs just like that to no fault of Valdez, really.
That point was emphasized again an inning later, when Valdez retired the only three hitters he faced in the fifth before making way for Marcus Walden in the sixth.
Similarly enough to Hart three innings prior, Walden could not record a single out in his sixth appearance of the season. He instead served up two home runs, one of which being an absolute bomb to Kenmore Square from Renfroe, one triple, two singles, and one walk to the six hitters he faced by the time he was replaced by Josh Osich.
The lefty entered in a 16-5 game, and he kept it that way by recording the final three outs of the sixth in 1-2-3 fashion before punching out the side in a scoreless top of the seventh.
Heath Hembree made his first appearance since last Saturday by coming on for the eighth, and he fanned a pair in another shutout inning of relief.
In the ninth, we got our first and second position player pitching sightings of the season for the Red Sox when Jose Peraza took the mound after starting the game at second base. The 26-year-old allowed the first two hitters he faced to reach base, but then to add insult to injury, took a 105 mph comebacker from Lowe off his right knee, which marked the end of his evening.
Having to turn to another position player, Kevin Plawecki took the mound while Tzu-Wei Lin, yes, Tzu-Wei Lin, was put behind the plate.
The veteran backstop walked one and recorded two outs thanks to some nifty glove work from Alex Verdugo in left field, but it was too little too late.
On the other side of things, a Xander Bogaerts-less Red Sox lineup was matched up against Rays right-hander Tyler Glasnow to begin things on Thursday.
Down by a pair of runs before even getting the chance to take their first at-bats, the Boston offense quickly erased that deficit with an RBI single from Devers and a two-run double from Plawecki.
By the time this one had reached the midway point of the third, the Sox’ deficit had grown to five runs, but the red-hot Jonathan Arauz cut into that by lacing a two-out, two-run double to right field, bringing in J.D. Martinez and Mitch Moreland to make it a 7-4 contest. The 22-year-old’s first career extra-base hit.
An inning later, Martinez picked up from where he left off on Wednesday with another run-scoring double off Glasnow. This one came with two outs in the fifth and brought in Peraza from second. 10-5.
As it would later turn out, five runs is the closest the Red Sox would get to the Rays from the start of the sixth inning on.
By the time Boston got on the board again in the ninth, Tampa Bay already had a 17-5 edge. But at least three straight two-out hits from Michael Chavis, Kevin Pillar, and Plawecki brought in three more runs to make the final score look a little bit closer at 17-8, right?
Some notes and observations from this defeat:
From The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham:
From MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo:
Michael Chavis has nine hits in his last seven games and has bumped his OPS on the season up to .892.
Kevin Plawecki is 9-for-19 (.474) with six RBI to begin his Red Sox career.
Jonathan Arauz has eight hits in his last four games.
Next up for the Red Sox, it doesn’t get any easier as the club is about to embark on a four-game series against the first-place Yankees in the Bronx.
It will be a bullpen game for Boston in the series opener for Boston on Friday, while New York will turn to ace right-hander Gerrit Cole.
First pitch Friday is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. eastern time on NESN and WEEI. Red Sox looking to snap a four-game skid.