Eduardo Rodriguez Falls Short of 20th Win, Rafael Devers Picks up 200th Hit, and Mookie Betts Scores Winning Run as Red Sox Walk off Orioles in 2019 Season Finale

After dropping their penultimate game of the year with a 9-4 loss at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday, the Red Sox bounced back and wrapped up their 2019 season in style, as they walked off the O’s in nine innings in a 5-4 victory on Sunday.

Making his 34th and final start of the season for Boston on Sunday was Eduardo Rodriguez, who entered the weekend just one winning decision of 20 and 3 2/3 innings shy of 200.

Tossing seven full innings to surpass that 200-mark on the season, the left-hander surrendered three runs, all of which were earned against his former club on four hits and two walks to go along with eight strikeouts on the afternoon.

All three of those Baltimore tallies came in the top half of the third, when with one out and runners on the corners, back-to-back RBI knocks from Hanser Alberto and Austin Hays got the Orioles on the board first.

One mound visit from pitching coach Dana LeVangie later, and Rodriguez allowed the third run of the frame to come in on a fielder’s choice out off the bat of Trey Mancini.

Other than that bit of trouble though, the Venezuela native settled in nicely from the beginning of the fourth inning on, retiring 12 of the last 14 hitters he faced leading into the middle of the seventh, the point in which his outing came to an impressive close with an emphatic six-pitch punchout of Richie Martin.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 115 (71 strikes), the 26-year-old hurler relied on his four-seam fastball nearly 48% of the time he was on the mound Sunday, inducing 14 swings and misses and topping out at 95 MPH with the pitch while Christian Vazquez was behind the plate.

Ultimately unable to get that vaunted 20th win due to what transpired later on, Rodriguez finishes his fourth full season with the Red Sox with a 19-6 record, a 3.91 ERA, and a career-high 231 strikeouts over 34 outings and 203 1/3 total innings pitched.

In relief of Rodriguez, Matt Barnes came on for one final time in the eighth with a brand new one-run lead to protect, and he could not do that, as he allowed the game-tying run, which was unearned, to cross the plate on a two-out RBI single from Jonathan Villar.

No 20th win for Rodriguez, all while Barnes was charged with his eighth blown save of 2019.

And in the ninth, Brandon Workman fanned the only three Orioles he faced on just 15 pitches to send this one to the bottom half of the inning with a 4-4 stalemate intact, and that eventually earned him his 10th and final winning decision.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against an old friend in Orioles right-hander Chandler Shepherd, who was with the PawSox up until May of this year before being designated for assignment.

Kicking off the scoring in the third just as Baltimore did, the Boston bats quickly responded from an early three-run hole by plating two of their own on back-to-back one-out, run-scoring hits courtesy of Mookie Betts and Rafael Devers.

Fast forward all the way to the sixth, and a leadoff walk drawn by Xander Bogaerts, single from J.D. Martinez, and another walk drawn by Mitch Moreland brought Christian Vazquez to the plate in a one-run game with the bases full.

Up against new Orioles reliever Shawn Armstrong, Vazquez delivered with a line-drive RBI single to left to drive in Bogaerts and knot things up at three runs apiece.

An inning later, it was the top of the lineup getting things done once more, this time with Devers reaching base with a one-out double off Evan Phillips, his 200th hit of the season, and Bogaerts scoring him on an RBI single to the opposite field. 4-3.

That probably should have been good enough to get Rodriguez his 20th win, but as already mentioned, the Orioles rallied and tied things up in their half of the eighth.

In the bottom half of that eighth, it looked as though the Sox had jumped in front again, as Jackie Bradley Jr. crushed an 0-1, 95 MPH heater from Mychal Givens with two outs and Brock Holt on at first.

Instead of mashing his 22nd homer of the year though, Bradley Jr. was downright robbed by Stevie Wilkerson in right field, as the O’s outfielder sprawled out to take away what surely was a two-run shot. The .980 xBA on that line drive is quite evident of that statement.

So, the two sides headed into the ninth still in a 4-4 tie, and after Brandon Workman did what he had to do in the top half, Betts did what he had to do to lead off the bottom half.

Yup, the reigning American League MVP drew a six-pitch walk off of Dillon Tate in what very well could have been his last plate appearance as a Red Sox.

That brought Devers up to the plate for a fifth time, and all he did was rip a single through the right side of the infield. One that was certainly good enough to advance the runner on base up to third, but as he is known to do, Betts caught the opposition off guard and made the trek towards the promised land.

By the time the right fielder Wilkerson caught on to this, Betts was well on his way to sliding safely into home, as the Red Sox came away with a 5-4 walk-off win in their final game of 2019.

Some notes from this win:

From Red Sox Notes:

 

From MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith:

From MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo:

So, the Red Sox finish their World Series-defending campaign with a final mark of 84-78, 19 games off the pace of the New York Yankees for the American League East crown and 12 games off the pace of the Tampa Bay Rays for the second American League Wild Card spot.

To say the 2019 season was underwhelming would be an understatement, but there was still plenty to remember and definitely plenty to reflect on and learn from.

As I have said before, there are plenty of questions surrounding this club headed into the offseason, and they’ll have about four weeks to get a head start on those discussions.

Will Mookie Betts or Jackie Bradley Jr. be traded? Will J.D. Martinez opt out of his current deal? Will Brock Holt be offered a new contract? These are all uncertainties at the moment, and only time will tell on how these issues are resolved.

That is for another time though. For now, it’s a good time to unpack, reflect, and say thanks.

Pitchers and catchers report in a little under five months.

Advertisements

Xander Bogaerts and J.D Martinez Both Homer but Red Sox Drop Second Straight to Orioles

After managing just one run in a 4-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Friday, the Red Sox saw their losing streak increase to three on Saturday, as they fell to the O’s by a final score of 9-4 to guarantee at best a series loss at Fenway Park to cap off the 2019 season.

Making his fifth and final start of the season for Boston was Jhoulys Chacin, who came into the weekend having given up four runs in back-to-back outings.

Working into the third inning this time around, the right-hander surrendered another four runs, all of which were earned, on five hits and one walk to go along with three strikeouts on the afternoon.

The first pair of those Baltimore tallies came right away in the top half of the first, when with no outs and Jonathan Villar at second following a leadoff double, D.J Stewart unloaded on a 1-1, down and in, 91 MPH four-seam fastball from Chacin and sent it 408 feet over the Orioles’ bullpen to get his side on the board early.

An inning later, after the Sox offense pushed across three runs of their own in their half of the first, the home run ball came back to bite Chacin once more, as the Venezuela native served up a one-out solo shot to Richie Martin off a 1-1, 90 MPH two-seamer on the inner half of the plate. 3-3 ballgame.

In what would turn out to be his final frame, Chacin was just one out away from getting through three full, but he could not sneak a 1-0, 91 MPH two-seamer past a seemingly red-hot Renato Nunez, who proceeded to crush his second homer of the series to make it a 4-3 contest.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 60 (38 strikes), the 31-year-old hurler relied on his slider nearly 52% of the time he was on the mound Saturday, inducing five swings and misses with the pitch. He also topped out at 91.7 MPH with his heater, a pitch he threw nine times while Sandy Leon was behind the plate.

Ultimately getting hit with his 12th loss while raising his ERA on the year up to 6.01, Chacin’s tenure with the Red Sox may indeed be over.

Since inking a minor-league deal with the club in late August, the ex-Milwaukee Brewer posted a 7.36 ERA in six outings (five starts) and 14 2/3 innings pitched with Boston.

In relief of Chacin, left-hander Bobby Poyner entered the top of the third with one out to get, and he walked Chris Davis on six pitches before doing just that.

From there, Heath Hembree fanned one in a perfect fourth inning, Ryan Brasier walked one and punched out two in a scoreless fifth, Andrew Cashner struggled and yielded four runs on five hits while only recording the first two outs of the sixth, Colten Brewer retired the side in the sixth before tossing a scoreless seventh, and Josh Smith walked one in the eighth before getting taken deep by Trey Mancini in the ninth to increase his side’s deficit to five at 9-4.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up a fairly familiar foe in Orioles rookie left-hander John Means, someone who held them to two runs over six innings the last time he faced them back on July 19th.

Down by two runs before even taking their first at-bats, Jackie Bradley Jr. quickly got things going in the bottom half of the first with a leadoff single.

Two batters later, Xander Bogaerts knotted things up with one swing of the bat, as he came through with his 33rd home run of the season, this one coming off a 2-2, 81 MPH changeup from Means and being hit a projected 414 feet over the Green Monster.

Before fans even had the chance to settle down from that two-run blast, J.D. Martinez followed suit by mashing his 36th big fly of the year, a 389-foot bomb, to put the Sox in front at 3-2.

Fast forward to the fifth, and it looked as though the top half of the lineup was about to come through again, with Rafael Devers representing the tying run at second and Bogaerts the go-ahead at first with two outs and Martinez coming to the plate.

A las, Martinez could not deliver this time up, as he flew out deep to right and would wind up being the last hitter Means faced.

An inning later, a leadoff walk drawn by Sam Travis against new Orioles reliever Shawn Armstrong in a now five-run game would result in another Boston run coming across to score with Sandy Leon picking up his 19th ribbie of 2019 on a bloop of a two-out RBI single. 8-4.

In the seventh, a one-out single from Bogaerts followed by a one-out walk from Martinez and fielder’s choice off the bat of Travis put runners at second and third for Brock Holt against right-hander Branden Kline.

Having never faced Kline before Saturday, all Holt could do was ground into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play, thus killing another shot at a potential rally.

And after squandering another chance in the eighth, Devers, Bogaerts, and Martinez went down in order in the ninth, as 9-4 would go on to be Saturday’s final score.

Some notes from this loss:

The Red Sox went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position on Saturday. They left nine men on base as a team.

From The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham:

From The Eagle-Tribune’s Chris Mason:

Well, this is it. One last game to wrap up what has been an underwhelming World Series-defending campaign.

In terms of season milestones, Mookie Betts is one homer away from 30, Rafael Devers is two hits away from 200, and Sunday’s starter Eduardo Rodriguez is 3 2/3 innings away from 200 and one win away from 20.

Through three starts against Baltimore this season, Rodriguez is 3-0 with an ERA of 1.29 and OPS against of .522 over 21 total innings pitched.

The Orioles’ starter for Sunday, meanwhile, will be former Red Sox prospect Chandler Shepherd.

The 27-year-old right-hander was designated by Boston back on May 17th of this year in order to add catcher Oscar Hernandez to the 40-man roster when Sandy Leon was placed on the paternity leave list.

In four appearances (two starts) for Baltimore, Shepherd owns a 7.71 ERA and 1.64 WHIP over 14 total innings of work.

Sunday could very well be the last time we see the core members of the 2018 Red Sox on the field together.

Brock Holt, Mitch Moreland, and Rick Porcello are all soon-to-be free agents, J.D. Martinez could opt out of his current deal to become a free agent, Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. may be traded, and even though he will not be playing, Steve Pearce might retire from baseball.

With all this uncertainty surrounding the Red Sox headed into the offseason, Sunday will provide us with one last chance to soak it all in.

First pitch Sunday is scheduled for 3:05 PM EDT on NESN. Red Sox looking to end the season on a high note.

 

Red Sox Reportedly Planning on Offering Rafael Devers Contract Extension This Offseason

The Red Sox are reportedly planning on offering third baseman Rafael Devers a contract extension this offseason, according to WEEI’s Rob Bradford. An offer has yet to be extended to Devers at this point in time.

Devers, who turns 23 in October, is wrapping up what looks to be a top-seven finish in American League Most Valuable Player voting kind of season, as he entered Saturday slashing .309/.360/.556 to go along with a career-best 32 home runs and career-best 115 RBI over 154 games played.

The budding star infielder earned approximately $614,500 in his second full major league season in 2019, and is projected to earn somewhere around $800,000 in his final year of team control in 2020, per The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

With all the recent rumblings about the Red Sox wanting to get under the $208 million threshold for the 2020 campaign, it may seem confusing as to why the club would want to commit a large sum of money to one player.

However, as Bradford points out, any extension attached to Devers more than likely would not come into effect until after 2020, meaning the 22-year-old would still earn that $800,000 in salary or so next season.

The same sort of thing happened with the Houston Astros and third baseman Alex Bregman this past March, when the two sides agreed to a six-year, $100 million contract extension.

Bregman, who will more than likely finish as the runner-up in AL MVP voting this year, is still earning a base and luxury tax salary of $640,500 in 2019 while his extension does not kick in until 2020.

With shortstop Xander Bogaerts already locked up through at least the 2022 season, the Red Sox have a real chance to secure the left side of their infield for years to come.

Nathan Eovaldi Walks Four, Allows Three Runs in Final Start of Season as Red Sox Fall to Orioles

After falling to the Texas Rangers 7-5 in their final road contest of the season on Thursday, the Red Sox opened up the final weekend of the 2019 campaign with a 4-1 defeat at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles on Friday.

Making his 12th and final start of the season for Boston was Nathan Eovaldi, who came into the weekend fresh off his first quality outing of 2019 in his last time out against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Working five full innings this time around, the right-hander surrendered another three runs, all of which were earned, on three hits and four walks to go along with three strikeouts on the night.

All three of those Orioles tallies came on one swing of the bat in the top half of the third, when with two outs and two runners on following a one-out double from Austin Hays and a one-out walk drawn by Trey Mancini in consecutive order, Eovaldi was just one pitch away from escaping a tight spot, but instead served up a hanging, 0-2, 81 MPH curveball to Renato Nunez, who crushed said pitch well over the Green Monster to get his side on the board first at 3-0.

Other than that one costly mistake though, Eovaldi settled in nicely enough, retiring six of the final eight Orioles he faced with the help of a 6-3 double play turned in the fifth, which would wind up being the Texas native’s last inning of work.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 90 (50 strikes), the 29-year-old hurler turned to his four-seam fastball more than 41% of the time he was on the mound Friday, inducing three swings and misses and topping out at 99.6 MPH with the pitch while Juan Centeno was behind the plate.

Ultimately hit with his first losing decision of the year despite lowering his ERA down to 5.99, Eovaldi’s first full season in Boston is in the books.

The flame throwing righty finishes with a 2-1 record, a 5.99 ERA, a 1.58 WHIP, and a .276 batting average against over 23 total appearances (12 starts) and 67 2/3 innings pitched.

In relief of Eovaldi, Hector Velazquez entered the sixth with a three-run deficit to maintain, and he filled the bases with two outs before getting Jonathan Villar to pop out to Brock Holt in shallow center to get out of the jam.

From there, Colten Brewer walked one and fanned two in a scoreless seventh, Andrew Cashner walked two in an otherwise clean eighth, and Marcus Walden allowed the O’s to score their fourth run of the night on a leadoff walk of Hays and two-out RBI single off the bat of Nunez in the ninth.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against a familiar foe in Orioles right-hander Adrian Wojciechowski, someone they had only gotten two total runs off of over two seperate starts and 11 2/3 innings of work leading into Friday.

Unable to get anything going against Wojciechowski once again in this one, it was not until the last half of the ninth when the Boston bats finally got going.

There, with left-handed reliever Richard Bleier on the mound for Baltimore, Rafael Devers led things off with a scorching leadoff double, his 53rd of the year.

That set up Xander Bogaerts in a prime run-scoring spot, and he delivered with an RBI single right back up the middle to plate Devers from second and finally get his team on the board.

Bogaert’s 500th career run driven in did make it seem as though a late rally was about to get off the ground.

Any momentum that was built up quickly dissipated though, as Bogaerts was picked off at first for the first out of the ninth, Mitch Moreland whiffed on four pitches for the second, and Christian Vazquez grounded out to third for the last out, ending Friday’s contest with a final score of 4-1.

Some notes from this loss:

With their 77th loss of the season and 40th at Fenway Park, the Red Sox guarantee that they will finish with a losing record at Fenway.

Rafael Devers is three hits away from 200 on the season.

From Red Sox Notes:

From The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier:

From The Eagle-Tribune’s Chris Mason:

Friday was certainly an eventful day for the Red Sox. They capped it off with an uneventful loss to one of the worst teams in all of baseball.

Next up for the Red Sox, it’s the final Saturday game of the season, with right-hander Jhoulys Chacin getting the ball for Boston and rookie left-hander John Means doing the same for Baltimore.

Chacin has posted a 6.00 ERA and .831 OPS against in five total outings (four starts) and 12 total innings of work since joining the Sox at the beginning of the month.

His first start against the O’s should serve as one last final 2020 audition for the 31-year-old.

Means, meanwhile, looks to wrap up a solid rookie campaign on a positive note.

In terms of Game Score, the 2019 All-Star’s best start of 2019 came against the Red Sox back on May 6th, when Means tossed seven innings of one-run ball in an eventual winning effort at Camden Yards.

First pitch Saturday is scheduled for 1:05 PM EDT on NESN. Two games left on the year. Time to cherish what is left.

Mookie Betts Makes Spectacular Throw to Nab Avisail Garcia at Third in Red Sox’ Loss to Rays

The Red Sox may have dropped their final contest against the Tampa Bay Rays of 2019 by a final score of 7-4 on Monday night, but that did not stop Mookie Betts from making one of the plays of the season in right field.

It came in the top half of the sixth inning, when with no outs and Ji-Man Choi on at second following a leadoff double, Sox right-hander Hector Velazquez yielded another two-bagger to Avisail Garcia, this one coming off the bat at 100.1 MPH on the ground to Betts in right field.

Garcia was able to drive in Choi to make it a three-run game at 7-4, but the mistake he made come on his own decision to try and extend that double into a triple.

Betts was having none of that, as he wound up and made one of the better throws you will see directly to Rafael Devers to nab Garcia at third base for the first out of the frame. No cut-offs, no bounces. Just perfection.

According to MLB.com’s Andrew Simon, Betts’ long toss spanned 305 feet from the right field corner to third on the fly and it is the fourth-longest on-the-fly outfield assist in the Statcast era (since 2015).

A three-time Gold Glove Award winner, Betts appears well on track to add another Gold Glove to that collection in November.

Red Sox Blow Another Late Lead, Get Walked off on by Rays in 11 Innings for Second Straight Night

For the second straight night, the Red Sox fell to the Tampa Bay Rays by a final score of 5-4 in 11 innings on Saturday, this time squandering a one-run lead in the 11th, compared to doing so in the seventh on Friday, to drop back down to 80-74 on the season.

Making his second start of the season for Boston and 15th appearance overall was Travis Lakins, who tossed two perfect innings in his first go at being an opener against the New York Yankees back on September 7th.

Working into the second inning this time around, the right-hander kept the Rays off the scoreboard while yielding one hit and one walk to go along with two strikeouts on the night.

A one-out double from Matt Duffy, followed by Joey Wendle reaching on a fielding error committed by Marco Hernandez in that bottom half of the second put runners at first and second for Tampa Bay.

Lakins was able to get Kevin Kiermaier to ground into a force out for out number two, but Sox manager Alex Cora did not leave him in to face Willy Adames with runners on the corners, instead opting to turn to his bullpen.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 29 (16 strikes), the 25-year-old hurler turned to his four-seam fastball nearly 52% of the time he was on the mound Saturday, inducing one swing and miss and topping out at 95.8 MPH with the pitch while Christian Vazquez was behind the plate.

Obviously not pitching deep enough to factor into the decision while lowering his ERA on the year down to 4.22, Lakins should continue to see some more work out of the ‘pen before seasons end.

In relief of Lakins, left-hander Bobby Poyner inherited a situation in which there were runners at the corners for the Rays with one out to get in the second, and he got that out by fanning Adames on four pitches.

From there, Mike Shawaryn allowed Tampa Bay’s first run of the night to cross the plate in the third on a one-out RBI single off the bat of Travis d’Arnaud and was charged with another when Colten Brewer served up a run-scoring single to the first man he faced in Joey Wendle.

Fortunately for Boston, Wendle’s single got to Mookie Betts in right field rather quickly, and the reigning AL MVP put his arm strength on full display to nab d’Arnaud at home and retire the side.

Ryan Weber sat down the first eight Rays he faced from the middle of the fourth up until Wendle reached on a two-out single in the sixth, making way for Josh Taylor to come in to face the left-handed Kiermaier.

As it turned out though, Taylor did not even have to throw a pitch in the sixth, as Vazquez snuffed out Wendle trying to swipe second base for the third out.

Taylor also came back out for the seventh, but could not sneak a one-out, 1-0, 95 MPH two-seamer past Adamas, who deposited said pitch 462 feet to dead center to make it a 3-1 contest.

Another base hit to follow that mammoth shot up marked the end of Taylor’s evening, so Ryan Brasier wrapped up the seventh by retiring the only two hitters he faced in consecutive order.

Andrew Cashner did the same in the eighth, except with three Rays instead of two and Matt Barnes punched out the side in the ninth to send this one into extra innings knotted at three runs apiece.

In that first extra inning, Brandon Workman did not get off to the best of starts, as he yielded a leadoff walk to Austin Meadows. That would not come back to bite him however. Not with Sandy Leon and Hernandez connecting on a bang-bang play at second to catch Meadows and extinguish the threat.

And in the 11th, moments after his side went up 4-3 on a Mitch Moreland solo blast, Josh Smith began his frame of work by allowing d’Arnaud to reach on a leadoff double moments before giving the game away on a two-run home run off the bat of Nate Lowe.

That homer, coming off a 2-0, 91 MPH heater right down the heart of the plate, put the Rays up 5-4. Another walk-off loss.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against right-hander Tyler Glasnow for Tampa Bay, someone they had not seen in nearly five months going into the weekend.

Unable to get anything going against the Rays starter, Xander Bogaerts kicked off the scoring for Boston in the fourth by greeting new reliever Yonny Chirinos with a leadoff solo shot to get his side on the board and cut the deficit in half at 2-1.

Fast forward all the way to the eighth, now down by two runs, it was the top of the lineup responding once again, this time with Mookie Betts reaching on a one-out single off of Nick Anderson to bring Rafael Devers to the plate for the second time ever against the Rays right-hander.

On the third pitch he saw from Anderson, a 1-1, 96 MPH four-seamer at the top of the zone, Devers made history on one swing of the bat, becoming the first Red Sox third baseman to ever hit more than 30 home runs in a single season with his 31st of the year.

That 421-foot two-run blast pulled the Sox back even with the Rays at 3-3 and ultimately sent this contest into extra innings for the second straight day.

In extras, or the top of the 11th more specifically, just when it looked like Boston was going to have to settle with trying to force this one to the 12th with two outs in the frame, Mitch Moreland came through in the clutch yet again.

The 34-year-old went deep twice on Friday night, and on the first pitch he saw from Diego Castillo on Saturday, Moreland unloaded on an 87 MPH slider that was essentially right down the middle and sent it 430 feet to center for his 18th of the year.

Moreland’s fifth dinger since returning from the injured list in July gave the Red Sox their first lead of the night at 4-3, and it probably should have won them this game too, but as already mentioned, the Rays put together a rally of their own in their half of the 11th, one that led to Boston getting walked off on by a final score of 5-4.

Some notes from this loss:

From Red Sox Notes:

From MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith:

From The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham:

Next up for the Red Sox, it’s the third installment of this four-game set on Sunday afternoon, with right-hander Nathan Eovaldi getting the ball for Boston and left-hander Ryan Yarbrough doing the same for Tampa Bay.

Since the calendar flipped to September, Eovaldi has allowed a total of nine earned runs over his last 13 1/3 innings pitched spanning three starts. That’s good for an ERA of 6.08.

In one prior appearance at Tropicana Field, the place Eovaldi once called home, this season, the 29-year-old surrendered three runs on five hits while only recording two outs back on July 22nd, in his first game back since returning from the injured list.

Yarbrough, meanwhile, has struggled recently for the Rays, posting an ERA of 5.40 and batting average against of .259 over his last five starts and 28 1/3 innings of work.

When facing the Red Sox this season, the 27-year-old is 2-0 with a 4.80 ERA over three total appearances (one start) and 15 innings pitched.

First pitch Sunday is scheduled for 1:10 PM EDT on NESN. Red Sox STILL trying to play spoiler.

 

 

Red Sox Squander Late Lead, Eventually Fall to Rays in 11 Innings on Same Night They Are Eliminated From Postseason Contention

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.