The Red Sox dropped the finale of their three-game weekend series against the Rays at Tropicana Field on Sunday. Boston fell to Tampa Bay in the rubber match by a final score of 5-2, marking their fourth loss in their last five games to drop to 7-9 on the season.
Both runs the Sox scored on Sunday came right away in the first inning off Rays starter Shane McClanahan. Trevor Story led off with a hard-hit double and immediately scored on a groundball single off the bat of Enrique Hernandez. Xander Bogaerts advanced Hernandez into scoring position and Alex Verdugo brought him in on an RBI single of his own.
So, on nine pitches, the Red Sox found themselves in possession of an early 2-0 lead to give Rich Hill a nice cushion out of the gate. Hill, making his third start of the year and first since returning to the bereavement list, managed to keep the Rays off the scoreboard while scattering four hits, three walks, and one hit batsman to go along with one strikeout over four innings of work.
Rob Refsnyder, starting in right field, aided Hill in the second inning when he gunned down Randy Arozarena, who was trying to stretch a two-out single into a two-out double, at second base for the final out of the frame.
Hill finished his day retiring five of the final eight batters he faced. 35 of the 62 pitches the left-hander threw went for strikes.
Before first pitch on Sunday, it was expected that Tanner Houck would piggyback off of Hill since Boston cannot use the right-hander during their series in Toronto. Rather than have Houck take the mound in the fifth, however, acting manager Will Venable first turned to Phillips Valdez out of the bullpen.
Valdez, in turn, recorded just one out while loading the bases on one walk and two hit batsman. Ryan Brasier then came on and allowed all three of the runners he inherited to score on a two-run double from Ji-Man Choi and RBI groundout from Manuel Margot that gave Tampa Bay their first lead of the day at 3-2.
Matt Barnes got the call for the sixth inning and yielded back-to-back one-out singles to Kevin Kiermaier and Arozarena. Kiermaier, the hero of Saturday’s contest, moved up to third on a Wander Franco groundout. Following a pitching change that saw Jake Diekman take over for Barnes, the speedy outfielder scored on a wild pitch to make it a 4-2 game.
Diekman remained in the game in the seventh and served up a solo home run to Yandy Diaz that gave the Rays a 5-2 edge. It was not until later in the inning when Houck finally emerged and sat down the only five hitters he faced in order to keep the three-run deficit intact at the end of eight.
Down to their final three outs of the ninth, Verdugo, Bobby Dalbec, and Travis Shaw went down in order against Ryan Thompson to seal a 5-2 defeat for the Red Sox.
Next up: On to Toronto
The Red Sox will board a flight to Toronto while leaving unvaccinated players such as Houck behind to open a four-game series against the Blue Jays on Monday night.
In the opener, it will be right-hander Nathan Eovaldi getting the ball for Boston and fellow righty Jose Berrios doing the same for Toronto.
First pitch from Rogers Centere is scheduled for 7:07 p.m. eastern time on NESN and MLB Network.
(Picture of Alex Verdugo: Mike Carlson/Getty Images)