Josh Ockimey Homers as Red Sox Fall to Orioles in First Loss of Spring

After opening up Grapefruit League play with a 4-3 win over the Rays on Saturday, the Red Sox took to the road for the first time this spring and fell to the Orioles in Sarosata by a final score of 11-5.

Making his first start of the spring for Boston was Chris Mazza, who was originally scheduled to pitch in relief of Eduardo Rodriguez, but because Rodriguez was pushed back a day due to left knee soreness, Mazza got the nod from interim manager Ron Roenicke.

Working the first two innings of this one, the right-hander yielded one earned run on three hits and two walks to go along with one strikeout on the afternoon.

That one O’s run came in the bottom half of the second, when after working his way around a bases-loaded jam in the first, Mazza allowed the first two hitters he faced to reach base, setting up Stevie Wilkerson to knock in his side’s first tally on an RBI groundout to short.

The 30-year-old Mazza did manage to escape the second without giving anything else up, but it was far from a solid first impression for someone vying for a spot in the Sox’ starting rotation.

From there, pitching did not get any easier for Boston, as newly-acquired left-hander Matt Hall surrendered a pair of runs in the third, Emmanuel De Jesus tossed a scoreless fourth, Bobby Poyner and Yoan Aybar gave up another pair of runs each in the fifth and sixth, Jhonathan Diaz was only able to record the first two outs of the seventh while being walloped for four runs (three earned), Adam Lau retired the only hitter he faced to record the final out of the seventh, and Konner Wade worked a perfect eighth to at least end things on a somewhat positive note.

All in all, Sox pitching combined to surrender 11 runs on 15 hits and eight walks over eight total innings of work. It’s only the beginning stages of spring training, but that does not make those numbers any easier to look at.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox starting lineup that featured several regulars on Saturday did not look quite the same on Sunday.

A familiar foe in left-hander Wade LeBlanc started things out for the Orioles by working two scoreless frames, and it wasn’t until the top half of the fourth when the Boston bats finally got going.

There, top outfield prospect Jarren Duran led things off against new O’s reliever Brandon Bailey by lacing a leadoff triple to the deepest part of the yard in center field, mere feet away from his first home run of the spring.

That brought Kevin Plawecki to the plate with the chance to make an impact as he vies for the backup catcher spot, and he did just that by driving in Duran from third on an RBI groundout to first. 3-1.

Fast forward all the way to the top half of the ninth, with this one already well out of reach, and the Sox staged a rally similar to the one the Rays put on against them the day prior.

A leadoff double off the bat of Cole Sturgeon, followed by a walk drawn by Ryan Fitzgerald put runners in scoring position with no outs for Tate Matheny.

Matheny may have struck out, but a wild pitch from Orioles hurler Evan Phillips during his at-bat allowed Sturgeon and Matheny to advance 90 feet for Nick Longhi.

Phillips’ wildness persisted, as Sturgeon crossed the plate on another wild pitch and Fitzgerald scored on a run-scoring groundout from Longhi. 11-3.

A walk drawn by the pinch-hitting Keith Curcio marked the conclusion of Phillips’ day for Baltimore, and in came right-hander Francisco Jimenez to replace him.

Jimenez was promptly greeted by slugging first baseman Josh Ockimey, who unloaded on a 2-0 fastball down the heart of the plate and deposited it deep over the fence in right field for the Red Sox’ first home run of the spring.

That two-run blast cut Boston’s deficit to six runs at 11-5, which would go on to be Sunday’s final score after the rally was cut short.

Some notes from this loss:

The Red Sox will not go the entire year without a loss.

Jarren Duran is emerging as one of the more exciting players to watch on this team this spring. With his speed and athleticism, it’s easy to see why he was selected to the Futures Game last year.

Next up for the Red Sox, it’s some split-squad action on Monday against the Rays and Twins.

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi will get the start against Minnesota at the nearby CenturyLink Sports Complex, while top right-handed pitching prospect Tanner Houck will do the same against Tampa Bay in Port Charlotte.

Eduardo Rodriguez, meanwhile, will throw a simulated game on one of the Fenway South back fields on Monday.

For the Twins, it will be right-hander Kenta Maeda getting the start. And for the Rays, it will be righty Yonny Chirinos.

First pitch for both contests is scheduled for 1:05 PM EST, although neither game will be on NESN.


Christian Vazquez Comes Through with Go-Ahead, Pinch-Hit Home Run as Red Sox Hold on to Take Series from Rays and Improve to 10 Games over .500 for First Time This Season

After kicking off the most important stretch of their season with a 9-4 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday, the Red Sox narrowly escaped with their second consecutive victory on Tuesday, taking the series from their divisional foes by a final score of 5-4 to improve to 10 games over .500 on the year at 56-46.

Making his 21st start of the season and second against Tampa Bay for Boston was Chris Sale, who came into Tuesday fresh off his best outing in quite some time with six scoreless innings against the Toronto Blue Jays last Thursday.

Tossing six more strong innings this time around, the left-hander surrendered just two earned runs on four hits and three walks to go along with 10 strikeouts on the night.

Both of those two Rays tallies came in their half of the third, when with two outs and Mike Zunino at first following a hard-fought nine-pitch walk, Sale got up 0-2 against his next opponent in Travis d’Arnaud, but could not sneak a third-pitch, 82 MPH slider past the ex-Met, and he deposited it 370 feet to left field to make it a 2-2 game at the time.

Other than that one blip, Sale stranded runners at first and third in the fourth with a five-pitch punchout of Willy Adames, stranded Tommy Pham at second following a two-out double, in the fifth, and managed to convince Sox manager Alex Cora to let him come back out for the sixth.

There, the Florida native fanned Michael Brosseau for the second out of the frame with a runner at first, and it looked as though Cora was about to turn to his bullpen.

Already with a pitch count north of the century mark, Sale told his manager that he needed just three more pitches to complete the inning. And fortunately for Boston, he delivered on that promise, as he got Guillermo Heredia to line out to short on the second pitch of the at-bat, thus retiring the side and ending his evening on a positive note.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 116 (75 strikes) to set a new season-high, the 30-year-old hurler turned to both his four-seam fastball and slider nearly 83% of the time he was on the mound Tuesday, inducing three swings and misses with the four-seamer and 10 with the slider. He also topped out at 97.6 MPH and averaged 95 MPH with that heater while Sandy Leon was behind the plate.

Ultimately improving to 5-9 while lowering his ERA on the season down to 4.00 on the dot, Sale’s latest two starts in July certainly went better than his first two did. He’ll look to keep this recent run of success going in his next time out, which should come against the New York Yankees on Sunday.

In relief of Sale, Matt Barnes entered the seventh with a brand new one-run lead to protect, and he did just that by sitting down the only three Rays he faced in order.

Brandon Workman got the call for the eighth, and he, like Barnes, before him, came in with a new three-run lead to work with.

The 30-year-old got the job done by hurling a scoreless eighth, but when called upon once more for the ninth is where things got a bit sticky.

That being the case because Workman yielded a leadoff single to Matt Duffy, nearly induced a double-play off the bat of Joey Wendle, which instead went for just one out at second, and struck out Nate Lowe on four pitches.

All was looking fine there, but Workman proceeded to allow the next three hitters who came to the plate to reach base, with Adames drawing a seven-pitch walk, Ji-Man Choi ripping an RBI single through the middle part of the infield, and d’Arnaud taking another ball four to load the bases.

All of a sudden, Boston’s three-run cushion had been cut down to two, and in came Marcus Walden with still one out to get in the ninth.

Walden immediately walked Tommy Pham on four straight balls, allowing Adames to score from third to make it a one-run game.

It really looked like the Red Sox were about to pick up their 19th blown save of the season, but Walden did not allow that to happen, as he got Austin Meadows to sharply ground out to Christian Vazquez at first to secure the 5-4 win as well as his second save of 2019.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against Rays right-hander Yonny Chirinos, someone who held them scoreless over eight quality innings back on June 7th.

Rafael Devers made sure history did not repeat itself on Tuesday though, as reached on a one-out, first-pitch single in the first and plated his team’s first run by scoring from third on a wild pitch from Chirinos with Andrew Benintendi at the plate.

In that same at-bat, with J.D. Martinez having advanced to second himself on that wild pitch, Benintendi laced an RBI single up the middle off a 3-2, 93 MPH sinker, driving in Martinez to make it a 2-0 contest early on.

Fast forward all the way to the seventh, after the Rays had knotted things up at two, and Cora turned to his bench with left-handed reliever Colin Poche in for Tampa Bay.

Batting in the place of Mitch Moreland, who went 0-for-2 in his return from the injured list Tuesday, Christian Vazquez came through with his side’s clutchest hit of the night, as he led off the seventh with a towering go-ahead, 403-foot solo shot for his 16th home run of the season to put the Sox ahead 3-2.

An inning later, Devers, Xander Bogaerts, and Martinez all reached with no outs to fill the bases for Benintendi against new Rays lefty Adam Kolarek.

On the second pitch he saw from Kolarek, Benintendi grounded into what should have been a crushing double-play, but instead went for just one out at first thanks to a defensive miscue from Brosseau at second.

Devers was able to score on the play as well, making it a 4-2 game.

A strikeout of Michael Chavis and intentional walk of Vazquez brought Jackie Bradley Jr. to the plate, representing the final out of the inning.

In what should have been a tough lefty-on-lefty matchup, Bradley Jr. did not even see one competitive pitch, as he was immediately plunked by Kolarek to bring Bogaerts in from third.

That gave the Red Sox the 5-2 edge, and after a late scare from the Rays in their half of the ninth, 5-4 would go on to be Tuesday’s final score.

Some notes from this win:

From NESN’s Tom Caron:

From The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham:

From’s Christopher Smith:

J.D. Martinez’s last four games: .444 (8-for-18) with one home run, two doubles, and six RBI.

Rafael Devers’ last seven games: .323/.344/.774 with three homers and 11 RBI.

Through eight appearances this month, Matt Barnes has posted an ERA of 0.00 and batting average against of .105 over his last 5 2/3 innings of work.

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll have the chance to go for the three-game sweep and surpass the Rays in the American League East standings on Wednesday afternoon.

Left-hander David Price is set to get the ball for Boston, while veteran right-hander Charlie Morton will do the same for Tampa Bay.

Coming off his worst outing since that six-run blow up against the Texas Rangers in his last time out against the Baltimore Orioles last Friday, Price brings a 3.61 ERA through 18 starts this season with him into Wednesday’s contest.

In 94 career appearances (92 starts) at Tropicana Field, the former Ray owns a lifetime 2.84 ERA and .221 batting average against over 628 1/3 total innings pitched.

Morton, meanwhile, has had a fantastic first season in Tampa Bay, pitching to the tune of a 2.61 ERA and an All-Star selection through his first 21 starts of 2019.

As it turns out though, the 25-year-old’s worst start of the year in terms of Game Score took place in his last time out against the New York Yankees on July 18th, where he surrendered five earned runs in less than six innings pitched and took the loss.

In six previous starts against the Red Sox, Morton is 4-1 with a 4.13 ERA and .246 batting average against over 32 2/3 total innings of work.

First pitch Wednesday is scheduled for 12:10 PM EDT on NESN. Red Sox going for the sweep.

Rick Porcello, Red Sox Have No Answer for Yonny Chirinos in 5-1 Loss to Rays to Snap Four-Game Winning Streak

Coming off a 4-2 road trip that was capped off by a three-game sweep of the Kansas City Royals, the Red Sox entered the weekend with the chance to gain some serious ground in the American League East, and they came out completely flat in their first go at it, falling to the second-place Tampa Bay Rays by a final score of 5-1.

Making his 13th start of the season for Boston was Rick Porcello, whose June struggles continued after taking the loss in New York last Saturday.

Tossing six full innings in this one, the right-hander yielded four runs, all of which were earned, on eight hits and one walk to go along with four strikeouts on the night.

Issues arose for Porcello beginning in the second, where after working his way around a two-out double in a scoreless first, Rays first baseman Ji-Man Choi led things off by blasting his sixth home run of the season, a 394 foot shot to the Red Sox bullpen to put his team on the board first.

Retiring the next six Tampa Bay hitters he faced following that mishap leading into the fourth, a pair of back-to-back leadoff singles from Brandon Lowe and Avisail Garcia, as well as a wild pitch from Porcello, put runners in scoring position without an out yet to be recorded in the inning.

It did seem as though Porcello was going to be able to get out of the jam by sitting down the next two batters without allowing either runner to advance, but a poor 3-2 slider to Kevin Kiermaier changed all that, as the speedy Tampa Bay outfielder ripped the 85 MPH pitch through the right side of the infield, plating both Lowe and Garcia in the process of making it a 3-0 game.

From there, the New Jersey native made his way through another shutout frame in the fifth before giving up three more singles, one to Garcia, one to Choi, and another one to Kiermaier, who put his team ahead by four by driving in Garcia from third on an RBI base knock to left in the sixth, which would wind up being being Porcello’s final inning of work.

Finishing with a final pitch count of exactly 100 (68 strikes), the 30-year-old hurler turned to his four-seam fastball 45% of the time he was on the mound Friday, inducing three swings and misses with the pitch while topping out at 93.4 MPH with it while Sandy Leon was behind the plate.

Falling to 4-6 with his ERA on the season jumping up to 4.86, Porcello will look to turn around his month of June thus far in his next time out, which should come against the Texas Rangers next week.

In relief of Porcello, left-hander Josh Taylor maneuvered his way around a leadoff single from Austin Meadows in what would turn out to be an otherwise seventh inning before making way for Mike Shawaryn in the eighth.

Making his big league debut eight days after being recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket, Boston’s 12th-ranked prospect picked up his first career punchout in a perfect eighth and also served up his first home run to the aforementioned Kiermaier in a one-run ninth where he struck out the side after.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against 25-year-old right-hander Yonny Chirinos, who has been used as both a starter and reliever by Tampa Bay this season.

Entering the weekend with just three prior appearances at Fenway Park since the start of last season, Chirinos flat out dominated Friday, taking a perfect game into the sixth inning by retiring the first 15 hitters he faced in order.

A leadoff walk drawn by Brock Holt in the sixth broke the perfecto up, and a single off the bat of Jackie Bradley Jr. two pitches later broke up the no-no.

Following a change that saw Christian Vazquez pinch-hit for Sandy Leon and fly out to right, Mookie Betts found his way to first by drawing another free pass off Chirinos, and just like that, the Red Sox had the tying run at the plate in the form of Andrew Benintendi with two outs to work with.

Unfortunately though, both Benintendi and Devers after him whiffed, meaning Chirinos got out of the jam unscathed, and he was clearly happy about it.

That, as you may have already guessed, was the best chance for Boston to get back into this contest, because they didn’t score again until Chirinos had already gotten through eight shutout innings and they were down to their last three outs in the ninth.

There, with right-hander Emilio Pagan in for the Rays, a pair of doubles from Benintendi and Xander Bogaerts drove in their first run with one out in the frame, but nothing more came out of it and this one ended with a final score of 5-1.

Some notes from this loss:

Mitch Moreland departed from Friday’s game in the seventh inning due to right quad tightness hours after he just returned from the 10-day injured list. He is presumably day-to-day.

Rick Porcello has given up 14 runs (12 earned) on 25 hits over his last three starts going back to May 27th.

Xander Bogaerts in June so far: .375/.407/.750 with two homers, three doubles, and four RBI.

Mookie Betts’ June: 3-for-23 (.130) with one double, one homer, and two RBI.

Next up for the Red Sox, it doesn’t get an easier with a day-night doubleheader set for Saturday.

In the first of the two contests, it will be a pitching matchup featuring both a left-handed and right-handed pitcher, with southpaw Ryan Yarbrough getting the ball for Tampa Bay and righty Josh Smith getting the ball for Boston.

Smith is not yet on Boston’s roster, so he will serve as their 26th-man for Saturday only.

And in the doubleheader finale, it will be David Price getting the start for the Red Sox while the Rays have yet to name a starter themselves.

First pitch for each game is scheduled for 1:05 PM EDT and 6:10 PM EDT respectively.

Although the Red Sox may have lost Friday, at least we got this moment between Brandon Workman and his son.