After dropping the "homway" series to the Baltimore Orioles due to quiet bats and questionable management, the Rays road trip continued in Boston. Tampa Bay looked to awaken their bats against Red Sox "ace" Clay Buchholz, while Jake Odorizzi looked to continue his strong season on the hill for the Rays.
The Rays bats made their presence known early, due in part to an odd play that resulted in an injury to Red Sox left fielder, Hanley Ramirez. With two outs in the inning, Rays' first baseman James Loney skied a Buchholz offering to left. Ramirez made the running catch but quickly ran out of room in foul territory, as the "quaint" dimensions of Fenway Park claimed another victim. After crashing into the wall in left, Ramirez dropped the ball, allowing Loney to reach second with a double. Evan Longoria, who came into the game riding a 1-for-16 with runners in scoring position streak, belted another double to left field, scoring Loney. David DeJesus, not to be out done, quickly shot a grounder past Red Sox star second baseman Dustin Pedroia, bringing Longoria around to score.
The second inning saw the offense continue. Asdrubal Cabrera continued his dominance of Buchholz, starting the inning with a leadoff single. Designated Hitter Joey Butler, making his second appearance of the season after going 1-for-3 against the Orioles on Sunday, smashed the first home run of his career over the Green Monster. It was a bad mistake pitch by Buchholz—a slider that he hung up like an ugly Christmas sweater, and Butler made him pay.
Buchholz was ineffective much of the night. After the mistake slider to Butler, he lost control of two fastballs inside to Rays' righties, plunking Steven Souza Jr. in the forearm and nearly drilling Longoria in an identical spot, he loaded the bases in the top of the third after a double by Logan Forsythe and a bloop-single by Cabrera, which he stretched into a two-bagger as the BoSox defense threw home to keep Forsythe at third. Butler walked to load ‘em but, as has been a disappointing trend, Rene Rivera struck out swinging on a full count to let Buchholz off the hook. His night ended after 6.1 innings, having given up nine hits and four earned runs, yielding to Junichi Tazawa.
Starting for the Rays, Jake Odorizzi pitched well. It wasn't a strikeout-heavy performance, nor was it his most effective work this season, allowing three doubles and two triples to Boston hitters. However, he got himself out of those trouble spots, only allowing one run when Brock Holt and Xander Bogaerts hit back-to-back triples in the second. He changed locations well and worked up in the zone effectively, getting David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia swinging on high heaters. Odorizzi worked seven innings, throwing a season-high 110 pitches. He struck out six Boston batters, not allowing a single walk en route to earning his third win of the season.
The bottom of the sixth inning showed some tough breaks for the Rays' defense. A weak pop fly by Ortiz into the shift dropped in off the glove of Forsythe, followed immediately by a line drive that Cabrera leapt to his highest point to try and reel in, only to have it too glance off his glove and land in left, giving the Sox two base runners. A sharp double play turned by Forsythe and Cabrera off the bat of Pablo Sandoval and a pop fly by Mike Napoli ended the threat.
Boston's bullpen woes continued, as Tazawa gave up a walk to Longoria, advancing the inherited runner Souza to second. Souza pestered Tazawa with his aggressive leads at second enough to get him to leave a fastball where David DeJesus could hit it past Pedroia at second and score Souza, giving the Rays a 5-1 cushion.
Tampa's pen came into play in the eighth as Ernesto Frieri took over for Odorizzi. After getting Mookie Betts to ground out, he walked Pedroia, who advanced to second on a wild pitch during Ortiz's ensuing at bat. Frieri got Ortiz to fly out to left, keeping the fleet-footed Pedroia at second. He struck out Allen Craig, who replaced the injured Ramirez in the lineup, to end the frame.
Boston lefty Craig Breslow worked a 1-2-3 top half of the ninth. Rays' manager Kevin Cash turned to Erasmo Ramirez in the bottom half to close the door on the Red Sox. Despite some struggles so far this season, Ramirez would turn in a three-up, three-down inning of his own to secure the Rays' victory.
My Two Cents:
- I was a huge detractor of Jose Molina during his tenure with the Rays, fully appreciating his ability to frame pitches but certainly not willing to trade it for a batting average below the all-time worst average. I don't want to label Rivera in a similar fashion yet, but with every runner left on base I get closer and closer.
- Souza Jr. shared some distaste for Fenway's dimensions himself, as a deep fly ball to left around Pesky's Pole bounced in and out of his glove. He was not happy, and it was definitely a ball he should've caught, but he may have saved a homerun over the low wall. As we all learned from Monty Python, "Always look on the bright side of life."
- Speaking of Souza, he finally killed that 0-for-17 skid, going 2-for-3 with a single and a double, plus a walk and a hit-by-pitch.
- Wish we could say the same for Rivera. . .
- I heard a collective sharp inhalation from all of the Rays' fandom when Frieri took the hill in the eighth, as we wondered which Frieri would show up. Though in his defense, he hasn't given up a run in his last 6.1 innings, allowing only five base runners in that span.
- Heard a sharper one when Erasmo took over.
- With it being Star Wars Day, I was tempted to write this recap using as many Star Wars references as I could muster from my youth. I elected to spare our audience, unlike when Grand Moff Tarkin didn't spare the people of Alderaan . . . Sorry, I had to get at least one. May the Fourth Be With You!