As the battle for the basement of the American League East got under way, it was clear that both teams were ready to compete. "Anything you can do, I can do worse," was the motto on everyone's lips. And after a hard-fought contest, the Rays were victorious, succeeding in scoring fewer runs and giving up more.
That intro isn't really fair to Erasmo Ramirez, who pitched six quality innings, pounding the strike zone aggressively and giving up five hits and two walks (a momentary loss of command that he recovered from), while striking out six Red Sox batters. His three runs in the first inning were unearned, and they were the type of unearned run for which the statistic was created. Let's walk through the comedy of errors that was this game.
After getting a soft groundout to start off the game, Ramirez continued to locate at the bottom of the zone and was rewarded with a weak chopper straight to first baseman Logan Forsythe. The ball came down on the lip of the infield, though, and gave a small bounce when Forsythe was clearly expecting a larger one. It got under his glove and through his legs for an error.
That's okay, shake it off, Erasmo! Your defense will get 'em next time!
Well, next time was a soft grounder from David Ortiz into the shift, that Tim Beckham had lined up but failed to field cleanly. By the time he corralled it, Ortiz had beaten the throw to first.
That's enough to throw a pitcher off his game, and Ramirez walked Napoli on four pitches to load the bases. The first run scored when Alejandro De Aza showed a good piece of hitting and went down to get a low slider, lining it into short right field for a single.
Next, Rusney Castillo grounded softly to shortstop, and Asdrubal Cabrera had no plays anywhere. But wait! Now the Red Sox got their act together, and started to suck! David Ortiz decided that this was really not such an important time to hustle, so he tried to walk home, and Cabrera was able to beat him there for force.
It was a small victory that didn't last, as Blake Swihart hit a bloop into left field to score two runs.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox spent the first three innings doing their best to give up runs while the Rays did their best not to score them in bunches. Eduardo Rodriguez was mostly awful. He had real trouble finding the strike zone, and when he did find it, he was hittable.
The Rays loaded the bases with one out in the top of the first on two walks and a single, but Joey Butler hit a perfect double-play grounder. Luckily for the Rays, the Sox executed the turn poorly (some credit to Forsythe and Butler for their hustle) and one run scored (the only run that scored that inning).
The second inning was more of the same. Mikie Mahtook hit a double off the Monster, and was still standing at second with two outs when Brandon Guyer swung wildly at strike three in the dirt. Swihart whiffed on the pickup, though, so Guyer was able to make it safely to first, and Mahtook was able to advance to third despite the strikeout. Next, Steven Souza Jr. hit a chopper toward third base that Josh Rutledge charged aggressively, but his throw pulled Napoli off first base. While it was scored as a hit, it was definitely a play that could have been made. Nevertheless, the Rays took it for their only run of the inning.
In the third inning, the Rays scored with less obvious help from the Red Sox. Asdrubal Cabrera his a sharp grounder back up the middle and off the pitcher for a single. A few batters later, Mahtook brought him home with a line drive into right field to tie the game.
Both teams were able to hold the game scoreless through the fifth inning, when the defense for the Rays once more failed to be excellent. Ramirez got Brock Holt to ground to tap it off the end of his bat for a soft roller towards the hole. It was always going to be a difficult play, and Cabrera tried to bare-hand the pickup, but couldn't come up with it cleanly. Holt was given the hit, and I think it's the correct call, but it's also a play Cabrera has made before and he'll make again.
The next batter, Xander Bogaerts, also hit a grounder, this one up the middle on the second-base side. It wasn't super hard-hit, and the double play was probably never going to happen, but the Rays should have been able to at least get the lead runner. Cabrera was in position to receive the throw from Beckham, and was visibly frustrated (h/t BA for noticing) when Beckham failed to give him the scoop and instead took the out at first. It's possible that decision by Beckham mattered, as Holt eventually came around to score on a single from De Aza.
The Red Sox replaced their starter in the sixth inning, and Alexi Ogando kept the Rays off the board, but when Robbie Ross came in to pitch the seventh inning, Tampa Bay got the offense going again.
Joey Butler walked on four pitches to lead things off, and two outs later, Mahtook was hit by a pitch. That prompted the Sox to bring in relief ace Junichi Tazawa, and Kevin Cash opted to bring in his long-haired slugger, John Jaso. The move paid off as Jaso pounded a low fastball to the base of the wall in low center field for a two-RBI double (he advanced to third on some poor relay throwing from Boston).
With Kevin Jepsen traded, the late inning relief situation becomes more difficult for Kevin Cash. He played it right today, though. Rather than let the Sox lineup face Erasmo once more he went to the 'pen. And with the top of the order coming up, he went to his best reliever, Jake McGee. It was a plan fit for a mouse or a man, but you know how the saying goes.
It started well. McGee struck out Holt looking with an 0-2 curve on the outside corner. A good charging play from Longoria got Bogaerts out on a soft grounder. But then David Ortiz did his thing, fouling seven fastballs off, taking three curves for balls, and eventually taking ball four on a fastball yanked into the dirt.
McGee got to two strikes on Napoli, but then couldn't put him away either. Eventually, Napoli caught up to a high 96 mph fastball to put the Sox up two. Game blown. Pretty damn good hitting. Shucks.
Some other notes:
- Tim Beckham made another throwing error from second base, but the runner was erased on a double play.
- Evan Longoria reached base four times.
- De Aza struck out swinging on McGee's curve.
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