After splitting the first two games of the series at Fenway, the Rays entered play against the Red Sox a day after getting out of the basement in the AL East, so at least there's that. Drew Smyly looked to lead the Rays to a series lead before the wrap up game on Thursday, as the season quickly draws to a close.
The two pitchers on the mound each hoped to continue a couple of interesting trends; Rick Porcello, whom the Sox acquired for a pretty penny this past off season, has been lit up by seemingly every other team in Major League Baseball, to the tune of a 5.16 ERA entering play Wednesday, except the Rays, whom he owned just two starts ago; and Drew Smyly, who since his return on August 16th, has alternated between 4+ runs allowed and shut out efforts. Considering he was shellacked for five runs over five innings last week against Baltimore, he was due for a strong game.
And the trends did indeed hold true.
Smyly kept true to his end of the bargain, striking out seven Red Sox hitters over 6.1 innings. His breaking ball tempted lefties and righties into whiffs, and while he did give up seven hits and three free passes, he was able to scatter them and keep them in the park, while working his way out of trouble when necessary.
Porcello also pitched a strong game, as he seems only capable of against Tampa Bay. He set down eight Rays on strikes and only allowed one walk and two earned runs. Porcello too, had his slider working down in and out of the strike zone against Rays' batters and managed to scatter the hits he allowed, though the Rays did hang 11 base knocks on Porcello's night.
In this rivalrous pitchers' duel, it was Porcello who blinked first. In the top of the seventh inning, Kevin Kiermaier earned himself a one-out single and quickly stole second. After Nick Franklin struck out swinging on an elevated fastball, KK showed off his wheels again, stealing third base ahead of a John Jaso walk. In a case of irony in the Rays' favor, Daniel Nava took to the plate for the third time against his former team, and hit a high, perfectly placed chopper to the hole at second base that got through into right, scoring Kiermaier from third. After a double by Asdrubal Cabrera and a single by Steven Souza in the top of the eighth, Porcello's night was through.
The Rays broke the game open against the Red Sox bullpen after Porcello's departure. Tommy Layne entered the game, inheriting the two men on base, and got the pinch hitting Logan Forsythe to hit a grounder to third. Deven Marrero botched the play at third allowing Cabby to score from third. Later in the inning, Jaso would drive in two more runs on a two out double, making the lead 4-0 Rays.
The top of the ninth saw the Rays extend the lead further in milestone fashion, as Cabrera capped his three-hit night with his 100th career home run, crushing a drive off of Pesky's Pole in right. After allowing the shot, Boston reliever Jean Machi's very next pitch was a slow curveball that he simply didn't get on top of the ran up and over the ducking Souza's helmet. Home plate umpire Bill Welke wasn't taking any chances and immediately ejected Machi, after much protest from the Red Sox leadership. It clearly wasn't intentional, but Welke was hearing none of it.
The very first hitter that the Red Sox emergency pitcher Roman Mendez faced was Souza, who also finished his strong offensive night with a solo shot to deep left center field, 6-0 Rays.
The Rays looked to Kirby Yates in the ninth inning to help lock down the combined shut out. Unfortunately, after getting two outs to start the inning, Yates walked Jackie Bradley Jr. who took second on indifference. Mookie Betts followed with a single that advanced Bradley to third and score on the throwing error by Kiermaier. Yates then walked Dustin Pedroia and allowed Xander Bogaerts to single up the middle, scoring Betts. So much for the shut out.
Brad Boxberger was called in to stop the bleeding, and he did so against a tough customer in David Ortiz, who flew out to end the game.
- Today, baseball lost one of the greatest men to ever take the field. The legendary Yogi Berra passed away at the age of 90 years old. Berra, who earned three league MVPs, 18 All-Star appearances, and 13 World Series titles, 10 of which came as a player, will forever be remembered for his ability on the field and his wit and humor off of it. Yogi famously said, "It ain't over til it's over." While his time among us is over, his legacy and impact on baseball will never die.
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