On Easter Fools Day, the Rays dropped their third straight one-run game to the Red Sox. Though it wasn’t for lack of opportunities.
Jake Faria labored in the early going, topping 20 pitches in each of the first two innings, surrendering a single and steal to Mookie Betts in the first, and two walk and another steal in the second. In each frame, he was able to settle things down set the side down without allowing any runs to score.
For the Rays, after a one-two-three first, Brad Miller gave the Rays their first lead since the season opener, taking a Hector Velasquez first pitch fastball into his favorite Section 148 seats.
Boom baby! Brad Miller goes yard, giving the @RaysBaseball a lead on the visiting Boston Red Sox in their series finale today! Watch the game live on FOX Sports Sun! #RaysUp #MLB pic.twitter.com/6qUhD8pAmT— FOX Sports Florida (@FOXSportsFL) April 1, 2018
Matt Duffy and Wilson Ramos followed with hard singles through the infield to continue the rally, but the Rays were unable to add on.
Faria plunked Betts with a curve that refused to curve to start the third inning, and you wondered if we were in for another long inning. But a quick three-pitch K of Rafael Devers, and nice play by Matt Duffy on a sharp grounder from J.D. Martinez, and a routine grounder by Xander Boegarts followed, and Jacob was suddenly doing okay.
Order was restored to universe when the Rays went in order in their half of the third inning, as Velasquez struck out the side. That’s enough of the “scoring” stuff, fellas.
Jacob had an easy one-two-three inning staring him in the face in the fourth, which perhaps distracted him from catching the ball on a routine 3-1 putout. The flip from Miller hit him right in the glove and bounced out, allowing Jackie Bradly Jr. to reach with two outs. Swihart followed with a single to left, and Brock Holt gave us all a heart attack with a foul ball homer the other way before Miller and Faria executed the 3-1 properly this time to end the threat. But the miscue did allow the Red Sox to clear the bottom of the order and pushed Faria’s pitch count to 70 through four innings.
In the Rays’ half of the fourth, Joey Wendle made West Chester Golden Rams everywhere proud with a hard two-out single to right. It was his first hit with Tampa Bay. Ramos followed by working a walk after falling behind in the count, and the Rays a nice little two-out rally going. Mallex Smith flied out softly to center to end it, but still, it beats going in order. You get a moral victory! And you get a moral victory! And you get a moral victory!
Leading off the fifth, Faria faced Betts for the third time. Betts reached for the third time on the day, just about taking Joey Wendle’s glove off on a drive up the middle for a single. Then with Faria paying perhaps too much attention to Betts at first, he lost Devers on an eight pitch walk. Martinez followed, and Faria worked ahead 0-2. However, he left an 0-2 change up up and over the plate, and Martinez lined it past Duffy for a single, scoring Betts from second and tying the game at one.
It was also the end for Jacob Faria. He would go four innings-plus, giving up four hit and striking out two with three walks. Jose Alvarado got the call to work out of the jam.
Alvarado responded in a big way, getting a four-pitch swinging strikeout of the formerly red-hot Xander Bogaerts on a nasty breaking ball, and then inducing Mitch Moreland to fly softly center. Christian Vasquez tried to reignite the rally with a sharp grounder to the left of Joey Wendle, but the Wendle laid out and made a nice play to retire the side.
The defense looked sharp all weekend. pic.twitter.com/ETbmgL3UGw— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) April 1, 2018
The Rays went in order in their half of the fifth, because things were getting out of hand with the scoring threats.
Alvarado went back out to start the sixth, but gave up a sharp single up the middle to Bradley and was quickly replaced by Yonny Chirinos in his major league debut.
Chirinos struck out Swihart for the first out, then got fortunate during a walk to Brock Holt. With Bradley breaking, ball four was high and clanged off Ramos’s glove. But Bradley wasn’t able to pick up the ball and didn’t advance any additional bases.
Bradley did, however, advance to third when Chirinos hit Mookie Betts with an 0-2 split. Bases loaded, one out.
On a 1-2 fastball, Devers dumped a broken bat single into right, scoring Bradley and giving the Red Sox a 2-1 lead. Thankfully, the Sox tried to challenge Carlos Gomez’s arm for some reason. If you laid 69 devil rays end to end, that would be distance Brock Holt was out by.
Mallex Smith finished off the threat with a lovely shoestring catch of a J.D. Martinez drive.
Matt Duffy drove a two-out single through the middle to chase Velasquez from the game. For the day, the righty would go five and two-thirds, give up five hits and a walk, and record five strikeouts.
Joey Wendle greeted Marcus Walden by stroking a double into the right field corner. Betts played it cleanly in right, and third base coach Matt Quatraro put up the stop sign, a move that seemed ill advised even without the benefit of hindsight given the Rays difficulty scoring runs. Ramos, of course, followed by skying an 0-1 fastball to right, and hindsight brought everything into 20/20 focus.
Yonny clipped Vazquez’s extra large jersey with two outs in the seventh, giving the Red Sox another chance, but that was it. Overall, Chirinos looked good. A few pitches got away from him, possibly due to nerves in his debut, but he showed good movement. And his command? Well, it was hard to tell. Mostly, Ramos set up toward the middle of the plate and let Yonny be Yonny. But he was fine except for when he was hitting people.
In the Rays half of the seventh, twice they hit the ball right on the screws off Walden with nothing to show for it: Smith led off by lining to short, and Hechavaria followed by lined back to the pitcher. Span chopped to first to end the inning.
Chirinos retired the side order in the eighth.
Bobby Poyner came on face Kevin Kiermaier and retired him on one pitch. He then got the heck out of there before Carlos Gomez could dig in, and non-basketball Matt Barnes came on. Barnes K’d Gomez, then walked Miller to bring up Matt Duffy, who struck out looking at a high breaking ball.
Chirinos again set down the side in order in the ninth. For the day, he worked four innings, giving up one hit and a walk while striking out four. He also hit two batters. 38 of his 56 pitches went for strikes.
With Kimbrel having worked in all three three games so far this year, Joe Kelly got the call to close this one out for the Red Sox. He got Wendle to pop to third and struck out Ramos looking, but Mallex Smith somehow chopped one into right on an ugly swing to start a rally. Or perhaps just prolong the agony a bit.
Somehow Hechavaria, down to his final strike, singled to center. Smith had broken on the pitch and continued on to third, bringing up Opening Day hero Denard Span. With Kelly flailing just a bit, Span worked a full count. Unfortunately, Denard swung at ball four. No magic today.
The Rays play the Yankees tomorrow at 1:05, likely with some snow on the ground, on Bullpen Day #2. Good luck, fellas.