The Alex Colome struggles continue as he blew his second save for the Rays in as many opportunities, this one of the four-out variety.
Called upon with a two-run lead and a runner on, Alex Colome was unable to put away the Red Sox No. 9 hitter Christian Vazquez, who singled and then took second on a wild pitch. Mookie Betts then singled to left field, and Vazquez was able to lumber around home, just beating the throw.
Now facing the heart of the order, Andrew Benintendi hit a towering shot to the foot of the wall, and Mallex Smith juggled the ball -- the second time the outfield defender failed to clinch a Rays lead in front of the Green Monster. Betts scored to give the Red Sox the lead, with Tampa Bay allowing six runs in a crooked eighth. It was a sad development, given the sevens scored and two runs allowed before the frame.
Craig Kimbrel closed the game.
“Bullpen Day” worked until it didn’t
Andrew Kittredge got the start for the Rays, his second nod thanks to the coaching staff appreciating his mental toughness. Kittredge may have only been promoted mid-season last year in a relief role, but he carries himself like he’s been there before, on and off the field.
The cold seemed to get to Kittredge, with the righthander blowing air into a closed fist between pitches, and slamming it against his thigh on occasion to wake up his fingers. As a result, the Rays pulled him after 33 pitches (22 for strikes) despite his usual 50-pitch limit.
Ryan Yarbrough picked up the slack and cruised through his first two innings, but he got wild in the fifth. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases (despite a mound visit mid AB to Mookie Betts), and the Rays nearly got out of it thanks to an impressive snag by Hechevarria up the middle, but the toss to second fell out of Robertson’s glove, allowing one run to score.
Yarbrough responded with a gutsy strikeout of JD Martinez with a cutter at the top of the zone, and given some high-scoring developments, the Rays planned bullpen day had Alvarado and Andriese lined up for an easy finish against the Red Sox.
Alvarado was solid, but Andriese couldn’t hold it together, starting with a lead off single, then allowing a two-out double, single, and then another single that got lost in the left field corner. Three runs allowed on two outs turned the ball over to Colome for a four-out save, something that he’s struggled with in the past.
Facing the No. 9 hitting catcher, Colome allowed a single to bring the lead down to one run. Then the above happened.
C.J. Cron sent one deep to straight away center for his first longball of the regular season, finally flashing that power we saw in Spring. He was the DH in Boston, as the left handed Miller continued to get starts at first base through an impressive showing with the glove. Miller walked against the left handed starter in his second plate appearnce, overcoming the platoon split.
The best clutch hitting came from Carlos Gomez, though he slammed his helmet and broke his bat after striking out in the first inning. He responded by sending a double up the right field line, plating Rob Refsnyder (who has walked six times in ten plate appearnces) and Matt Duffy who needed instant replay’s assistance to be called safe at first base earlier in the third inning. Credit to Duffy for beating out a solid throw.
Later in the fourth, Robertson singled off a change down and outside the zone, and scored on an Hechavarria flare that fell between three defenders in shallow center. Robertson gambled on a huge lead from third, and was rewarded with the easy scoring opportunity.
It was as if the baseball gods finally relented on the Rays torment, everything was going their way. An errant throw to the infield could have picked off Miller, but it missed by a wide margin. A throw to first was just as wide after Duffy moved the runners again on a tap left of the mound, loading the bases in the fourth for KK.
Miller gained a platoon advantage later in the game by facing the reliever Velazquez, batting Daniel Robertson home for another aggressive run scored -- aggressive because he’d stolen second base, which was only the second Rays stolen base attempt on the season.
Let’s get weirder
It’s notable that even Kevin Kiermaier broke out of his slump in the fifth, hitting an RBI triple into the triangle off rookie lefty Bobby Poyner (plating Duffy who walked). It’s notable that Kiermaier played today at all. He missed all of yesterday’s game entirely with flu like symptoms, never arriving at the ballpark (despite communicating his willingness).
In truth, he seems to have been battling the illness for a few days, and he wasn’t past it this morning. Kiermaier even stayed in the game after fouling a pitch off his right foot before drawing a walk. Given the cold and his illness, as well as the continued hobbling as he ran the bases, replacing him with Denard Span in the line up would have been the more logical choice.
Back tracking, with one out in the sixth, Kevin Cash then pinch hit Miller with second baseman Joey Wendle, creating a curious lefty on lefty match up after Daniel Robertson walked in the next inning.
Wendle delivered, though, with a bases-clearing triple of his own, and an errant throw to third could have scored the runner if he had not been held. As short stop Xander Bogaerts tracked down the ball, he then slid feet first down the dugout steps as he was reaching for the ball to take it out of play, and twisting his ankle in the process. He would leave the game.
The Rays then challenged the play to try and score another run, but the second challenge of the game found no evidence of Xander tampering with the ball after leaving the field. Wendle would score on a pop fly by Sucre to drive the lead up to five.
And all that offense went to waste.
The Rays are 1-8 on the season.