It’s amazing how quickly the story of a game can change. This one forked in the third inning.
The Rays had jumped out early with a dominating opening appearance from Diego “Samaná” Castillo, and three runs in the bottom of the second off of a Ji-Man “Ji” Choi double, walks from Willy “The Kid” Adames and Brandon “Lowe” Lowe, a groundout from Carlos “El Final” Gomez, and a double from Michael “Mykii” Perez.
Staked to a three-run lead, it was up to Jalen “Beeker” Beeks to hold the lead against the powerful Red Sox. But in the third inning, Matt “Duffman” Duffy didn’t give Beeker much help.
With Mookie Betts already on first base via the walk, Steve “Late Lighting” Pearce hit a bouncer just fair of the third base bag. Duffman gloved it, but did so while running into foul ground, fast. It seemed to take him a couple extra beats to get the ball out of his glove, too, which took him deeper into foul territory. He eventually got off an awkward throw, which would have gotten to first in time, were it online. It was not.
The next batter, J.D. “Flaco” Martinez, hit a chopper toward third. Duffman charged, and seemed to have plenty of time, but the ball took a weird bounce off the turf toward his throwing hand. He tried and emergency bare-hand, and came up with nothing. Xander “Bogie” Bogaerts drove home both runs to bring the Red Sox within one.
Duffman led off in the bottom of the third with a line drive single, and, perhaps trying to make up for his inability to make the plays a half inning before, immediately took off for second. He was thrown out.
It was easy to picture this game slipping way against the best team in baseball, and the plurality of the blame resting with the Duffman.
Jake “JB” Bauers struck out, but then, all of a sudden, the stroy changed. The Rays hit six straight singles, with the only well-struck ball being a line drive off the bat of Ji, and with one, a grounder off the bat of Kevin “Outlaw” Kiermaier sneaking under the glove of Late Lightning for what could easily have been an error. The other hits came from The Kid, El Final, Lowe, and Mykii.
All told it was five runs from a two-out rally that easily could not have been. Probably shouldn’t have been. And with that bit of luck, Duffman was off the hook.
One inning later, Ji walked (his third straight time on base), and The Kid brought him home with a home run to straight center, stretching the game out to a comfortable 10-2 lead.
Beeker made it through the seventh, only giving up one more run, and while Hunter “Woody” Wood wasn’t very clean in the eighth, he made the big pitches he needed, and finished off the last two innings.