After such a tremendous win in the afternoon’s 9-2 victory, Rays fans couldn’t be helped but to go into the night game feeling a little cocky. After all, the team had won the first two games of the series, and a Yankees loss had put the Rays a half game up in the AL East. Things felt like they were really tipping Tampa Bay’s way.
And yet, as the evening game unfolded, it became clear that the team could not hold out on luck alone. Both teams initially struggled to score, going almost three full innings before Michael Chavis got the first RBIs of the game for the Red Sox.
Pitching-wise, Ryne Stanek didn’t look too bad overall, going 1 1⁄3 innings of work before being replaced by Colin Poche, making his major league debut. A fun note on Poche, who was just called up yesterday, on his way to the game his Uber was stuck in stand-still traffic, and Poche feared missing his debut, so he got out of the car and walked a mile to make it to Fenway on time for the game. His excitement was written all over his face, as he was barely able to contain his smile coming off his first inning of work in the second, getting out the remainder of the side for Stanek. In the third he left two runners on and exited still looking excited to be having his big league moment in one of baseball’s oldest parks. He threw a remarkable 21 strikes for his 24 pitches.
He was replaced by Austin Pruitt, who unfortunately quickly allowed Poche’s remaining base runners to score — on that aforementioned Chavis double — and had the Red Sox up 2-0.
The Rays responded in the fifth with a Heredia RBI double to score Kiermaier, but the team was unable to make use of any of their other baserunners. In the bottom of the fifth the Red Sox quickly retaliated with another run — a Mookie Betts sac fly. In the sixth, the longest inning in baseball history (okay I have no evidence of that) the Rays left the bases loaded, and then the Red Sox scored two more on a Hernandez double.
During this, Pruitt looked utterly lost as to where the strike zone was, throwing ball after ball almost in the dirt, including at least one based-loaded wild pitch over Mike Zunino’s head that thankfully bounced right back to the catcher. It certainly didn’t help that home plate umpire Laz Diaz had the most absurd strike zone I’ve seen in recent history, allowing wildly outside pitches to right-handed batters to be called strikes, something that Red Sox started David Price took advantage of over his six full innings of work. The same zone seemed to hinder Pruitt, who kept trying to paint the lower corners of the zone only to have his balls miss wildly, or be called balls even when they were in the zone.
It was rough. Avisail Garcia got into quite the argument with Diaz about it at one point, and even Willy Adames took time to have a polite discussion with the umpire about how fair off base his calls were. It didn’t help, Adames struck out looking twice. He also very nearly got a run, only to be called out at the plate. A replay call did not go the Rays way.
There are a lot of places one could lay blame for the Rays loss: exhaustion after back-to-back games, an overworked bullpen with no traditional long-relief guy to take Pruitt’s role, bad calls from the umpire. But no matter how you look at it, it was just a tough game. Price looked solid for the Red Sox, racking up his highest pitch count of the season, and while Poche had a nice 1.1 innings for the Rays, the rest of the pitching staff looked gassed and struggling.
After an uneventful eighth inning whipped by at a speedy clip compared to the nine-year sixth inning, the Rays were down to their last three men, with a four-run deficit to overcome. This was, of course, a team that had scored four runs in the ninth inning mere hours earlier. Anything was possible.
Kiermaier was able to get a single thanks to speedy baserunning and a wildly overthrown pitch to first from Barnes. Kiermaier and Garcia both were able to make impressive runs to first in today’s game as a result of speed. Barnes was charged with an error and Kiermaier advanced to second base. Arroyo damn near made it to first base on a strikeout in the dirt, but soon the Rays were down to their last man: Heredia.
Unfortunately the Rays were unable to make a miracle happen in the ninth and the game went to the Red Sox 5-1. There’s still Bump Day waiting on Sunday, for the Rays to get a chance at taking three games in the series.