The Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Boston Red Sox by a final score of 9-4 on Thursday, August 1 to finish off a series sweep and move to 8-1 for the season series in Boston, making a bit of history along the way.
The #Rays are up five runs and are three outs away from becoming the first team to win eight games at Fenway in a season since the 1966 Orioles.— Neil Solondz (@neilsolondz) August 2, 2019
With the win, along with an A’s win and a Cleveland loss, the Rays now lead the second Wild Card spot by 0.5 games, while sitting 1.5 games back of Cleveland for the top Wild Card spot (and 7.0 games back of New York, if we want to get greedy).
The Rays turned to rookie Brendan McKay for the start, facing off with the Red Sox only trade deadline acquisition, the mulletted Andrew Cashner. Cashner was more Trashner than Cashner on the night, with seemingly no control, for which the Rays made him pay.
A Matt Duffy infield single gave the Rays the early lead in the first, and despite Xander Bogaerts—who had McKay’s number all night—going deep for a 2-1 lead in the bottom half, McKay settled down better than Cashner, with the Rays tacking on three more in the second and three more-more runs in the sixth.
The Rays lineup punished Cashner top to bottom, with every starter, sans Kiermaier, collecting at least one hit, and six of the nine scoring a run.
Two Key Moments
Even in what ended up being a relatively comfortable five-run win for the Rays, there were two pivotal moments.
The first came in the bottom half of the fourth inning, when the Rays led by two, but the Sox got a leadoff double from Andrew Benintendi. That was followed by a Sam Travis single, leaving runners on first and third with no one out. However, with the 7-8-9 batters up, McKay did what you expect a savvy veteran to do (what’s that, McKay is a rookie; I don’t believe it, show me proof) and tap danced his way out of it. First, he got Moreland on a nice little slide piece.
Then he got a bit lucky with a Michael Chavis liner finding Matt Duffy’s glove before he could even leave the batter’s box. And finally, he got Sandy Leon to pop up to end the inning, leaving the terrifying top of the order to lead off the next inning with no runners aboard.
The next big moment came in the eighth, with the debut of Nick Anderson. It was a four-run game, but we all know bullpen blowups have been far from uncommon, not just in Tampa Bay but around the league as a whole, this season. Benintendi once again started the inning with a double, but Anderson simply dialed up the heat and absolutely flamed the final two batters of the inning, essentially closing out the victory for the Rays.
The Sox seemed sloppy all night, with wild pitches, bases-loaded walks, and just general chaos painting the picture of a team that may be packing things in this season. The trade deadline as a whole was a bit of a white flag from the Rays division rival, which saw their GM say their inactivity was due to being so far out of the division chase. While I will never truly bury the Sox until the day their elimination number is reached, this series did do a lot to allay fears that the New York/Boston/Cleveland triumverate were going to push the Rays out of what looked like a solid postseason spot earlier this season.
This feeling, of course, is layered with Prisoner of the Moment syndrome. But dang is it easy to look at the positives after that series: Is Mike Zunino finally alive? Is Jesus Aguilar going to be an OBP machine for us (getting on base four times in his debut is a good start)? Is Oliver Drake our right-handed LOOGY (typical Rays, always inventing new shit)? Is Nick Anderson going to be a perpetual blow-by machine for high-leverage moments?
And honestly, with the schedule ahead, it’s not hard to picture the good vibes rolling on. The Rays don’t play a game against a team with a winning record again until August 27, and one thing they’ve done well all season is beat the teams they should beat; they are 31-14 against sub-.500 teams this year. Paired with an exceptionally tough August for Cleveland, things are good (for now) in the Land of the Rays.