The Rays took a commanding early lead today, leading some of us to think this would be the relaxing, laughter-filled, have Erasmo pitch three inning win we all needed. But starting in the fifth inning they proceeded to give that lead back. They did hold on for the victory, but it was hardly relaxing.
This game started off oddly; it was a 7:10 start, but Boston starter Tanner Houck wasn’t even on the field until 7:13 at which time he took his warm up pitches. I would have thought that the players need to be in position at the game’s start time, and if they were unable to be on the field they would need to be replaced, but I guess not!
Houck went up 0-2 to lead off hitter Jonathan Aranda, but then hit him on the foot with a pitch. Then came the second strange moment: Boston challenged the hit by pitch call. This was strange because it was clear he’d been hit, and because you’d think they might want to save a challenge for a more strategic moment. But they didn’t, the call was confirmed, and Boston had burned their challenge.
And then came a series of unfortunate events if you are Tanner Houck. Junior Caminero smoked a ball (403 feet, 105 mph) but in Fenway Park that is not a home run. It was however deep enough to fall for a double and an RBI. The next four batters reached base on either a single or an error, and the Rays had three runs in a 37 pitch inning featuring all nine batters.
Further strange happenings: before the start of the third inning, Red Sox catcher Reese McGuire was catching warm up pitches when he flung his mitt off in pain. After yet another delay he was removed.
The new catcher didn’t, however, help the Red Sox. The Rays scored another two runs on some small ball mix of singles and productive outs, and then Rene Pinto decided it was time for some big ball, hitting a two-run homer to centerfield to put the Rays up, 7-0
Meanwhile the Red Sox did have some activity on the base paths. They got a runner on second in the first inning when Josh Lowe did a great job covering a ton of territory to get to a fly ball, only to have it bounce out of his glove for an error (which also shows how errors don’t tell the full story of defensive ability: had Lowe been a few steps slower he simply wouldn’t have gotten to the ball and it would have been called a double). But Lowe was in the middle of a play that eliminated a Red Sox threat in the third inning, when he threw out Enmanuel Valdez as he tried to advance from first to third on a single with the help of a good tag by Caminero.
Houck was gone after three miserable (for him) innings.
Eflin seemed to be cruising until the fifth innings, when he allowed two hits followed by a three run homer that made the score 7-3, which is already a little close for comfort.
Next pitcher up was Kevin Kelly and he pretty much struggled to get anyone out. It doesn’t help that with two runners, Raimel Tapia did a poor job handling a deep ball to that infamous left field wall, always tough to play but Tapia did play for Boston earlier this year so presumably it’s not his first time in that position. Suddenly it’s 7-5 and not at all the blowout we all thought we’d been watching earlier. Things got even more concerning in the 7th, when the Red Sox scored again, this time off of Colin Poche.
Fortunately the Rays have their pinch hitting prodigy Hittin’ Harold to reduce of bit of the pressure in the eighth inning. With men on second and third, Ramirez pinch hit for Pinto and delivered the much needed RBI (a ground out) to put the Rays up 8-6. Aranda (Joltin’ Jonathan?) singled home another run and the Rays lead was back to a more palatable three runs.
But wait, there’s more! Shawn Armstrong took over and he, too, yielded a run thanks to Enmanuel Valdez’s double. The rookie was, in fact, a large part of the Red Sox offense tonight with his three hits and four RBI.
The Rays brought in Pete Fairbanks to close out the game, which normally would give me a feeling of ease, but if you recall Pete has some weird finger problem that emerges when he pitches in cold weather, and it was a chilly night in Boston. But I needn’t have worried, he retired the Red Sox with no drama, recording the save.
Baltimore won so hopes for winning the division continue to dwindle.