The Tampa Bay Rays grudgingly agreed to play a doubleheader against the Red Sox at Fenway Park on Thursday only after exhausting all avenues of appeal when Wednesday’s game was rained out.
The Rays even suggested the Sox only wanted to play two games so they could give away the Dustin Pedroia bobblehead dolls stacked on pallets throughout the park instead of putting them in storage.
Red Sox officials denied that, saying they simply preferred to play a doubleheader now rather than make the game up later in the season. There were strategic motives, too. The Rays were slumping, the result of injuries to their rotation, while the Sox had won three of four.
Whatever the reasons, the Sox scheduled themselves into a disheartening sweep. The Rays won the afternoon game, 2-1, then came back to win the night game, 6-5.
“I hope everyone enjoyed their bobbleheads,” Tampa Bay infielder Ben Zobrist said.
The 13-16 Red Sox couldn’t hold a 5-2 lead in the nightcap as the Rays scored the final four runs. Yunel Escobar’s long home run over everything in left field off Koji Uehara in the ninth inning was the difference.
“I just left a ball up,” Uehara said. “Physically I’m fine.”
The Red Sox were held to 12 hits over 18 innings and left 21 runners on base. They were 4 of 20 with runners in scoring position.
The Sox are 6-10 at home with losses in five of their last seven games.
“Very disappointing. That’s a tough day,” Mike Napoli said.
It was ugly to the end. Shane Victorino doubled to start the bottom of the ninth of the second game. But Grant Balfour, who saved both games, retired the Sox from there.
David Ortiz grounded out. Napoli struck out looking, and then, after Grady Sizemore walked, Xander Bogaerts took a called third strike. The Sox were 0 for 4 with a runner on third and less than two outs in the game.
“I can’t speak for everyone else. I’m going up there trying to give a tough at-bat every time,” Napoli said. “It’s just not happening. We’ve got to keep pushing.”
The Sox are hitting .223 with runners in scoring position.
“The one thing I will say is that we continue to create those opportunities. Things will turn,” manager John Farrell said.
Trailing, 2-0, the Sox scored five runs in the fifth inning. Ortiz singled in two runs and Sizemore another.
A dropped popup by Will Middlebrooks preceded a home run by Tampa Bay’s Sean Rodriguez off Felix Doubront in the sixth inning.
Farrell went to Junichi Tazawa in the seventh inning but he couldn’t hold the lead as James Loney singled in a run in the eighth inning. Farrell had lefty Craig Breslow warming up, but stuck with Tazawa against the lefthanded hitter.
The first game left the Red Sox muttering about baseball’s new replay system. But that was just a convenient excuse to cover up actual problems.
The Sox were beaten because of poor situational hitting and a costly stretch of wildness by Jake Peavy. For a more efficient team, the missed replay challenge would have been insignificant.
The Red Sox were held to six hits by five Tampa Bay pitchers and stranded 11 runners on base.
Rays starter Cesar Ramos threw 35 pitches in the first inning and put four runners on base. But only one run scored for the inopportune Red Sox.
The Rays tied the game in the third inning against Peavy when David DeJesus dropped a homer into the stands just beyond the Pesky Pole in right field.
Peavy allowed a leadoff double by Desmond Jennings in the fourth inning. A ground out moved Jennings to third base before Peavy struck out Evan Longoria with the infield in.
But Peavy could not dodge damage, walking Loney, Wil Myers, and DeJesus to force in a run.
“That can’t happen. It just can’t happen,” Peavy said.
Peavy threw 35 pitches in the first three innings then 35 in the fourth. He had not walked three consecutive batters since April 28, 2010.
Peavy did not allow another run. He left after 6⅓ innings, giving up two runs on three hits.
Peavy (1-1) has a 2.87 earned run average and has struck out 36 in 37⅔ innings this season. But Thursday was the fourth time in six starts he has walked at least four batters.
Trailing, 2-1, the Red Sox had several chances to rally and missed all of them.
Victorino and Ortiz drew two-out walks off Ramos in the fifth inning, knocking him out of the game. Reliever Brandon Gomes got Napoli to foul out.
Middlebrooks and pinch hitter A.J. Pierzynski singled with two outs in the sixth before Jackie Bradley Jr. grounded to second.
Then came the play that had the Sox sputtering afterward.
Pedroia led off the seventh with a single and tried to score when Ortiz doubled off the wall in center. Jennings fired the ball in quickly and Escobar made a strong relay throw to catcher Jose Molina.
First base umpire Toby Basner, who had the plate when the umpires rotated, called Pedroia out.
Farrell challenged the call, believing Pedroia got his left foot under the tag. But the call stood after a replay. When Pedroia was called out after the replay, third base coach Brian Butterfield slammed his helmet to the grass and Basner ejected him.
“I don’t know what inconclusive means. Maybe that means someone doesn’t want to make a decision,’’ Pedroia said. “We all make decisions every day. Some of them are hard and some of them are not. You’ve got to make them, though.”
Farrell, who was fined $2,500 by MLB last month for questioning the validity of replay, thought it was clear Pedroia was safe.
“Our video internally showed that was the case,” he said. “The mark in the dirt at home plate showed that he went across the back edge.”
The Sox have challenged five calls this season and been successful once. Across the game, 45 percent of calls challenged in April were overturned.
“One for five is not a good rate,” Farrell said. “And yet we’ve got differing opinions obviously because we’re challenging the plays as it’s called on the field.”
Farrell and Pedroia were measured in their remarks. Peavy was not.
“It’s extremely frustrating. We as a whole, MLB, we’ve got to get our act together because this is a joke,” he said. “It’s embarrassing for fans and everybody to see. Of course he touched the plate. He slid dirt over the top of the plate and got tagged after the fact. That stinks.”
Even with the call, the Sox had Ortiz on second base and another chance to tie it. But Napoli struck out.
Pedroia singled off Balfour with one out in the ninth inning. Victorino tried to bunt for a hit and was thrown out at first.
With first base open, the Rays pitched to Ortiz and he grounded back to the pitcher.Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow his Twitter @PeteAbe.