ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — When the Red Sox scored five runs in the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday afternoon, it appeared their long losing streak would finally come to an end.
“It was like a breath of fresh air for everybody,” catcher David Ross said. “OK, here we go.”
Instead there was more misery, only excruciatingly drawn out and somehow even more torturous than the previous losses put together.
The Sox didn’t score in the 14 innings that followed and the Rays won the game, 6-5, on a throwing error by pitcher Andrew Miller in the bottom of the 15th inning.
It was the second walkoff loss in as many days for the Sox, their fourth in 11 games. The defending World Series champions have lost nine straight for the first time since 2001 and are seven games out of first place.
The Red Sox have scored in one of the last 31 innings they have played dating to Thursday. On Saturday, they had two hits over the final 14 innings and advanced only one runner beyond first base.
“The fight is there and yet you look up and say, ‘Well, you got two hits in the last 14 innings of that ballgame.’ We’re doing what we can,” manager John Farrell said.
The startling lack of offense puts an onus on pitching and defense, and yet those aspects of the game cost the Sox on Saturday. Jake Peavy couldn’t hold the five-run lead, then two defensive mistakes gave Tampa Bay its third walkoff win in three days.
James Loney started the bottom of the 15th inning with a single off Miller and was replaced by pinch runner Cole Figueroa.
When Brandon Guyer bunted to the left side, Miller broke off the mound then stopped as third baseman Brock Holt approached. Neither called for the ball and it went untouched.
Desmond Jennings failed to get a bunt down and swung away at a Miller slider. He chopped the ball in front of the mound and Miller snared it. He immediately turned and threw to second but the base was uncovered and the ball went into center field.
Farrell said the right play was to go to second. Ross agreed, saying he yelled, “Two!”
“Right away I’m thinking we can get a double play,” Ross said. “But I was maybe too early because nobody was there.”
Second baseman Dustin Pedroia was pulled over to the right side and was late arriving. Shortstop Jonathan Herrera could have come across the bag and started a double play, but froze.
“At that last second I felt I didn’t have a play. I didn’t have anybody getting to the bag,” Miller said, who added that he was too far committed to hold the ball, either.
Miller has pitched effectively all season. But he has been on the field for three of the walkoff losses in the last 11 days and was charged with the fourth.
“Right now I’m the one that’s been stuck on the field a bunch of times and it feels like crap. I don’t want to be there any more,” Miller said. “My job in that situation is to put up a zero however we get there. I didn’t do it.”
Peavy also bears responsibility. He was handed a 5-0 lead and allowed five runs on eight hits over six innings.
“There’s no excuse. You’ve got to be able to hold that and make it stand up with as bad as we’re going,” Peavy said.
Peavy was up 5-2 in the fifth inning. Singles by David DeJesus, Evan Longoria, and Matt Joyce gave the Rays another run. With one out, Peavy got ahead of Guyer 0 and 2. Guyer took two pitches off the plate then fouled off two offspeed pitches. Peavy had thrown Guyer everything but a curveball in the at-bat to that point. When he did throw the curve, the pitch broke right into Guyer’s swing path and was lined off the wall in left field. Two runs scored.
Farrell mentioned that pitch as being crucial. Hours later, it was clear just how much of a mistake it was.
The Red Sox, had they been more efficient, might have had a play at the plate. But Grady Sizemore dropped the ball. Xander Bogaerts then had to rush his throw to the plate and it hit Joyce in the back.
Peavy has given up 16 runs on 28 hits over 16⅓ innings in his last three starts .
With Shane Victorino going on the disabled list and Mike Napoli and David Ortiz resting injuries, the Sox started an unorthodox lineup against lefthander David Price.
The combination clicked in the first inning as the Red Sox scored five runs on four hits. The Sox had not scored five runs in an entire game since May 14.
Holt and Bogaerts started the game with singles before Pedroia drew a four-pitch walk. Mike Carp, a lefthanded hitter facing Price for the first time in his career, fouled off two two-strike pitches before he was hit by a fastball to force in a run.
Jonny Gomes made it 2-0 with a sacrifice fly to left field. Price then left a curveball up and A.J. Pierzynski drove it just over the wall in right field for his fourth home run.
Price then threw 7⅔ shutout innings, dominating the Red Sox. The Tampa Bay bullpen did the same with Cesar Ramos (2-3) going the final three innings.
Righthander Brandon Workman will be recalled from Triple A Pawtucket to start Sunday’s game as the Red Sox look to avoid being swept in their third consecutive series.
From there they go to Atlanta for two games and then come to Fenway for the second half of the home-and-home set. The Braves are one of the best teams in the National League.
The Sox have not lost 10 straight since 1994. It could get a lot worse than that.
“Crazy things happen in this game,” Carp said. “But this is not Red Sox baseball. We need to do something we can take pride in. It’s time to play and get back to winning. It’s as simple as that. We need to win.”Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.