The Red Sox surrendered 25 baserunners to the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday night at Fenway Park, and yet went into the bottom of the ninth — more than four hours after first pitch — within one run. It was, if nothing else, a symbolic victory.
It was the only victory to be had by the home team, which lost, 8-7.
Jeffrey Springs entered Monday with a 13.50 ERA, pitching just 3⅓ innings this year. Manager Ron Roenicke summoned him from the bullpen with two outs in the fifth for a lefty-on-lefty matchup, facing Kevin Kiermaier. It worked, with Springs striking out Kiermaier to end the frame.
But they met again in the seventh inning of a 5-5 tie, and Kiermaier knocked in two on a double to left field, putting the Rays ahead for the final time.
The Sox used Ryan Brasier as their opener to start a parade of seven pitchers. Rule 5 draft pickup Jonathan Araúz gave the Sox a chance in the eighth, his third hit of the game a two-out, two-RBI single with the bases loaded.
The Rays stranded 13 runners. The teams combined for 28 hits, the last J.D. Martinez’s one-out single in the ninth, but Xander Bogaerts lined out and Michael Chavis struck out to end it.
Here are some observations from the game.
No Moreland but more Springs
▪ Mitch Moreland had a two-homer game on Sunday. He has six homers in just 33 plate appearances, but with the tying run at home plate, it was Chavis, not Moreland who was at the dish. That raised some eyebrows. But Moreland had the day off, Roenicke said afterward, and his left knee was bothering him. The plan from the day’s start was to rest Moreland’s barking knee, otherwise, it probably would have been Moreland facing Rays closer Andrew Kittredge.
“[Moreland] did walk over by me [in the dugout] and we talked a little bit,” Roenicke said. “We weren’t going to use him today.”
Getting back to the sixth and the seventh inning, though, the fact that Springs was in the game in such a high-leverage situation lets you know how much the Sox are suffering from the lack of pitching.
“It was because we were trying to stay away from two guys in our bullpen that we’ve been using a lot and we needed [Springs] to go. It was a good matchup for him with all the lefthanders in the lineup.”
The two arms he was most likely trying to stay away from were Matt Barnes and Heath Hembree. Hembree had appeared in three straight outings before Monday, while Barnes had appeared in three of the last five Red Sox games. His last outing was also Sunday. During this 17-game stretch that started last Friday, the Sox will lean on their bullpen heavily, as they have the entire season. Entering Monday, the relievers had already accounted for 70 ⅓ innings.
“We can’t keep pitching the same guys all the time every time we have a close game,” Roenicke said. “It’s the case of staying away from some people and hoping that [Springs] could get through some innings for us.
Fourth inning, sloppy defense
⋅ The Red Sox kicked around the ball and had some mental lapses in the fourth inning. Jose Peraza booted a routine Yoshi Tsutsugo grounder at second to start it, then a Manuel Margot bloop that should have been caught dropped between Jackie Bradley Jr. and Peraza.
At first glance, it appeared as if Bradley should have had it. After all, it’s easier for him to come in than it is for Peraza to run back. But if you consider where Bradley was playing, he didn’t have a chance.
Furthermore, Peraza turned the wrong way. Instead of drop stepping with his right foot, Peraza opened up glove-side, and then tried to revert once he realized the ball was over his right shoulder. Bradley, meanwhile, tried to deke the runner, acting as if he was camped under it.
Hold on, there’s more. On a Kevin Kiermaier comebacker with one out, pitcher Colten Brewer looked to first before shuffling his feet and throwing the ball to second. That brief pause killed any chance of the Sox doubling up the speedy Kiermaier.
Two runs would later score on another blooped single to center.
⋅ Then came Bradley’s mistake. With a runner on first, Austin Meadows hit a deep fly that appeared it was going to at least hit off the wall. Bradley thought so, too, so instead of trying to camp under it, he prepared to play the carom. Instead, it hit off the base of the wall — a catchable ball.
“It’s just judgment, going back to the wall with Jackie,” Roenicke said. “Sometimes you look at the ball and anticipate it’s going to hit off the wall and you play it differently.”
Xander Bogaerts gunned down the runner, Michael Perez, at home, and the Sox escaped the inning still up, 4-3. So, it didn’t hurt the Sox.
“The other plays, without a doubt it cost us a couple runs,” Roenicke said. “But that’s baseball. That’s what we deal with. I thought we did a great job of overcoming that.”
Ideally, you want your bulk guy to give you innings two through six. Brewer needed 19 pitches to get through the fourth and was done after that, forcing the Sox to go to Marcus Walden for two-thirds of an inning.
Red Sox get to Yarbrough's cutter
⋅ The Red Sox pounced on the Rays’ crafty lefthander Ryan Yarbrough early, scoring three runs in the first, beginning with an Alex Verdugo single up the middle, a Martinez walk, and a Bogaerts RBI double off the Green Monster.
Yarbrough tried to go to his cutter early, throwing 11 in the first inning, but the Red Sox were all over it. (Even Kevin Pillar’s leadoff lineout to left field came off the bat at 102.8 miles per hour.) Bogaerts’ double off the wall also came on a cutter
The third run came on a Chavis groundout that scored Martinez.
The Sox would add on more in the second inning against Yarbrough’s cutter, a pitch Martinez sent over the Green Monster for a solo shot. Yarbrough basically ditched the cutter altogether after the third, throwing it just seven times over the remainder of his 4⅓ innings.
More on Martinez
Before Monday, Martinez hadn’t homered all season, marking the longest streak he’s gone without a homer since he revamped his swing in 2013-14. Overall, he was in a funk before his three-hit game Monday. The Blue Jays were pounding him inside relentlessly during their weekend series, resulting in a ton of weak contact. His bat looked slow. But, on Monday, even before the game, Roenicke was impressed by Martinez’s batting practice.
“His batting practice today was great,” Roenicke said. “That’s the best I’ve seen him swing in a while. [Bench coach] Jerry Narron who really knows him well from their days together in Arizona said the same thing. He said ‘That’s the J.D. swing that I know.”
Arauz's three-hit game
Arauz went 3 for 4 with a double, two singles, and two RBIs. His first hit, a single in the fifth, was his first major-league hit.
“It felt great,” Arauz said. “Three hits is good to have, but I wish we would have got the win instead.”
He’s played exceptionally well for the Red Sox, particularly in the field, and has made a strong case to stay on this roster through the season.