Nate Eovaldi needed more than three weeks off after his best start of the season thanks to a balky calf. He needed only six pitches to fall behind on Saturday night in St. Petersburg, Fla., his return the start of a back-and-forth affair, but ultimately the loss that cemented the 2020 Boston Red Sox as a sub-.500 team.
Tampa Bay’s Brandon Lowe crushed a 431-foot home run off Marcus Walden in the seventh inning, giving the AL-East leading Rays back the lead and a 5-4 victory at Tropicana Field.
The loss also officially eliminated the Red Sox (16-31) from AL East contention, though that was inevitable. They still technically have a shot at the wild card, though achieving that is nearly impossible.
Boston twice answered Tampa leads and did put the tying run on second base in the ninth when Yairo Munoz hit a two-out, ground-rule double off Diego Castillo, but Michael Chavis grounded out to third to end it.
Observations from the game:
⋅ Eovaldi came off the injured list Saturday and looked a bit rusty in the first, allowing a leadoff home run to Austin Meadows, but settled in during his three innings of work, striking out four while allowing just that one run. Because he just came off the IL, the plan all along was for him to just pitch two or three innings, so he could build up strength.
“It definitely felt good being back out there,” Eovaldi said. “In the first inning, I was a little fired up. It took me a little bit to settle down and I felt really good.”
Once Eovaldi was out, it didn’t take long for the Rays (30-16) to hop on the board again. Chris Mazza entered in the fourth and lost hold of a 2-1 game, allowing three runs on an RBI single by Nate Lowe and a Manuel Margot double that scored two.
⋅ Chavis’s play is largely been summed up through two different lenses: A hot start when he was called up as a rookie, and a downward spiral once the league adjusted. Chavis’s career will largely be determined by his adjustments.
When Chavis was called up last April, he started on a tear, batting .263 with 10 homers through May. From May through the end of the season, Chavis hit just .248 with eight homers. With massive power came a massive hole in his swing at the top of the strike zone. It’s carried over to this season. Chavis has a whopping 75-percent strikeout rate at pitches high and in, and a 50-percent rate on pitches middle-high and high and outside.
Rays starter Tyler Glasnow tried to challenge Chavis high and in Saturday, but Chavis wasn’t fooled this time, tagging it for a solo shot to knot the game at one in the third. It was his first homer since Aug. 5.
The home run raised his season average to .229, but he’s hit .310 (9 for 29) in his last eight games. With the Red Sox out of a playoff spot, Chavis is getting a ton of playing time, giving him a chance to figure it out.
⋅ He did blunder in the fifth, after he reached base on a third strike wild pitch by Glasnow. Chavis (who finished 1 for 4 with two strikeouts) stole second, but with Alex Verdugo up, forgot how many outs there were. On a shallow popup, Chavis took off for third and was doubled off to end the threat.
“It happens,” manager Ron Roenicke said. “He knows it and feels bad about it. It happens sometimes. You need to concentrate all the time, and sometimes you lapse.”
⋅ The Red Sox stole six bases against Glasnow, the most stolen bases in a game by any team this season. Glasnow, at 6-foot-8 and 225 pounds, has a long and lanky build. He was extremely slow to the plate and the Sox took advantage of it.
The Red Sox scored their second run in the fourth. Xander Bogaerts stole second, the first of two for him in the game, and Kevin Plawecki knocked him in with a single to center. In the seventh, Jackie Bradley stole second — his second of the game — and Christian Arroyo belted a two-run shot that tied the game, 4-4, on Glasnow’s 101st (and second-to-last) pitch.
“We know he has great stuff,” Roenicke said of Glasnow. “And to try to disrupt some pitchers somehow, you try to pick something you can maybe take advantage of. I just think we haven’t run this year. I’ve been wanting to run. We don’t have any true 50-a-year base stealers, but we have some guys that can run.”
⋅ Heading into the bottom half of that frame, the Sox looked as if they had gained some control of the contest. Marcus Walden recorded the first two outs, but on a 1-and-1 pitch, left a fastball over the heart of the plate. One that Lowe barreled to right-center for a solo shot, which ultimately ended up being the deciding factor.