The Red Sox bats came out stinging against the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday evening. After an opening weekend defined by cold offense, sloppy defense, and pitching that failed on the final day of an eventual three-game sweep at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles, the Sox had a bit of redemption, at least for one night
Boston snapped an eight-game losing streak to the Rays at Fenway Park, 11-2, also earning their first win of 2021. The Sox piled up 16 hits, led by a 4-for-5 from Xander Bogaerts and multi-hit night from five others.
“A lot of guys got their hits,” Bogaerts said. “A lot of guys performed the way they wanted to.”
The Red Sox applied the pressure early. Christian Vázquez got things going in the second inning with a single to right field off Rays starter Michael Wacha. Following a Marwin Gonzalez groundout which advanced Vázquez, Franchy Cordero doubled off the Green Monster, plating the first run of the contest.
Yet the offense wasn’t only illustrated through hits. There was a situational element to it, too. Just the day before, manager Alex Cora said that his players appeared as if they were pressing too much at the plate. Too eager to deliver. The results were non-competitive at-bats and just five runs in 27 innings.
Cora intimated that he wanted his players to keep it simple: Hit the single, go the other way. Perhaps that would keep the line moving.
In the fourth, Sox fans saw a glimpse of that. Both Vázquez and Gonzalez singled, with a wild pitch advancing the pair into scoring position. Hunter Renfroe then stepped to the plate, roping what likely would have been a double had right fielder Randy Arozarena not robbed him. Nonetheless, it plated a run, and it was 3-0 when Cordero grounded out to first.
“Making contact is important against that team,” Cora said. “There’s value in putting the ball in play against anybody, but especially those guys. I think there’s certain staffs that you have to put your ‘A’ swing away and just battle and stay on top of the ball and stop hitting fly balls.
“We did a good job today.”
Nick Pivetta, meanwhile, gave the Red Sox a solid outing. Even though command was erratic — he threw 92 pitches in just five innings and walked four batters — he made timely pitches and kept Tampa off the scoreboard.
“My slider was working really well today,” Pivetta said. “And so Vázquez really stuck with that. I didn’t have a ton of fastball command today. So when you got a second pitch that can really come around for you, that’s really, really big.”
In the fifth, Pivetta ran into a bit of trouble, yielding a leadoff double to Willy Adames and a walk to Mike Zunino. A passed ball on a cross-up between Pivetta and Vázquez put runners at second and third, yet Pivetta wiggled out of it with a Yoshi Tsutsugo strikeout and an Austin Meadows flyout — both on sliders.
The Sox pushed the lead to 7-0 with pairs of runs in the fifth, Bogaerts doubling in a pair, and sixth, highlighted by a Kiké Hernández double. Tampa got on the board in the eighth, three singles off Matt Andriese followed by back-to-back walks from Darwinzon Hernandez to make it 7-2. After Hernandez fanned Adames with the bases still loaded for the second out, Adam Ottavino won a 7-pitch battle with Mike Brosseau, freezing him with a full-count slider to end the threat.
Boston tacked on four in the eighth, J.D. Martinez clanging the Pesky Pole with two out for a three-run homer. Martinez, who had a forgettable season last year, is off to a hot start: .533 (8 for 15) in his first 17 plate appearances, with two homers in his first four games.
“I told you guys last year,” Bogaerts said. “Last year, who you guys saw, man, it’s definitely not who he is. This is the guy that comes to work and he prepares so much.”
The Red Sox came prepared Monday evening, carving out a solid win against a formidable opponent.
“Now we’re in a position to win the series,” Cora said. “We got two shots, and hopefully we can come tomorrow and do the same.”