For the last two years, this was the sort of night that offered little hope for the Red Sox — particularly against the Rays, particularly at home.
In 2019-20, the Rays ran off a 12-1 record at Fenway. And for much of Tuesday, Tampa Bay seemed poised to render the Sox’ Monday night victory a blip.
But the Red Sox refused to resign themselves to a familiar script. In a contest in which both sides alternated displays of brilliance with blunders, the Red Sox unlocked an unlikely winning sequence, deleting deficits of 3-2 in the ninth, 4-3 in the 11th, and 5-4 in the 12th innings to claim a shocking 6-5 walkoff victory over their American League East rivals.
The contest marked the first time in team history that a Sox opponent blew three save opportunities in the same contest. After a crushing opening series against the Orioles, the Red Sox have regained their footing with consecutive victories against a team that has dominated them.
“Emotionally it [was] a rollercoaster. We didn’t stop playing. That’s the mark of a good team,” said manager Alex Cora. “We won the series against the defending American League champion.”
Such drama seemed improbable for most of the night against the Rays and ace Tyler Glasnow. The 6-foot-8-inch righthander featured a devastating mix of a fastball that zipped across the plate at 97-101 miles per hour, a hammer curve, and a hard slider.
Each pitch would have been overpowering in its own right, yet the arsenal was made even more overwhelming because Glasnow releases the ball roughly 53 feet from the plate, his long limbs creating the most extension off the rubber (7½ feet) of any starter in the game.
Yet the Sox managed to claim an initial advantage against him. Christian Arroyo led off the first with a double, advanced to third on a groundout, then scored on a two-out wild pitch.
The 1-0 advantage proved fleeting. After Red Sox starter Martín Pérez blitzed through two scoreless innings in 26 pitches, the Rays dinked and dunked their way to two runs in the third. Tampa Bay loaded the bases with a pair of one-out singles sandwiched around a walk. Pérez nearly worked his way out of it, but former Red Sox prospect Manuel Margot bounced a cutter through the right side of the infield for a two-run single.
The Rays tacked on a run in the sixth, capitalizing on a leadoff walk by Pérez to open the inning and end his night. When the run came around to score, Pérez was charged with a third run over five innings, yielding five hits, two walks and striking out six.
The 3-1 Rays advantage seemed monumental given the work of their starter. Glasnow concluded his night having allowed one run on four hits in six innings, striking out nine and walking two. He punctuated his 97-pitch effort with a 98-m.p.h. fastball past Christian Vázquez that stranded runners on the corners.
But the Sox bullpen held with five scoreless innings, aided in part by a run-scoring Rays hit that, upon further review, turned into an inning-ending double play.
With one out in the seventh, Rays star Randy Arozarena was grazed by an offering from Sox reliever Hirokazu Sawamura. He advanced to second on a walk, and then took off for the plate when Margot lofted a fly ball toward the Green Monster.
Franchy Cordero pinned himself to the Wall and leapt. A metallic clank suggested that the ball had hit the edifice, yet when Cordero came down, the ball was in his glove.
As Arozarena crossed the plate, Cordero fired to second. The umpiring crew initially determined that the ball had caromed off the Wall, but a replay review concluded Cordero had indeed caught it. Arozarena was ruled out on a double play.
“[By Cordero’s] reaction, right away, I knew he had it,” Cora said. “There were a lot of people running around. We were just trying to tell Xander [Bogaerts] to step on the bag.”
Soon thereafter, the Sox stirred against Tampa Bay’s relievers. In the eighth, back-to-back doubles by Alex Verdugo and J.D. Martinez off Pete Fairbanks brought the Sox within a run at 3-2.
Rafael Devers followed with a liner to right-center on which Martinez took off — evidently having forgotten the number of outs. Margot tracked down the ball, then tossed it back into the infield for a double play while Martinez — standing halfway between third and home — looked on in bewilderment.
One inning later, Vázquez forgave the gaffe, demolishing an 0-and-2 sinker from Rays closer Diego Castillo for a game-tying solo homer. That sent the game to extras, and allowed Martinez to exhale.
“It was planned,” he joked. “I knew if I messed up, that Christian would come up the next at-bat next inning and hit a home run off Castillo. It was all planned.”
With the game sent to extras, every half-inning started with a runner on second base. The built-in presence of runners in scoring position both increased the likelihood of a run scoring, but also meant that a single run need not be a daunting obstacle.
“If they don’t score, we try to score one. If they score one, we’ve got man on second with no outs and I think the chances of scoring are very high,” said Cora. “Scoring one run, it doesn’t make any difference. You’ve got to score two. It’s fun to manage.”
Both teams were scoreless in the 10th inning, with Matt Barnes concluding one of the most impressive nights of his Red Sox career. He struck out two in the 10th, concluding two scoreless innings in which he struck out four.
In the 11th, with the Sox bullpen depleted, Tanner Houck came on for his first big league relief appearance. He was greeted by Willy Adames, who lined a double to left — the first hit Houck has allowed on his signature slider — that put Tampa Bay ahead, 4-3.
Again, the Sox returned serve. Leading off the inning with Bogaerts on second, Devers (who collected his first two hits of the season) lined a single to right to again tie the game. That sent it to the 12th, where a Phillips Valdez wild pitch set up the Rays’ go-ahead run on a groundout.
But once more, the Sox responded. With two outs and runners on second and third, Martinez (2 for 6 with two doubles and 3 RBIs) drilled a hit over the head of Arozarena in right. Both Red Sox runners scored, clinching the first Red Sox series win at home against the Rays since 2018.