The Sox looked out of it. Defeated.
Down to their last two outs in the ninth Tuesday night, trailing, 9-3, their bats came alive, scoring five runs in five consecutive at-bats.
Yet with the tying run on third and two outs, Triston Casas struck out against Alexis Diaz to end the threat as the Red Sox lost, 9-8, in the first game of a three-game set at Fenway Park. It was the Sox’ sixth loss in eight games.
The loss, though, shouldn’t come as a surprise. The team’s mishaps and flat play throughout the contest were too much to overcome.
In the eighth, Masataka Yoshida, who brought the Sox within two with his ninth-inning double, lost track of how many outs there were. Casas lined to center field and Yoshida, thinking there were two outs, was running on contact and was doubled off, perhaps costing the a run.
“He made a mistake,” Sox manager Alex Cora said afterward.
Earlier, in the top half of the eighth, center fielder Jarren Duran got turned around on a fly ball and it tipped off his glove. Though it was ruled a triple for Tyler Stephenson, Duran should have made the play. It cost the Sox a run as Spencer Steer’s sacrifice fly extended the Reds’ lead to 9-3.
Earlier than that, in the top of the sixth, with Reds runners on first and second and one out, Kiké Hernández had a chance at a double-play ball but yanked the throw beyond the reach of second baseman Enmanuel Valdez. The ball trickled into the outfield for Hernández’s second throwing error of the game. The Fenway crowd groaned at the outcome.
Sox righthander Brayan Bello (3-3) yielded just one run, but tossed a hefty 97 pitches in four innings, making Cora go to his bullpen in the fifth. From the start, Bello’s command was off, resulting in a 33-pitch first inning.
“He was inefficient,” Cora said. “He was behind in the count. Slider wasn’t great. They fouled off a lot of pitches and put us in a bad spot. They did a good job offensively.”
Bello’s mechanics were off, something he didn’t notice until the third inning when his pitch count was close to reaching its mountaintop. He walked two and struck out four.
“My mechanics were really slow,” Bello said through a team translator. He walked two and struck out four. “So that was part of my command issue. That’s something I fixed in the fourth but it was already too late. I already had too many pitches in the first.”
The Red Sox were flat — very flat — in this contest. Much of the Sox crowd hit the exits in the seventh when José Barrero pounded a no-doubt grand slam off the light pole in left off reliever Joely Rodriguez. The lefthander, who took over for Justin Garza, walked three, lasting just two-thirds of an inning.
“Garza threw the ball well. Joely walked three guys. If you do that at this level, you’re going to pay the price,” Cora said.
Since returning from the injured list, Rodriguez has allowed eight earned runs (nine total) in just four innings.
The Sox do have some optimism they could digest from this one even though they didn’t have an answer for starter Ben Lively (3-2), who went 5⅔ scoreless innings and struck out six, dropping his ERA to 1.99.
The team scored their first two runs in the seventh. Valdez singled, Reese McGuire doubled him home, and Raimel Tapia brought him in with a triple to right. The fourth straight hit, a single by Rafael Devers, made it 8-3. The Sox had just three hits following the sixth, but managed 11 more from the seventh inning on while also scoring eight runs in the final three innings.
“We started making adjustments a little bit too late and the game got fast on us” said Devers, who went 2 for 5 with two RBIs, snapping an 0-for-11 skid.
“We were short to the ball and hit line drives,” Cora said of the Sox’ five-run ninth. “We weren’t trying to do too much. I think we’re getting caught up sometimes in hitting the ball in the air. I think that inning was a very simple approach.”
But the simple approach wasn’t enough to overcome the large deficit aided by the Sox’ blunders.
“They beat us today, but we’ll be back tomorrow,” Devers said.