Red Sox starter Sean O’Sullivan gave the Red Sox only five innings against the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday night, leaving with the game tied. Picking up another run or two didn’t figure to be a problem. A far bigger issue was dealing with an unexpectedly depleted bullpen.
Closer Craig Kimbrel was not available, having injured his left knee running before the game.
The Sox also did not have reliable set-up man Junichi Tazawa because of a sore right shoulder.
Manager John Farrell found a way out of the maze as the Sox held on for a 6-5 victory before a sellout crowd of 37,739 at Fenway Park.
Robbie Ross Jr., Heath Hembree, Matt Barnes, and Koji Uehara finished the game. Uehara allowed a two-out home run by Evan Longoria in the ninth inning before getting Logan Morrison on a fly ball to center for his third save.
The Sox have won two straight and four of their last five to climb within two games of first place. They are 5-2 on a homestand that has two games left.
A bigger concern is their growing list of injuries as the Sox also lost left fielder Brock Holt and first baseman Hanley Ramirez during the game.
Holt came out of the game in the fourth inning after spraining his left ankle stealing second base. X-rays were negative. Friday was the fifth game he has played after spending six weeks on the disabled list with a concussion.
Holt was in a medical boot after the game but was walking without crutches.
Ramirez did not play the ninth inning after fouling a ball off his left shin the eighth inning. It was the same spot hit with a foul ball earlier in the week.
“It’s swollen and a lot of pain right now,” Ramirez said.
Holt, Kimbrel, and Tazawa were not made available to reporters.
“We’re a little banged up right now,” Farrell said.
Kimbrel was sent for an MRI and is unlikely to be available for the All-Star Game on Tuesday according to Farrell.
“After pregame conditioning and [batting practice], came in complaining of some left knee discomfort,” Farrell said. “Everything that we did early, he was fine. Felt something while the running was taking place and unfortunately in BP while he was shagging.”
Tazawa has not pitched since Sunday because of what was described as tightness in his right shoulder. He allowed two runs on three hits in that game.
“There’s been a little discomfort there so we’ve had to stay away,” Farrell said.
Tazawa, who is tied for the team lead in appearances with 35, has not yet had an MRI. He played catch before the game on Friday.
The injuries did not deter the Sox from finding a way to win against the last-place Rays, who have lost four straight and 20 of 23. They had 11 hits and stole four bases, three that led to runs.
All of the steals came off starter Chris Archer and catcher Hank Conger. Opponents are 77 of 86 (90 percent) stealing off Conger the last two seasons.
“Coming into the game we felt like this was a combination we could be a little bit more aggressive with,” Farrell said.
The Red Sox took a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Mookie Betts walked, stole second, and scored on singles by Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts. David Ortiz popped up before Ramirez drew a walk to load the bases.
Jackie Bradley Jr. lined a slider to the gap in right field that went for a sacrifice fly.
With Holt up and runners at the corners, the Sox had a chance for more and tried to make something happen, having Ramirez break for second.
Conger faked a throw and Bogaerts was caught off third and tagged out in a rundown to end the inning.
In a 2-2 game, David Ortiz homered leading off the fourth, his 21st of the season and No. 524 of his career.
Holt singled with two outs and left the game after jamming his ankle on the base stealing second. Bryce Brentz ran for him and scored when Aaron Hill drove in his first run as member of the Red Sox with a line single off the wall.
O’Sullivan could not hold the 4-2 lead. The Rays sent eight batters to the plate in the fifth inning and scored two runs on three hits, a walk, a stolen base, a wild pitch, and a hit batter.
In four starts, O’Sullivan has allowed 15 earned runs on 28 hits in 20⅓ innings. But the Sox have won all four of those games.
The Sox took the lead back in the sixth inning. Ramirez singled, stole second, and scored on a two-out single to left by Brentz, who has seven RBIs in nine games since being called up.
“It’s coming to the field everyday ready. Unfortunately Brock had an incident. Hope he gets better,” Brentz said. “I was able to do something productive to help the team out.”
Singles by Bradley, Brentz, and Hill produced another run in the eighth inning.
The bullpen was strong, particularly Barnes in the eighth inning. He struck out three and established his fastball at 97-98 miles per hour.
“The more you do it, the more you get comfortable with it,” he said. “It’s trying not to make the situation more that it is.”