ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Most nights, losing a game on a walkoff error and missing a chance to gain a game in the standings in the heat of a playoff race would be terrible news for a baseball team.
But on Wednesday night, that seemed almost incidental to the Red Sox as they contemplated playing the rest of the season without their impactful rookie left fielder.
Andrew Benintendi was helped off the field in the seventh inning after suffering what appeared to be a serious injury to his left knee.
The Sox announced only that Benintendi had a sprain and would be further evaluated on Thursday morning. But both the player and manager John Farrell were downcast following a 4-3 loss in 11 innings against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Asked twice what he felt on the play, Benintendi said only "we're going to see how it feels tomorrow."
The Sox, Farrell said, hope to schedule an MRI before the game here on Thursday afternoon. If not, that would be Friday in Boston.
"An unfortunate situation with a guy who is really doing a great job for us," Farrell said.
Benintendi doubled to left field in the seventh inning, sending teammate Travis Shaw to third base. Dustin Pedroia followed with a bouncing ball up the middle.
Benintendi broke for third base, believing Shaw would be running on contact. But the Sox do not run on contract with no outs and Shaw held his ground.
When Benintendi saw that, he turned around and tried to avoid the tag of shortstop Matt Duffy. He twisted his knee while taking a long, off-balance step.
"That was bad base running. It shouldn't have happened," Benintendi said. "I shouldn't have made a move toward third base. That was my mistake."
Benintendi's left ankle bent on the play but he said he did not feel that, such was the injury to his knee.
Benintendi was on his hands and knees for several seconds and struggled to get to his feet before Farrell and an athletic trainer helped him off the field.
"It's one of those freak things. You don't plan on it to happen. It's one of those things," Benintendi said. "Just see what the results say and move on from there."
The 22-year-old Benintendi has hit .324 with an .850 OPS in 21 games and played strong defense. In just a short time, he had become of the team's most exciting and productive players.
"He has grabbed, certainly, the attention of the sport. He's been embraced by the rest of this club," Farrell said.
The Sox were up, 3-2, at the time. They lost the lead when Rick Porcello allowed a home run by Evan Longoria in the eighth inning.
In the 11th inning, Heath Hembree gave up a two-out double by Luke Maile, a light-hitting backup catcher who had entered the game in the 10th inning. Logan Forsythe then walked.
When Kevin Kiermaier grounded to the right side, Shaw flipped to Hembree but the pitcher dropped the ball, muffing a play that is practiced day after day in spring training.
Hembree picked up the ball and threw accurately to the plate. Maile was initially called out but catcher Sandy Leon had dropped the throw.
"That's kind of a routine 3-to-1 play," Farrell said. "Unfortunately it comes at a time where you have two outs and guys on the move. It ends up being the difference."
Hembree said he was running too fast.
"Trying to find the bag and I just dropped it," he said.
The Sox took a 3-0 lead in the third inning but were scoreless the rest of the way. They are 7-3 on a road trip that ends Thursday afternoon with Drew Pomeranz facing Jake Odorizzi.
With Toronto losing, the Sox remain tied for first place in the American League East.
Porcello was charged with three runs on nine hits over 7⅔ innings. He struck out eight with one walk. His 123 pitches were a career high. The righthander has allowed three or fewer earned runs in 20 of his 26 starts this season.
Porcello gave up a two-run double by Brad Miller in the third inning but had retired 11 straight as Longoria came to the plate. Farrell felt Porcello was in "complete control" of the game. But a breaking pitch stayed over the plate.
"I wish I had thrown that curveball to a different spot," Porcello said. "I think everyone in the ballpark knew that was leaving."
Craig Kimbrel struck out two batters in the ninth, leaving two runners stranded. But the Sox were never able to regain the lead.
The Sox took a 2-0 lead in the first inning thanks to David Ortiz's latest editing of the record book.
Pedroia started the game with a single off Matt Andriese and stole second as Xander Bogaerts struck out. Rays manager Kevin Cash challenged the call, which stood after a video review.
As Ortiz waited to hit, he clearly formulated a plan for his at-bat. When Andriese started him with a curveball, Ortiz hammered it over the wall in right field.
The blast gave Ortiz 30 home runs and 100 RBIs. He is the first Red Sox player to reach those levels in 10 seasons. The 40-year-old Ortiz also became the oldest player to hit his 30th home run.
With 36 games left, Ortiz should easily break Darrell Evans's record of 34 home runs in his age-40 season. That came in 1987. The record for RBIs by a player age 40 or older is 108 by Dave Winfield in 1992.
The Sox took a 3-0 lead in the third inning when Pedroia walked, stole second, and scored on a two-out single by Mookie Betts.