Once again, the opportunities were there and the timely hitting wasn’t.
The Sox spent a large part of their 6-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays living out the same frustrating pattern that’s made consistency so fleeting so far this season, leaving men on base and paying for it.
The Sox dropped three of their four-game set with the Rays, and their downfall was with runners in scoring position. They went 1 for 13 and left 9 men stranded on Sunday and 5 for 36 with 25 stranded for the series.
Jackie Bradley went 2 for 4 with a double. Sam Travis went 1 for 4. Sandy Leon and Marco Hernandez both went 2 for 4, the latter with an RBI single. Meanwhile, Mookie Betts went 1 for 5 with two strikeouts, and batters 2–5 — Christian Vazquez, Xander Bogaerts, Michael Chavis and Eduardo Nunez — combined to go 0 for 14.
“We’ve got to take advantage of the situations,” said Sox manager Alex Cora. “That’s something that we’ve been talking about for a while and waiting to execute.”
Eduardo Rodriguez took the loss, giving up gave up four runs on seven hits in 5⅔ innings. He gave up home runs to Guillermo Heredia in the second inning and Brandon Lowe in the sixth, to push his single-season total to 10 homers allowed.
Instead of gaining ground in the AL East, the Sox (34-32) fell seven games out of first place, where the Rays (40-24) stayed even with the Yankees.
Lowe went 3 for 5 with two home runs and three RBIs. Yandy Diaz recorded a career-high four hits, with a solo homer in the seventh.
Rays starter Blake Snell was sharp in his six innings of work, holding the Sox to just one run on five hits with seven strikeouts, weaving out of trouble when needed.
“We put pressure on Snell the whole day, we just didn’t score enough runs,” Cora said.
Chances came and went.
In the first inning, the Sox were already down two runs, but they had a chance to get them back. They had an ideal situation with runners on second and third with no outs. The outcome? Three straight strikeouts from Bogaerts, Chavis, and Nunez, and a squandered scoring opportunity without even putting the ball in play.
Down 3-1 in the second inning, Travis sparked things with a leadoff single and Bradley followed up with a single to make it first and third again with no outs. But Leon couldn’t cash in, waving at a 2-2 curveball.
At that point, Cora tried to take advantage of the baserunners he had, and gave Bradley the steal sign in hopes of moving him into scoring position as well. Instead, Bradley got caught. A single from Hernandez pushed a run across, but the gamble cost them another.
In the fourth inning, Bradley stroked a two-out, ground-rule double over the short fence in the right-field corner, but Leon flew out to left field to end the inning with another runner stranded.
“These guys were impressive if you ask me,” Bogaerts said. “I know Snell got into a lot of trouble, but he did a great job today. We had a lot of opportunities, we had a lot of chances. It just didn’t happen.”
Even when Snell left the mound, the Sox lineup felt overwhelmed by the arms out of the bullpen.
By the seventh, the Sox were down 5 with Betts at the plate, runners on first and second and one out. But he struck out on a full-count splitter from righty Oliver Drake and Vazquez popped up to third to end the inning.
“He got himself in a lot of trouble,” Bogaerts said of Snell. “But I was talking to the guys back there, even when you look out at the bullpen, most of the guys that came into the game, they had like sub-2.00 ERA. Either low-zeros or 1.00’s. It was like, ‘We got the starter out, let’s go to the bullpen,’ and the bullpen is even better.”
Coming in, the Sox still had the ninth-best batting average in the majors with runners in scoring position (.266). Cora has to believe the numbers will even out.
“That’s the hope,” he said.
It has been a point of emphasis, but it’s been difficult to solve.
“We keep addressing it, we keep talking about it,” Cora said. “It’s gameplanning. He made some good pitches too. But it’s gameplanning. We have to attack them as a group. And do little things — ground ball up the middle, make contact, all that stuff that helps you get the big inning. We haven’t done that in a while and we have to start doing it.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.