TAMPA — The Mitch Moreland homer in the top of the ninth inning off Tampa Bay Rays closer Emilio Pagan didn’t shift the fate of this Red Sox squad. What was done was, in fact, done. Entering the day, a Sox loss or a Cleveland Indians win would eliminate the Red Sox from postseason contention.
As Moreland’s second two-run homer of the game tied the contest, Cleveland won their matchup against the Phillies, 5-2, sealing what’s felt inevitable for the Sox the past two weeks. In the bottom of the 11th inning, Trevor Kelley gave up a walk-off single to Willy Adames and the Sox would lose, 5-4. It put a stamp on the Sox’ season.
For the first time since 2015, the Red Sox won’t play in October.
“We’re disappointed,” manager Alex Cora said afterward. “It wasn’t a great season. We’re going to learn from it and we’re going to be better.”
The Sox’ season sputtered at the end of July into early August when they lost a combined eight straight games to the Rays and New York Yankees. The Rays are tied for the second wild-card spot and the Yankees clinched the American League East after their win against the Los Angeles Angels Thursday.
“It’s kind of been coming for a while now the last couple weeks,” Rick Porcello said. “It’s tough. We put a lot of work into it, had high expectations — especially for guys in this clubhouse. We came up short, I don’t know what else to say. It’s been a tough year.”
Cora wants his guys to compete just as they did in this one for the remainder of the season. Porcello showed that competitive fervor Friday when he and Tampa Bay Rays starter Charlie Morton battled it out.
Morton has been one of the best starters in the American League this season. On the contrary, Porcello’s season has trended in the opposite direction, sporting a career-high 5.77 ERA in 182 ⅓ innings pitched.
Yet he came off a solid showing against the Philadelphia Phillies where he allowed just two runs in five innings of work. He continued that Friday. Porcello surrendered just three hits and held the Rays scoreless through his six innings of work.
“I feel like my last two I kind of got back to doing some of things I do and that I do well,” Porcello said. “I’m going to keep building off of it. I’m having a little bit of success right now.”
Morton’s stuff dominated the Sox through the first six innings, too. Like Porcello, he only gave up three hits in that span. But with one out in the bottom of the seventh, Brock Holt doubled to left field. Rays manager Kevin Cash went out to talk to Morton, ultimately deciding to leave him in the game. The next batter, Moreland, made the Rays pay with a two-run homer to center which gave the Sox a 2-0 lead.
In the bottom half of the frame, though, Cora decided to go with reliever Darwinzon Hernandez and he looked gassed. Hernandez recorded just one out that inning.
Travis d’Arnaud singled to center and two walks by Hernandez loaded the bases. Cora summoned Marcus Walden from the bullpen and a force out at second scored a run and an Adames double tied the game. Cora then went to Josh Taylor and a wild pitch scored the go-ahead run. In the eighth, the Rays’ Ji-Man Choi’s RBI double off Andrew Cashner extended their lead, 4-2. Moreland’s two-run homer in the ninth that tied it wasn’t enough after 11 innings of play, however. The hole the Sox put themselves in this season was too deep. Their season script, for some time now, already had been written.
“I don’t like it,” Jackie Bradley Jr. said before exiting Tropicana Field for the night. “We didn’t win enough ball games. The other guys ahead of us, they won when they needed to. They got the job done.”