Rays - 200 000 100 - 3 11 1 Red Sox - 130 000 00x - 4 9 1With Monday's satisfying Patriots Day win, the Red Sox took three of the four games against Tampa Bay and are now 8-5. So even with the absence of several key hitters because of illness, injury, and/or a death in the family, and starting pitchers not named Chris Sale turning in several duds, the team is playing at a 100-win pace.
Steven Wright, who lasted only 1.1 innings in his last outing, started this game off on the wrong foot, allowing singles to the first three Rays batters. Two of them eventually scored and Wright ended up throwing 31 pitches.
But Wright got his act together in subsequent innings. He stranded a leadoff double in the second; Tim Beckham's inability to move the runner to third could have prevented a run as the next batter flied to right. Tampa Bay put runners at first and third with one out in the third, but Wright got a foul pop and a strikeout. His tempo increased as he displayed more and more confidence in all of his pitches. And he was economical. His pitch count, by inning: 31-12-14 12-14-13.
But the first inning has been a bastard for most Red Sox starters. Through 12 games, the starters had a first-inning ERA of 9.07.
Boston got one of the runs back in the bottom of the first. Dustin Pedroia and Andrew Benintendi both singled off Blake Snell. Mookie Betts grounded into a double play. Pedroia took third and he promptly scored on Hanley Ramirez's single to right.
Snell struck out Mitch Moreland and Chris Young to start the bottom of the second. Sandy Leon snapped an 0-for-10 skid with a single to center. Snell appeared to be on his way back to the dugout when Marco Hernandez grounded a 2-2 pitch to shortstop. Tim Beckham made a routine play and made a perfect throw to Brad Miller at second base - and the ball clanked off his glove and fell to the dirt. Both runners were safe. Snell then walked Pedroia, loading the bases and promptly a visit from his pitching coach. Benintendi lined a single to center. Kevin Kiermaier's throw to the plate was strong, but a little late, and two runs scored, giving Boston a 3-2 lead. Betts followed with a hard single to left, scoring Pedroia. When Snell walked Ramirez on four pitches, reloading the bases, there was finally some activity in the Rays bullpen. But Snell ended the rally himself by getting Xander Bogaerts looking at strike three (which was his 42nd pitch of the inning).
Wright (6-9-3-1-4, 98) gave up a single to Beckham, the Rays' #9 hitter, to begin the top of the seventh. Robbie Ross was the first man out of the bullpen and Corey Dickerson greeted him with a pop-up that fell untouched near the left field line. Hernandez, Bogaerts, and Young chased after it, but it bounced into the stands for a double. After Ross struck out Kiermaier, manager John Farrell issued an intentional walk to Evan Longoria. Loading the bases and putting the potential go-ahead run on first was a bit unconventional, but it seemed to work as Ross fanned Miller. Farrell then brought in Ben Taylor. Steven Souza lined a single to left and one run scored. Logan Morrison battled Taylor for eight pitches, fouling off four of them before flying out to Betts to short right. (Through seven innings, the Rays left 10 men on base.)
Heath Hembree (in his seventh appearance in 13 games) looked very sharp as he retired the bottom third of the Rays' lineup in order in the eighth, striking out two. Craig Kimbrel struck out the side in the ninth. It was his third perfect inning in as many days. Kimbrel's control was superb: of his 15 pitches, only four were balls and two of those were very close to the zone.
Speaking of pitches that could have been called strikes but were not, home plate umpire Angel Hernandez was a disgrace to the profession. (Searching "angel hernandez umpire" gives you pretty much nothing but news articles about how much he has sucked for his entire career.) His game-long habit of calling strikes on pitches that were low and away, out of the strike zone, probably rewarded and penalized each team evenly. However, there were so many instances of blown calls, it was hard to tell. More annoyingly, there were several plate appearances where two pitches to the exact same spot were called differently.
It shouldn't be a radical idea to want the players on the field to determine the outcome of every game (rather than the umpires), but for the foreseeable future, it is. Major league baseball will one day use an electronic strike zone - and we will wonder why in the hell we waited so long.
Pedroia, 2BMorning baseball!
Jackie Bradley and Josh Rutledge will begin rehab assignments with Pawtucket on Tuesday. Bradley (right knee sprain) will play five innings in center field. If he does well, he'll play a full game on Wednesday and could join the Red Sox on Friday in Baltimore.
David Price said that his side session on Saturday went very well.