Red Sox fans got a good game in the first Grapefruit League game of 2013, but it eventually culminated in a loss. Pitching dominated the first game of the year for both sides as the Red Sox eventually wound up losing 4-3 at home to the Tampa Bay Rays. The major story line in the early portion of this game was the Red Sox pitchers, starting with John Lackey, who made his first appearance since having Tommy John Surgery last November. Lackey started off rough, loading the bases with no outs, but he worked out of it with minimal damage; he allowed just one run on a sacrifice fly to Ryan Roberts. After walking one and hitting another of the first two hitters, Lackey had his good stuff going, with a fastball sitting in the high 80’s and decent control.
After Lackey left the ballgame after just an inning, we got to see some of the young pitchers. That started with Drake Britton pitching the second and third inning. For the most part, I liked what I saw from Britton keeping in mind that he’s likely to be a future reliever. His fastball sat in the mid to low 90’s, and although he didn’t have the best control, he also showed a quality slider and change. Britton allowed a run and a hit with a couple of walks in his two innings of work. Alex Wilsonwas the next to enter the game, and he pitched admirably for an inning, recording three strikeouts by mixing a low 90’s fastball and excellent slider.
After those three pitchers left the ballgame, there wasn’t too much to watch. The Red Sox bats were mostly held in check for the first six innings and only had three hits (a single for Will Middlebrooks and doubles for Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jacoby Ellsbury) when the Red Sox entered the seventh inning. One quick out was recorded before Jeremy Hazelbaker worked an eight pitch walk. Then came the big blow as Jose Iglesias of all people decided enough was enough and hit an absolute bomb over the replica Green Monster in due left field to tie the game.
The Red Sox’ momentum was short-lived, however, as the Rays recorded two more quick outs to get out of the seventh. Oscar Villarreal took over to pitch the eighth and after getting an out, he allowed a single to Jack Cust. A Shawn O’Malley forceout put a runner on first with two outs for Rays’ prospect Leslie Anderson. Anderson hit a high drive to right field that just kept carrying out of the ballpark for a long home run to give the Rays a 4-2 lead. Pressure ran high after a scoreless eighth, when the Red Sox put a couple more hits together in the ninth.
With one out in the inning, Jeremy Hazelbaker showed some pop off of reliever Matt Buschmann, doubling off the wall in deep center field. Jose Iglesias flew out pretty much to left-center field to put Hazelbaker in scoring position with two outs. Then came top prospect Xander Bogaerts, who worked a long at bat before grounding a ball up the middle for an RBI single that cut the Rays’ lead in half at 4-3. Again, the momentum was fractured when Daniel Nava struck out looking to end the game one run short.