It would be difficult to enter this series with high hopes as the last-place Red Sox headed south to Tampa Bay to face the first-place Rays. However, the Red Sox rewarded the hopes of the more optimistic members of the Fenway Faithful, turning in a well-played 4-3 win in extra innings.
Entering the game, the focus was on Red Sox starter Rick Porcello, who had lost his last six starts while posting a 7.50 ERA in that time. Though Porcello had a rough patch in the first inning, throwing six consecutive balls at one point, he was able to escape with no damage and turn it over to the Red Sox offense.
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Boston’s bats were able to spot Porcello with an early lead in the top of the second. Mike Napoli started the inning by working a walk and he was followed by Alejandro De Aza, who blooped a soft line drive into center field. The Red Sox caught a major break when the ball dropped in front of center fielder Kevin Kiermaier‘s diving attempt and trickled into deep center, allowing Napoli to score from first on an RBI double. De Aza would proceed to score himself two batters later on a sac fly by Jackie Bradley Jr., putting the Red Sox on top 2-0.
The Rays did pick up a run in the bottom of the second, with a Marc Krauss double scoring Logan Forsythe to cut Boston’s lead in half at just 2-1. However, Porcello would settle down in a big way for the next three innings, allowing no runs and striking out four batters.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox backed Porcello with another run in the fourth inning on some clever baserunning. Once again, Napoli led off the inning with a walk and he would eventually move to third on a single by Blake Swihart. With Bradley at the plate, Swihart attempted to steal second but when Rays’ catcher Curt Casali threw down to second, Napoli took off and scored.
Unfortunately, the Red Sox would be unable to hold the lead for much more than an inning as the Rays mounted a rally in the bottom of the sixth. The Rays kicked off the inning with a Joey Butler single and an Evan Longoria double to put two runners in scoring position with no outs. Butler went on to score on a sac fly by David DeJesus and Longoria came across the plate to tie the game on a single by Forsythe.
The sixth inning would prove to be the end of the night for both Porcello and Rays’ starter Alex Colome and the game transformed into a bullpen battle. Neither team was able to string any hits together until the tenth inning, when Mookie Betts led off the inning with a soft line drive which fell along the line in left field for a double. It didn’t take Betts long to score, as Brock Holt followed him by lacing a single into left-center to give the Red Sox a 4-3 lead.
The Red Sox got a few more hits in the tenth but were unable to add an insurance run for Koji Uehara. Luckily, Uehara was in vintage form as he punched out the first two batters he faced and then induced a weak grounder to carve through Tampa Bay’s 3, 4, and 5 hitters.
- It took him until the tenth inning, but Mookie Betts was able to extend his hitting streak to 13 games.
- Mike Napoli had an unusual, but productive, night at the plate, drawing three walks and reaching base four times while scoring a pair of runs.
- The back end of the Red Sox bullpen was lights out today, with Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara combining for 2.1 innings, allowing just a hit while striking out 4.
Porcello certainly wasn’t great tonight, but until a shaky sixth inning which saw him allow a pair of runs on three hits, he was putting together a strong outing. He was still able to come away with a quality start, allowing three runs on nine hits and a walk while punching out five in six innings.
Uehara was in 2013 form tonight, using his splitter to carve through the heart of Tampa Bay’s lineup with ease. He threw ten pitches, nine of them for strikes, and struck out a pair in a perfect inning of work.
It was a strange day at the plate for Napoli, but it’s hard to argue with reaching base four times. He was also able to ignite a couple of rallies for the Red Sox, scoring two essential runs in a strong day at the plate.