Red Sox use aggressiveness to defeat Tampa Bay
Last night was a long one folks but in the end, it was all worth it for the Red Sox. There were times where the game was frustrating, and others where it felt like the boys, were going to cruise to a win. At the end of the day, the story for Boston’s win all comes down to aggressive play and relentless pressure. This was the game plan going into this series as Alex Cora would let the media know postgame, and it worked perfectly.
As Cora was fielding questions he made it clear that with the way the Rays play the game, you can’t take your foot off the gas at all. Between their strong bats and tactical defense, Tampa Bay is always ready for whatever you throw at them. There’s a reason why they went 22-5 en route to first place before this past weekend. They can easily blow a game wide open or storm back from being behind in the blink of an eye, just as we saw last night.
"“For how weird it was, it was the way we wanted to play against these guys,” Cora said. “We’re not going to sit back against them and let them do what they do.”"
When you see that quote you may have to tilt your head a bit in confusion because for a big chunk of that game it sure didn’t seem like things were going to plan. Terrible defense from the Red Sox more than opened the door for the Rays and then there was questionable running on the base paths. But according to AC, it was how he drew it up for this series. Never relax and never let them get comfortable.
Two of Boston’s strongest hitters put on a display that more than helped the Red Sox achieve the win last night in Rafael Devers and Hunter Renfroe. We all know how good Devers is and everybody needs to get those last-minute votes in for him for this year’s All-Star game. But Renfroe has been sneaky good this season. He’ll have some defensive highlights here and hit a moon-shot there but for the most part, he’s flown under the radar.
Raffy went 2-4 at the Trop knocking in three runs while scoring one of his own. Renfroe on the other packed some fireworks for his return to Tampa and knocked a two-run bomb that would give Boston the 5-2 lead. At the time it felt like more than enough to get the win but Rays’ rookie Wander Franco leveled the game with a three-run blast for his first Major League homer. This is where Cora’s aggressive tactics would come back into play as he would have his guys try to stretch everything they possibly could.
We saw guys trying to take home on pass balls, trying to advance when there wasn’t much opportunity, and getting caught stealing. That’s what the skipper wanted though, keep putting on the pressure and put them back on their heels. Eventually, it would pay off with a four-run 11th inning that saw the Red Sox walk away with a 9-5 win. It wasn’t pretty by any means and felt like a heavyweight title fight where neither side wanted to buckle.
"“(The Rays) shift and they put themselves in positions that they expect the ball to be hit,” he said. “You have to put pressure on them. Sometimes, it looks weird or it looks like it’s bad, but we don’t mind that. We don’t. We have to do it because they’re that good from the mound.”"
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This was a big win for Boston as last night’s clash kicked of Rivalry Week for the Sox as they face both the Rays and Yankees as we come to the end of June. A big week could see them essentially bury New York while giving them some breathing room against Tampa. We all know this team is outkicking their coverage right now and is blowing expectations out of the water, but a statement week could really show us just who they are.
The relievers did their job last night as well as they kept the Rays silent once starter Eduardo Rodriguez exited the game. It was another rough night for Eddie as he showed some good signs with seven strikeouts but also gave up three earned on seven hits. It may be time to give the big lefty a rest on the IL as it feels like he may still be dealing with some COVID-related issues. Either way, the bullpen did what they’re paid to do and they didn’t let this explosive Tampa offense get back in the game.
Pressure was the theme of the night and as Cora said, it looked ugly but it was effective. Boston was able to make the Rays feel uncomfortable and didn’t let them get back in their groove when it mattered the most. The Red Sox have a serious chance this week to put some ground between them and their biggest divisional rivals and they have to keep that pressure on. Put the pedal to the medal and don’t let it up. If the team can execute AC’s plan, then we should be seeing Boston cruise into the All-Star break in first place.