The Rays are finally headed home to raise their banners. But not before a nightmarish Wednesday afternoon in Boston, where the Red Sox lowered the boom.
The Rays were blasted 9-2 by the Red Sox, who opened things up with a six-run fifth inning off left-hander Ryan Yarbrough, allowing Boston to easily put a punctuation mark on its three-game sweep.
“We just have not been playing good baseball the last couple of days,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “I think that’s pretty obvious. Offensively, defensively, on the mound at times (have been problems).
“Maybe it’s good timing that the off day is coming (Thursday). Then we get to get back home and maybe hit a little bit of a reset button.”
Now it’s a four-game losing streak heading into Friday afternoon’s home opener against the Yankees at Tropicana Field, where the 2020 American League East division and AL pennant banners will be unveiled.
As for the Rays’ recent run, it’s best that the opposing offensive numbers be covered up. In that four-game winless span, the Rays have been outscored 38-16, while allowing 53 hits, 12 walks and five home runs.
“Not good the last four (games), obviously, and not where we wanted to be at the end of this road trip,” Rays third baseman Joey Wendle said. “Things need to be addressed collectively as a team and individually things need to be worked on.
“On the flip side, we’re six games into a 162-game season. I don’t think there’s any real sense of panic. As there always should be, there’s a sense of urgency. We’ll have an off day, then we’ll be eager to get back out there on Friday.”
Once the Red Sox’s offense kicked into gear, it was tough sledding against hard-throwing Boston right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, who allowed just three hits and struck out seven batters in seven innings. But the larger issue was run prevention.
The Rays took a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the fourth inning and Yarbrough was cruising.
Things changed quickly.
A leadoff walk to Rafael Devers, a run-scoring single by Xander Bogaerts and a two-run homer by Christian Vazquez pushed Boston in front 3-1.
“It’s always kind of tough, especially when you feel like you have some good rhythm going, but I think it was just a matter of some pitch execution, trying to throw in certain areas, then missing across the plate,” Yarbrough said. “With a team that hits like this, you can’t really do that.”
It got a lot worse in the fifth.
Yarbrough tempted mild trouble by hitting Kevin Plawecki, then allowing a one-out single to Kike Hernandez. He coaxed Devers into a harmless fly ball and was one out away from escaping.
Instead, J.D. Martinez picked on an 0-1 curveball and slammed a two-run double high off the leftfield wall. It was a true Fenway Park moment, a ball that would probably be caught in almost every stadium, but the Green Monster’s 315-foot proximity aided the home team this time.
“That’s part of playing in Fenway,” Wendle said. “We’ve had that work in our favor just as many times as it has worked against us. Every park has its quirks. We’re going back to the Trop with a white ceiling. That might affect the game for better or worse. That’s part of baseball.”
But Martinez’s hit prompted a sudden avalanche.
Bogaerts drove a hard bouncer into the hole — which Rays shortstop Willy Adames reached spectacularly but lost the handle — and that set up Vazquez’s RBI single.
It still wasn’t over.
Hunter Renfroe’s routine grounder to Adames was thrown low and wide of first baseman Yoshi Tsutsugo, allowing two more runs to score. Christian Arroyo finished the inning’s six-run onslaught with a bloop RBI single.
“If you don’t make the right pitch execution, this is a team that will make you pay for it,” Yarbrough said. “We almost got out of it. But a couple of things didn’t go our way, like bloop hits. You try to handle those things and work out of it, but I just wasn’t able to do that (Wednesday).”
Yarbrough completed the inning and finished with 89 pitches before giving way to Collin McHugh, who worked three scoreless innings and helped to preserve a bullpen that was taxed after Tuesday night’s 12-inning defeat.
The Rays opened the scoring with a third-inning run. Catcher Francisco Mejia drilled a one-out double down the leftfield line and scored on Tsutsugo’s single.
From that point, the Rays went out meekly. They had just one runner in scoring position — Austin Meadows’ one-out double in the sixth — over the next five innings. Mike Brosseau produced an RBI single in the ninth.
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