BOSTON — Nattily attired in a white buttoned shirt, Joey Wendle sat in the Fenway Park Zoom room and insisted Wednesday’s tense 2-1 loss to the Red Sox was no more frustrating than any of the Rays’ others.
But his actions a few minutes earlier belied that conclusion. Wendle knelt at third base, head down and in one hand for several minutes, staring at the ground and the field, stunned at how the game ended.
The Rays had taken the lead in the top of the eighth when Nelson Cruz, continuing his hot streak, delivered a two-out single up the middle to score Brandon Lowe.
Then the Rays gave up the lead in the bottom of the eighth. Matt Wisler allowed a leadoff single before leaving with a recurrence of the finger issue that sidelined the right-hander the previous 3½ weeks, and JT Chargois, after getting two outs, gave up a home run to Hunter Renfroe.
The Rays had a chance to at least tie it with two outs in the ninth when Wendle laced a ball that got past diving centerfielder Danny Santana. But rightfielder Renfroe, a 2020 Rays teammate, made a one-hop throw to nail Wendle trying, unnecessarily, to get to third.
“Certainly frustrated,” Wendle said. “You never want to make the last out of the game at third base, especially when you can stop at second and be in scoring position. So certainly beating myself up about that. In hindsight, should not have run, should not have tested his arm there.”
Wendle said when he saw the ball get past Santana, he didn’t think Renfroe was going that hard after it to back up the play.
“Honestly, I thought it was an easy read,” he said. “But obviously not. On the flip side, you’ve got to tip your cap to him. He threw the ball about 270 feet on a dime to get me on a bang, bang play.”
Renfroe, who earlier threw out Manuel Margot at second and leads the majors with 16 assists, said, “I knew if I made a good strong throw and if it was accurate, I had a chance to get him. And so I saw it was on target, and I beat him.”
Said catcher Mike Zunino: “Just one of those crazy plays where he puts it right on the bag, and that’s sort of how the night went.”
Manager Kevin Cash said he didn’t blame Wendle — “No fault, whatsoever” — as there are benefits to being at third, such as scoring on a wild pitch or passed ball. Overall, there wasn’t much the Rays could do as they were held to three hits over seven innings by another ex-mate, Nathan Eovaldi, and six for the game, after scoring 23 runs in winning the first two games of the series.
The loss dropped the Rays’ American League-best record to 88-52 and reduced their East Division lead to nine games, as the Red Sox moved past the Yankees into second place.
The Rays have benefited from Cruz’s presence in the lineup since his July 23 arrival from Minnesota but have been waiting for him to get hot. He has, driving in at least one run in each of his past six games, with hits in seven of his past eight.
After getting what Cash called a “just outstanding” start from Shane McClanahan (three hits, though eight balls were hit at more than 100 mph), whom they limited to five innings and 68 pitches for workload management, the Rays turned the game over to their usually trusty bullpen.
Andrew Kittredge and Pete Fairbanks put up zeroes, but Wisler caused concern by lasting just one batter in the eighth and is likely headed back to the injured list. Chargois was warming and said he was ready to come in. He got a groundout and a lineout before leaving a first-pitch slider up and watching Renfroe — who is hitting .338 with four homers and 18 RBIs in 18 games versus the Rays — knock it over the Green Monster.
“Two days ago he swung at the first pitch, hit a little base hit on a sinker in,” Chargois said. “I thought just switching it up — I needed to get ahead of him — I thought a slider would have been a great pitch to throw to get an early strike. And yeah, it was a little up. … He was right there ready for it.”
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