BOSTON — Something about facing the Tampa Bay Rays always seems to bring out the best in Clay Buchholz.
Entering Tuesday night, the Boston Red Sox right-hander had gone four consecutive starts against Tampa Bay without allowing a single run, a streak that dated back to April of last year.
Buchholz was well on his way to extending that number to five starts Tuesday night — until he wasn’t.
Buchholz tossed seven scoreless innings against the visiting Rays, throwing just 72 pitches in the process, before coming unglued in the eighth in an eventual 6-2 Red Sox loss.
“Clay was in complete command of that game tonight,” manager John Farrell told reporters after the game. “Very efficient — 72 pitches through seven innings.”
Entering the eighth with a 1-0 lead, Buchholz walked the leadoff batter — his first free pass of the night — and followed up a strikeout by hitting Brandon Guyer with a pitch. A Ryan Hanigan pop-up kept the runners where they were, but from there, the wheels came off.
Ben Zobrist’s potential inning-ending fly ball was misplayed in front of the Green Monster by Yoenis Cespedes, who mistimed his leap and allowed the ball to carom off the scoreboard. Cespedes was not charged with an error — it was a difficult but makeable play — but the two-out double scored both runners, giving the Rays their first lead of the game.
The sequence snapped Buchholz’s streak of 29 straight scoreless innings against Tampa Bay.
“(It was) a play that we’ve seen Cespy make a number of times,” Farrell said. “It looked like he jumped a little bit premature, the ball carries over his head for the two-run double, and then things kind of got away from us a little bit in the remainder of that inning.”
Buchholz then surrendered a single to David DeJesus, scoring Zobrist, and plunked Evan Longoria before being lifted from the game. Tommy Layne entered and was immediately tagged for a base hit by James Loney, which scored another two runs for Tampa Bay.
“The two hit-by-pitches — obviously, I wasn’t trying to hit a guy right there,” Buchholz said. “I was trying to throw a sinker in (to Guyer) that got in a little too far, and then (Longoria’s) was a changeup — obviously, not trying to throw a changeup up there. They found a way to get the fat part of the bat to the ball. A couple of them fell in for hits, and that was about it. ”
The Red Sox, whose only run to that point had come on an RBI double by Daniel Nava in the fourth, could not recover from that five-run frame. Mookie Betts doubled and later scored on a Jemile Weeks sacrifice fly in the home half of the eighth, but that was all the offense Boston could muster against the Tampa Bay bullpen.
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