Red Sox Notes: Chris Sale’s Great Outing Wasted As Bullpen Falters In Eighth Inning

Chris Sale did everything he could to give the Boston Red Sox an Opening Day victory Thursday.

He dominated the Tampa Bay Rays through six innings, giving up zero runs and only one hit. He also walked three and struck out nine in 92 pitches.

This fine performance from the mound should’ve been enough for Sale to improve his career Opening Day record to 4-0, but the Boston bullpen wasn’t able to protect a 4-0 lead and gave up six runs in the eighth inning, resulting in a 6-4 loss for the Sox at Tropicana Field and a no decision for Sale.

Joe Kelly came out of the bullpen and began the eighth inning with a walk, and then Matt Duffy hit an RBI double to cut the Sox lead to 4-1. Kelly then walked Kevin Kiermaier and Carlos Gomez to load the bases with one out.

Carson Smith relieved Kelly and walked Brad Miller with the bases full to bring in a run, trimming Boston’s edge to 4-2. Smith struck out Wilson Ramos for the second out, but then Denard Span came to the plate and smacked a 3-RBI triple, giving the Rays a 5-4 advantage. And the Rays weren’t done, as Adeiny Hechavarria drove in another run with an RBI single to put the Rays ahead 6-4 before Smith finally got out of the inning.

The Sox walked four batters and gave up three hits and six runs in the inning. It was a stunning turn of events, and a waste of a fantastic performance by Sale.

Here are some other notes from Red Sox vs. Rays:

— Xander Bogaerts came into Thursday healthy after battling injury throughout the 2017 campaign. He looks to be in midseason form, too, going 3-for-4 at the plate, including two doubles, and scoring two runs on Opening Day.

Bogaerts’ batting average, home run and RBI totals all declined in 2017 compared to his 2016 totals. If he’s able to remain healthy for most of the year and play in 150-plus games again, there’s no reason why he can’t hit .300 and drive in anywhere between 80 and 100 runs.

— Boston’s marque offseason signing, J.D. Martinez, batted clean up as the designated hitter and went 0-for-3 with a walk, a run scored and two strikeouts.

— Eduardo Nunez hit Boston’s first home run of the season in the second inning, but it wasn’t done in conventional fashion. Nunez’s HR was of the inside-the-park variety, scored two and gave the Sox a 3-0 lead. Nunez played second base in place of Dustin Pedroia, who’s still recovering from injury. Nunez also doubled in the ninth inning.

— The 2018 Red Sox, at least to begin the season, have many homegrown players.

Thumbnail photo via Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports

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