The Boston Red Sox entered their rain-shortened weekend series against the Tampa Bay Rays with a chance to pull within 3 1/2 games of first place in the American League East.
Instead, the perplexingly punchless Red Sox dropped both games at Fenway Park, perfectly punctuated by Sunday afternoon’s 5-2 loss to the division-leading Rays. Boston now sits a staggering 7 1/2 games back over a month into their World Series championship defense.
Chris Sale took the loss to drop to an impossible-to-fathom 0-5 on the season. The Red Sox are 0-6 in his six starts. That being said, there were some promising signs from the ace left-hander on what was an otherwise discouraging, drizzly day in Boston.
As for the offense, the Red Sox got an RBI sacrifice fly from Mitch Moreland and a solo homer to center field from Michael Chavis. Boston totaled just six hits on the afternoon, while Tampa picked up the win despite finishing with only five base-knocks.
Boston fell to 11-17 with the loss, while the Rays improved to 18-9 with the win.
Here’s how it all went down:
GAME IN A WORD
Once again, the Red Sox presented an unpalatable brand of baseball.
ON THE BUMP
— Through two innings, this looked like yet another confounding, velocity-deprived outing from Sale. When all was said and done, however, Sale turned in what might have been his most encouraging effort of the season.
The Red Sox ace surrendered four runs (two earned) on four hits over seven innings. He walked three and struck out eight while hurling a season-high 111 pitches, 72 of which were for strikes.
As for the four runs, two of them came in the first inning on a Daniel Robertson homer over the Green Monster. In the second frame, Sale induced what should have been an inning-ending double play, but Rafael Devers committed an error, setting the stage for a two-out double by Yandy Diaz.
In those two innings, Sale’s fastball sat somewhere between 89-92 mph while his slider lacked its trademark bite. His command also was way off, as it’s been in pretty much all of his outings this year. And, to be honest, some of those warts popped up over the course of his next five innings of work.
However, Sale’s velocity increased as he went deeper into the game — touching 96 mph — and he pitched with the pace and presence that Red Sox fans are used to.
Sale now has a 6.30 ERA for the season.
— Marcus Walden pitched a perfect eighth with a strikeout, the latest impressive appearance from the suddenly reliable right-hander. He now has a 2.03 ERA in 10 relief appearances.
— Heath Hembree got the ball in the ninth and did his Heath Hembree thing, allowing one run on one hit and a walk while striking out two. He now has a 4.73 ERA, and one has to wonder whether he’s losing the trust of his manager, Alex Cora.
IN THE BATTER’S BOX
— For the fifth time in seven games, the Red Sox offense managed just four runs or less.
— Rays star right-hander Tyler Glasnow dominated over 6 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on six hits while striking out nine and walking one. He improved to 5-0 with a 1.75 ERA.
— Chavis had the lone offensive highlight for Boston, demolishing this Glasnow offering over the center field wall:
The rookie infielder finished 2-for-4 and now has three homers and five RBIs since being called up last week.
— Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Christian Vazquez finished with a hit apiece. Devers finished 2-for-3.
— The Red Sox stranded 10 men on base.
TWEET OF THE GAME
Because virtually nothing positive happened after this moment:
The Red Sox will begin a three-game series with the Oakland Athletics on Monday. First pitch at Fenway Park is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET.