Red Sox

4 takeaways as Red Sox fall to Rays, drop further back in AL East standings

The Red Sox lost after Xander Bogaerts said the team needed a win.

Red Sox Rays
Tampa Bay Rays' Wander Franco runs past Boston Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez to score during the fifth inning. AP Photo/Scott Audette

On Saturday, after the Red Sox fell to the Rays and slipped half a game out of first place, Xander Bogaerts raised some eyebrows with his candor.

“I know there’s two months left, but we need a win tomorrow,” he said.

The Red Sox didn’t get what they needed. The Rays held off the Red Sox’s nightly late charge with two out in the bottom of the ninth, and claimed both a 3-2 victory and a 1.5-game division lead.

Here’s what happened.

The big picture

After two scoreless innings, the Rays broke the tie in the bottom of the third when second-baseman Brandon Lowe ripped a two-out slider over the wall for a two-run homer — one of just three hard-hit balls allowed by Red Sox starter Nick Pivetta, according to MLB Savant.

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“It just slipped out of my hand to be honest with you, and it just kind of hung up there,” Pivetta said after the game. “He put a good swing on it.”

Hunter Renfroe got a run back in the top of the fourth with a 427-foot line drive to center. The Rays tacked on a run in the fifth with Manuel Margot’s RBI single, but the Red Sox stayed within striking distance when Alex Verdugo scored on a wild pitch in the seventh.

The Red Sox appeared ready to go down quietly in the bottom of the ninth after two quick outs, but back-to-back singles by Kiké Hernández and Rafael Devers got runners to the corners. J.D. Martinez flied out to right to end the threat.

Star of the game

Shane McLanahan — 6 IP, seven strikeouts, four hits, one earned run.

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McLanahan gave up the homer to Renfroe and didn’t collect the win, but his outing held the Red Sox in check and helped the Rays win even when their offense stalled after the fifth inning.

What it means

After the game, Pivetta preached calm.

“I really don’t think there’s room for panic here,” he said. “We’ve played incredible baseball up to this point. It’s a 162-game season, and we’ve just kind of got to grind through this and move on to Detroit. We got out and win the series against them and we just kind of move on from there.”

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The Red Sox are mired in a four-game slump, and all four losses were difficult for fans — the first was a 13-1 blowout against the Blue Jays, followed by three costly games in the standings to the Rays. Fan angst is amplified by the team’s lack of action at the deadline.

But with 10 games remaining against the Rays, Pivetta might have a point: Plenty of season remains if the Red Sox can get hot again.

Takeaways

1. For Cora, the Red Sox’s issues over their last four games are simple.

“It’s about swing decisions right now,” Cora said. “If we do that, we’re going to be okay.”

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The Red Sox drew four walks on Sunday, but they managed just one hit with a runner on base — Devers’ single in the ninth inning. Cora noted that the Red Sox had plenty of base traffic but struggled to get anyone across.

“We’re just expanding the zone,” Cora said. “They did a good job or we did a bad job controlling the zone. They expanded, and we kept going with them. That kid, he has good stuff. Electric, good fastball, good breaking ball, slide is good.

“But we’re better than that. We’ve been talking about this for a while. When we control the strike zone, we’re good. When we don’t, we get into trouble.”

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2. Jarren Duran pinch hit for Bobby Dalbec in the ninth inning and struck out swinging. The highly-rated prospect is yet to find a groove at the Major-League level, batting just .150/.186/.300 in 43 plate appearances since his promotion.

3. The Red Sox had an impressive frame defensively in the bottom of the eighth. After Garrett Whitlock coaxed a ground out to open the inning, Austin Meadows hit a line drive to left that could have resulted in extra bases if J.D. Martinez hadn’t made an impressive sliding catch.

Then Nelson Cruz lined a base hit to left. Cruz unwisely tried to stretch a single into a double against Hunter Renfroe, whose cannon of an arm threw Cruz out with time to spare as he slid into second.

Cora noted that he felt the Red Sox played significantly better in Sunday’s loss.

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“That was more like it,” Cora said. “That was a better baseball game than the first two.”

4. Cora sent a pinch runner Jonathan Araúz to first to replace Hernández in the top of the ninth after Hernández singled with two out. According to Cora, Hernández aszked to come out, citing a sliding play he made in the seventh inning. Cora said Hernández bruised his side.

“He said, ‘Alex, if we don’t have the lead, run for me,'” Cora said. “I don’t think it’s something serious. We’ll check with him now. But he’s the one who told me.”

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The Red Sox have Monday off before taking on the Tigers on Tuesday. 

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