Red Sox

4 takeaways as the Red Sox, short-handed due to COVID-19, fall to the Rays

"It’s a lot tougher today than yesterday, and yesterday was tougher than the day before."

Red Sox Rays takeaways
Boston Red Sox's Nick Pivetta pitches to the Tampa Bay Rays during the first inning of a baseball game Monday. AP Photo/Chris O'Meara

Here are the takeaways, as the Red Sox — dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak — couldn’t overcome the Rays in a 6-1 loss that likely eliminated any final hopes of competing for the division.

The Big Picture

Both teams got on the board early — the Rays on a monstrous solo homer in the first by Brandon Lowe, the Red Sox with an answering solo homer by Bobby Dalbec in the top of the second as Dalbec’s hot streak continued.

From there, however, the Red Sox bats went stagnant and the Rays continued to apply pressure. Austin Meadows singled in the go-ahead run in the third. Lowe drove in a run in the fourth with another single. The Rays tacked on a fourth on a fielding error by Rafael Devers in the sixth. Wander Franco’s 2-run single in the eighth was superfluous as the Rays cruised late.

Star of the Game

Brandon Lowe — 2-for-3, two runs, two RBIs, homer, two walks

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Lowe’s stat line would have been enough to land here even if you replaced his walks with strikeouts, but the walks might have been the most impressive part of his night: Red Sox pitchers were visibly terrified of giving him anything to hit and twice opted entirely not to do so.

What It Means

Before the game, Red Sox manager Alex Cora was asked if first place in the AL East is still attainable.

“We’ll show up today, play a good game, win a game, and if we can do that four days straight, you can ask me that question again on Friday,” Cora said.

Monday’s result likely means that question won’t be asked again. The Red Sox lead the A’s by two games for the final spot.

Takeaways

1. After the game, Cora simply looked weary after dealing with a day of test results and shuffling lineups.

“What Ron [Roenicke, former manager] did last year was amazing — amazing,” Cora said. “To deal with everything they had to go through, the way he did it, it was great. I respect that guy, and respect everybody that was involved in this on a personal level. It’s a challenging one.”

The Red Sox received bad news midway through the game: Reliever Josh Taylor is an additional close contact for the COVID outbreak. Cora confirmed that Matt Barnes tested positive after the game as well. First-base coach Tom Goodwin is a close contact, and coach Ramon Vazquez tested positive.

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“It’s a lot tougher today than yesterday, and yesterday was tougher than the day before, and hopefully tomorrow we’re okay,” Cora said. “Hopefully. That’s what I pray for, for this to be the end of it, and then it’s all about baseball and making plays, and putting the ball in play, pitching, all that stuff. This part is not comfortable, it’s not easy.”

2. The Red Sox still have not reached the 85-percent vaccination threshold set forth by the MLB.

Asked whether that was a concern all year, Cora said it was a problem for the front office.

“It was something we’ve been talking about the whole time,” Cora said. “But at the end, it’s a personal choice and we are where we’re at percentage-wise. Everybody knows it, and we can’t hide that fact, but still, we were doing a great job. It happened now, and we have to keep going.”

The Red Sox went from May 15 to Aug. 3 without a positive test.

3. On a night when baseball felt secondary, a game still took place, and two key errors hurt the Red Sox (although the pain might be dulled a bit by the knowledge that the offense wouldn’t have capitalized anyway).

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The first happened in the bottom of the fourth, when pitcher Nick Pivetta bounced a ball in front of Christian Vazquez. Mike Zunino struck out swinging on the play, but the ball bounded away from Vazquez which allowed the Rays to stay alive. Lowe drove in a run with a single on the next at-bat.

The second was a sixth-inning fielding error by Rafael Devers, who was forced to eat a grounder with the bases loaded that might have been either a double play or a force out at the plate. Instead, a run scored. Hansel Robles — who was on target — shut down the next three batters without allowing another run, but the Red Sox trailed 4-1 heading into the seventh inning with very little offensive momentum.

4. The Red Sox still don’t know who will pitch Tuesday.

“You guys will know tomorrow,” Cora said. “Sorry about that, that’s where we’re at. I would love to give you more.”

Whichever Red Sox players are available will take on the Rays again on Tuesday at 7:10 p.m.

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