Red Sox

4 takeaways as Red Sox pitching shuts out Rays, helps salvage road trip

"September, it’s not a grind anymore. It’s fun."

Red Sox Rays takeaways
Boston Red Sox pitcher Garrett Richards, right, celebrates with catcher Christian Vazquez after closing out the Tampa Bay Rays during the ninth inning of a baseball game Thursday. AP Photo/Chris O'Meara

Here are the takeaways, as the Red Sox knocked off the Rays 4-0 on Thursday to salvage a split of their four-game series with some help from an impressive all-around pitching performance.

The Big Picture

The Red Sox jumped on top in the first, as Bobby Dalbec continued his white-hot streak with a single to right that drove in Hunter Renfroe. Renfroe added to the lead in the second, plating Danny Santana with an RBI single of his own. The Red Sox tacked on their final two runs in the fifth with a pair of RBI singles — one each by J.D. Martinez and Dalbec.

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Meanwhile, Eduardo Rodriguez threw six solid innings — scattering four hits with six strikeouts. Garrett Richards came in to relieve him in the seventh after the first two batters of the inning reached base, and Richards went the rest of the way — allowing just one hit with four strikeouts.

Star of the Game

Bobby Dalbec — 2-for-4, two RBIs

Either of the pitchers could slot here as well, but Dalbec won AL Rookie of the Month in August batting .339/.431/.774 and his numbers in the first two games of September are even better.

What It Means

The Red Sox survived the hardest stretch of their season to date and one hopes, given the circumstances, that it will be the hardest stretch they will face. They are now 1.5 games behind the Yankees, eight games behind the Rays and two games ahead of the A’s for the final wildcard slot.

Takeaways

1. Getting Chris Sale back made a major difference both on and off the field, but Rodriguez’s performance in his last two starts is plenty encouraging as well — a pair of victories that showed what he could bring in the postseason.

“I feel like the team needs you every time. … every time you go out there, you need to think you need to go six, seven innings all the time,” Rodriguez said on Thursday. “That’s the way I’ve been thinking all the time. That’s the way I do it. No matter who you are, you have to go out there six or seven. Every time you step on the mound, the team needs you.”

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Rodriguez added that Thursday’s victory felt like his best performance of the season. Red Sox manager Alex Cora agreed.

“He’s been really really good the last two,” Cora said. “That’s the guy we envisioned. He understands this is fun. There’s a lot of guys in there that regardless of what’s going on with the group, we know we have a chance to make it to the playoffs. September, it’s not a grind anymore. It’s fun.”

2. Meanwhile, Richards came out of the bullpen at the shakiest moment of the game and immediately shut down the threat with a pair of strikeouts and a fly-out to center.

Since he was converted into a reliever on Aug. 11, Richards has looked far more comfortable — a 0.69 ERA in stark contrast with his 5.22 ERA as a starter.

“He wants to help us win, and he’s been outstanding,” Cora said. “A lot more competitive pitches from the bullpen. The slider is playing, and just looking around the league, that’s a pitch we were missing in the bullpen, and he’s been amazing.

“There’s certain guys, they love the fact that they have to compete on a daily basis, and he has to be ready for that. He pitched three days in a row, he doesn’t pitch for a while, today he goes three. He loves that. He’s a work-a-holic. He works hard at his craft, and he’s locked in right now. It’s fun to watch.”

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3. Rafael Devers had a weird moment in the top of the seventh — he was livid after a swinging strikeout. Presumably, Devers thought he fouled the pitch off, although replays showed that he missed, and he appeared on the verge of getting himself thrown out.

Given the Red Sox’s absences, getting thrown out would have been a tough look for Devers, who might owe Carlos Febles a thank you despite the smack Devers took to the face.

4. Alex Cora said he isn’t certain what Kiké Hernández’s status will be on Friday. Hernández reportedly could return this weekend.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox — buoyed by their victory on Wednesday — have remained positive with some help from Chris Sale.

“Chris was talking to the guys today, and he’s been saying all along, nothing is going to stop us,” Cora said. “He’s been very loud in the clubhouse just letting them know, ‘It doesn’t matter what’s going on, we just have to keep pushing. We’re going to be okay. We’re going to be okay.’ When you have guys like that can speak up in the clubhouse and then they go out there and they perform, it’s a lot easier.

“We’re not the first team that has had a COVID issue. But there have been teams who have gone through this and then they took off. Hopefully, things are taking off, and we can play solid baseball all the way through September and get to October and play in October.”

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