The Boston Red Sox played the first two games out of three in their matchup against the Tampa Bay Rays this week. The two teams were in first and second place, respectively, of the American League East going into the series, with the Red Sox a half-game ahead of the Rays. The Red Sox won Tuesday’s game 9-5 in 11 innings, while the Rays won Wednesday’s game 8-2. Thursday’s game will determine who leads the division moving forward.
Despite their winning record, Tampa Bay had lost six games in a row entering the series. Their loss on Tuesday bumped it up to seven, marking their longest losing streak so far this season.
Tuesday’s game was tight until the end and included several strange plays. In the top of the 10th inning, Red Sox first baseman Bobby Dalbec tried to steal home to take the lead. Pete Fairbanks’ pitch got by Rays catcher Mike Zunino, but it bounced off the backstop right to him, making it an easy toss to Fairbanks, who was able to tag Dalbec out on a close play. Fairbanks was blocking the plate, but it was ruled legal because he was in the middle of fielding Zunino’s toss.
In the bottom of the 10th, Rays’ pinch-runner Brett Phillips made a costly baserunning error, running into an out after forgetting that second baseman Joey Wendle had been intentionally walked. When Zunino hit a ground ball to third baseman Rafael Devers, Phillips tried to go back to second even though the intentional walk created a force. Devers was able to step on third to get the force out despite not fielding the ball cleanly.
Connor Wong made his MLB debut after being called up from the Triple-A Worcester Red Sox and being added to the Red Sox roster on Tuesday. He started the 11th inning as the pinch-runner on second base and scored the go-ahead run when Devers hit a ground ball to right field. Shortstop Xander Bogaerts also scored on Devers’ hit. Devers scored on a hit from outfielder Hunter Renfroe, and Renfroe scored on a sacrifice fly from second baseman Kike Hernández. The Rays couldn’t score any runs in the bottom of the 11th, and the Red Sox won.
In Wednesday’s game, the Rays took the lead in the first inning and kept it for the rest of the game. They had two two-run home runs, one by outfielder Austin Meadows in the bottom of the first inning, and one by Zunino in the bottom of the second. Second baseman Brandon Lowe followed with a three-run home run in the bottom of the seventh, and the Rays ultimately won 8-2.
Following Thursday’s tie-breaking game against the Rays, the Boston Red Sox will continue to face strong competition when they go on to play the Yankees, the Royals, and the Athletics. These matchups will make it challenging for the Red Sox to maintain and increase their lead in the division.
Stay tuned for more Boston Red Sox news and notes.