By MyFM's Jake Archer - During the last two nights, we've seen what the top of the Boston Red Sox rotation could and should look like. Chris Sale and David Price went back-to-back outings doing a stellar job and getting their team the wins. Of course, it's against the Tampa Bay Rays but still, it's good to see. Now tonight, they'll look to finish off the quick road trip with their third ace, Rick Porcello, getting the ball. Let's jump back and see how the first two games of the series went down.
After an off-day on Monday, the Sox showed up to Tropicana Field on Tuesday night and handed the ball to their horse, Chris Sale. Going up against the lefty was Jacob Faria of the Rays, who had not done well against Boston so far this season. Things went sideways for him in the third, as he walked Sandy Leon with one out and then allowed a Jackie Bradley Jr. single and a three-run homer by Mookie Betts. It was the 16th of the year for Betts, who continues to just smash everything thrown his way, and he was back in sole possession of the MLB lead.
Faria stayed in to strike out Andrew Benintendi, but then grimaced on the mound and appeared to be hurt. He was taken out, and replaced by Austin Pruitt. The final line for Faria was just two and two thirds innings, while allowing three runs on three hits, one walk and two Ks. Meanwhile, Sale was cruising along until the fourth inning when rookie shortstop Willy Adames took him deep in just his second big-league at-bat. It was 3-1 Boston and you just had to hope that Sale would hunker down.
In the fifth, the Rays grabbed another run off of the Boston ace. Rob Refsnyder doubled to lead off the frame and advanced to third on a passed ball. Daniel Robertson lifted a sac-fly to left to score the run and make it 3-2. The Sox grabbed that run right back in the next half inning though, as Rafael Devers slammed his ninth homerun of the year. Sale settled back in and pitched into the eight, before Joe Kelly replaced him with two outs. The final line for Sale was seven and two thirds innings pitched, two runs (one earned) on four hits, two walks and nine punchouts. He threw 112 pitches as well.
Kelly got the last batter of the eighth via strikeout and now it was time for Craig Kimbrel to shut the door. The closer struggled mightily in the ninth and it looked like he might be about to blow a save. Jesus Sucre singled to lead off the inning and after Kimbrel got two outs, Brad Miller doubled to put the tying run in scoring position. That's when Kimbrel walked Refsnyder (his first walk since April 5th) to load the bases. I was ready to lose my mind, but Mallex Smith grounded out to end the game. The Sox had the win and Kimbrel had his 14th save. Sale picked up the W and moved to 5-1 while Faria took the L and dropped to 3-3.
On Wednesday night it was time for a duel between former Rays ace, David Price, and his protege, Chris Archer. Through five innings, both guys matched zeros. The 10 fans in the stands and 100 watching on TV (because of the Celtics game) were getting a real treat. Finally, Archer blinked in the sixth. Christian Vazquez led off with a single and then the righty gave up back-to-back walks to Betts and Benintendi to load the bases with no outs. Hanley Ramirez grounded into a double-play, but Vazquez came across to put Boston on the board. Archer got JD Martinez for the final out of the inning and he'd somehow slipped his way out of a tight spot while only giving up one.
Price saw Archer give up a run, and then decided he could too, I guess. The lefty walked Denard Span to start the bottom half of the inning and then allowed an RBI double to CJ Cron. We were all tied up again! Both starters got the hook to start the seventh however. Archer's final line was six innings pitched, one run on four hits, three walks and six Ks. Price went six innings, while allowing only one run on three hits, three walks and nine strikeouts. The student had not become the teacher.
Both bullpens worked through a quick seventh, but the Rays' started to show signs of faltering in the eighth. Boston didn't score, but they threatened and that would foreshadow things to come. In the ninth, Alex Colome came in for Tampa Bay and it was all over. Colome is one of the worst closers I've ever seen and the Red Sox seem to always beat him like a drum. This time was no different. Martinez reached on an error by the rookie Adames at short and then Xander Bogaerts doubled to bring him home and take the 2-1 lead. Colome unraveled and walked Devers before throwing a wild pitch to allow the runner to move to second. Eduardo Nunez lofted a sac-fly to center to make it 3-1 and the Sox just needed Kimbrel to pick up another save. He did, this time without trouble, and the Sox had another series victory. Kimbrel picked up his 15th save, Joe Kelly got the win to move to 3-0 and Colome took the loss to go to 2-5.
Boston is now 34-15 and back in sole possession of first place in the American League East. They lead the Yankees by 1.5 games and also own the best record in baseball. Like I said, Rick Porcello will get the ball tonight looking to finish off the sweep. He'll be opposed by Tampa's Blake Snell, who is having a pretty good year. Tune in tonight on MyFM 101.3! First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m.