Rick Porcello bounced back from a tough outing last time out, allowing a run over seven innings. Unfortunately for the Red Sox, Drew Smyly was even better, and the Rays tacked on some late runs to hand Boston a 6-2 loss.
Top Play (WPA): Old friend Daniel Nava (he’ll always be our friend) broke open a scoreless tie with an RBI single off Porcello with two outs in the seventh inning (0.192). If you thought this season’s misery was over, add a crucial hit for Nava against the Red Sox to the list of things that want to make you hurl. Nava’s heroics for the Rays might have hurt more if you couldn’t see them coming from a mile away:
Daniel Nava is going to drive in the winning run, isn’t he?
— Ben Carsley (@BenCarsley) September 24, 2015
Bottom Play (WPA): After Nava’s go-ahead single, the Red Sox put the first two runners on in the bottom of the seventh inning but couldn’t scratch across the tying run. With two outs and runners at second and third, Dustin Pedroia grounded out to shortstop to end the potential rally (-.131). On a night when the Red Sox’s bats struggled, they had few chances, and their inability to cash in here proved costly.
Key Moment: Perhaps an even bigger moment took place earlier in the inning when the Red Sox had runners at first and second with nobody out. Following a leadoff walk by Blake Swihart and a single from Deven Marrero, Jackie Bradley Jr. smashed a ball into the left-center field gap that had double written all over it. Instead, Nava tracked the ball down and made a nice play just in front of the monster to foil Boston again. Nava’s catch was the first out of the inning and, crucially, kept the runners at first and second before the Rays escaped unscathed.
Trends to Watch: Rick Porcello’s final line — seven innings pitched, 11 hits, three runs, eight strikeouts and one walk — doesn’t look all that spectacular, but this outing represented further progress for the right-hander. Porcello induced seven groundballs and struck out more than a batter an inning. His strikeout-to-walk ratio since returning from the DL now sits at 55 to 13. His groundball rate over that time span is a healthy 53.7%, according to the Providence Journal’s Tim Britton. Just one of the 11 hits Porcello allowed went for extra bases, and he was as much a victim of poor fortune as anything else at times. It hasn’t been an easy first season in Boston, but Porcello has something to build on here.
Deven Marrero looked sharp at third base yet again, making some stellar plays to provide further proof of his ability to flash the leather. He’s not going to suddenly earn himself a starting spot for the Red Sox next season, but he could be forcing himself into the picture as a bench option and injury replacement. Marrero’s versatility in the field is an asset Boston can lean on when need be.
Mookie Betts went 3-for-5 with a stolen base and even hit the ball hard when making an out. He’s now reached base safely in 26 straight games and is batting .314/.357/.480 in the second half. He is 22 years old. We are not worthy.
Coming next: The Red Sox close out their four-game series with the Rays on Thursday night at Fenway. Wade Miley will get the start and look to continue a solid second half that’s seen him post a 3.31 FIP, 20.6% strikeout rate and 6.6% walk rate. Tampa Bay will hand the ball to a rejuvenated Erasmo Ramirez, who is coming off back-to-back strong outings against the Orioles and Yankees.
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