The Red Sox took a lead. They soon lost that lead. Then the bullpen did its best to seal the defeat.
Sound familiar? It’s a script the Red Sox have followed all too consistently lately. That trend continued on Tuesday night as they suffered a 4-3 loss to the Rays at Fenway Park. Drew Pomeranz took a 3-1 lead in the seventh, but for the second straight outing that inning proved one too many as he gave up a two-out, two-run home run to No. 9 hitter Luke Maile to tie the game at 3-3. Clay Buchholz then gave up the go-ahead home run to Evan Longoria in the eighth to put Tampa Bay away for good.
Yup, it was another one of those nights.
Top Play (WPA): Maile’s home run was just his second of the season, but it proved to be the game’s biggest moment as he drove a 1-2 curve from Pomeranz over the left field wall to tie the game (+.282). It was frustrating to watch Pomeranz make a great start look average in the seventh inning for the second straight start. The lefty had allowed just one run on three hits to that point, earning himself the chance to go back out in the seventh. He gave up a leadoff single to Tim Beckham, but then got the next two batters out before serving up the home run.
It didn’t get any better from there. Buchholz came on in the eighth and was once again home run bait, surrendering a solo home run to Longoria (+.265) to break the tie.
Bottom Play (WPA): The game’s bottom three plays all happened to be the bottom three plays in the last of the ninth inning in reverse order, so let’s just break down what happened.
Mookie Betts led off the inning with a ground out to second (-.092), then Hanley Ramirez followed with a single to right for his third hit of the night. Travis Shaw struck out for the fourth time of the night for the second out of the inning (-.115). The Red Sox, however got some life as Ramirez reached second on a passed ball and Chris Young followed with a walk, giving Sandy Leon a chance to tie or win the game.
Leon did neither. Instead, he struck out on three pitches on Alex Colome to end the game (-.176).
Key Moment: The Red Sox scored twice in the sixth inning to take a 3-1 lead, but given the final score you can’t help but wonder what could have been offensively. Dustin Pedroia drew a one-out walk and Xander Bogaerts doubled for his 500th career hit, putting two on and one out for David Ortiz. Ortiz, however, was robbed of a hit one his liner to right thanks to a diving catch by Steven Souza and instead settled for a sacrifice fly.
The Sox added an extra run just one batter later on a short pop by Ramirez that dropped in the outfield grass. But one can’t help but think they could’ve been capable of more had Ortiz’s fly landed for a hit.
Trend to Watch: Just two days ago I wrote about Pomeranz’s trouble with high pitch counts despite the marked improvements in several other areas since joining the Red Sox. That trend continued on Tuesday. Pomeranz needed 39 pitches to get through the first two innings and 54 to get through the first three. By the time he went out for the seventh he was already at 91, which is about as many quality pitches you’re going to get from Pomeranz per start. It will be worth seeing how much shorter Pomeranz’s leash is over the next couple starts after giving up runs in the seventh for the past two games.
Pedroia, who returned to the lineup on Tuesday after missing the last two games on bereavement leave, extended his hitting streak to seven games with a single on a curveball that was low and well outside the strike zone. The second baseman is in the midst of a ridiculous run in which he’s hit .571 over his last seven games, including a short stretch in which he went 11-for-11. Pedroia’s .284 TAv entering Tuesday’s game was the highest it’s been since 2013, while his .320/.383/.457 slash line is on par with his MVP season in 2008.
Coming Next: The series and the Red Sox’s brief homestand ends Wednesday night with Steven Wright facing lefty Drew Smyly. This will be Wright’s second start since returning from the disabled list. The knuckleballer had an ugly first start back on Friday against the Royals, allowing five runs, two home runs and three walks over six innings. Smyly, meanwhile, holds a decent 3.03 ERA in August, but dominated the Sox in his lone meeting with the team this season on April 19, tossing eight shutout innings and walking 11.