Beginning with Friday's games, it's Player's Weekend where teams across Major League Baseball wear (frankly hideous) jerseys with their (oftentimes lame) nicknames on the back. I'm not trying to sound curmudgeonly and I'm never averse to having fun, but this promotion is one that's just felt forced to me over the last few years. Still, it's a minor quibble since as always, it's the product on the field that matters the most. After dominating the Indians in the final two games of the previous series, the Red Sox looked to carry their momentum into this series against Tampa. Hector Velazquez was making what was most likely his final spot start until Eduardo Rodriguez returns next week and was up against former Red Sox prospect Jalen Beeks. Given how the Sox had been hitting the last two games, it seemed like a series opening win was there for the taking...
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...but as I've said all season, baseball is a weird game. I'm sure we all expected the Red Sox to get destroyed by the Rays after they just split with the Indians, right? That's exactly what happened as this one was close until all of a sudden it wasn't. When Tampa jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second inning off of a Carlos Gomez fielder's choice and Michael Perez' two-RBI double, it didn't seem like a big deal. The Sox have come back from deficits like that all season and Xander Bogaerts' two-RBI single in the third seemed to bear this out. However, Velazquez completely lost he plot in the third inning when he allowed five runs. Kevin Kiermaier, Gomez, Brandon Lowe, and Perez, all singled in runs to push the Rays up 8-2. Then in the fourth with Drew Pomeranz in for a long relief appearance, the Rays got a a two run blast from Willy Adames to put the game out of reach for good at 10-3. It's sad that this is what it's come to for Pomeranz, who now only finds himself pitching in mop-up duty in blowouts. In this game though he was far better than Velazquez, holding down the fort for 4.1 innings and only giving up two runs on one hit. The Sox picked up a run in the fifth when JD Martinez drove in Andrew Benintendi with a single and they threatened a few times later in the game, but Beeks kept them off kilter all night and they couldn't convert. A chance with the bases loaded in the eighth was particularly frustrating when they came away empty-handed and they shockingly lost in a 10-3 blowout. Velazquez was putrid, only lasting 2.2 innings and giving up eight runs on nine hits. Yes, Alex Cora waited too long to give him the hook but it happened so suddenly that it probably wouldn't have mattered one way or another...it was just one of those nights. Boston actually outhit Tampa 13-12 but none of them were clutch and in a strange twist, every Red Sox hit was a single. For the second time facing them since being traded, Beeks confounded the Red Sox. Everyone had a hit except for Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley and Mookie's recent slump has seen JD Martinez close to within 0.003 points for the batting average lead.
One loss isn't a huge cause for concern even with the Yankees coming back in extra innings to barely beat the Orioles, but it's a bit surprising how flat the Sox came out after riding high at the end of the Cleveland series. Mookie's recent offensive lull is a bit concerning especially given how consistent he's been all season to this point, but it's better to get it out of the way now than to slump in October. Rick Porcello will take the mound for game two in an effort to right the ship and get the Red Sox back on track against this annoying Rays team that is very talented and tough despite their record.