Red Sox embarrassed in sloppy 6-2 loss to Rays
Alex Cora: 'It's not good baseball, bottom line'
Before Sunday’s game the Red Sox welcomed hundreds of kids from across New England onto the field at Fenway Park for a parade around the warning track.
Then, in the hours that followed, those kids got to watch as the Red Sox delivered what could only be described as a Little League performance.
Over a stretch where the Red Sox have frequently shot themselves in the foot on defense, the club outdid itself with an embarrassing showing in a 6-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.
The lowlight came on what started as a simple hitand-run single in the top of the sixth, which quickly devolved into a full-fledged disaster. The slow chopper by Yandy Diaz bounced through the infield to Alex Verdugo in right, who nonchalantly returned it into the infield without realizing that Manuel Margot had already gone from first to third and was charging home.
By the time Enmanuel Valdez made the relay home it was already too late, so catcher Connor Wong tried to salvage the play by trying to throw out Diaz at second. His throw sailed into the outfield, and by the time the Red Sox tracked down the ball Diaz was already celebrating at home plate.
“I’ve seen that play too many times the last two years,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “You have to throw the ball to the right base, you have to back up, you cannot become a spectator, you’ve got places to go in every play in baseball. They had a great baseball play, took off, ground ball to second and that happened. It’s not good baseball, bottom line.”
If that play had been the lone hiccup in an otherwise clean game it would have been one thing, but the fact that it was the third major gaffe in a matter of innings made things that much more confounding.
The first miscue came in the top of the third, when Jarren Duran threw home on a Josh Lowe sacrifice fly despite having no chance of throwing out the speedy Yandy Diaz. That allowed Lowe to advance into scoring position, but fortunately Tanner Houck was able to get out of the inning without further incident.
The Red Sox weren’t so fortunate in the fourth. Houck allowed a leadoff single, a walk and then the Rays loaded the bases when Wong fielded a chopper and threw to third trying to nail the lead runner, but Justin Turner was late getting back to the bag. Margot then laced an RBI single to left, and a second run scored when Masataka Yoshida bobbled the ball and was slow getting it back in.
Cora lamented afterwards that these mental lapses keep happening more than a third of the way through the season, but he also took responsibility and vowed to correct them.
“In the end it’s on me. I’m the manager of this club, and we’ve been sloppy,” Cora said. “It’s not about pointing fingers, the roster is the roster and we have to play better baseball, but I’m the manager of this team and defensively we’re not good. We’re not.
“We’ll keep working, we’re going to show up early, we’re going to talk about the plays and we’re going to coach the players until we get it right,” Cora continued. “When? I don’t know. If it’s tomorrow it’s 59 games too late, but we’ve just got to keep going, keep going, keep going until we do it.”
Verdugo said afterwards that he got a late jump on the hit-and-run fiasco because he didn’t get a good read of the ball off the bat, and that he and Jarren Duran both subsequently got caught out of position when the ball came back into the outfield. He said Margot coming around to score from first was on him, and also that while it’s great for Cora and the coaches to take responsibility, it’s ultimately on the players to do their job and make the plays on the field.
“At the end of the day we are the players, we are the ones who have to go out there and make the play and get it done,” Verdugo said. “We can talk about it all we want but we’ve got to be better.”
Houck and the rest of the pitching staff didn’t do themselves any favors either, combining to walk five batters, four of whom would eventually come around to score. Houck allowed four runs over five innings, allowing five hits, four walks with six strikeouts, and Corey Kluber allowed two more over two innings before Kaleb Ort posted two perfect innings in his first big league outing since April 25.
Offensively, Verdugo enjoyed one of his best games of the season, ripping three leadoff extra-base hits on his way to a 3 for 5 showing. He had two doubles and a triple, all of which led off the inning, and scored both of Boston’s runs, the first on a Masataka Yoshida RBI single in the third and the second on a Rafael Devers sacrifice fly in the fifth.
Yoshida also finished 2 for 4 with three hardhit balls, but the Red Sox couldn’t capitalize on enough chances and now find themselves 30-29 on the season and 11 games behind a Rays team that they’re only 1-6 against on the season so far.
“The difference between them and us right now? Base running, defense and throwing strikes,” Cora said. “That was the game today.”
Boston will look to salvage a series split in Monday’s makeup of Friday’s rainout. Brayan Bello (33, 3.89 ERA) will get the ball against Tampa Bay ace Shane McClanahan (8-1, 2.07) with first pitch scheduled for 4:05 p.m.