The Boston Red Sox threw a dart into the Tampa Bay Rays playoff balloon, taking game three of the four-game series Sunday afternoon at Tropicana Field, 7-4.
With the loss, the Rays stand to lose ground in the American League wild-card race, pending the outcomes of late games in Oakland and Cleveland.
The Red Sox got on the board immediately against Rays’ starter Ryan Yarbrough, scoring four runs on six hits, all sandwiched between Jackie Bradley Jr. strikeouts to start and end the inning.
After Bradley’s first strikeout, the Red Sox strung together five consecutive hits that included three straight singles by Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez, who drove in the game’s first run.
Then Christian Vazquez followed with a three-run homer on the very first pitch he saw, giving the Sox a 4-0 lead.
The Rays cut into that lead in the bottom of the inning, as Joey Wendle led off with a walk and Austin Meadows advanced him to third on a single. Wendle scored on a double-play grounder by Tommy Pham.
The Rays kept chipping away at the Boston lead, scoring a run each in the second and third innings. In the second, Kevin Kiermaier drove in Brandon Lowe with a single, and in the third, Wendle led off the inning with a solo homer off Boston starter and former Ray Nathan Eovaldi.
But in the top of the fourth, Rays pitchers started losing control. Yarbrough, who was kept in the game after the first-inning blues, walked Devers to end his afternoon. Prior to that, Bradley doubled and advanced to third on a throwing error by Kiermaier. After the Devers walk, Rays manager Kevin Cash brought in Andrew Kittredge, who promptly hit Bogaerts with his first pitch to load the bases. Then Martinez walked, forcing in a run, and one batter later, Kittredge unleashed a wild pitch to Sam Travis, scoring Devers from third, and extending the Red Sox lead to 6-3.
The Red Sox picked up an insurance run in the seventh, as Martinez and Vazquez led off the inning with back-to-back singles off Trevor Richards. And it looked as if Richards might get out of the inning, as he followed with back-to-back strikeouts of Sam Travis and Gorkys Hernandez.
However, Wendle could not handle a cue shot off Chris Owings’ bat, allowing Martinez to score Boston’s seventh run.
In the ninth, there was a nice moment for Rays’ pitcher Brendan McKay, as he launched his first major-league homer, providing the Rays’ final run. McKay was pinch-hitting for Mike Zunino.
*Yarbrough went three and a third innings and took the loss, allowing six runs on eight hits. He has not won since August 11th.
*Ji-Man Choi went 0-for-4, striking out all four times.
*Eovaldi picked up his first win as a starter this season.
*Monday’s starters are Jhoulys Chacin for the Red Sox (3-11, 5.66 ERA) going up against Blake Snell (6-7, 4.19 ERA), who is making his second start since returning from elbow surgery in July. Snell went two innings against the Dodgers last Tuesday, allowing no hits and striking out four. Game time is 7:10 p.m.