For the sixth time this season, the Tampa Bay Rays were able to exit Fenway Park with a tally in the win column, this time defeating the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday, 6-5. Avisail Garcia doubled, homered and drove in three key runs, while Emilio Pagan got four critical outs to close out the ballgame.

Tampa Bay didn’t score in the first inning, although they were able to work some long at-bats against former Ray, David Price, which drove up his pitch count and led to his early exit from the ballgame. Meanwhile, Boston took the lead in an extended first inning against Charlie Morton, scoring a pair of runs on a bases-loaded two-run single by Mitch Moreland.

The Rays finally answered in the third inning. Matt Duffy got things started with a double before Austin Meadows roped an RBI triple to right — his seventh of the season. Yet Boston responded in the bottom of the frame with a string of singles against Morton before Benintendi pushed the lead to two runs once more on an RBI single.

In the fourth inning, the Rays looked as though they might break the game open after the loaded bases. Yet they failed to score; stop me if you’ve heard that one before. Boston’s lead was not safe for long though, as Travis d’Arnaud hit a massive 453-foot blast over The Monstah in left in the top of the fifth before Avisail Garcia hit his own solo shot to tie the game.

Tampa Bay was able to move in front when Mike Brosseau singled, Nate Lowe doubled, and Price was pulled from the game with runners in scoring position. With Marcus Walden on the mound, recently acquired Eric Sogard pinch hit for Willy Adames and notched the go-ahead RBI on a groundout, giving the Rays a one-run lead.

Still, Boston moved back in front in the bottom of the inning, albeit for the final time. With one on and two out, Morton was lifted after throwing just 85 pitches.

With the left-handed-hitting Benintendi coming to the plate, Cash called upon lefty ground ball specialist, Adam Kolarek. As fate would have it, Kolarek missed with his location on the very first pitch but Benintendi did not, hammering the ball over the left-field wall for a one-run advantage.

After the ballgame, Cash said that the decision to take out Morton had to do with matchups but said Charlie “deserves” the opportunity to get that out and would give it to him if he could do it all over again.

To his credit, Kolarek got the final out of the inning and pitched a perfect sixth.

Tampa Bay was able to manage a two-out rally in the top of the sixth to regain the lead. d’Arnaud walked and Meadows singled, and Red Sox manager Alex Cora then made a pitching change to bring in a right-hander to face Garcia. Avi made him pay for that lapse in judgment, hammering a two-run double off The Monstah, giving the Rays an unrelinquishable lead.

Put another way, you hate on Cash for the pitching change, the criticism is valid. However, Cora made an equally baffling decision (if not more so, considering Boston’s ‘pen) by leaning on three pitchers to preserve a one-run advantage, and the Rays subsequently took the lead. Surely some Sox fans lost it!

After that, the bullpen did its job. In the seventh, Diego Castillo got the first two outs, and Colin Poche struck out Benintendi with two out and two on to end the frame.

Tampa Bay took their one-run lead into the eighth inning when three pitchers were needed to get through the frame as Boston loaded the bases. Chaz Roe gave up a double to Sam Travis but struck out Christian Vazquez. Oliver Drake walked Brock Holt but got Jackie Bradley Jr. to line out softly to third. Then with two out and two on, Emilio Pagan allowed an infield single to Mookie Betts but got Rafael Devers to fly out.

Pagan took the mound in the ninth inning and got the first two outs before he allowed a bloop single to Benintendi to left, and a base hit to right to Travis. But, Vazquez flew out to left, ending the game.

The Rays bullpen bent but didn’t break and they took the first game of the series. They remain a half-game out of the final Wildcard spot after the Athletics won in 10 innings over Milwaukee, however, they made up ground on Cleveland and New York, and stretched their lead over the Red Sox to a game and a half. They enter play Wednesday with a 63.7% chance of a postseason berth according to Baseball Prospectus.

The New What Next

Game two of the series is on Wednesday, following the trade deadline. Andrew Kittredge (1-0, 3.05 ERA) will open the game ahead of Ryan Yarbrough (9-3, 3.78 ERA). They’ll be opposed by Rick Porcello (9-7, 5.55 ERA).

Andrew Kittredge went three innings on Sunday, allowing two runs while fanning seven.

Ryan Yarbrough allowed one run on four hits with one walk and four strikeouts across 5-1/3 innings. Diego Castillo opened the game, but Yarbrough carried the load starting in the second inning, posting his seventh straight outing with either zero or one run allowed. He has allowed just four total runs in his last 32-2/3 innings of work. Yarbrough owns a 1.10 ERA over that stretch and has won his last four decisions. Overall, Yarbrough maintains a 3.78 ERA (down from 8.10 in April), a 0.93 WHIP, and 62 punchouts in 81 innings this season.

Rick Porcello held the Yankees to three runs on six hits and a walk while striking out five over six innings. After failing to make it through the first inning during his last start against New York in London, Porcello bounced back with a solid outing reinforced by tremendous run support from his offense. In spite a tough 47-pitch second inning, the former Cy Young Award winner settled in to keep the Yankees at bay, tossing 112 pitches in the process. Even so, Porcello carries a 5.55 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, and a 2.79 K/BB on the season. Key Matchups: Ji-Man Choi (5-13, 2B, 3B, HR, RBI, 2 BB), Matt Duffy (9-21, RBI), Avisail Garcia (11-27, 2B, 2 HR, 7 RBI, BB), Kevin Kiermaier (13-52, 2 2B, 3B, 4 RBI, BB), Daniel Robertson (2-7), Joey Wendle (5-12, 2B, BB)

You can read about the series in our preview, while the starting lineup and Noteworthiness are below.

Rays 7/31/19 Starting Lineup

  1. Choi DH
  2. Meadows LF
  3. d’Arnaud C
  4. Lowe 1B
  5. Garcia RF
  6. Kiermaier CF
  7. Duffy 3B
  8. Sogard 2B
  9. Adames SS


— Kevin Kiermaier (thumb sprain) has been activated from the 10-day Injured List. To make room for Kiermaier, INF Joey Wendle has been placed on the IL with right wrist inflammation.

— Brendan McKay has been added to the taxi squad in advance of his start in Boston tomorrow.

— About last night’s strike zone. First, it was wide, then it was tight. Then it was wide again, and once more tight. Back and forth all night.

— We will have a separate post if any deals are made by the 4:00 trade deadline.

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