Chris Sale was at his best on Tuesday, dominating Tampa Bay over eight scoreless innings, while notching 12 strikeouts or more against the Rays for the sixth time in his career. Despite another strong start from Austin Pruitt, the Red Sox won the first of two against the Rays, 2–0.
It’s time for a segment I like to call The Good, the Bad, and the Argyle.
— Austin Pruitt nearly matched Chris Sale, working around a leadoff double to start the game, and facing just one over the minimum over the first three frames. Boston was able to touch the right-hander for a one-run rally (as described by Neil Solondz below), but he limited the damage, and worked around any trouble all night:
Dustin Pedroia walked on a 3–2 pitch to start the rally, and Andrew Benintendi followed with a single to center on an 0–2 pitch. Mookie Betts grounded into 6–4 fielder’s choice, putting runners at the corners. Rookie Rafael Devers grounded back to the mound, and Pruitt got the out at second, but his throw prevented Adeiny Hechavarria from making a relay throw, as Pedroia scored for a 1–0 advantage. Xander Bogaerts singled to right on a 2–2 pitch, but Pruitt limited damage by striking out Mitch Moreland.
Pruitt scattered seven hits (only one to the pull side) and one walk, while fanning five and holding the Red Sox to 0-for-8 wRISP.
— Sergio Romo did a heck of a job over 1-1/3 innings of work, giving up one hit and a deep fly ball out, while striking out one.
— In the third inning, Pruitt induced a double play ball that would have erased the run-scoring rally. Unfortunately, Adeiny Hechavarria unable to turn the double play.
Hechavarria took a difficult bounce awkwardly, letting it get into his body, and was only able to get the force out at second. The botched double play immediately came back to haunt the Rays.
One batter later, Pruitt got Rafael Devers to weakly hit a comebacker to the mound. Pruitt knocked down the ball, then tried to throw to second — albeit somewhat up hill, thus effecting his footwork — to start an inning ending double play. His throw, however, was pulled to the shortstop side of the bag, forcing Hechavarria to dive for the catch and only the force out at second. A run scored of Devers’ fielder’s choice.
— With Logan Morrison on first in the seventh inning, Steven Souza Jr. decided to lay down a sacrifice bunt. The attempt failed when Mitch Moreland quickly fielded the hard hit bunt and fired off a throw to nab the lead runner. Souza, I know you haven’t hit a homer against a lefty this year, however, swing away!
— Mired in a five hits over his last 42 plate appearances slump, who of all people broke up Chris Sale’s no-hit bid? Wilson Ramos. Go Figure.
— Romo gave up a deep fly ball out to the left field wall, and it appeared to be gone. It wasn’t though, and Mallex Smith tracked the ball down and made a running catch at the wall. Apparently Jackie Bradley Junior, who was on first, also thought it was a homer, and as he stood at third base when Smith made, there was nothing he could do to get back to first … see, he never tagged up. Smith threw it back in to first to end the inning.
— The success in Pruitt’s ability to limit hard contact also came at his detriment. As I mentioned above all but one of the hits he allowed were either up the middle or to the big part of the field. Something all of the Rays pitchers have to do a better job with is keep opposing batters honest, by pitching them up and in from time to time.
The right-hander has good stuff, as exemplified by his previous two outings. He, however, does not have an overpowering fastball. Simply put, if he cannot keep batters honest, he will get hammered when he leaves that mistake pitch in the heart of the zone.
The New What Next
The Rays will wrap up this short two-game series on Wednesday with Jake Odorizzi (6-4, 4.47 ERA, 5.74 FIP) on the mound. He’ll pitch opposite of Rick Porcello (5-14, 4.70 ERA, 4.33 FIP).
Odorizzi was activated from the disabled list (retroactive to July 25) after suffering a lower back strain. He allowed two runs on three hits and no walks, while striking out six over three innings in a rehab start for the Class-A Charlotte Stone Crabs on Friday. The right-hander told Kevin Cash, “I’m ready to go … I will be back in there next time my spot comes up, so no more rehab starts.” He also told Cash that he hadn’t this good in quite a while — validating the skipper’s decision to start him against Boston on Wednesday.
Porcello had his strongest outing of 2017 at the Trop on July 8, allowing one run on six hits while striking out seven in a season-high eight innings. He, however, took a loss. Porcello most recently allowed five runs on seven hits over 5-1/3 innings against the ChiSox. With a 4.70 ERA on the season, and a 2-9 record since May 28, the Rays should be able to be competitive against the right-hander. It bears mentioning, Porcello has dropped two out of his three starts against Tampa Bay this year. Key Matchups: Peter Bourjos (2-7), Corey Dickerson (8-29, 4 2B, HR, 3 RBI), Evan Longoria (14-53, 6 2B, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 3 BB), Brad Miller (8-29, 2 2B, 4 HR, 8 RBI, 2 BB), Mallex Smith (2-6, 3B), Steven Souza Jr. (8-27, HR, RBI, BB)
Rays 8/9/17 Starting Lineup
Souza Jr. RF