BOSTON – (Staff Report from Fenway Park) – Entering this afternoon’s game against a makeshift Tampa Bay rotation and a first-time “opener” in right-hander Diego Castillo, the Boston Red Sox were averaging 7.14 runs per game over their prior 14 outings, including offensive outbursts of 15, 19 and two games when they tallied 10 runs.
Tampa Bay shortstop Joey Wendle hit a 2-1, 90 mph sinker from Boston’s spot-starter Hector Velazquez to lead-off the 2nd inning and that blast was enough offense for the Rays to avoid a series sweep at the hands of the previously (red-hot) Red Sox. In the top of the 9th, Tampa first baseman C.J. Cron hit his 24th homer of the season to add an insurance run and close out the scoring for a 2-0 Rays’ win. It marked the fifth time this season the Red Sox were shut-out.
Joey Wendle celebrates his HR
Tampa deployed their “opener” pitching strategy, throwing their starter for only 1.2 innings before he was yanked. It was the 34th time Tampa used an opener but only the first with Castillo. Tampa has used the strategy in place of a traditional starter since May 19 – usually with the opener facing three-to-nine batters.
In relief, former Red Sox prospect Jalen Beeks pitched brilliantly for Tampa, entering the game with two outs in the 2nd inning, going a strong 4.0 innings and allowing only one hit with two walks and three strike-outs. He threw 67 pitches in the long relief effort with 42 strikes.
Beeks was the Red Sox minor league pitching prospect of the year in 2017 but was traded to Tampa July 25th in a deal that sent starter Nathan Eovaldi to Boston.
Beeks (2-1) earned his second win of the year while Velazquez took the loss for Boston and is (7-1) on the 2018 season. He started in place of Red Sox ace Chris Sale who was placed on the disabled list for the second time this season with left shoulder inflammation. Tampa closer Sergio Romo earned his 16th save.
Tampa’s victory snapped a streak of 13 straight Boston wins during day games (best since 1946) and a six-game Fenway Park win streak. The last time the Red Sox were shut-out was July 21st when they lost 5-0 at Detroit.
Boston remains 10-0-3 in their last 13 series, marking their longest unbeaten series streak since the 1972 season.
Tampa has won six of their last 10 games and 10 of the last 18 outings. The Rays will head home for a four-game series against AL Central cellar-dweller Kansas City while Boston stays at Fenway for a four-game series against AL Central best Cleveland.
GAME NOTES: The Red Sox Foundation will host “Picnic in the Park” this afternoon after the ballgame where all Sox players and their families will picnic in the outfield with fans who register and make a significant ($300-$450) donation to the Sox charity foundation, including donations to Red Sox Scholars and the youth RBI Baseball and Softball efforts. BBQ will be served while Red Sox players and coaching staff sign autographs and take some photos with the fans. … The AL Central-leading Cleveland Indians will travel to Boston for a four-game stint, beginning Monday night when RHP Rick Porcello (15-5, 4.04 ERA) faces Cleveland ace Corey Kluber (15-6, 2.68 ERA). Sox RHP Nathan Eovaldi (2-0, 1.99 ERA), LHP Brian Johnson (4-3, 4.00 ERA) and LHP David Price (13-6, 3.69 ERA) round-out the rotation Manager Alex Cora has in mind for the important series. … Rookie RHP Shane Bieber (6-2, 4.37 ERA), RHP Carlos Carrasco (15-6, 3.33 ERA) and RHP Adam Plutko (4-3, 4.62 ERA) will throw for Cleveland. … Cora gave catcher Sandy Leon the day off Sunday after catching Saturday night. The Red Sox are 29-3 (.906) in Leon’s last 32 starts at catcher, dating back to June 21st. … Leon’s counterpart, Christian Vazquez has been out since a fractured right (5th) finger placed him on the DL July 8th. … The Red Sox are (27-8) in Vazquez absence.