For six innings, the story of Friday's game was Rays starter Alex Cobb, who had held Boston to one hit through one out in the seventh. But a bizarre Red Sox rally that featured two doubles, an infield single, a walk and an almost comical barrage of sloppy defense earned Boston four runs and knocked Cobb from the game. Boston rallied again in the eighth but was unable to plate a run, then went down in order in the ninth.
Despite a rocky end to his outing, Cobb earned praise from Rays manager Kevin Cash. Cash noted the success of Cobb's curveball, which he threw 42 times in 107 pitches.
"Alex Cobb was outstanding," Cash said. "He really threw the ball well. It says a lot about him to be able to go out there, basically he's like a different pitcher now with the new approach, fastball-curveball. The curveball has become a very, very good weapon for him over the last couple of starts. I'm impressed with the way he's committed himself to it, and going out there and using it right when the pitches matter the most."
For the second time this season, the Rays knocked around reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello, collecting at least one hit in all six innings he pitched. Though two of the five runs Porcello allowed were unearned, he scattered nine hits, including a two-run home run to Evan Longoria in the fifth inning. The righty now has five losses on the season, one more than he had all last year.
"I thought [Porcello] was strong," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "He elevated a couple of pitches, especially the fastball to Longoria."
The teams combined for five errors in the contest.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Longo goes long: With a 3-0 lead in hand and Cobb cruising along, Longoria put the Red Sox at arm's length with a two-run, fifth-inning blast to put the Rays up, 5-0. With Corey Dickerson on third base, and two outs, the Tampa Bay third baseman took an 0-1 fastball from Porcello over the Green Monster and out of the park. It was the 31st home run of Longoria's career against the Red Sox, and was hit an estimated 406 feet, with an exit velocity of 103 mph according to Statcast™. The long ball was Longoria's fifth of the season, and proved vital when the Red Sox mounted a comeback that fell one run short.
"I was searching for my swing a lot the first month of the season," Longoria said. "Hitting is a lot of feel for me. When I'm not feeling great, I'm always searching for something new or different to try. As of late I've felt good."
Sox blow big opportunity in eighth: After getting four runs back in a wild seventh inning, Boston mounted another rally in the eighth. Xander Bogaerts led off with a hard-hit double down the left-field line, and Andrew Benintendi followed with a walk. When Bogaerts advanced to third on a Chris Young fly ball, the Red Sox had runners on the corners with only one out. But Cash brought in lefty Danny Farquhar to face Mitch Moreland, who struck out on four pitches. Cash went to the bullpen again, calling on closer Alex Colome to induce an inning-ending groundout from Josh Rutledge. The Rays escaped with the lead, and Colome preserved it in the ninth.
Cash said afterward he was "impressed" with how his team bounced back from the sloppy seventh.
"You'd rather avoid those types of innings, but it was nice to see us kind of get it together; regroup a little bit," Cash said. "We went out there, and the pitchers that we asked to come in there did a really, really nice job."
"We got to have offense to win ballgames. They showed up tonight. Fortunately, our pitching kind of just did enough to get by. That's a good formula for us to win: good pitching and timely hitting." -- Cobb
"It's been a tough position for us, make no mistake about it," Farrell said. "We've made far too many errors as a group."
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
With two outs in the bottom of the third inning, Mookie Betts hit a grounder to shortstop and hustled down the line to make the play close at first. He was called out on the throw, prompting a challenge from Farrell. After a review of 1 minute, 18 seconds, the call stood and the inning ended.
WHAT'S NEXT Rays: Left-hander Blake Snell gets the nod, having thrown exactly five innings in each of his last five starts. The southpaw has pitched six or more innings only once this season, on April 6th. The Rays' starter should not be affected by the game's time change to 1:05 p.m. ET, as his last start at Fenway came with an 11 a.m. first pitch on Patriots' Day.
Red Sox:Chris Sale will start for Boston in the second game of the series. The lefty allowed a season-high four runs in six innings last week against Minnesota, but still ranks sixth in the American League with a 1.92 ERA, and leads the Majors with 73 strikeouts.