Featured image courtesy of Zimbio.com (May 21, 2018 – Source: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images North America)
The Boston Red Sox began the first game of their road trip half a game out of first place. Led by the red-hot bats of co-home run leaders Mookie Betts and JD Martinez, the Sox looked to start their road trip on the right foot. In the end, the Sox were up for the task, defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 4-2.
Homers and Chris Sale: Boston Red Sox Win Series Opener, 4-2
The Red Sox sent Chris Sale out to the mound, so naturally Tampa Bay didn’t do much of anything offensively. The Tampa Bay Rays answered by sending out Jacob Fauria, a high-ranking prospect making his major league debut.
Through the first two innings, Fauria did his job, sending the Sox down in order each time. However, the rookie ran into trouble against the bottom of the order. After issuing a walk to Sandy Leon and giving up a single to Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts stepped into the batter’s box.
Mookie decided he wanted the home run title to himself, so he knocked an absolute blast over the left-field fence. Fauria left a hanging curveball over the inside part of the plate, and Betts made the first-time pro pay for his mistake. Fauria left shortly thereafter thanks to a quad injury, ending his night after just 2.2 innings. The Sox loaded the bases but ultimately couldn’t add any more damage. Still, the Sox took a 3-0 lead into the bottom of the third.
Sale kept the Rays at bay for three innings but made his first mistake of the night in the fourth. Facing shortstop Willy Adames in his MLB debut, Sale left a changeup high in the zone. The Rays top-ranked prospect made Sale pay for the error, launching a solo shot in the same general direction as Mookie’s three-run bomb. Sale put his uncharacteristic mistake behind him, retiring the rest of the Rays and leaving the fourth inning with a 3-1 lead.
The Rays struck again in the bottom of the fifth. Left fielder Rob Refsnyder doubled with one out, and advanced to third on a passed ball. Daniel Robertson then launched a shot to the left-field warning track, but Andrew Benintendi hauled it in. Still, it was more than enough for Refnyder to score, making it a 3-2 game.
The Sox held a one-run lead entering the bottom of the sixth, but Rafael Devers soon expanded the lead. Pitcher Austin Pruitt left a changeup inside right in Devers wheelhouse. The ultra-talented lefty launched the longest shot of the night, crushing the ball down to right-field line. His solo shot made it a 4-2 ballgame.
Chris Sale locked down the Rays the rest of the way. In all, Sale went 7.2 dominant innings, striking out nine while only allowing the one earned run (the sacrifice fly was unearned). After a relatively slow start, it’s safe to say the Red Sox ace is back and better than ever. Joe Kelly relieved him, striking out his lone better and ending the eighth inning.
Craig Kimbrel came on in the bottom of the ninth to finish off the Rays. The closer made it interesting, loading the bases with two outs. However, he made it out of the ninth, earning the save and giving the Red Sox a 4-2 win.