The Boston Red Sox hosted the Tampa Bay Rays in the first meeting of a three game series in Fenway Park. Joe Kelly (1-0) got the start for the home team looking to earn his second win in despite of an appalling ERA above 10 and Drew Smyly (0-2) got the nod in the rubber game in search of his first victory.
Nevertheless, the anticipated duel between the flame throwing right-handed and the flyball southpaw would not materialize. After issuing two walks and having evident trouble with his command, Kelly just managed to record two outs before an injury forced him out of the ballgame during the first inning. It seems that the former St. Louis Cardinal can either only throw pitches outside the strike zone or feed batters meatballs in the middle of the plate.
The overused Red Sox bullpen would prove to be effective for prolonged periods of the game. Heath Hembree, who was yesterday recalled from Triple A, took immediate care of Kelly's mess and pitched three scoreless innings with a particularly good slider-fastball combo.
On the other side of the battery duel, Drew Smyly extended his hegemony over their A.L East rivals with a spectacular performance. The lefty pounded the strike zone throughout eight brilliant innings, reducing one of baseball´s toughest lineups to a one-hit effort.
Third inning jam
The only moment where Smyly actually looked close to surrender a run, was during the top of the third. After walking two batters in a row and a single by Jackie Bradley Jr., the Sox had the bases loaded with nobody out. Mookie Betts chopped a slow roller to third base that Evan Longoria fielded and he gunned down Chris Young for a force out at the plate. Smyly walked unscathed from the jam by inducing Dustin Pedroia to an inning ending double play with another grounder to second.
Not only did Smyly pitched a gem, he contributed to his defense with a fantastic running catch on a pop out in foul territory. The home team had serious trouble with the Ray´s starter as he scattered eleven Ks during his outing.
Robbie Ross Jr. and Junichi Tazawa were equally effective, the first one as a long reliever and the second as a setup man. The Japanese had a terrific splitter in his way to handing the game to Craig Kimbrel. The premium closer yet again struggled with his command but managed to get the three outs that sent the game to extra innings.
Matt Barnes opened the 10th of what looked to be a long night at Fenway but he was greeted by Kevin Keirmaier. The center fielder smashed a hanging curveball from the young reliever and curled it just over the Pesky Pole for a tie breaking solo shot. Tommy Layne was brought to face the lefty but Travis Shaw committed a costly error at third that loaded the bases for the visitors.
Desmond Jennings then doubled off of Layne and bolstered two insurance runs before the inning was finally over. On the bottom half of the 10th, Alex Colome came from the bullpen and pitched a clean 1-2-3 with a couple of strikeouts to seal the victory for the Rays.
Three straight wins for Tampa Bay and three consecutive losses for Boston. Tomorrow's match-up includes winless Ray's ace, Chris Archer against the Sox, Rick Porcello.
Chris Young has yet to prove that he can destroy lefties as he did last year, so that leaves manager John Farrell with an interesting dilemma whether to play him or utility man, Brock Holt (a lefty that hits better off lefties). Drew Smyly delivered another nifty appearance against the Red Sox and lowered his ERA against them to 1.04, the lowest by any starter with over four starts since 2013.