ST. PETERSBURG -- Hector Velazquez (aka Cabezon for Players' Weekend) had been the master of the spot start this season. But that run came to an end on Friday, when the righty spotted the Rays an early lead and the Red Sox never recovered.:: Players' Weekend presented by Valspar Stain
ST. PETERSBURG -- Hector Velazquez (aka Cabezon for Players' Weekend) had been the master of the spot start this season. But that run came to an end on Friday, when the righty spotted the Rays an early lead and the Red Sox never recovered.
:: Players' Weekend presented by Valspar Stain ::
For one of the few times this season, Boston was blown out, 10-3, by the Rays.
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In Velazquez's previous five starts, he had given up a total of seven runs. He topped that on this one night, giving up eight runs and nine hits over 2 2/3 innings.
"I didn't have the command of my pitches, didn't feel very comfortable with my sequence today, but it's just one game," said Velazquez. "I'm not going to hang my head about it. Just move forward."
The 90-40 Red Sox hold an 8 1/2-game lead over the Yankees in the American League East.
Though it came in a losing effort, J.D. Martinez (Flaco) had a three-hit night that included MLB-leading RBI No. 110. Martinez raised his average to .335 and is just three points behind teammate Mookie Betts (Mookie) for the American League lead in batting average. Martinez is making a run at the batting Triple Crown. He has 38 homers, one behind league leader Khris Davis.
A top candidate for the AL MVP Award, Betts is in a rare slump, batting .176 with no RBIs in his past eight games.
"I don't think he's going to hit .450 the whole time, you know?" said Red Sox manager Alex Cora (AC). "He crushed that ball to center field. He walked twice. So, the quality of the at-bats the last few days have been better."
The Rays jumped out first, rallying for three runs in the bottom of the second. The big hit was a drive into the gap in right-center by Michael Perez (Mykii), which Jackie Bradley Jr. (JBJ) attempted to snag with a sensational catch, but it bounced off his outstretched glove for a two-run double. It would have been a five-star catch for Bradley, who needed to go 102 feet in 5.1 seconds, according to Statcast™.
Xander Bogaerts (Bogie) brought the Sox right back to within a run with a two-out, two-run single
From there, however, it was pretty much all Rays.
Things worsened in a big way for Velazquez and the Red Sox in the bottom of the third, when the Rays erupted for five runs on seven singles. Several of the hits just got through the infield and under or just out of the reach of a Boston defender.
"A lot of pitches over the heart of the plate," said Cora. "He had a good fastball going, actually. When he used it up in the zone, it was good, but it seemed like that inning, they were all over his offspeed pitches. Changeup. Curveball. You know, like I said, he wasn't able to put them away there. We were hoping for more [innings]. And it didn't happen."
One positive for the Red Sox was a solid performance out of the bullpen by Thomas Pomeranz (Big Smooth). The lefty, who has struggled to get into any kind of rhythm this season, held the Rays to one hit -- a two-run homer by Willy Adames (The Kid)-- over 4 1/3 innings.
"If you look at something positive, the bullpen is rested for tomorrow," said Cora.
It was a strange game in that the Red Sox actually outhit the Rays, 13-12, but lost by seven runs.
"I think we had 13 hits, three runs. That usually doesn't happen with us," said Andrew Benintendi (Benny). "We usually put up more runs with that many hits. Just one of those games."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Rays escape in fifth: Though they were down 10-3 early, the Red Sox never feel like they are out of the game. And in the fifth, Bogaerts came to the plate with the bases loaded and one out and a chance to do some serious damage against lefty Jalen Beeks. All year, Bogaerts has been one of Boston's most clutch hitters, This time, however, he grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the threat.
"Honestly we kept putting at-bats, and we got Xander with the bases loaded and one out, and it's that feeling like, 'Hey, we're one swing away from making them go into the bullpen and us getting back in it.'" said Cora. "We kept battling, and we got all those hits, but I think they got five in a row. We got 12 spread around. So, it was a good night for them and a bad one for us."
All 13 hits by the Red Sox were singles. The 13 hits represented Boston's highest total without an extra-base hit since Aug. 27, 1974, against the White Sox.
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When Kevin Kiermaier (Outlaw) hit one in the hole in the seventh, it looked like he was going to reach on an infield single. But Bogaerts made a tremendous jump throw to get the out at first. The Rays challenged the call, but it was confirmed by the replay official.
Righty Rick Porcello (Veintidós) takes the ball for the Red Sox in Saturday's middle game of this three-game series against the Rays at 6:10 p.m. ET. The sinkerballer (15-6, 4.14 ERA) surrendered three homers in his last start, a 5-4 loss to the Indians. In 14 career starts at Tropicana Field, Porcello is 8-4 with a 2.72 ERA. Lefty Ryan Yarbrough (Yarbitron) will start for the Rays, who have won six straight.
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.