ST. PETERSBURG -- The much-anticipated Rays "bullpen day" came Saturday night and brought encouraging results despite a 3-2 loss to the Red Sox at Tropicana Field.Andrew Kittredge, also known as the "beginning pitcher" in "bullpen day" vernacular, started and allowed two runs -- one earned -- in 3 1/3 innings.
ST. PETERSBURG -- The much-anticipated Rays "bullpen day" came Saturday night and brought encouraging results despite a 3-2 loss to the Red Sox at Tropicana Field.
Andrew Kittredge, also known as the "beginning pitcher" in "bullpen day" vernacular, started and allowed two runs -- one earned -- in 3 1/3 innings. Ryan Yarbrough followed, making a solid Major League debut by allowing a run on four hits and three walks while striking out three in four innings. In other words, the pair gave the Rays a quality start, using 130 pitches.
"It was really good, obviously," Yarbrough said. "Kit was throwing really well. We didn't know how long we each were going to go. We were each going to go out there until they took the ball away from us, and that was the plan."
Kittredge said his "slider command could have been a little better."
"It's a pitch that I rely on a lot," Kittredge said. "I did throw some good ones, but I think it could have been a little better. But for the most part I did feel pretty good."
What Kittredge did not feel good about was getting behind in the count 3-1 to hot-hitting Xander Bogaerts with one out in the second, which led to a predictable result.
Bogaerts rerouted a 92.5-mph four-seamer into the left-field stands for a 1-0 Red Sox lead.
"He's on fire right now," Kittredge said. "And then you get behind 3-1 and you're obviously in a count that favors him heavily. Any time you're in that position, 3-1, you have to make a good pitch there. And I didn't make a good pitch there. And he made me pay for it."
Kittredge's intention was to keep Bogaerts off balance.
"He handles the bat so well," Kittredge said. "He's a good contact guy. Just trying to keep him off balance, mixing slider and fastball with him. I don't think I was trying to be too fine. It was just a couple of misfires that got me behind."
When asked about the success of the "bullpen day," Rays manager Kevin Cash said he'd save his critique until after a "couple cycles through."
"We don't rate anything after one [time]," Cash said. "I thought the two guys, the combination of them, threw the ball well."
Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Kittredge and Yarbrough, "They can pitch. Those guys can pitch."
"It's not an easy game to play when there's a lot of options like that and you don't know who's coming in and the matchups you're going to face," Cora said.
Rick Porcello maintained the high bar established by Boston's starting pitching with a solid outing. Chris Sale and David Price contributed 13 scoreless innings in the Red Sox's first two games against the Rays, and Porcello extended that streak to 18 1/3 before surrendering a run in the sixth inning.
Porcello still came away with his first win of the season, allowing one run on six hits and a walk while striking out four.
Bogaerts led the Red Sox offensively by going 3-for-4 with a homer, a double and two RBIs. Carlos Gomez made things interesting when he hit his first homer as a Ray, cutting the score to 3-2.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Red-hot Bogaerts goes deep: Bogaerts has been Boston's best hitter to start the season, and the shortstop stayed hot by launching a solo shot to left to break a scoreless tie in the second. It was the sixth hit for Bogaerts in his first nine at-bats of the season, and five of those have gone for extra bases. According to Statcast™, the shot had an exit velocity of 105 mph, a 23-degree launch angle and a projected distance of 392 feet. Bogaerts became the first player in Red Sox history to have multiple extra-base hits in the first three games of the season, and just the second to do it in MLB during the last 100 years, joining Adrian Gonzalez, who performed the feat for the Dodgers in 2015.
Poyner gets a big first out: Cora went to Bobby Poyner in a big spot in the bottom of the seventh. With left-handed batter Kevin Kiermaier representing the tying run, Poyner, a lefty reliever, came on for his Major League debut. In a five-pitch at-bat, Poyner induced Kiermaier into a weak popup to third to end the inning and preserve Boston's 3-1 lead. Poyner had not pitched above Double-A before Saturday's debut. Things didn't go as well in the eighth, when the lefty served up a solo homer to Carlos Gomez to slim the lead to a run.
Doubled up: The Rays have struggled against Craig Kimbrel, so when Mallex Smith drew a leadoff walk from the Boston closer in the ninth it brought cause for optimism. Unfortunately for Smith and the Rays, C.J. Cron was sent up to the plate to pinch-hit, and hit a soft liner to shortstop. Bogaerts caught the ball and snapped off a quick throw to first to double off Smith and snuff out the Rays' hopes for a rally.
"Just try to take it like any other day. Just go after hitters and stay aggressive." -- Yarbrough, on how he approached his Major League debut
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Yarbrough's relief appearance of four innings was the second-longest in franchise history for a reliever making his Major League debut, behind David Price, who pitched 5 1/3 innings against the Yankees in New York on Sept. 14, 2008.
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Rays challenged in the ninth when Mookie Betts was called safe while trying to steal second. After a review of 1 minute, 12 seconds, the call was overturned for the second out.
The Rays will give the ball to Jake Faria on Sunday afternoon to wrap up their four-game homestand against the Red Sox. The right-hander struggled early during Spring Training before holding the Tigers hitless for six innings in his final outing. Faria had been tabbed to pitch the Rays' fourth game of the season, but got moved up after Nathan Eovaldi went on the disabled list. First pitch of the finale of this four-game series is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. ET.
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Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2004.