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Sox stumped, fall to Rays in DH Game 1

@IanMBrowne
June 8, 2019

BOSTON -- The issue for the Red Sox numerous times in recent weeks has been the inability to cash in on their opportunities. But in a frustrating Game 1 of Saturday’s day-night doubleheader against the Rays, the Boston bats could barely create opportunities in a 9-2 loss at Fenway Park.

BOSTON -- The issue for the Red Sox numerous times in recent weeks has been the inability to cash in on their opportunities.

But in a frustrating Game 1 of Saturday’s day-night doubleheader against the Rays, the Boston bats could barely create opportunities in a 9-2 loss at Fenway Park.

Box score

Rays lefty Ryan Yarbrough, who yielded two runs (one earned) in 7 2/3 innings, held down the Sox as thoroughly in this one as Yonny Chirinos did on Friday night.

And when a glimmer of hope presented itself -- as was the case in the sixth and seventh innings -- Xander Bogaerts and Eduardo Núñez grounded into double plays to thwart the chance of a rally.

What did manager Alex Cora see from his offense?

“Not much,” Cora said. “[Yarbrough] kept changing speeds, using that backdoor cutter, using the changeup. We expanded, so we didn’t do much against him.”

The Rays jumped out to a 4-0 lead against fill-in starter Josh A. Smith in the second. Sam Travis got one run back with an RBI single in the bottom of the inning. Yarbrough was untouched after that until the eighth, when Jackie Bradley Jr. got the Sox a little closer by clanging a solo homer high off of Pesky’s Pole in right.

But the Rays spread out the deficit when they rallied for four runs in the top of the ninth against Josh Taylor.

Faced with an early deficit, not to mention another game looming Saturday night and a day game on Sunday, Cora had little choice but to stay away from high-leverage relievers.

“It is what it is,” Cora said. “We’ve got to save for Game 2 and a game tomorrow, so we were trying to extend the pitching and get three outs and give the offense a chance, but it didn’t work out.”

At 33-31, the Sox trail the Yankees and Rays by seven games in the American League East. In the past three weeks, Boston has won just four of 14 games against top contenders Houston, New York, Cleveland and Tampa Bay.

A tough start to the weekend has washed away the momentum that was built when the Sox closed their last road trip with a four-game winning streak that included a sweep in Kansas City.

“I feel like as a team, we’ll hit those stretches where we’re doing pretty well, and now we’re kind of scuffling as a team, but we know we’re capable of doing it. We just have to go out there and execute,” said Bradley.

The word Cora keeps mentioning is consistency -- or lack thereof.

“I think it’s all around,” said Cora. “Just overall we haven’t been consistent -- that’s it.”

The one thing the Red Sox have going for them is time. There are still 98 games left. That said, things need to change in the pretty near future.

The Red Sox make no excuses because of their recent injury woes, which include Mitch Moreland going back on the injured list and J.D. Martinez out the past few days with back spasms. After all, no team has had more injuries to key players this season than the Yankees.

“Stuff happens over the course of the season,” said Bradley. “We have a lot of faith in the guys we have on the team. Whoever steps in, we believe and feel like they’re going to be able to get the job done as well. I think that speaks about the depth of any team that’s a pretty good team.”

The Red Sox still hope to prove they are "a pretty good team," if not a special one.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.