The Tampa Bay Rays grudgingly agreed to play a doubleheader against the Red Sox at Fenway Park on Thursday only after exhausting all avenues of appeal when Wednesday’s game was rained out.
The Rays even suggested the Sox only wanted to play two games so they could give away the Dustin Pedroia bobblehead dolls stacked on pallets throughout the park instead of putting them in storage.
Red Sox officials denied that, saying they simply preferred to play he doubleheader now rather than make the game up later in the season. There were strategic motives, too. The Rays were slumping, the result of injuries to their rotation, while the Sox had won three of four.
For whatever the reasons, the Sox scheduled themselves into a disheartening sweep. The Rays won the afternoon game, 2-1, then came back to win the night game, 6-5.
"I hope everyone enjoyed their bobbleheads,” Tampa Bay infielder Ben Zobrist said.
The 13-16 Red Sox couldn’t hold a 5-2 lead in the nightcap as the Rays scored the final four runs. Yunel Escobar’s long home run over everything in left field off Koji Uehara in the ninth inning was the difference.
“I just left a ball up,” Uehara said. “Physically I’m fine.”
The Red Sox were held to 12 hits over 18 innings and left 21 runners on base. They were 4 of 20 with runners in scoring position.
The Sox are hitting .223 with runners in scoring position.
“The one thing I will say is that we continue to create those opportunities. Things will turn,” manager John Farrell said.
The Sox are 6-10 at home with losses in five of their last seven games.
“Very disappointing. That’s a tough day,” Mike Napoli said.
A few notes:
* The Sox were 0 for 4 with a runner on third with less than two outs in the second game. Farrell didn't argue when asked if the hitters are running into a mental block.
“I can’t speak for everyone else. I’m going up there trying to give a tough at-bat every time,” Napoli said. “It’s just not happening. We’ve got to keep pushing.”
* Farrell managed the two games like they were must-wins. A.J. Pierzynski pinch hit in the first game and caught three innings before playing the entire second game. Seven players started both games. He also tried to get through the second game by getting eight outs out of Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara.
* The Sox were sloppy. Grady Sizemore was picked off first base to end the fifth inning of the second game. This after the Red Sox had scored five runs and put four consecutive men on base. A pop-up was dropped by Will Middlebrooks in the sixth inning of the second game. Farrell said shortstop Xander Bogaerts needed to take charge of the play. It's one thing to lose games because of poor situational hitting. That's going to happen. But the level of play this season has been lagging.
A stat I keep coming back to: The Sox have allowed 19 unearned runs in 29 games. They gave up 43 over 162 games last season. They're on a pace to allow 106.
* Thought it was a little unseemly how much — and how vociferously — the Red Sox complained about the replay challenge in Game 1. The frustration is understandable. But this team has far bigger worries than the replay system. The 2013 team was very good at focusing on the game and what they would control. This team could stand some more of that.
* The bullpen has allowed 15 earned runs in its last 18 innings.