ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Red Sox aren’t the first defending World Series champion to lose 10 games in a row the following season. The Marlins did in 1998, just before John W. Henry bought the team.
The Marlins, however, had an excuse. Previous ownership blew up a championship roster, citing financial considerations. The Red Sox, meanwhile, have made changes but still rank in the top tier of big league payrolls. They have earned this losing streak.
The result: The Sox lost 8-5 to the Rays before 26,199 in Tropicana Field. This is Boston's longest losing streak since they lost 11 in 1994. The Red Sox have been swept by three straight opponents, the Tigers and Blue Jays at home and the Rays in the Trop. The losing streak began May 15 with a 4-3, 10-inning loss in Minnesota. The Sox have been outscored 52-26 during the streak.
Bench-clearing incident: So it was probably inevitable that frustration would finally spill over, as it did in the seventh inning, right after the Rays had scored five runs, three on Sean Rodriguez’s pinch-hit home run off Craig Breslow, to break a 3-3 tie. Yunel Escobar, who had just doubled home two runs to make it 8-3, took off on Edward Mujica’s first pitch and took third uncontested (ruled defensive indifference) but not unnoticed.
The Sox bench -- specifically, it appeared, David Ross -- took exception to Escobar running in that situation, which in some baseball circles is akin to kicking a man when he is down. Escobar began gesturing wildly at the dugout, Ross broke in his direction, and Jonny Gomes, who had steamed in from left field, took a poke at the Rays shortstop. That was the signal for the benches to empty, though actual hostilities were on the tame side.
Ejections: Gomes was tossed for the Sox, Escobar and Rodriguez for the Rays. Gomes’ departure from the game led to Jonathan Herrera’s first appearance at first base, with Mike Carp taking Gomes’ place in left.
Gomes, in a pinch: Inserted to bat for Jackie Bradley Jr. with the Sox down 3-1 in the top of the seventh, Gomes tied the score with a two-run home run off reliever Joel Peralta, the eighth pinch-hit home run of his career, fifth with the Sox. A.J. Pierzynski was on second after Escobar muffed a barehanded pickup of his chopper, with Pierzynski hustling for a double.
Battered Breslow: The left-handed reliever, who had been unscored upon in his previous 10 outings, faced eight batters in the seventh. Six of them reached, with Rodriguez connecting after pinch hitter Desmond Jennings walked and Evan Longoria singled. Singles by James Loney and Brandon Guyer preceded Escobar’s double.
Workman goes five: Minor league call-up Brandon Workman, filling in for the disabled Felix Doubront, held the Rays hitless through the first three innings, but Longoria hit his first pitch of the fourth for a home run, tying the score at 1. A walk, a hit-and-run single by Guyer and another single by Logan Forsythe made it 2-1 Rays. Tampa Bay loaded the bases in the fifth on a double, single and walk, scoring its third run on a force play. Workman was lifted for another minor league call-up, Alex Wilson, to start the sixth.
Late noise: The Sox scored two runs in the ninth on a Pierzynski double, Brock Holt single and two-run single by Xander Bogaerts before Rays closer Grant Balfour retired Dustin Pedroia on a ground ball to end it.