BOSTON -- At least reprieve is five games away for both Clay Buchholz and this year’s Red Sox.
What had the makings of being a highly encouraging performance for Buchholz turned into an implosion as he gave up five runs in the eighth inning as the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Sox 6-2 Tuesday night at Fenway.
Buchholz had cruised through the first seven innings of the game, needing only 72 pitches and facing no more than four batters in any inning. He had allowed only six hits -- all singles -- and walked none as he pushed his scoreless-inning streak against Tampa Bay to 29.
But everything changed quickly in the eighth. Buchholz walked the leadoff man and sandwiched a hit batter between two outs. One out away from escaping with his lead still intact, he gave up a two-run double to Ben Zobrist and an RBI single to David DeJesus before hitting Evan Longoria and having his night come to an end.
It was yet another step back for Buchholz, who had posted four straight quality starts before lasting only four innings his last time out against Pittsburgh. His ERA is at 5.31, second highest in the league among qualified starters.
He’ll get one more crack at it as he is slated to take the mound against the New York Yankees in Sunday’s season finale.
The offense: There wasn’t much to speak of for Boston in this one. Yoenis Cespedes collected the team’s first hit with two out in the fourth and came around to score on a Daniel Nava double one batter later.
Bad idea: Why one would test the arm of Cespedes in left at Fenway is beyond us. In the third, Yunel Escobar attempted to score from second on a single and was easily thrown out at home by Cespedes. In a last-minute attempt to avoid the tag, Escobar stopped short in front of home, spraining his left knee in the process. He was removed for a defensive replacement in the bottom of the frame and is considered day-to-day.
The outfield assist was Cespedes’ 16th of the season, still tops in the majors. Cespedes was ejected in the eighth by home plate umpire Jeff Nelson after showing displeasure with a called third strike.
Bad idea, part 2: Not to be outdone, Christian Vazquez showed off his arm in the fifth, gunning down Matt Joyce at second on a stolen base attempt. The caught stealing was Vazquez’s 14th in 28 chances, good for a remarkable 50 percent success rate.
New guy in town: Making his Fenway Park debut, Rusney Castillo went 0-for-4, snapping his modest four-game hitting streak to start his career. He grounded out to third in the second, struck out in the fourth, lined out to second in the seventh and flew out to the warning track in right in the ninth.
Five games left ...: For the Red Sox to win twice and have a better record at season’s end than Bobby Valentine’s woebegone 2012 squad (69-93).