ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Six years between big-league starts, Boston Red Sox left-hander Rich Hill made the most of a chance he had no earthly reason to believe he’d ever get, holding the Tampa Bay Rays scoreless on one hit in seven innings and striking out 10 on Sunday.
It took six more innings but someone finally scored. The Red Sox strung together four consecutive singles in the 13th inning to beat the Rays 2-0 before a crowd of 15,402 in Tropicana Field.
The Red Sox loaded the bases on singles by Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts and Travis Shaw off Rays left-hander Enny Romero. Rays manager Kevin Cash brought in his seventh pitcher, right-hander Andrew Bellatti, and Rusney Castillo lined a single to left, scoring Pedroia and Bogaerts.
The Sox outhit the Rays 14-3. The Red Sox also struck out 19 times. By taking two of three games in the series, the Red Sox drew to within a game of third-place Tampa Bay. Robbie Ross Jr., the seventh Boston pitcher, was credited with his second save. The Red Sox's bullpen pitched six scoreless innings, holding the Rays to two hits. Tommy Layne and Heath Hembree each stranded two runners in extra innings.
Hill last started a game in 2009 for the Baltimore Orioles. Since then, the 35-year-old left-hander had blown out his elbow, been converted to reliever, pitched for four big-league teams, signed nine times as a minor-league free agent (six times by the Sox), was released three times, sold once and reinvented himself this summer as a starter for the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League.
Signed in August and assigned to Triple-A Pawtucket, where he made five starts, Hill resurfaced Sunday as a starter for the Red Sox, who were looking to expand their rotation to six pitchers to save the wear and tear on some of their young arms.
With two out in the third, Hill allowed an infield hit to J.P. Arencibia, a ground ball into the hole that shortstop Xander Bogaerts was unable to field cleanly. Hill hit two batters and walked another, but those were the only baserunners he allowed. Only one Ray, Arencibia, advanced as far as second. Only three Rays hit balls that reached the outfield. None squared up a ball as Hill’s big curveball confounded the Rays.
All that splendid work, and Hill came away with only a great story to tell, not a victory. The day after David Ortiz hit his 499th and 500th home runs and his teammates hit three others, the Sox struck out 16 times in regulation—matching a season-high for a nine-inning game they set Aug. 29 against Jacob deGrom of the Mets and three relievers.
Papi sits: Ortiz was given the day off, his first since Aug. 26. He’d started each of the last 14 games.
Betts’ streak at 18: Mookie Betts lined a single to left off Smyly in the third inning to extend his hitting streak to a career-best 18 games. Betts also beat out infield hits in the eighth and 10th innings.
Whiffenpoof song: The Red Sox struck out at least once in every inning in regulation but the eighth. Third-string catcher Sandy Leon, who hadn’t appeared in a game since Sept. 2, whiffed four times and popped up a sacrifice attempt. Jackie Bradley Jr. also struck out three times.
The teams combined for 33 strikeouts, matching the most strikeouts in a game this season. The Rays and Astros struck out 33 times in 13 innings on Aug. 19.