BOSTON -- Despite seven-plus relatively strong innings by Rick Porcello and another multi-hit effort for Mookie Betts, the Boston Red Sox dropped a 6-2 decision to the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday at Fenway Park.
Drew Smyly tossed 6⅓ scoreless innings for the Rays and his teammates jumped all over Boston’s bullpen to break it open after Porcello left. All of the runs were scored from the seventh inning on.
There was some drama in the ninth, when Asdrubal Cabrera homered off Jean Machi, whose next offering sailed over the head of Steven Souza Jr. Machi was ejected immediately and Souza responded by taking Roman Mendez over the Green Monster to make it 6-0.
The Sox scored two in the bottom half and had the tying run on deck, but David Ortiz flied out to left to end it. Boston has scored a total of four runs in two straight losses against Tampa Bay, matching its longest skid this month.
Poor Porcello: For the most part, the Boston righty did his job, although the Rays did get to him for 11 hits, his second-highest total of the season. Porcello helped himself out with eight strikeouts and only one walk, but he was battling more than Smyly and faded late, allowing five of the last seven hitters he faced to reach base.
One of those five scored the game’s first run in the seventh, when old friend Daniel Nava knocked an RBI single through the right side. Two more came in during a three-run eighth, as three hits, a walk and an error broke things open.
Porcello has lasted seven innings or more in five of his six starts since coming off the disabled list and has an ERA of 2.98 in that span.
Don't bet against Betts: Betts wasted little time extending his on-base streak to 26 games with a leadoff single in the first. It is the second-longest current run in the majors and the longest by a Red Sox player since Mike Napoli early in 2013.
Betts moved up on a wild pitch and then easily swiped third base to reach 20 steals on the season. For what it’s worth, Jacoby Ellsbury had 19 entering the night.
Betts also had a sharp single in the fifth and another in the ninth on the play that resulted in Boston’s first run.
No support for Ortiz: Red Sox interim manager Torey Lovullo talked pregame about how installing Travis Shaw into the fifth spot in the lineup has been a “no-brainer” of late, and credited Shaw with not being overwhelmed with the task of hitting behind Ortiz.
Shaw has certainly looked comfortable at the plate, pulling into Wednesday with a .294 average and 11 homers overall, although he was batting only .236 as the No. 5 hitter.
That second number initially took a tumble against Smyly, who understandably was intent on moving past Ortiz and taking on Shaw as much as possible, a strategy that paid off during some of Boston’s only threats.
Ortiz walked on four pitches in the first inning to put runners at the corners before Shaw struck out on four pitches. In the fourth, Ortiz walked again. Shaw then went down swinging on a weak wave at an off-speed pitch. Naturally, Ortiz fanned in the sixth before Shaw doubled down the line.
Too hot corner: Lovullo also said pregame that he wanted to get Deven Marrero another look at third base, which prompted Brock Holt to be benched for the second straight game. Marrero did not make the best impression with an error in Tampa Bay’s eighth-inning rally. With runners on the corners, he came up too early on a relatively routine grounder that could’ve been a double play.
Honoring a great: The incredible life and career of Yogi Berra was honored before the game with a moment of silence, followed by a nice applause from a sparsely settled crowd. Yogi played in one more World Series game (75) than the Red Sox have as an organization.