Three Things Learned from the Red Sox' 12-8 loss to Tampa Bay
1) David Price has to be better than this. A lot better.
By Sean McAdam
Price was handed a 5-1 lead in the first inning...and couldn't get through the fourth. "I know I'm better than that," he lamented. "Whenever you get five runs in the bottom half of the first inning, that's unacceptable (to not protect the lead).''
Fairly or not, Price's starts are regarded as the nearest things to must-wins. Given the financial investment the Sox have in the lefty, and the expectations of his teammates, they come to assume that they will win most his outings.
When one is squandered, there's a sense of missed opportunity.
So far, however, they're just 2-2 in his four starts, and Thursday's start was particularly frustrating given that a win could have put the Red Sox over .500 for the season and at .500 for the first homestand.
Price seemed as perplexed as anyone about the poor outing, noting that it was the best he'd felt physically in any of his start.
But clearly, this wasn't Price at anywhere near the top of his game. He couldn't finish off hitters and he allowed too much damage to the bottom of the Tampa lineup, led by a two-run homer by Curt Casali.
His location was off for much of the day as he elevated pitches in the zone.
Perhaps that can be chalked up to the fact that Price is, historically, a slow starter. Before taking the mound Thursday, he had a 3.90 career ERA in April.
Another disturbing -- if short-term -- trend: Price has had difficulty the second time through an opposing team's lineup. He dominated his former team the first time through, recording a dozen swings and misses. But in the fourth, they batted around and put up six runs against him.
It's one start. But as Price heard from the sell-out crowd, which sprinkled in some boos as he trudged off the mound having recorded just 11 outs: they're all important.
2) Despite eight runs and 14 hits, the Red Sox offense sputtered.
The Red Sox scored five runs in the first inning. They then managed just three more over the next eight innings, though they had chances to do far more damage.
Some of it was tough luck. In the first, Steven Souza Jr. made a spectacular leaping catch to rob David Ortiz of extra bases. In the eighth inning, Hanley Ramirez lined a bullet directly at Logan Forsythe.
But that doesn't explain or excuse the Sox going 4-for-20 with runners in scoring position. Or that the Sox left a dozen base runners on, including three in the seventh, two in the eighth and two more in the ninth.
Too often, an inning would begin well, but the Sox couldn't take advantage of the situation.
As John Farrell noted, the Sox have shown an ability to come back time and again in the first 2 1/2 weeks of the season. They rallied from being down 7-5 and actually tied the game in the bottom of the seventh.
And it's hard to hang a 12-8 loss on the offense when the real culprit was the pitching staff.
Still, another well-timed hit here or there might have made up for a multitude of pitching sins.
3) The bullpen workload finally caught up the Red Sox
The inability of the starters to regularly take the team deep into games proved costly Thursday.
On Tuesday, remember, the Sox had to provide 9 1/3 innings of relief after Joe Kelly had to leave with a right shoulder impingement. And while Rick Porcello party compensated for that Wednesday when he went seven full innings -- just the second Sox starter to do so this season - the fact that the Sox went to Junichi Tazawa in the eighth with a four-run lead revealed a lot about Farrell's confidence in some of his other relievers.
After battling back to forge a tie after seven, Farrell had limited weapons in the bullpen from which to choose.
The manager said that Koji Uehara was only going to come into a game if the team had a lead. And apparently, Tazawa, who had pitched the previous three games in a row, was also unavailable.
With Matt Barnes -- two scoreless innings of middle relief -- used up, that left Farrell with his low-leverage relievers - William Cuevas, making his major league debut and Noe Ramirez -- to get through the final three innings.
That's far from the same as having the troika of Tazawa, Uehara and Kimbrel to tackle the final three innings, and predictably, the Sox paid the price as the Rays managed four runs over the final two frames.