'What we learned': Red Sox’ 4-3 loss to Rays
ST. PETERSBURG. Fla. -- Three things we learned from the Red Sox' 4-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. . .
1) It was fine to have Rick Porcello go out for the eighth inning. But he should have been lifted after giving up the game-tying homer
Porcello had thrown 105 pitches after seven innings, and given the struggles of the bullpen, the Sox have been (correctly) pushing their starters as far as possible. The fewer outs the bullpen is entrusted with these days, the better.
Porcello has retired the last 10 hitters he faced before the eighth, with only two balls reaching the outfield at the time. The pitch to Evan Longoria was a poor one -- a hanging curveball that Porcello noted "I think everybody in the ballpark knew that that was going out'' -- but it wasn't the result of fatigue.
Once the game was tied, however, there seemed little reason to have Porcello continue. He was, by then, at 115 pitches, and should have been lifted. As it turned out, he got one more out and then allowed another single.
2) The Red Sox sure have lost some games in strange fashion this season
Wednesday's soul-crusher marked their fourth walk-off loss this season. Strangely, three of those losses have come as the result of an error.
Even more strange, all three of those errors have come at first base: Hanley Ramirez failed to dig out a low throw from Travis Shaw in Toronto on May 28; Ramirez threw wildly to home, enabling two runs to score in the bottom of the ninth at Anaheim on July 28; and Wednesday night, reliever Heath Hembree was charged with an error when he dropped a field from Shaw at first, then threw home, only to have the ball dislodged from Sandy Leon as Luke Maile scored the winning run.
3) If Andrew Benintendi is lost for any significant period of time, he won't be easy to replace
The fact that Chris Young is back and healthy helps, but Young has historically struggled against righties (.725 OPS this season). Young is a decent outfielder, but the Sox need someone to play left who can hit righthanders.
Brock Holt held that job for much of the season, but seemed to struggle with regular playing time. And the Sox liked the idea of freeing Holt up to return the super utility role, where, this late in the season, he can help give some tired infielders (Xander Bogaerts, Dustin Pedroia) some occasional rest.
Obviously, Holt can move around and help out in both left and around the infield, but it's not the same.
Moreover, the Sox will miss the energy that Benintendi has provided, the spark that he's shown in his first three weeks. That infusion can be a huge boost for a team in the middle of a pennant race.