The Tampa Bay Rays held onto a 6-5 victory in a nail-bitter against the Boston Red Sox in Fenway Park on the eve of the Major League Baseball trade dealine.
Down 3-1, the Rays rallied to tie the game in the 5th with two solo home runs fom Travis d’Arnaud 13 and Avisaíl García 14, off of David Price. Newly acquired infielder Eric Sogard scored the go-ahead run on a fielder’s choice off Marcus Walden who relieved Price after a Mike Brosseau single and Nate Lowe double.
Then came the controversy, when Kevin Cash inexplicably pulled starter Charlie Morton at just 85 pitches in the bottom of the fifth with two outs and a man on first. The result was a disaster as Andrew Benintendi deposited the first pitch he saw from lefty specialist Adam Kolarek over the green monster for a 5-4 Red Sox lead.
The Rays were not done yet. With two outs, d’Arnaud drew a walk then Austin Meadows singled setting the table for García, 2-5, 2B, HR, 3 RBI, who once again came up big with a two-run double off the monster to regain the lead for the Rays 6-5.
Due to Morton’s early exit, the Rays were forced to use every available arm down the stretch. Kolarek would stay on to work a quick 1-2-3 soxth before giving way to Diego Castillo for two outs in the seventh. Colin Poche came on for the third out.
Chaz Roe, Oliver Drake, and Emilio Pagán spilt the eighth up one out a piece in a heart attack enducing inning that saw the Red Sox load the bases with scorching-hot Rafael Devers coming to the plate. Pagán enduced a soft flyout to left field to hold a narrow one-run lead.
With no one left in the pen, Pagán was left on for the ninth. He got Xander Bogaerts to fly out to right field before striking out J.D. Martinez swinging on a 95 m.p.h. fastball. With two outs, Benintendi dropped a blooper into no man’s land for a base it.
Sam Travis followed with a grounder through the hole to right field advancing Benintendi to third base. Mercifully, Pagán was able to get Christian Vázquez to fly out to the warning track in left and close it out with a fout-out, 30-pitch performance that was surely one of the most critical of the season.
The Rays now hold 1.5 game lead on Boston for the second Wild Card spot. Game 2 of the 3-game series is scheduled for Wednesday night with first pitch at 7:07 p.m. Andrew Kittredge will open for the Rays agaisnt Rick Porcello.