Red Sox-Rays takeaways: Missed opportunities cost Sox in Game 1 originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
They were kept out of the run column Thursday night as the Rays cruised to a 5-0 victory in Game 1. Rookie southpaw Shane McClanahan tossed five scoreless innings before Tampa Bay’s bullpen took over to complete the shutout.
Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez lasted only 1 2/3 innings after allowing two runs on two hits and two walks. Boston will look to even the series Friday night with their ace Chris Sale on the hill.
Here are a few immediate takeaways from the Game 1 defeat.
Red Sox offense fails to capitalize
Tampa Bay showed why it remains the class of the American League East after winning the AL pennant in 2020 and repeating as AL East champs in 2021. Right out of the gate, the Rays put two runs on the board to force Rodriguez out of the game and set the tone for a dominant win. They wasted no time capitalizing on their opportunities.
The Red Sox were outclassed in all facets of the game in the series opener. Boston notched nine hits to Tampa’s six, but all nine of those hits were singles. Nelson Cruz and Randy Arozarena both belted home runs for the Rays while rookie phenom Wander Franco clubbed two doubles.
Going 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position isn’t going to cut it, especially against a Rays team that boasts a loaded pitching staff. The Red Sox had a perfect opportunity to put runs on the board in the eighth inning with the bases loaded and one out, but a Rafael Devers strikeout and Hunter Renfroe pop out blew their biggest chance of the game.
They’ll need to capitalize on those chances in Game 2, otherwise the series will be as good as over.
Rodriguez’s dud put the Red Sox bullpen in a tough spot, but Nick Pivetta came to the rescue with a much-needed relief performance. After Garrett Richards finished off the second inning, Pivetta entered in the third and went on to pitch the next 4 2/3 frames.
Pivetta allowed three runs in the outing. But with no help from the offense, all that matters is he was able to preserve the bullpen for the rest of the series. We could end up looking back at Pivetta’s Game 1 as a key part of the ALDS for Boston.
Tropicana Field is an abomination
Everyone was mad online about Tropicana Field, and for good reason. We had not one, but two brutal Trop moments on Thursday night.
First, it was Nelson Cruz’s third-inning home run off the catwalk:
In the eighth inning, the domed stadium turned a routine pop-up turned into a major issue for the Rays:
We can almost guarantee that won’t be the last ridiculous Trop moment in this series. What an absurd ballpark.
Is Rafael Devers hurt?
There were plenty of questions about Rafael Devers’ health as the Red Sox slugger was seen wincing and taking some awkward swings throughout Game 1. After his final at-bat, which resulted in a strikeout, ESPN’s Jeff Passan appeared to confirm Devers was dealing with some sort of arm injury.
It was going to be difficult for the Red Sox to beat the Rays in this series to begin with. Doing so with Rafael Devers clearly compromised — he is an absolute gamer and is trying to play through an arm injury suffered in the wild card game — is going to be that much harder.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) October 8, 2021
After the game, however, Red Sox manager Alex Cora denied his star third baseman was dealing with anything worth worrying about.
“Today, because he didn’t get a hit, he’s hurt?” he said during his press conference. “It’s the grind of 162, right? There’s things that happen and you get treatment and you grind. Not everybody is 100% right now.”
Cora’s comments are encouraging, but it’s still worth monitoring Devers as the series goes on. The Red Sox have already been playing without J.D. Martinez due to an ankle injury.
October Randy Arozarena is a problem
Rays rookie Randy Arozarena, who hit 10 home runs in last year’s playoffs and was named ALCS MVP, is back to wreak havoc in October once again.
The electric outfielder made his presence felt in the fifth inning with a laser home run to left field, extending Tampa’s lead to 3-0.
Just to add another incredible highlight to his postseason resume, Arozarena pulled off an insane steal of home against Sox reliever Josh Taylor to make it 5-0 in the seventh inning.
The Red Sox might just be better off not pitching to this guy in the series. Of course, if they walk him, he’ll just make them pay on the basepaths.
Chris Sale will look to keep Arozarena quiet in Game 2. First pitch is scheduled for 7:02 p.m. ET on Friday night.
Source: Yahoo Sports