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Red Sox silence Rays, doubters with bats

Despite the loss of key players, Boston has outhit opponents this spring

By Nathan Mayberg - Editor | Mar 22, 2021

Boston Red Sox slugger Rafael Devers has three home runs this spring, as he seeks to regain the form that made him one of the best hitters in baseball in 2019.

The second inning Friday between the Red Sox and Rays at Fenway South, reminded Boston fans that their 2018 world championship Killer B’s outfield of Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi and Jackie Bradley Jr. was gone forever.

As former Celtics coach Rick Pitino would say, those players aren’t walking onto the field anymore.

The Rays hit back-to-back triples to deep centerfield in an inning in which they plated four runs and reminded Boston fans of their rebuilding mode. Centerfielder Jarren Duran was unable to corral the hits of Rays hitters Willy Adames and Joey Wendle while Yoshi Tsutsogo doubled to veteran outfielder Marwin Gonzalez, a free agent acquisition this spring.

While making Sportscenter highlight reel catches might not be the forte of this group, hitting is. Through Monday, the Red Sox led all teams in OPS this spring.

Joe Bush, of Naples, brought his 10-year-old song Carter to the park Friday.

Despite giving the Rays a 5-0 head start, they rallied to win 11-7. After losing to the Pirates 9-4 and to the Braves 8-2 over the weekend, they beat the Rays again on Monday by a score of 10-4.

How good can the Red Sox hit? A home run by first baseman Michael Chavis Friday gave the Red Sox two of the league’s home run leaders. The other, Bobby Dalbec, also plays first base. The pair both hit homers on Monday to put them in a tie with Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager with six.

Duran had four of the team’s 13 hits Friday, drove in three runs and scored two runs. Outfielder Hunter Renfroe, who played for the Rays last year, homered along with veteran catcher Chris Hermann.

“We’re gonna score runs. We just have to be able to stay in games early on,” Manager Alex Cora said after Friday’s game. “It’s a deep lineup. We will feel throughout the season that we are in every game.”

Of the 33 Red Sox hitters with an at-bat through Sunday, 14 are batting .300 or better.

Red Sox centerfielder Jarren Duran collected four hits against the Rays Friday at Fenway South. He is batting .379 with a 1.178 OPS. / Photo by Nathan Mayberg

The Rays, not known for their hitting as much, had two big home runs in Friday’s game. Catcher Mike Zunino homered off Eovaldi and Yandi Diaz crushed one to dead center off reliever Reynal Espinal.

Pitching

As for pitching, righty Nathan Eovaldi continued his spring struggles this spring. Five days after giving up four runs in four innings to the Twins despite 10 pitches at 100 mph, Eovaldi dialed it back a bit sitting mostly between 96 and 98 mph and gave up five runs in four innings to the Rays while striking out five. His 10.61 ERA this spring has been disappointing though his triple-digit heat has been a good sign health-wise. Hitters actually have a tougher time with Eovaldi’s split-finger fastball and curveball.

The team’s pitching struggles carried through over the weekend as Red Sox starter Martin Perez allowed five runs in an 8-2 loss to the Braves Saturday and Nick Pivetta was knocked around Sunday by the Pittsburgh Pirates, allowing six runs on four innings in a 9-4 defeat.

For the Rays, veteran southpaw Rich Hill started Friday’s game and allowed three runs in 2 2/3 innings. Rays prospect Brent Honeywell started Monday’s game and allowed a run in one inning of work.

Red Sox first baseman Bobby Dalbec has hit five home runs this spring for the Red Sox. / Photo by Nathan Mayberg

Not personal, it’s just business

Tampa Bay’s Chris Archer pitched two innings of scoreless relief against Boston Friday. The Rays signed Archer to a one-year, $6.5 million deal this offseason three years after trading the homegrown righty to the Pirates for Tyler Glasnow, Austin Meadows and Shane Baz. Archer hasn’t allowed a run in two appearances this spring.

Fans

How has the fan experience at Fenway South this spring?

Rays pitcher Chris Archers blanked the Red Sox in his two innings of work Friday in Fort Myers Friday. / Photo by Nathan Mayberg

Joe Bush, of Naples, brought his 10-year-old song Carter to the park Friday. “I think they are doing the best with what they have,” Bush said. He liked the amount of cleaning that he saw.

“It doesn’t have the same exact vibe but we still had a great time,” he said. Bush, a transplant from Colorado and Boston, initially bought tickets to sit in the Green Monster but said he and his son “felt melancholy a little bit” up there so they went online and bought two tickets behind home plate. The tickets were a bit pricey but Bush said the difference in feeling was “night and day.”

Bush said the Green Monster “didn’t have much of a vibe” like it would in years past when it was filled with people. Carter Bush said he is looking forward this year to the return of Chris Sale, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery. Sale owns the fifth-lowest career WHIP (walks and hits per inning) for starters with more than 1,000 innings pitches.

Lisa Slotter, of Naples, said “it’s a little quieter but it’s nice. We don’t have people sitting on top of each other.”

Her husband, Brian Slotter, thinks the team’s infield and pitching is going in the “right direction” though he said they “gave away” the best outfield in baseball. “It’s a rebuilding year,” he said.