It was just five days ago when the Red Sox salvaged a league split with the Rays, as the last two games in Tampa became more impressive as they battled a COVID-19 outburst that exhausted them more for each day.
But this resilient effort only briefly masked reality: This is Rays division this season, and no one is getting close to them.
One day after brutally taking a big lead, the Red Sox did not respond and became even flatter. Eduardo Rodriguez’s roller coaster season continued with an ugly performance, and the Rays took an extended stroke practice Tuesday night at Fenway Park, where five home runs were beaten along the way to give the Red Sox a 12-7 loss.
If it wasn’t clear before, the Rays continued to confirm their superiority on top of the American League East, which they now lead with 9 1/2 games with less than a month left. And the Red Sox, who somehow led the division just five weeks ago, are 10 games back and are happy to see the Rays just one more time Wednesday night unless they meet again in the playoffs.
Last week’s split was made as Rodriguez spun what he described as his best start to the year, throwing six shutout innings to complete a satisfying Red Sox road trip ravaged by COVID-19. But the left-hander followed it up with one of his worst outings, allowing six runs on eight hits — including two homers — on just 3 2/3 innings.
The Red Sox got off to an ugly start due to more underwhelming defenses, a day after two errors on the road led to their deaths.
With Kiké Hernández back from COVID IL, Alex Verdugo moved to the left field, but his fights continued in the second as he misjudged Jordan Luplow’s volleyball at the bottom of the monster and it rolled away to a double bed. Manuel Margot followed with a rocket from the wall to an RBI double before the defense questions were led to the right. Two hits later, with two on, Mike Zunino’s flyball slid down the right field line Hunter Renfroe’s glove and landed in reasonable range, and Renfroe stopped before realizing it. Two races were scored on the triple.
But Rodriguez could not blame his defense for this. He was slammed around with high contact all night, no harder than Nelson Cruz’s two-run homer that was fired 410 feet to the triangle, and then Zunino’s 407-foot homer that made it 6-1 in the fourth that started the end. of Rodriguez’s night shortly after.
Cruz made it 7-1 with his second homer at night on a shot from Michael Feliz, but a day after they jumped their own 7-1 lead, there was no comeback for the Sox. The Rays hit two more homers, including Luplow’s three-run shot that made it 12-1. The Red Sox scored four in eighth behind back-to-back homers from Bobby Dalbec and Danny Santana before Dalbec hit another two-run homer in the ninth, but that only delayed the inevitable.