The weather was as cold as Boston’s offense on Sunday as the Red Sox seemed destined for a loss heading into the 8th inning, down 7-2 to the Rays. The 38ºF game-time temperature was the lowest for any Sox home game in nearly 15 years (34ºF on April 17, 2003).
Tampa Bay subjected the Sox to a thousand cuts with a run scored in every inning from the second to the sixth, then added insult to injury with two more in the top of the seventh. Boston had squeaked in just two runs of their own until the flood gates opened in the bottom the eighth. Facing Rays reliever Matt Andriese, Hanley Ramírez led off the inning with a single but watched as Brock Holt and J.D. Martinez made quick outs.
With two down and even after a switch later in the inning to Tampa closer Alex Colomé, Boston recorded three doubles from Mitch Moreland, Rafael Devers, and Andrew Benintendi along with clutch singles from Eduardo Núñez, Mookie Betts, and Christian Vázquez. When the smoke had cleared the Sox found themselves up 8-7 with Craig Kimbrel ready to go for a 1-2-3 ninth inning. For Kimbrel it was his 69th save in a Boston uniform, tying him with Sparky Lyle for eighth most saves in club history.
Sunday’s win was the eighth in a row for the Red Sox, tying their longest win streak of 2017. The 8-1 start is the club’s best record through the first nine games of a season in franchise history. It’s also the club’s second best win streak for the month of April in the last 100 years after 11 consecutive wins in 2009.
“We’ve been playing good baseball for a month now,” rookie manager Alex Cora said after the game. “I know spring training doesn’t count, but we were playing good baseball [even then]. When you play good baseball, you’re going to have good results.” Cora joins Joe Morgan in 1988 as the only Boston managers to begin his tenure by winning at least eight of his first nine games.
In addition to the startling offensive outburst, the Sox continued their streak of errorless games. The nine straight games without an error is Boston’s longest-ever to begin a season.
Despite the good vibes, the Red Sox got just 3.2 innings of work from Eduardo Rodriguez in his season debut. Rodriguez, who had just been activated from the disabled list following off-season knee surgery, allowed five hits and two walks leading to three earned runs. He did, however, manage seven strikeouts becoming the first Boston pitcher with that many strikeouts without finishing the 4th inning since Roger Clemens on August 31, 1984.
Perhaps more troubling was the apparent ankle injury to Xander Bogaerts, who had to leave the game early. Bogaerts has slashed .368 AVG/.400 OBP/.711 SLG to open the season. His seven doubles, nine extra-base hits, and 23 total bases against the Rays are all the most by any major league hitter against any single opponent so far this season.
For the Rays, Sunday marked their eight straight loss, the longest losing streak in baseball and the club’s longest since an eight-game skid in July 2016. Tampa Bay is just the sixth team since 1908 to win on Opening Day and then lose their next eight games. The last to do that was the 2005 Rockies.
After another off-day, the Red Sox will take on the Yankees at Fenway for three games beginning on Tuesday night.