Heading into Tuesday night’s showdown between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox, the main storyline was the 2022 debut of locker-room hurricane Chris Sale. Despite his turbulent final start in the minor leagues last Wednesday, Sale was inserted into the rotation as Boston took on Tampa Bay in the second game of a four-game series. Sale was pulled after throwing just five innings and 78 pitches, but his relatively brief appearance was plenty encouraging.
Sale gave up only three hits and notched five strikeouts while surrendering just one walk. He left the mound with the Red Sox up 2-0, courtesy of a Franchy Cordero sacrifice and a Bobby Dalbec triple in the top of the fifth. Things were looking up for the Red Sox as their big-name pitcher made his way to the clubhouse in a much better mood than the last time we say him leave a game.
And then, things fell apart in hilarious fashion.
In the bottom of the sixth, pinch-hitter Francisco Mejia hit a two-out single to center field to drive in Tampa Bay’s first run of the game. Not a bad set-up awaited Taylor Walls: men on first and second, down 2-1. A hit would tie the game, but that’s not exactly what happened.
Instead, Walls hit the ball directly at Matt Strahm’s back, who was clearly shaken up by the contact. Despite that, Strahm attempted to throw Walls out at first, yet perhaps due to rushing it or due to getting his shit rocked, his throw was off, flying into foul territory. That allowed Isaac Paredes to score, tying the game.
Was that the end of the mayhem on that particular play? Nope! Cordero got the ball back and decided to chuck it home to hold Mejia at third base … only his throw was also off the line, bouncing awkwardly right in front of Christian Vazquez. The ball bounced off the Red Sox catcher’s mitt and into the backstop, allowing Mejia to scoot on home. Just like that, the Rays were up 3-2. Let’s check in on Tampa Bay outfielder Harold Ramirez for his reaction:
To Boston’s credit, they mounted a solid rally in the top of the seventh, and had men on first and third with no outs. In the baserunning equivalent of that fielding mess described above, though, Alex Verdugo got picked off at third, halting the momentum. A strikeout and a pop up later, and the Rays were out of that particular jam.
The Red Sox never threatened again, and have now lost both games in Tampa during Rays Week. While the Defector curse may be claiming Rays players left and right, the on-field results have been solid since we began our themed debacle. What else could explain two different Red Sox players’ inability to throw the ball correctly on the same play? This is Rays Week magic, and the Red Sox just happened to be on the wrong end of it in one hectic half-inning that cost them the game. I’d wish Boston luck, but some things are bigger than baseball.