The Tampa Bay Rays have not played a lot of close games this year, but they have found a way to make sure they’re on the right end of the scoreboard when they do.
Taj Bradley earned his first Major League victory in his big league debut, Randy Arozarena hit a three-run homer, and the bullpen was able to hold on after Boston cut the game back to a single run, as the Rays ended up defeating the Red Sox 9-7 Wednesday at Tropicana Field, their 12th consecutive victory to begin the regular season.
For Bradley, his night started with a walk to Alex Verdugo, but he struck out Rafael Devers for his first big league strikeout, then got Justin Turner to ground into a double play to get out of the inning and settle his nerves.
Meanwhile, the right-hander got some help from the bats in the bottom of the inning, as Bobby Dalbec’s error on a Wander Franco ground ball was followed by a walk by Chris Sale to Isaac Paredes, and Arozarena made Sale pay by blasting his fourth home run of the year into the front row seats in right.
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Boston would get a run off Bradley in the fourth thanks to a base hit by Turner, but the Rays would get that run back and continue to add on in the bottom of the inning, loading the bases against Sale and delivering a sacrifice fly by Yandy Diaz and a two-run double by Franco, one of three two-base hits he’d have on the evening.
Bradley (1-0) allowed two more runs in the fifth on a Kike Hernandez RBI double and a Verdugo base hit, but would get through the inning to make himself eligible for the win.
Tampa Bay added two more runs in teh bottom of the fifth, with Christian Bethancourt bringing in Taylor Walls with a double and scoring on a base hit by Vidal Brujan.
The Red Sox cut the lead to 8-4 in the sixth on a groundout by Raimel Tapia, and Colin Poche would allow a three-run homer to Rafael Devers in the seventh to bring Boston to within a run at 8-7. They would get no closer, and in the home half of the eighth, Franco would hit his third double of the game, move to third on a Paredes groundout, and score on a sacrifice fly by Arozarena.
Pete Fairbanks allowed a single to Reese McGuire in the ninth, but that runner would be stranded at first base to end the game as the right-hander picked up his second save in as many opportunities this year.
Tampa Bay can match the major league record for consecutive wins to begin a season, set by the 1982 Atlanta Braves and matched by the 1987 Milwaukee Brewers, with a victory in Thursday afternoon’s finale. Jeffrey Springs (2-0, 0.00 ERA) will get the start, taking on former Ray Corey Kluber (0-2, 6.48 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 1:10.