Opening Day 2018 for the Boston Red Sox was bliss before blunder in Tampa, Florida. The Sox pitching staff enjoyed shutting out the Tampa Bay Rays for seven consecutive innings before the Boston bullpen was tagged for six runs in the eighth inning. The Rays took the lead in the eighth and ended up defeating the Red Sox 6-4.
Florida native Chris Sale made his second Opening Day start for the Red Sox and was magnificent from the get-go. The lanky ace threw six innings of one-hit baseball and walked three Tampa Bay batters. Sale struck out nine batters in his six innings on the mound. Just last season Sale led the majors in strikeouts with 308 K’s. Sale, along with Zack Greinke, is already tied for second in the league with strikeouts. First place is held by Kenta Maeda, Lance McCullers Jr., Max Scherzer and Noah Syndergaard, as each posted 10-strikeout performances.
The Red Sox got their offense started as early as the second inning. J.D. Martinez, acquired this offseason as a free-agent, walked in his first at bat with the club. Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts then doubled on a line drive to left field. With runners on second and third, third baseman Rafael Devers grounded out to Tampa’s shortstop; allowing Martinez to score the first run of the Red Sox season. The Sox offense would not stop there. With Xander Bogaerts on second base, Red Sox utility player Eduardo Nunez hit an inside-the-park home run. The two-run little-league home run scored Bogaerts and gave the Red Sox a 3-0 lead.
In the seventh inning, Rafael Devers drove in the next run for the Red Sox. Following a double by Bogaerts, Devers hit one of his own to score Bogaerts. The Red Sox then held a 4-0 lead over Tampa Bay.
Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes would go to relieve Sale for the bottom of the seventh. Barnes made quick work of the Rays and lead off where Sale started by completing a 1-2-3 inning.
Following Barnes out of the Red Sox bullpen was flamethrower Joe Kelly. Smokin’ Joe walked Daniel Robertson before striking out Tampa Bay second-baseman Rob Refsnyder. Tampa shortstop Matt Duffy then doubled off Kelly, allowing Robertson to score. Kelly walked center-fielder Kevin Kiermaier. Following Kiermaier’s walk, Kelly then walked outfielder Carlos Gomez, loading the bases. After the bases were loaded, Red Sox manager Alex Cora yanked Kelly and sent reliever Carson Smith to the mound. Smith walked Brad Miller, letting the score get to 4-2. Smith then struck out Wilson Ramos to keep the bases loaded. With two outs in the bottom of the eighth, Smith then let up a three-run triple to Denard Span. The Rays then took a 5-4 lead. Following a brief mound visit, Smith then surrendered a single to infielder Adeiny Hechavarria, letting Span score.
The Red Sox were unable to spark a comeback in their last inning at bat. In the final box score, Joe Kelly was attributed with 0.1 innings pitched, one hit allowed, four earned runs, three walks and one strikeout. Carson Smith was tagged with the loss for his 0.2 innings pitched. He was also marked with a blown save. Tampa Bay reliever Austin Pruitt picked up the win and closer Alex Colome got his first save of the season. Colome lead the majors in saves last season with 47.