WASHINGTON, D.C. — Facing a team 13 games under .500 and a starting pitcher who has been among the worst in baseball for the past three seasons, the Red Sox had a golden opportunity to come away with their third straight series win Thursday afternoon. But they couldn’t hit, had lapses in the field and ended up losing another winnable series to fall farther back in the wild card race.
Boston’s bats came alive with a six-run seventh inning but it was too late as the Red Sox fell to the Nationals, 10-7, in the late afternoon rubber match of a a three-game set at Nationals Park. Washington rode a five-run fifth to take a 9-1 lead before Luis Urías (grand slam) and Rafael Devers (two-run homer) made it a game again. The loss dropped the Red Sox to 63-58. They’re 7-8 so far in July.
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Facing Patrick Corbin and his 5.69 ERA over an 86-start span, the Red Sox sent the minimum to the plate before Triston Casas launched an impressive opposite-field solo homer to lead off the third. That lead didn’t last long. Chris Sale walked former Sox infielder Jeter Downs, who then stole second base and advanced to third on a Connor Wong throwing error. Downs scampered home with the tying run on a Rafael Devers fielding error.
Sale pitched a 1-2-3 fourth before the wheels fell off in the fifth, his final inning. Sale walked Alex Call and Downs (with a couple questionable calls included) before being lifted for Josh Winckowski, who allowed a two-run double to Joey Meneses. Stone Garrett (RBI double) and Riley Adams (2-run single) added on to make it 6-1. Winckowski allowed three earned runs on four hits while recording just two hits. In his second start back from the injured list, Sale allowed three runs (two earned) on two hits and three walks in 4 ⅓ innings. He struck out three.
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With lefty Chris Murphy in for the sixth, the Nats kept piling on. Another Meneses two-run double made it 8-1. Garrett added a sacrifice fly to make it — at least temporarily — an eight-run laugher.
With Corbin out of the game after six strong innings, the Red Sox put everything together against lefty reliever Robert Garcia in the seventh. With two outs and the bases loaded, Urías launched his first career grand slam to cut Washington’s lead in half. After Rob Refsnyder walked, Devers brought the Red Sox within two with a mammoth 453-ft. blast to right field. All six runs in the inning were charged to Garcia.
Washington stretched its lead back out to three when Garrett hit an RBI single off Mauricio Llovera in the eighth. The Sox threatened in the ninth with back-to-back pinch-hits (Alex Verdugo single, Jarren Duran double) to bring the tying run to the plate. Reliever Kyle Finnegan then recorded three straight outs, including striking out Devers for the final out.
The Red Sox fell to 19-24 in interleague play so far this season and 8-8 against the National League East. Through 10 games in a stretch of sub-.500 teams, Boston is 6-4.
Story goes hitless in DC
Trevor Story showed signs of life with three doubles in Sunday’s win but went hitless in Washington. He went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts Thursday and finished the series 0-for-12 with four strikeouts and a walk. He grounded into two double plays in the series and recorded the final out by lining out to second to end the game.
Story is now hitting .233
Key series in New York up next
The Red Sox will take the train to New York on Thursday night ahead of their second and final series at Yankee Stadium this season. They’ll face the reeling Yankees three times before heading to Houston for the final leg of their 10-game road trip.
Here’s the schedule for this weekend (plus pitching probables):
Friday, 7:05 p.m. ET — RHP Brayan Bello (8-7, 3.81 ERA) vs. TBD
Saturday, 1:05 p.m. ET — RHP Kutter Crawford (5-6, 3.80 ERA) vs. RHP Gerrit Cole (10-3, 2.76 ERA)
Sunday, 1:35 p.m. ET — TBD (possibly RHP Nick Pivetta) vs. RHP Clarke Schmidt (8-7, 4.76 ERA)