ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Xander Bogaerts is off to a blistering start for the Boston Red Sox.
The hot-hitting shortstop homered in his second three-hit game of the season, keying a 3-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday night.
“I’m just trying to be consistent, do the same thing every day to get better, and whatever happens out there happens,” said Bogaerts, who also doubled in a run while extending the AL’s longest active hitting streak to 12 games.
Bogaerts went deep in the second inning against Andrew Kittredge (0-1), a reliever making his first big league start in the debut of Tampa Bay’s plan to use bullpen days in place of a customary fifth starter.
Bogaerts, who also had three hits on opening day, is 8 for 12 with five doubles in three games.
“He’s on fire,” Kittredge said.
Rick Porcello (1-0) shut down the Rays on four hits through five innings, but was unable to get through the sixth.
Carlos Gomez doubled leading off the inning, and Matt Duffy’s one-out infield hit chased the right-hander. Joey Wendle’s sacrifice fly off Heath Hembree made it 3-1.
Gomez homered in the eighth, and Tampa Bay put the potential tying run on base in the ninth before Craig Kimbrel got C.J. Cron to line into a double play and retired Denard Span on a popup for his second save.
The Rays planned to open the season with a four-man rotation and use bullpen days as needed in place of a fifth starter.
The non-traditional approach took a hit on the final day of spring training when the club announced Nathan Eovaldi had loose bodies in the right elbow and needed arthroscopic surgery.
With just three healthy starters — Chris Archer, Blake Snell and Jake Faria — on the roster, manager Kevin Cash will need another bullpen day Monday, when Tampa Bay begins a two-game series against the Yankees in New York.
Kittredge allowed two runs and three hits in 3 1/3 innings. Rookie Ryan Yarbrough worked the next four innings in his major league debut, followed by Sergio Romo and Chaz Roe.
Cash liked what he saw, especially from Kittredge and Yarbrough. Still, the manager said it’s too early to evaluate the effectiveness of the bullpen-day concept.
“We really don’t rate anything after one go-around,” Cash said. “But I thought the two guys, the combination, threw the ball well.”
FOR OLD TIMES’ SAKE
Wilson Alvarez threw a ceremonial first pitch on the 20th anniversary of Tampa Bay’s first game. The left-hander, one of about 20 members of the inaugural team who returned to Tropicana Field for a pregame ceremony, was the starting pitcher in an 11-6 loss to the Detroit Tigers on March 31, 1998. Hall of Famer Wade Boggs, also on hand Saturday, hit the franchise’s first home run that day.
Red Sox ace Chris Sale, who grew up in nearby Lakeland, Florida, remembers that night very well. He was in the stands one day after his ninth birthday to watch his first big league game in person.
Red Sox manager Alex Cora said left-hander David Price will start Boston’s home opener Thursday against Tampa Bay, which faces the defending AL East champions seven times in the Rays’ first nine games. Price limited the Rays to four hits over seven innings in Boston’s 1-0 win Friday night.
Red Sox: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (right knee surgery) is scheduled to go six innings in his next minor league start Tuesday at Boston’s spring training complex in Fort Myers, Florida. … LHP Drew Pomeranz (left forearm) is expected to pitch in a minor league game Wednesday in Fort Myers.
Rays: Eovaldi, who had surgery Friday to remove loose bodies in his right elbow, could resume pitching activities in eight to 10 weeks. He missed all of 2017 after Tommy John surgery.
Red Sox: RHP Hector Velazquez starts the finale of the four-game series.
Rays: Faria, coming off six no-hit innings in his final spring training appearance, makes his season debut.
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