ST. PETERSBURG, Florida — It’s official: There will be no repeat in Boston.
The World Series champion Red Sox were mathematically eliminated in the late innings, then lost to the Tampa Bay Rays 5-4 Friday night when Willy Adames had an RBI single in the 11th.
A year after going 108-54 to win their third straight AL East title, the Red Sox (80-73) were knocked out during the ninth inning when Cleveland beat Philadelphia, around the time Mitch Moreland hit his second two-run homer.
Boston lost eight of its opening 10 games and 13 of its first 19, then struggled to recover. After moving into second place on July 27 at 59-47, the Red Sox skidded to a season-worst eight-game losing streak.
“We were very inconsistent from the get-go and it just carried over throughout the season,” manager Alex Cora said. “We never put (together) one of the stretches that we knew we could, but other teams were better — New York and Tampa in our division. They did an outstanding job.”
There has not been a repeat World Series champion since the 1998-2000 New York Yankees. Ten of the last 18 champions failed to reach the playoffs in the year after their title.
“That’s kind of the question we’ve been asking ourselves, why is it so difficult?” Boston starter Rick Porcello said. “It takes a lot out of you to make a run and win the World Series. Maybe some carryover to that. Also, you’ve got a bullseye on your back. All those things are things you think you should be able to deal with, so it’s hard to answer that really.”
Tampa Bay (91-63) remained tied with Cleveland for the second AL wild card, two games behind Oakland. While the Red Sox have the highest payroll in the major leagues at $228 million, the Rays have the lowest at $66 million.
“We’re learning a lot about ourselves right now in this environment,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said. “It’s the best environment that we can be in going forward.”
Mike Brosseau and Daniel Robertson drew two-out walks in the 11th from Trevor Kelley (0-3), and Adames lined a single to left that scored pinch-runner Johnny Davis from second base.
Diego Castillo (4-8) struck out Moreland with a runner on first to end the top of the 11th.
Moreland put the Red Sox ahead 2-0 with his seventh-inning homer off Charlie Morton on an 0-2 pitch, then tied the score against Emilio Pagan with an opposite-field drive to left.
“It’s just been an uphill battle the whole year,” Moreland said. “We got off to a tough start and it seems like it kind of snow-balled on us.”
Porcello gave up three hits over six scoreless innings. After a pair of walks by Darwinzon Hernandez in the seventh, pinch-hitter Nate Lowe grounded into a run-scoring forceout, Adames hit an RBI double off Marcus Walden and Josh Taylor threw a run-scoring wild pitch.
Ji-Man Choi made it 4-2 on an eighth-inning RBI double off Andrew Cashner.
Morton, bidding for a career-high 16th win, allowed two runs and five hits over 6 1/3 innings.
“For us to be down by a couple runs late in the game and comeback, it’s gritty,” Morton said.
Mookie Betts went 0 for 5 as a designated hitter in his return to Boston’s lineup after missing a week with left foot inflammation. Red Sox left fielder Andrew Benintendi came out in the third due to a bruised left thumb and will likely be sidelined for a few days.
Tampa Bay’s Austin Meadows was hitless in four at-bats, ending a 16-game hitting streak.
The Rays took part in Roberto Clemente Day. The team wore T-shirts honoring Clemente during batting practice and Clemente’s son, Luis, threw the ceremonial first pitch.
Red Sox: OF J.D. Martinez (left groin tightness) could start Saturday night. … Cora doesn’t have a date for when LHP Chris Sale (left elbow inflammation) will resume throwing. Sale, rehabbing in Florida, spent time with teammates before the game. … INF Michael Chavis (sprained left shoulder) will mostly likely be shutdown for the season.
Rays: CF Avisaíl García left after six innings after feeling dizzy. Cash had no update postgame. … INF Brandon Lowe, out since July 3 with a bruised right shin and later a strained left quadriceps, is to play in an instructional league game Saturday.