While the Red Sox have committed 31 errors as a team this season, more than all but one other team, third base has been a particular problem position. Five Boston players have combined to commit 13 errors at the hot corner, easily the most for a single team at one position this year.
"It's been a tough position for us, make no mistake about it," manager John Farrell said. "We've made far too many errors as a group."
The Red Sox's poor defense, at third and elsewhere, has been particularly detrimental to sinkerballer Rick Porcello, who was tagged with two unearned runs Friday and now has seven in eight starts this season. Though Porcello has induced more swings and misses this season than in the past, he remains the type of pitcher who pitches to contact, meaning he needs his defense to hold strong behind him.
Porcello said Friday that errors are just part of the game, but clearly defensive mishaps damaged his stat line. The most costly mistake was Rutledge's error in the fourth inning, during which the third baseman bounced a throw to first baseman Mitch Moreland, who was unable to scoop it. With two outs in the inning, Tim Beckham laced a two-run double, giving the Rays a lead in an inning that could have been over if Rutledge had made a better throw.
After the game, Rutledge didn't offer much of an explanation for his throw, other than that he rushed the play a bit. His hesitation on a Derek Norris ground ball an inning earlier resulted in an infield hit for the Rays' catcher.
Rutledge wasn't charged with an error on Norris' hit, nor was he penalized for dropping a pop fly in the ninth on a play that wound up a fielder's choice. Still it's clear, as Farrell noted, that defense at third base "has to improve."
"It's a tough position to play. That's it," Rutledge said, when asked to explain the team's woes. "It's not like we're not trying."
The Red Sox's third-base situation could clear up a bit next week, when Brock Holt is expected to return from his bout with vertigo. Holt, Pablo Sandoval and Marco Hernandez all hit the disabled list after logging innings at third early in the season.