ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Again there was no support for Chris Sale. Even on Opening Day.

Sale allowed one hit and struck out nine over six scoreless innings, but the bullpen was unable to hold the lead against Tampa Bay in the season opener Thursday. Joe Kelly and Carson Smith combined to give up six runs in the eighth inning and the Rays went on to a 6-4 win.

Eduardo Nunez hit an inside-the-park home run as the Red Sox opened a 4-0 lead. Xander Bogaerts had three hits – with two doubles – and scored twice, but it wasn’t enough.

Denard Span put Tampa Bay ahead with a three-run triple. The Rays finished with just four hits – three in the eighth – but Kelly and Smith fueled the comeback with four walks.

The Red Sox lost in Alex Cora’s first game as a major league manager. They wasted a superb start from Sale, who showed no ill effects from being hit by a line drive in the hip in his final spring-training start.

Matt Barnes pitched the seventh for Boston, but the game slipped away after Joe Kelly entered in the eighth.


“It happens, man. It’s part of the game. I’ve been there,” Sale said of the late collapse. “I know how it feels and nobody feels worse than them. I don’t see anybody in here hanging their heads or losing confidence. We take this one off the chin, go back and get some sleep, and come back (Friday) ready to go.”

Span, the biggest name acquired by the budget-minded Rays during a winter of revamping the roster, made a huge splash in his debut.

“I wasn’t 100 percent sure that I was going to get this opportunity. … It’s just a true blessing, just to be able to play in front of my family and friends. I can’t ask for anything better,” said Span, who grew up in Tampa and was obtained in a December trade that sent Evan Longoria to San Francisco.

A .283 hitter over 10 seasons with the Giants, Twins and Nationals, he was part of a starting lineup featuring just one position player from Opening Day a year ago.

Span lined a 3-2 pitch off the right-field wall, setting off a raucous celebration among the sellout crowd of 31,042.

“My heart started racing. I could hear the roar of the crowd. If I could have cried, I would have cried. But I was running so I couldn’t,” Span said. “Everybody greeted me with a bunch of energy, a bunch of love. That was probably, in all my 91/2, 10 years, probably the best postgame celebration by any team I’ve been on. Just a fun time.”


Span’s triple was only Tampa Bay’s third hit and gave the Rays a 5-4 lead. Adeiny Hechavarria followed with an infield single off Smith (0-1), providing a two-run cushion for closer Alex Colome to earn a save.

“Exciting. Another day at the ballpark, I guess,” Rays Manager Kevin Cash said. “Speaks volumes about this club to bounce back.”

Boston built a 4-0 lead against Chris Archer, with Eduardo Nunez hitting a two-run inside-the-park homer, and Rafael Devers driving in two runs with an RBI grounder in the second and a seventh-inning double.

Nunez’s inside-the-park homer was the second of his career. The other also came against the Rays while playing for the Minnesota Twins in 2016. It was Boston’s first inside-the-park homer during the regular season since Blake Swihart had one on the road against the New York Mets on Aug. 28, 2015. It was their first on Opening Day since Carl Yastrzemski on April 10, 1968, at Detroit.

Archer allowed four runs and six hits in six-plus innings. He was in danger of falling to 2-13 against Boston before Span delivered his big hit.

“It was a huge swing of emotions. The hometown boy is the hometown hero and it was great to see,” Archer said. “We battled all game and we were able to pull it off. It was awesome.”

NOTES: Boston left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez (right knee surgery) went four innings in a minor league spring game.

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