Could Red Sox pitching prospect Bryan Mata make his MLB debut next season?

The Red Sox saw their top pitching prospect in Brayan Bello make his major-league debut this season. Could fellow right-hander Bryan Mata be next in line next year?

Bello, who appeared in 13 games and pitched 57 1/3 innings for the Red Sox in 2022, has graduated from his prospect status. Barring a major surprise, Mata will likely enter the 2023 season ranked by most publications as the top pitching prospect in Boston’s farm system.

Although he has yet to debut for the Sox, Mata has gotten a taste of the big-league lifestyle. The 23-year-old hurler travelled with the club to Toronto as a member of the taxi squad for their final road trip of the season. He threw a bullpen session at Rogers Centre prior to Friday’s game against the Blue Jays.

“His first big-league bullpen,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora told reporters, including MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith, last week.

As The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier previously reported, Mata was unlikely to be added to the 28-man roster since the Red Sox just wanted to familiarize him “with the big-league environment, including pregame pitchers’ meetings that take place in advance of series and games.”

Still, that the Red Sox elected to include Mata in such meetings shows that they think highly of him. Boston originally signed the native Venezuelan for just $25,000 in January 2016. He had already emerged as one of the more intriguing pitching prospects in the system before undergoing Tommy John surgery last April.

Upon returning from the procedure earlier this spring, Mata made one start for Low-A Salem and three starts for High-A Greenville before making the jump to Double-A Portland — the level he last pitched at in 2019 — in late June. With the Sea Dogs, he posted a 1.85 ERA in 10 appearances (nine starts) and strung together 18 consecutive scoreless frames before earning a promotion to Triple-A Worcester in late August.

In five starts with the WooSox, Mata pitched to 3.47 ERA and 3.12 FIP with 30 strikeouts to 15 walks over 23 1/3 innings of work. According to Speier, the 6-foot-3, 238-pound righty was operating with a high-90s sinker, a four-seam fastball that reached triple digits, an improving slider, and a whiff-inducing changeup.

While his arsenal is tantalizing, Mata does need to work on throwing more strikes and giving up fewer walks. Though his 29.4 percent strikeout rate remained constant between Portland and Worcester this year, he saw his walk rate rise from 11.7 percent to 14.7 percent after going from Double-A to Triple-A.

“I think the strike-throwing thing is the next step,” Cora said. “He had some good games and some OK games. The stuff will always play. And he’s come a long way since his injury. And we really like his season. He was able to get his innings. We’re really excited. It’s just a matter of we need to be patient. But as far as stuff, he’s really good.”

Mata, who turns 24 in May, is already a member of Boston’s 40-man roster. Because of that, he could be in a position to make his major-league debut at some point next season. There are still some things to iron out, though, and they could determine Mata’s role moving forward. Can he stick as a starter? Or is he better suited for the bullpen? The answer will be revealed soon enough.

(Picture of Bryan Mata: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox’ J.D. Martinez named co-American League Player of the Week

If that was it for J.D. Martinez’s time with the Red Sox, he certainly ended his tenure in Boston on a high note.

Both Martinez and Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge were named co-American League Players of the Week for the week of October 4, Major League Baseball announced earlier Thursday afternoon.

Judge hit his 62nd home run of the year on Tuesday to set a new American League record. Martinez, meanwhile, ended his fifth and possibly final season with the Sox in vintage fashion en route to earning Player of the Week honors for the 10th time in his illustrious career.

The veteran slugger slashed .353/.389/.794 with three doubles, four home runs, seven RBIs, nine runs scored, two walks, and eight strikeouts over his last nine games (36 plate appearances) dating back to September 26. Two of those four homers came in Wednesday’s 6-3 victory over the Rays at Fenway Park.

On the 2022 campaign as a whole, Martinez slashed .274/.341/.448 to go along with 43 doubles, one triple, 16 home runs, 62 runs driven in, 76 runs scored, 52 walks, and 145 strikeouts across 139 games spanning 596 trips to the plate.

In some ways, it was a tail of two seasons for Martinez. The right-handed hitting designated hitter posted a respectable .849 OPS in 81 games leading up to the All-Star break. After representing the Red Sox in the Midsummer Classic for the fourth time in five years, Martinez’s second-half debut was delayed by four days due to back spasms.

The 35-year-old returned to Boston’s lineup on July 26. He limped to the finish line from that point forward by slashing just .233/.301/.400 in his final 58 games. Those numbers would look a lot worse had he not picked it up over the last two weeks of the season.

Regardless of how this season played out, though, it’s hard to argue with the overall body of work Martinez put up over the last five years. The five-year, $110 million contract he signed with the Sox in February 2018 will go down as one of the best free-agent deals in franchise history.

Dating back to the start of the 2018 season, when he was first brought in by then-president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski to provide the Red Sox with a sizable boost, Martinez made four All-Star teams, won two Silver Slugger Awards, and won a World Series. His 130 home runs over the last five seasons are the 15th-most in all of baseball. His .889 OPS is the 12th-highest.

“I think he earned every penny of that contract,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said on Wednesday. “He was always here. He worked so hard on his craft. I’m glad he had a great day today. We’ll see what the future holds.”

It remains to be seen if Martinez, a pending free-agent, will be back with the Red Sox next season. The native Floridian is open to a reunion himself, though chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. could elect to go in a different direction as far as the future of Boston’s designated hitter role is concerned.

“There’s always a pathway. That’s a Chaim question. My famous line,” Martinez said with a laugh. “That’s a Chaim question and you’ve got to go ask him. There’s always a path. Right now, I’m a free-agent. We’ll see where life takes me.”

(Picture of J.D. Martinez: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

J.D. Martinez homers twice as Red Sox finish off sweep of Rays to close out 2022 season

The Red Sox closed out the 2022 season on Wednesday night by completing a three-game sweep of the Rays. Boston defeated Tampa Bay, 6-3, at Fenway Park to finish the year with a 78-84 record.

With left-hander Josh Fleming starting for the Rays, the Sox drew first blood right away in their half of the first inning. After Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts hit back-to-back one-out singles, Alex Verdugo grounded into a force out at second base.

That put runners at the corners with two outs for J.D. Martinez, who worked a full count before depositing a hanging sinker from Fleming 389 feet into the Red Sox bullpen for a three-run homer that gave his side an early 3-0 lead.

The Rays responded in their half of the third. After giving up a one-out single to Randy Arozarena, Red Sox starter Nick Pivetta served up a two-run home run to Ji-Man Choi that traveled 348 feet over the Green Monster and trimmed Boston’s deficit down to one run at 3-2.

Pivetta, making his 33rd and final start of the season for Boston, lasted just four innings due to a high pitch count of 103 (69 strikes). The right-hander yielded two runs on four hits and three walks to go along with five strikeouts on the night. He finishes the year with an ERA of 4.56 over 179 2/3 innings.

To break it down even further, Pivetta posted a 6.61 ERA in 16 starts against divisional opponents and a 2.95 ERA in 17 starts against all other teams. The 29-year-old hurler did not factor into the decision on Wednesday.

Shortly after Pivetta’s night had ended, Martinez got to Fleming again. This time around, the veteran slugger clubbed a 406-foot solo shot off the lefty that cleared the Green Monster in 4.9 seconds for his second big fly of the game and his 16th of the season.

Taking a 4-2 lead into the fifth, Eduard Bazardo received the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen from manager Alex Cora. Bazardo worked his way around a leadoff walk and one-out double before handing things over to Matt Strahm, who faced the minimum in the sixth.

Ryan Brasier, meanwhile, recorded the first two outs of the seventh before yielding a 333-foot home run to Vidal Brujan that barely cleared the right field fence. It appeared as though Verdugo had come up with a tremendous over-the-shoulder catch on the other side of the wall, but he failed to come up with the ball cleanly as it wound up landing in the Red Sox bullpen.

Although the Rays again made it a one-run game, John Schreiber kept them off the board in the top of the eighth. The Sox then tacked on some important insurance runs in the bottom half when Triston Casas drew a bases-loaded walk off Jimmy Yacabonis and Christian Arroyo followed by ripping an RBI single to right field that brought in Yu Chang from third.

Now with a three-run lead in hand, Matt Barnes entered in the ninth and worked a 1-2-3 inning to secure the win and notch his eighth and final save of 2022.

Bogaerts, Martinez receive curtain calls

As Brasier warmed up before the start of the seventh inning, Chang came on to take over for Bogaerts at shortstop. Bogaerts, who is expected to opt out of his contract and become a free-agent this winter, received a standing ovation from the Fenway crowd. He tipped his cap to them as he left the field and was first greeted in front of the Red Sox dugout by Devers, who gave him a hug.

An inning later, Martinez — a pending free-agent himself — was pulled after he stepped up to the plate for what would have been his last at-bat of the season. He, too, received a standing ovation from the crowd and he raised his fist in response as Bogaerts greeted him. Connor Wong pinch-hit for Martinez.

In what might have been their final game as Red Sox teammates, Bogaerts and Martinez each went 2-for-3. Arroyo also enjoyed a multi-hit performance. On the other side of things, Bazardo earned the first win of his big-league career.

The final numbers

As previously mentioned, the Red Sox finish the 2022 campaign with a record of 78-84, good for last place in the American League East. Against divisional opponents specifically, Boston went 26-50. They went 43-38 at home and 35-46 on the road.

(Picture of J.D. Martinez: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Tommy Pham scratched from Red Sox lineup

Tommy Pham was originally leading off and starting in left field for the Red Sox in their season finale against the Rays at Fenway Park on Wednesday afternoon. He was instead scratched from the lineup minutes before first pitch.

With Pham out, center fielder Enrique Hernandez moved from the six-hole to the leadoff spot while Abraham Almonte was inserted into the lineup as the No. 9 hitter and starting left fielder.

Acquired from the Reds for minor-league infielder Nick Northcut on the eve of the trade deadline, Pham has batted .234/.298/.374 with 12 doubles, six home runs, 24 RBIs, 32 runs scored, one stolen base, 14 walks, and 67 strikeouts in 53 games (235 plate appearances) with the Red Sox.

The right-handed hitting 34-year-old initially got off to a hot start to begin his tenure in Boston, as he clubbed four homers and posted an .812 OPS in 25 August contests. Since the calendar flipped to September, though, Pham has cooled off at the plate significantly and is slashing just .176/.268/.269 with two homers and nine RBIs over his last 28 games. He was in the midst of an 0-for-19 skid before being scratched on Wednesday.

Defensively, Pham has played exclusively left field for the Red Sox and has been quite good there. The 6-foot-1, 223-pounder has recorded eight outfield assists across 419 1/3 innings at the position. Combine that with the seven he notched with the Reds, and Pham finishes the year with a major-league-best 15 outfield assists.

When Pham signed his one-year, $6 million contract with Cincinnati back in March, it was reported at the time that the deal came with a $6 mutual option for 2023. According to MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith, it is actually worth $12 million. If Boston declines its side of the option, Pham will be owed $1.5 million in the form of a buyout.

Pham, who turns 35 in March, would join a long list of pending Red Sox free-agents if his option is declined. Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. already have plenty of decisions to make when it comes to the futures of Nathan Eovaldi, Michael Wacha, Rich Hill, J.D. Martinez, and Xander Bogaerts, who is expected to exercise the opt-out clause in his contract this winter and hit the open market for the first time in his career.

(Picture of Tommy Pham: Brian Fluharty/Getty Images)

Red Sox claim Easton McGee off waivers from Rays

The Red Sox have claimed right-hander Easton McGee off waivers from the Rays, the club announced Wednesday afternoon. They did not need to make a corresponding move since they had a vacancy on their 40-man roster.

McGee, 24, was designated for assignment by the Rays on Monday after making his major-league debut against the Astros on Sunday. The native Kentuckian allowed one unearned run on four hits and zero walks to go along with one strikeout over three innings of relief in a losing effort at Minute Maid Park.

Despite that relatively strong performance, McGee lost his spot on Tampa Bay’s 40-man roster when fellow righty Kevin Herget had his contract selected from Triple-A Durham earlier this week. Herget has since been designated for assignment himself.

The Rays originally selected McGee in the fourth round of the 2016 amateur draft out of Hopkinsville High School. He forwent his commitment to the University of Kentucky by signing with Tampa Bay for $673,700. At that time, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom served as the Rays’ vice president of baseball operations, so there could be a connection there.

Before debuting for the Rays on Monday, McGee had spent the entirety of the 2022 minor-league season with Durham. In 27 appearances (22 starts) for the Bulls, he posted a 5.43 ERA and 5.72 FIP with 82 strikeouts to 20 walks across 107 2/3 innings of work. His 4.3% walk rate ranked second among International League pitchers who accrued at least 100 innings this year, per FanGraphs.

In a “Best Scouting Tools” survey conducted by Baseball America in late August, McGee was recognized by Triple-A managers for having the best control in the International League.

Listed at 6-foot-6 and 205 pounds, McGee works with a slider, a sinker, a cutter, a changeup, a curveball, and a four-seam fastball. Against the Astros on Sunday, he induced all three of his swings-and-misses with his slider — a pitch he threw 19 times — and topped out at 93.9 mph with his sinker — a pitch he threw 15 times.

McGee, who turns 25 in December, comes with club control since he has three minor-league option years remaining. It should be interesting to see what the Red Sox do with him this off-season, as they could designate him again in hopes that he clears waivers and can be retained as a non-40-man player.

(Picture of Easton McGee: Tim Warner/Getty Images)

Red Sox pitching prospect Thad Ward strikes out 7 in Arizona Fall League debut

Red Sox pitching prospect Thad Ward impressed in his Arizona Fall League debut for the Scottsdale Scorpions on Tuesday afternoon.

Getting the start against the Mesa Solar Sox at Sloan Park, Ward allowed two earned runs on four hits and one walk to go along with seven strikeouts over 4 2/3 innings of work.

Both runs Ward gave up came on a two-run homer off the bat of Cubs prospect Brennen Davis in the third inning. The 25-year-old right-hander finished with a final pitch count of 70 (46 strikes) and induced nine swings-and-misses.

According to MLB.com’s Jim Callis, Ward hovered around 91-94 mph with his two-seam fastball while also mixing in an 81-85 mph slider and an 87-89 mph changeup.

“The fastball was working well,” Ward told Callis. “I think a lot of it was due to mixing in a lot of sliders in early to try to get them off of that and then beating them with the fastball. My catcher, Andy [Thomas of the Giants], did a really good job of calling pitches and made sure we mixed it up pretty well so we didn’t get predictable. It just worked out that way.”

Originally selected by the Red Sox in the fifth round of the 2018 amateur draft out of the University of Central Florida, Ward is currently regarded by MLB Pipeline as the No. 15 prospect in Boston’s farm system, which ranks fifth among pitchers in the organization.

The Fort Myers-area native earned Red Sox Minor League Pitcher of the Year honors in his first full season as a pro in 2019, but has since been limited to 15 starts in the minors due to the COVID-19 pandemic and undergoing Tommy John surgery last June.

Thirteen months after going under the knife, Ward returned to the mound in July. The 6-foot-3, 192-pound hurler made six starts between the Florida Complex League, Low-A Salem, and High-A Greenville before getting back to Double-A Portland in in early August. He posted a 2.43 ERA with 41 strikeouts to 14 walks in seven starts (33 1/3 innings) with the Sea Dogs to close out the 2022 campaign.

“There were glimmers where I thought, ‘OK, now I’m fully back,’ and then there’d be an outing or two where I didn’t feel quite as good,” Ward said of his road back from Tommy John. “So it’s been a little bit of back and forth. It took a little bit to where I finally felt like myself again up on the mound and not having to make some adjustments and I could just compete.”

Ward, who turns 26 in January, can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this winter if he is not added to Boston’s 40-man roster by November 20. The Red Sox likely sent Ward to Arizona with this in mind so that they could get an extended look at him going up against more advanced competition.

If he remains in the organization through the off-season, Ward could very easily make the jump to Triple-A Worcester for the start of the 2023 season. That would possibly put him in a position to make his major-league debut at some point next summer, though that is far from a guarantee.

(Picture of Thad Ward: Barry Gossage/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Xander Bogaerts’ grand slam powers Red Sox to rain-shortened 6-0 win over Rays

On a misty Tuesday night at Fenway Park, the Red Sox secured a series victory over the Rays in their penultimate game of the season. Boston defeated Tampa Bay, 6-0, in a rain-shortened five innings to improve to 77-84 on the year.

With old friend Jeffrey Springs on the mound for the Rays, the Sox jumped out to an early lead in the second inning. Alex Verdugo drew a leadoff walk off the left-hander and moved up to second base on a two-out single from Eric Hosmer.

Christian Arroyo followed that sequence by taking the first pitch he saw from Springs and lifting a 169-foot single to shallow right field to drive in Verdugo for the first run of the night.

Fast forward to the fifth, with Springs already out of the game, and the Sox struck again off Colin Poche. Arroyo led off with a single and immediately moved up to third on a line-drive double from Connor Wong. As the lineup turned back over, Rafael Devers drew a one-out walk to bring Xander Bogaerts to the plate with the bases loaded.

Bogaerts came through by unloading on a hanging curveball from Poche and depositing it 421 feet over the Green Monster for his 15th home run of the season. The grand slam was the seventh from a Boston hitter this year and the seventh of Bogaerts’ career. It had an exit velocity of 110.6 mph and gave the Red Sox a 5-0 lead, though they were not done there.

After Poche left the game with an apparent injury, Brooks Raley came on for the Rays and walked two of the first three batters he faced. He then got Hosmer to hit a grounder towards Isaac Paredes at first base. Paredes fielded the ball cleanly, but Raley could not corral his underhanded toss as he attempted to cover the bag.

As a result of Raley’s misses catch error, J.D. Martinez was able to score all the way from second to make it a 6-0 contest in favor of the Sox. Moments after Martinez scored, the grounds crew took the field with the tarpaulin in tow and this game entered a delay at around 8:58 p.m. eastern time. Fifty-two minutes later, it was officially called.

Although the fifth inning was not played in full, the Red Sox were still credited with a 6-0 win since they were ahead in the bottom of the fifth. Nathan Eovaldi, meanwhile, was credited with a complete game shutout.

Making his final start of the season and perhaps his last start in a Red Sox uniform, Eovaldi allowed just two hits on two walks to go along with four strikeouts over five scoreless innings of work.

The veteran right-hander took a no-hitter into the third before giving up a two-out single to Jose Siri. He then stranded Siri by fanning Yandy Diaz on five pitches.

In the fourth, Eovaldi issued back-to-back walks to Wander Franco and Ji-Man Choi to lead off the inning. Franco moved up to third on an Isaac Paredes flyout, but Eovaldi escaped the jam by getting Jonathan Aranda to ground into an inning-ending 6-3 double play that was started by Bogaerts.

From there, Eovaldi worked his way around a two-out double from Taylor Walls in the fifth to ultimately notch his sixth winning decision of the season. The 32-year-old hurler finished with 64 pitches (40 strikes) while lowering his final ERA to 3.87.

Next up: Pivetta vs. Fleming in Game No. 162

The Red Sox will look to end the regular season by completing a three-game sweep over the Rays on Wednesday afternoon. Right-hander Nick Pivetta will get the start for Boston while left-hander Josh Fleming will do the same for Tampa Bay.

First pitch from Fenway Park is scheduled for 4:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Xander Bogaerts: Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

Rob Refsnyder is in Red Sox’ plans for 2023: ‘He’s a guy we definitely can rely on,’ Alex Cora says

The Red Sox placed Rob Refsnyder on the 10-day injured list with low back spasms on Monday, thus ending the outfielder’s season.

Refsnyder, 31, originally signed a minor-league deal with the Sox last December. The former fifth-round draft pick came with plenty of experience, as he previously bounced around between the Yankees, Blue Jays, Rays, Rangers, and Twins over the course of six seasons after breaking in with New York in 2015.

Once heralded as a top prospect in the Yankees organization, Refsnyder had to settle for a minors pact with Boston this past winter. After failing to make the Red Sox’ Opening Day roster, the right-handed hitter began his season with Triple-A Worcester. He first served as a COVID-related substitute in late April before having his contract selected on a full-time basis in early June.

Though he missed some time in August with a right knee sprain, Refsnyder still proved to be a valuable asset for the Red Sox in 2022. In 57 games, he batted .307/.384/.497 with 11 doubles, six home runs, 21 RBIs, 25 runs scored, one stolen base, 15 walks, and 46 strikeouts over 177 plate appearances.

“Great season. Great job for us,” manager Alex Cora told reporters (including MLB.com’s Ian Browne) on Monday. “He was really good. Offensively, the versatility, the quality of the at-bats were awesome.”

As advertised, Refsnyder proved to be particularly effective against left-handed pitching by going 23-for-64 (.359) with six doubles and three homers off southpaws. He also posted a .417 on-base percentage and .932 OPS in 17 plate appearances as a pinch-hitter.

Defensively, Refsnyder saw playing time at all three outfield positions for the Sox. The 6-foot, 205-pounder logged 163 innings in right, 115 innings in center, and 24 2/3 innings in left. His one outfield assist came against the Rays at Tropicana Field on April 24. He also made a fantastic diving catch against the Mariners in Seattle on June 12.

Refsnyder, who turns 32 in March, is under club control through 2024 and is eligible for salary arbitration next year. Given his ability to hit lefties and play all over the outfield, it certainly seems like Refsnyder is in the Red Sox’ plans for 2023 as a potential fourth outfielder.

“He’s a guy we definitely can rely on,” Cora said, via MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith. “We recognized it in spring training. I remember we were talking (during) the lockout and all that. We had our meetings with the information department. And the ability to impact the baseball was there and the projections. Defensively solid.

“It’s a matter of staying healthy,” added Cora. “That’s the most important thing with him. We’ll set up a good program for him in the off-season and this is a guy we really like. We really like. And he can contribute at this level.”

(Picture of Rob Refsnyder: Paul Rutherford/Getty Images)

Xander Bogaerts, Eric Hosmer return to Red Sox lineup for Tuesday’s game against Rays

Xander Bogaerts and Eric Hosmer are both back in the Red Sox’ lineup for Tuesday’s contest against the Rays at Fenway Park.

Bogaerts has missed each of Boston’s last two games due to back tightness. He will be batting third and starting at shortstop on Tuesday. Hosmer was activated from the injured list on Monday after missing the last six weeks with low back inflammation. He will be batting seventh and starting at first base in place of Triston Casas.

Hosmer, who was originally placed on the 10-day injured list on August 21, was unable to go out on a rehab assignment since the minor-league season is already over. The 32-year-old instead spent his weekend at Fenway hitting off a high-tech pitching simulator.

“We’ve got this machine down there, it’s like a simulator or whatever,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said on Sunday. “What comes out is pretty similar to the stuff [of MLB pitchers]. You put, for example, Gerrit Cole, and the machine actually calibers the stuff based on his last start. So he’s been facing some good big-league pitching the past few days.”

Since being acquired from the Padres at the trade deadline, Hosmer has been limited to just 12 games with the Sox. The left-handed hitter has batted .225/.311/.300 with three doubles, four RBIs, six runs scored, four walks, and nine strikeouts across 45 plate appearances.

Bogaerts, meanwhile, felt his back tighten up on him when he tried to hit in the batting cage prior to Monday’s 4-3 win over Tampa Bay. As a result, he was scratched from the lineup but is back in there for the penultimate game of the season.

In his last nine games dating back to September 22, Bogaerts has gone 4-for-33 (.121) at the plate, likely putting him out of contention for the American League batting title. Still, the 30-year-old infielder is expected to become a free-agent this winter if he exercises the opt-out clause in his contract, so these could very well be his last few days playing in a Red Sox uniform.

Speaking of pending free-agents, Nathan Eovaldi is on the mound for his final start of the season. Connor Wong will be catching the right-hander while batting out of the nine-hole. Here is how the rest of the Red Sox will be lining up as they go up against Rays lefty Jeffrey Springs to start things out on Tuesday:

1. LF Tommy Pham

2. 3B Rafael Devers

3. SS Xander Bogaerts

4. RF Alex Verdugo

5. DH J.D. Martinez

6. CF Kiké Hernández

7. 1B Eric Hosmer

8. 2B Christian Arroyo

9. C Connor Wong

First pitch from Fenway Park is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Xander Bogaerts and Eric Hosmer: Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

Rafael Devers collects 3 hits, drives in winning run as Red Sox battle back for 4-3 win over Rays

The Red Sox battled back to earn a series-opening win over the Rays on Monday night. Boston defeated Tampa Bay by a final score of 4-3 to put an end to a three-game losing streak and improve to 76-84 on the season.

Pending free-agent Rich Hill ended his season on a strong note. Making his 26th and final start of the year for the Sox, the veteran left-hander allowed three runs (one earned) on three hits and one walk to go along with six strikeouts over six quality innings of work.

All three of those Rays runs came by way of the long ball. After recording the first two outs of the first, Hill served up a solo shot to Wander Franco to get Tampa Bay on the board first. He proceeded to retire eight of the next nine batters he faced.

With two outs in the fourth, Hill got Harold Ramirez to hit a groundball in the direction of Rafael Devers at third base. Devers fielded the ball cleanly, but he made a poor throw to first base that forced Triston Casas off the bag. Ramirez reached safely as a result and former Boston farmhand Manuel Margot followed by cranking a two-run blast over the Green Monster off a first-pitch cutter from Hill.

Margot’s fourth homer of the season gave the Rays a 3-0 lead through four innings. Hill, for his part, settled back into a groove by sitting down seven of the last eight hitters he faced. The 42-year-old southpaw finished with 80 pitches (60 strikes) and induced 12 swings-and-misses. Though he did not factor into the decision, Hill brought his final ERA on the season down to 4.27.

Moments after Hill ended things in the top of the sixth, the Red Sox lineup finally got going in the bottom half of the inning. After being held in check by Rays starter Tyler Glasnow, Devers led off the sixth with a hard-hit double off Kevin Herget. Devers moved up to third base on a one-out single from Alex Verdugo. Both runners then scored when Christian Arroyo roped a two-run double down the left field line to cut the deficit to one.

Representing the possible tying run, Arroyo advanced to third on a Casas groundout and scored on an RBI double from Hernandez. The bats got back to work after John Schreiber took over for Hill out of the bullpen and faced the minimum in the top of the seventh.

To lead off the bottom half of the inning, Reese McGuire laced a ground-rule double down the right field line. McGuire moved up an additional 90 feet on a Tommy Pham groundout. Devers then came through with a sacrifice fly that was hit deep enough to left field to plate McGuire and give the Red Sox their first lead of the night at 4-3.

From there, Ryan Brasier made quick work of the Rays in the eighth before Matt Barnes avoided disaster in the ninth. After yielding a one-out triple to Franco, Barnes got Ramirez to hit a grounder towards Devers. Franco took off from third in an attempt to score the tying run, but he was instead caught in a rundown and tagged out by Yu Chang, who had come on as a defensive replacement.

Ramirez was able to advance to scoring position on the play, but Barnes got Margot to ground out to second to end it. Barnes was credited with his seventh save of the season while Schreiber picked up the win.

Offensively, Devers led the way by going 3-for-4 with his 42nd double of the year. Hernandez also went 2-for-4 with an RBI. As a team, the Red Sox went 3-for-10 with runners in scoring position and left seven runners on base.

Next up: Eovaldi vs. Springs

The Red Sox will look to secure a series victory on Tuesday by sending right-hander Nathan Eovaldi to the mound for the final time this season. The Rays will counter with an old friend in left-hander Jeffrey Springs.

First pitch from Fenway Park is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Rafael Devers: Winslow Townson/Getty Images)