After salvaging their series against the New York Yankees on Sunday and enjoying an off day on Monday, the Red Sox headed down to Kansas City, Mo., where they took the first of three from a struggling Royals team by a final score of 8-3 Tuesday.
Making his 12th start of the season, his first since May 26th due to that rainout in the Bronx last week, and 100th of his career for Boston was Eduardo Rodriguez, who entered Tuesday with just one prior outing at Kauffman Stadium under his belt going back to 2015.
Pitching into the sixth inning of this one, the left-hander yielded just two runs, both of which were earned, on six hits and zero walks to go along with seven strikeouts on the night.
Both of those Kansas City runs came in their half of the second, when with one out and Alex Gordon at second following a leadoff double, Cheslor Cuthbert hammered an 0-1 cutter from Rodriguez and sent it 390 feet to the Red Sox bullpen to give his team the early two-run advantage.
Other than that one blip though, Rodriguez retired five of the next six hitters he faced before a pair of double of double plays helped him get through the fourth and fifth.
In what would turn out to be his final frame of work in the sixth, Rodriguez managed to record the first two outs of the inning on a pair of punchouts while also giving up a one-out single to the speedy Adalberto Mondesi, who swiped second shortly after reaching base.
So, with a runner in scoring position in what was a one-run game at the time, Sox manager Alex Cora decided to turn to his bullpen with the right-handed Jorge Soler due up next for Kansas City.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 89 (60 strikes), the 26-year-old hurler turned to his four-seam fastball more than 33% of the time he was on the mound Tuesday, inducing six swings and misses and topping out at 94.4 MPH with the pitch. He also got eight called strikes on said fastball with Christian Vazquez behind the plate.
Ultimately earning his sixth winning decision while lowering his ERA on the season down to 4.88, Rodriguez, visibly frustrated after getting the hook in this one, will look for win number seven in his next time out, which should come against the Tampa Bay Rays this weekend.
In relief of Rodriguez, as previously mentioned, Heath Hembree came on with one runner on second and one out to get in the sixth, and he did his job by getting Soler to fly out to right-center to retire the side.
From there, Marcus Walden worked his way around a one-out walk in a scoreless seventh, Brandon Workman sat down the only three hitters he faced in a shutout eighth, and Ryan Brasier allowed one seemingly meaningless run on one hit in the ninth to lock down the 8-3 win for his team.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against Royals right-hander Glenn Sparkman, who came into Tuesday night with a career 33.75 ERA against Boston, albeit a small sample size.
Facing off against Sparkman for the first time ever as a starter, it took the Sox bats a little while to get going. Sure, the hard contact was certainly there, but the results did not come until the sixth.
There, already in a two-run hole, Mookie Betts would turn out to be the catalyst for a three-run inning with a leadoff double.
Following an Andrew Benintendi fly out and a pitching change that saw right-hander Scott Barlow take over for Sparkman, JD Martinez finally got his team on the board, as he launched what looked to be a two-run home run to the opposite field.
Instead, the ball landed on the inner half of the top part of the wall, and fell back in play, going for an RBI triple that plated Betts from second.
After a six-pitch walk drawn by Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts came through with an RBI sacrifice fly deep enough to right field to score Martinez from third and tie this contest up at two runs a piece.
That stalemate would not last long though, not with Brock Holt extending his hitting streak to six games with an RBI double off of Barlow to drive in Devers all the way from first and give the Red Sox their first lead of the night.
Fast forward to the eighth, with runners on the corners and one out in the inning, Eduardo Nunez came on to pinch-hit for Holt with the left-handed Jake Diekman in for the Royals.
On the fourth pitch he saw from Diekman, in very similar fashion to Game 1 of last year’s World Series, Nunez unloaded on an 85 MPH slider on the outer edge of the plate and deposited it 410 feet into the seats in left field.
That blast, Nunez’s second of the year, opened up a 6-2 lead for Boston, and a two-run double off the bat of Devers that nearly got out of the ballpark in the ninth cushioned that lead even further in what would turn out to be an 8-3 win for the Red Sox.
Some notes from this win:
From Red Sox Stats:
Xander Bogaerts extended his hitting streak to seven games Tuesday. Over that span, he has lifted his batting average from .284 to .304 and his OPS from .870 to .928.
Over his last six games since returning from the injured list, Brock Holt is 8-for-20 with two doubles and four RBI.
Eduardo Nunez is 3-for-6 as a pinch hitter this season.
Next up for the Red Sox, it’s the middle game of this three-game set on Wednesday night. Left-hander Chris Sale will get the ball for Boston, while right-hander Jakob Junis will do the same for Kansas City.
At 1-7 on the season thus far, 2019 has definitely been a bit of an oddity for Sale. In 17 previous appearances (11 starts) at Kauffman Stadium, the Sox ace is 6-5 with a lifetime 3.05 ERA over 88.2 total innings pitched.
Opposite Sale, Junis, 26, currently owns a 5.35 ERA through 12 starts this season. The Royals are 5-7 in those games.
In one previous matchup against the Red Sox back in 2018, Junis allowed two runs over six innings while being hit with the no-decision in a game Kansas City won.
First pitch Wednesday is scheduled for 8:15 PM EDT on NESN. Red Sox going for their third consecutive victory.