Rainy conditions in Boston could not stop the Red Sox from opening their weekend series against the Marlins with a 5-2 victory in 5 1/2 innings at Fenway Park on Friday night.
With the win, Boston improves to 31-20 (15-13 at home) on the season and moves to a half-game back of the Rays for first place in the American League East.
Perez provides five solid innings
Martin Perez made his 10th start of the season for the Sox on Friday, marking his second straight outing of the interleague variety.
Over five innings of work, the veteran left-hander yielded just two earned runs — both of which were earned — on five hits and zero walks to go along with four strikeouts on the evening.
Both Miami runs Perez surrendered came via the home run ball, as the southpaw gave up a leadoff single to Corey Dickerson to begin things in the top of the second before serving up a 381-foot two-run home run to Jorge Alfaro moments later.
That miscue put the Sox in an early 2-0 hole, but Perez was able to rebound and wound up settling in nicely. That being the case because after giving up the homer to Alfaro, he retired 11 of the final 13 hitters he faced to prevent the Marlins from scoring anything else going into the middle of the fifth.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 79 (51 strikes), the 30-year-old hurler turned to his sinker a game-high 41% of the time he was on the mound Friday, inducing just one swing-and-miss with the pitch. He also topped out at 93 mph with his four-seam fastball, a pitch he threw a total of nine times.
Able to improve to 3-2 on the season while maintaining a 3.55 ERA because of his efforts, Perez’s next start should come against the Astros in Houston next Wednesday.
Martinez pulls Sox even in third inning
After falling behind by a pair of runs early on, the bottom of the Red Sox lineup got things started in their half of the third inning.
Matched up against Marlins rookie starter Cody Poteet, a one-out double from Hunter Renfroe put a runner in scoring position as the order flipped back over and Enrique Hernandez drew a five-pitch walk.
An Alex Verdugo flyout put Poteet just one out away from getting out of the jam, but J.D. Martinez had other ideas.
On the fourth pitch he saw in his second at-bat of the night, the Sox slugger laced a 108 mph two-run double to dead center field to drive in both Renfroe and Hernandez and knot things up at two runs apiece.
Verdugo seals it with clutch homer
Fast forward to the fifth inning, and the bottom of the Boston lineup struck again, this time with Marwin Gonzalez drawing a leadoff walk and Hunter Renfroe advancing him up to third on his second double of the night.
With the go-ahead run just 90 feet away and the rate at which the rain was falling from the sky picking up, Alex Verdugo made up for his previous out by all but putting this game away.
On one swing of the bat, Verdugo absolutely crushed a hanging curveball from Poteet and sent it 408 feet over everything in right field with an exit velocity of 108.7 mph.
That three-run blast, Verdugo’s seventh big fly of the season, gave the Red Sox their first lead of the evening at 5-2.
Ottavino closes it out
Because of the worsening conditions in the Fenway-area, the Red Sox were essentially playing this game like it was a six- or seven-inning contest instead of a nine-inning one, and manager Alex Cora’s tactics reflected that.
As the sixth inning was about to begin, Cora deployed right-hander Adam Ottavino, who is usually reserved for the later innings, to face the Marlins’ 2, 3, and 4 hitters.
Ottavino recorded the first two outs of the frame relatively easily, but as the rain continued to pick up, it became clear that the veteran reliever was losing his grip on his breaking pitches.
Three straight walks came as a result of Ottavino’s struggles, meaning Miami was on the verge of tying things up or even re-taking the lead.
While attempts to dry off the baseballs with a towel initially seemed futile, they proved to be effective in the end as Ottavino fanned the last man he faced — Springfield High School product Isan Diaz — on three straight sliders to retire the side.
Rain delay leads to rain-shortened contest
Moments after the final out of the top of the sixth inning was recorded, the Fenway Park grounds crew rolled the tarp out onto the field and a rain delay began at approximately 9:19 p.m. eastern time.
At approximately 10:46 p.m. eastern time, this game was called after an 87-minute standstill. So the Red Sox are credited with the 5-2 win as Adam Ottavino winds up picking up his second save of the year.
Next up: Rogers vs. Eovaldi
Saturday afternoon’s pitching matchup between the Marlins and the Red Sox will feature left-hander Trevor Rogers (6-2, 1.75 ERA) getting the ball for Miami and right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (5-2, 4.39 ERA) getting the ball for Boston.
Fenway Park will be back at full capacity on Saturday for the first time since September 2019.
First pitch Saturday (weather permitting) is scheduled for 4:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN.
(Picture of Alex Verdugo and Marwin Gonzalez: Omar Rawlings/Getty Images)