The month of Christian Arroyo continued for the Red Sox in Atlanta on Wednesday night.
With his side trailing 7-6 with two outs and the bases loaded in the top half of the seventh, Arroyo came off the bench and delivered in the clutch.
On a 1-2, 89 mph cutter at the bottom of the zone from Braves reliever A.J. Minter, Arroyo crushed his first career grand slam — and the Red Sox’ first grand slam of the season — 467 feet to left field.
Arroyo’s fourth homer of the year, all of which have come within the last 12 games, put Boston back up 10-7 and propelled them to a 10-8 victory to finish off a quick two-game sweep of Atlanta.
The Sox had initially gotten out to a 2-0 lead over the Braves on a two-run single off the bat of Hunter Renfroe right away in the first inning.
Garrett Richards, Wednesday’s starter for Boston, gave back one of those runs on an Abraham Almonte sacrifice fly in the second, but contributed to his own cause two innings later by following a Bobby Dalbec RBI single with a run-scoring knock of his own.
Matched up against his counterpart in Braves starter Ian Anderson, Richards laced a hard-hit double to right-center field for his first career hit that gave Dalbec more than enough time to score from first and make it a 4-1 contest.
Despite helping himself out, the veteran right-hander ran into some trouble in the latter half of the fourth when he issued a leadoff triple to Dansby Swanson. That would set the stage for the Braves to plate two more runs and cut the deficit back down to one at 4-3.
Xander Bogaerts coldly greeted Braves rookie reliever Kyle Muller in the fifth with an RBI double that drove in J.D. Martinez from first, and he, too, scored on a run-scoring base hit from Rafael Devers. 6-3 Boston.
Again given a sizable cushion to work with, Richards watched that three-run lead dissipate in an instant when he served up a game-tying, three-run home run to Swanson, which would simultaneously mark the end of his outing after failing to record an out in the fifth inning.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 84 (54 strikes), the 33-year-old did not throw a single curveball on Wednesday and instead operated with just his four-seam fastball and slider. While he did raise his ERA on the season to 4.36, Richards’ next start should come against the Rays back at Fenway Park next Wednesday.
Hirokazu Sawamura got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen in relief of Richards, and he was able to preserve the 6-6 stalemate going into the sixth inning by retiring the first three hitters he faced.
The bottom of the sixth, however, was a different story for Sawamura, as he allowed the then-go-ahead run to score on a solo homer from Freeman, which put the Braves up 7-6.
Recently-acquired Yacksel Rios would have to come on for the Japanese hurler, and he wound up picking up his first winning decision with the Red Sox by getting Swanson to line out to limit any further damage.
From there, the Braves turned to veteran reliever Shane Greene, who yielded a leadoff double to Bogaerts, a walk to Devers, and a one-out walk to Christian Vazquez to fill the bases for the Sox’ Nos. 8 and 9 hitters.
Danny Santana was originally going to hit in that No. 9 spot, which led Atlanta to bring in left-hander A.J. Minter. Red Sox manager Alex Cora countered by swapping Santana for the right-handed hitting Arroyo, and that move paid dividends to say the least.
Arroyo’s slam gave Boston a 10-7 advantage going into the late stages. Brandon Workman and Darwinzon Hernandez combined to keep it that way by tossing a scoreless seventh inning, while Josh Taylor did the same in the eighth.
That paved the way for Adam Ottavino, not Matt Barnes, to come on for the save in the ninth.
Ottavino did allow one run to score to narrow the lead to two runs, but he benefitted from Ronald Acuna Jr. running into an out at third base on the very same play the run scored, and followed that by punching out Freeman on four pitches to preserve the 10-8 victory and notch his fourth save of the year.
With the victory, not only do the Red Sox extend their winning streak to three and improve to 42-27 on the season; they also move to a game back of the Rays for first place in the American League East.
Vazquez removed due to stomach issue
Catcher Christian Vazquez needed to be removed from Wednesday’s game in the seventh inning due to what the Red Sox called a stomach illness. He was replaced by Kevin Plawecki.
Next up: First off day in quite a while
The Red Sox will enjoy a much-deserved off day on Thursday after completing a run of 17 games in 17 days without a break. They went 10-7 in that stretch.
Following the off day, the Sox will open up a three-game weekend series against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on Friday night.
Right-hander Nick Pivetta is slated to get the ball for Boston in the opener, while fellow righty Jackson Kowar is lined up to do the same for Kansas City.
First pitch Friday is scheduled for 8:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN.
(Picture of Christian Arroyo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)