The Red Sox did not need to tear the cover off the ball to get the job done against the Yankees at Fenway Park on Saturday night.
Boston scored two runs on two sacrifice flies in the second inning, an additional run on an infield single in the third inning, and one more on another sacrifice fly in the seventh inning.
Things got a bit shaky towards the end, but the Sox were able to hold on and pick up a series-clinching 4-2 victory over New York.
Matched up against Yankees left-hander Jordan Montgomery to begin things on Saturday, Xander Bogaerts proved to be the catalyst for that two-run bottom of the second by dribbling a leadoff single a mere four feet past home plate.
Rafael Devers followed by drawing an eight-pitch walk, and Hunter Renfroe loaded the bases with a hard-hit single that eluded Montgomery on the mound.
Following a brief mound visit, Enrique Hernandez brought in his side’s first run on a sacrifice fly to center field that brought in Bogaerts and advanced Devers to third, while Bobby Dalbec doubled an early lead by plating Devers on yet another sac fly, though this one only traveled 152 feet and was caught by Yankees first baseman Luke Voit in foul territory.
Still, Voit had to catch Dalbec’s pop fly with his back towards home plate, and that allowed Devers to come into score to make it a 2-0 game.
An inning later, the Sox offense struck with two outs, this time with Bogaerts ripping a two-out double, Devers reaching on an infield single, and Renfroe driving in Bogaerts on another infield knock that came as a result of the Yankees infield playing in a shift.
Fast forward to the seventh, and Bogaerts supplied what would prove to be an important insurance run when he brought in Michael Chavis on a run-scoring sacrifice fly to center field.
While the Red Sox lineup was soft-contacting the Yankees to death, Nathan Eovaldi put together one of his more impressive outings of the season against his former team on Saturday.
Over 7 2/3 innings of work, the veteran right-hander surrendered just one run while scattering seven hits and zero walks to go along with six strikeouts on the night.
That lone tally Eovaldi gave up came at the hands of the last batter he faced, as he served up a two-out solo homer to D.J. LeMahieu in the top half of the eighth.
Besides that one miscue, Eovaldi was thoroughly locked in, never facing more than four Yankees in a single frame thanks to keeping the ball on the ground for the most part and inducing a pair of double plays as a result of doing so.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 109 (72 strikes) to set a new season-high, the 31-year-old hurler ultimately improved to 8-4 on the season in addition to bringing his ERA down to 3.67. His next start should come against the Royals on Thursday.
Red Sox bullpen barely holds on
In relief of Eovaldi, Hirokazu Sawamura got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen with one out to get in the eighth, and he proceeded to walk the bases loaded to bring the potential go-ahead run to the plate in the form of Voit.
That sequence prompted Sox manager Alex Cora to turn to Adam Ottavino, who got Voit to ground out to short to extinguish the threat.
With closer Matt Barnes unavailable, Ottavino was also responsible for the ninth inning as he had a 4-1 lead to protect.
The Yankees made things interesting in their half of the ninth, with LeMahieu plating a run to bring the possible go-ahead run in Aaron Judge. But Ottavino fanned Judge on six pitches, punctuating the at-bat with a nasty 96 mph sinker down and away to preserve the 4-2 victory and notch his fifth save of the year.
With the win, the Red Sox improve to 46-31 (22-17 at home) on the season while remaining a half game back of the Rays for first place in the American League East.
Wong’s first career hit in his first career start
Red Sox catching prospect Connor Wong made his first career start behind the dish on Saturday after debuting as a pinch-runner earlier this week.
The 25-year-old picked up his first big-league hit in the second inning as part of a 1-for-3 night at the plate. He also caught a decent game for Eovaldi and Co.
Next up: Cole vs. Rodriguez
The Red Sox will look to improve to a perfect 6-0 against the Yankees this season by going for the three-game sweep over their division rivals on Sunday afternoon.
Ace right-hander Gerrit Cole will get the ball for New York in the series finale, while left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will do the same for Boston.
First pitch Sunday is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN and TBS.
(Picture of Nathan Eovaldi: Winslow Townson/Getty Images)