The Red Sox were able to extend their winning streak to four consecutive games at Fenway Park on Monday night, though it certainly did not look like it was going to turn that way early on.
Facing off against the Royals in the first of four, Sox starter Garrett Richards stumbled immensely out of the gate, as he issued back-to-back singles to Whit Merrifield and Jorge Soler before serving up a three-run home run to Carlos Santana.
Put another way, Richards had put his side in a three-run hole without recording a single out, and he allowed that hole to increase even more by yielding a pair of solo homers to Michael A. Taylor and Merrifield to make it a 5-1 contest in favor of Kansas City.
While Richards was having a difficult time of things, the Red Sox lineup certainly did their part to back him up.
Matched up against Royals ace left-hander Danny Duffy to begin things on Monday, Enrique Hernandez led off the bottom of the first by crushing a solo home run — his eighth of the season — over the Green Monster for the second straight day to get his side on the board.
An inning later, Bobby Dalbec followed suit by also leaving the yard on a 2-1, 94.5 mph fastball from Duffy that was down and in and deposited 397 feet to left field with an exit velocity of 107.6 mph off the bat. His 10th big fly of the year cut Boston’s deficit down to three runs at 5-2.
Having given up hits to six of the first 10 Royals he faced Monday, it did not seem Richards would be long for this one and Red Sox manager Alex Cora would have to go to his bullpen earlier than anticipated.
Somehow, someway though, Richards recovered and even settled into a decent groove, albeit without being able to put together a 1-2-3 frame.
Still, after surrendering five runs in the first two innings, Richards kept Kansas City off the scoreboard from the top of the second on. In doing so, he provided the Red Sox offense with a sizable window to get back into this one, and they capitalized on that in their half of the fourth.
Following a leadoff double from Xander Bogaerts, Hunter Renfroe — playing in the 500th game of his big-league career — demolished a two-run home run 439 feet to dead center to bring the Sox back to within one.
A pitching change in the fourth that saw righty Kyle Zimmer take over Duffy did not halt Boston’s momentum, as Dalbec greeted the Royals reliever with a single, moved up to second on a groundout, and advanced to third on a wild pitch before Michael Chavis drove him in on a game-tying, RBI single through the left side of the infield.
Richards, meanwhile, retired 12 of the final 17 hitters who came to the plate against him up until Nicky Lopez reached base on a two-out single in the sixth.
At that point, the 33-year-old hurler’s pitch count had reached 94 — 67 of which were strikes –and has night ultimately came to a close. Of those 94 pitches thrown by Richards, 38 were four-seam fastballs, 22 were changeups, 21 were sliders, 11 were curveballs, and two were split changeups.
In relief of Richards, Hirokazu Sawamura got the first call out of the Boston bullpen, and he recorded the final out of the sixth inning, setting the stage for Renfroe once more in the bottom half of the frame.
There, the right-handed hitting slugger came through with the clutchest hit of the night: a go-ahead, 434 foot solo blast off reliever Josh Staumont that left Fenway Park in a hurry.
Renfroe’s second homer of the contest, and his 11th of the season, gave the Red Sox a 6-5 lead going into the late innings.
Sawamura came back out for the seventh, faced the minimum three batters, and later earned his fourth winning decision of 2021 to improve to a perfect 4-0.
From there, left-hander Josh Taylor extended his scoreless appearance streak to 23 consecutive games by working a perfect eighth inning, while Matt Barnes induced two fly outs and one pop out in the ninth to notch his 17th save of the campaign in addition to preserving a 6-5 victory for the Red Sox.
With the win, their 26th come-from-behind triumph this year, the Red Sox improve to 48-31 (24-17 at home) on the season and move a full game ahead of an idle Tampa Bay Rays team for first place in the American League East.
Next up for the Red Sox, they will send right-hander Nick Pivetta to the hill on Tuesday as they go for their fifth straight win. The Royals, meanwhile, will counter with fellow righty Brad Keller.
First Pitch Tuesday is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN.
(Picture of Hunter Renfroe: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)