An unplanned off day on account of inclement weather in the Buffalo-area could not halt the Red Sox from pouring it on against the Blue Jays on Wednesday night.
In the final major-league game to be played at Sahlen Field this season, Boston finished off their two-game sweep of Toronto with a 7-4 victory that was powered by five home runs from five different players.
Matched up against a tough opponent in Jays left-hander Robbie Ray, a right-handed heavy Sox lineup got things started in their half of the third after not recording a hit through the first two innings.
There, a hard-hit leadoff double from Bobby Dalbec set the stage as the lineup flipped back over, and a red-hot Kiké Hernández took full advantage of that by crushing a 434-foot two-run home run to left field off an 0-2, 95 mph fastball from Ray.
Hernández’s 14th homer of the season — and third of the series — gave the Red Sox an early 2-0 lead, but Rafael Devers tacked on another with his 24th big fly of the year to lead off the top half of the fourth.
While the Sox offense was getting it done by way of the long ball against Ray, Garrett Richards was in the midst of putting together one of his better outings of the season.
Making his 19th start of the year for Boston, Richards allowed just one base hit to the first 12 Blue Jays he faced, though Vladimir Guerrero Jr. took him deep to right-center field in the fourth inning to put an end to the shutout bid.
Michael Chavis was able to get one of those runs back with a solo shot off Ray in the top half of the fifth, while Christian Vazquez plated another on an RBI single that brought in J.D. Martinez an inning later.
With a 5-1 cushion to work with now, Richards appeared to be on his way to six clean innings as he recorded the first two outs of the sixth in simple fashion.
A two-out walk of Guerrero Jr. prevented that from happening, though, and the veteran right-hander faltered even further by serving up back-to-back homers to George Springer and Teoscar Hernandez, thus allowing the Blue Jays to trim their deficit down to one run at 5-4.
Having yielded home runs to the last two hitters he faced, Richards’ night came to an end with Red Sox manager Alex Cora giving him the hook in favor of Garrett Whitlock.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 82 (55 strikes), the 33-year-old hurler wound up giving up four earned runs on four hits, one walk, and five strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings of work.
Able to pick up the win to improve to 6-5 on the season despite raising his ERA to 4.99, Richards’ next start should come against these same Blue Jays back at Fenway Park next Tuesday.
In relief of Richards, Whitlock came on, got out of the sixth, and maneuvered his way around a two-out double in an otherwise perfect seventh inning.
From there, the Boston bats responded with back-to-back home runs of their own in their half of the eighth, with Martinez and Hunter Renfroe clubbing their 20th and 15th big flies of the year for some valuable insurance that gave their side a 7-4 edge.
Adam Ottavino followed by facing the minimum three batters in the bottom half of the eighth, and Matt Barnes — making his second half debut — shut the door on the Blue Jays in the ninth to secure the 7-4 victory and notch his 20th save of the campaign.
With the win — Alex Cora’s 250th with the team — the Red Sox improve to 58-38 on the season while maintaining a one-game lead over the Rays for first place in the American League East.
Santana suffers groin injury
Danny Santana was originally starting Wednesday’s contest in left field, but was forced to exit in the seventh inning because of a tight left groin he sustained while diving for a fly ball.
The 30-year-old was replaced by Alex Verdugo in left field and seems likely to be placed back on the injured list just two days after being activated from it.
Next up: Four against the Yankees at Fenway
The Red Sox will return to Fenway Park to open up a four-game weekend series against the Yankees that begins on Thursday night.
Right-hander Tanner Houck is slated to start for Boston in the series opener, while left-hander Jordan Montgomery is in line to do the same for New York.
First pitch Thursday is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN.
(Picture of Kiké Hernández: Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images)