The Red Sox appeared to be well on their way to a series-clinching victory over the Yankees at Fenway Park on Saturday evening, until the eighth inning happened.
Nathan Eovaldi had allowed just one earned run over 7 2/3 innings of work and handed things over to the bullpen with the Red Sox up 3-1 and needing just one more out to get through the top of the eighth.
Adam Ottavino came on in relief of Eovaldi, inheriting a situation in which New York had one runner on first base with the middle portion of their lineup due to hit.
The former Yankees reliever gave up a ground-rule double to Giancarlo Stanton that left the slugger’s bat at just 70.3 mph, but put runners at second and third for Rougned Odor, who cleared the bases on another two-base hit that knotted things up at three runs apiece.
Gleyber Torres followed by driving in Odor on a go-ahead RBI single, and just like that, the Red Sox found themselves trailing for the first time all day at 4-3.
Ottavino wound up getting charged with the loss and blown save, as the Sox fell to the Yankees in gut-wrenching fashion by a final score of 4-3.
Eovaldi’s strong start goes for naught
Eovaldi, making his 20th start of the season for Boston, was in cruise control through most of his outing on Saturday.
With the benefit of some early run support, the veteran right-hander put up seven consecutive scoreless frames to begin his day, never facing more than four Yankees in a single inning while retiring 20 of the first 25 batters he faced.
The eighth inning presented a different challenge for Eovaldi, though, as he served up a leadoff double to Estevan Florial and later let that runner score by giving up a two-out RBI single to Brett Gardner, which would be how his outing came to an end.
In came Ottavino after Eovaldi got the hook from Red Sox manager Alex Cora, and the righty allowed the lone runner he inherited to score before yielding two more runs of his own on three straight two-out hits that was capped off by Torres’ game-winning single.
As a result of how the top of the eighth inning ended for Boston, Eovaldi wound up surrendering two earned runs on seven hits, zero walks, and eight strikeouts over his 7 2/3 innings pitched. Of the 100 pitches the 31-year-old hurler threw, 82 — or 82% of them — went for strikes.
Red Sox offense gets on the board early, then sputters
Opposite Eovaldi to begin things in Saturday’s contest was fellow Houston-area native Jameson Taillon for New York.
Matched up against Taillon for a third time this season, the Sox scored early and often off of the right-hander.
Before the first out of the first inning could even be recorded, Kiké Hernández led off by lacing a hard-hit triple off the Green Monster. Upon reaching third base via a head-first slide, Hernández was able to score on an errant throw to third from Odor, giving the Red Sox an early 1-0 lead.
Kevin Plawecki doubled that advantage in the bottom of the second, as he drove in J.D. Martinez on an RBI double that left the backstop’s bat at an impressive 105.7 mph.
In the third, Jarren Duran’s elite speed on the base paths proved to be an effective weapon, with him reaching first and advancing to second on a ground ball that eluded Odor at second base and made its way to the outfield.
After advancing to third on a Xander Bogaerts groundout, Duran scored easily on a sacrifice fly from Rafael Devers, earning Devers his team-leading 80th RBI of the season to put the Sox up 3-0.
While it seemed like the Boston bats had Taillon’s number, the New York starter was able to settle in to the point where he held the opposition in check to the tune of seven quality innings of work in which only one of the three runs he gave up was earned.
Sox threaten late, but to no avail
Moments after the Red Sox saw the last of Taillon Saturday, the Yankees put together a four-run rally in their half of the eighth and essentially turned this game on its head in the process of doing so.
Finding themselves down by one all of the sudden, Boston threatened with two outs in the bottom of the eighth, as back-to-back singles from Bogaerts and Devers put runners at the corners for Martinez.
Martinez, matched up against Yankees reliever Jonathan Loaisiga, proceeded to rip a 90.3 mph line drive to right field, but it was one that was caught by Greg Allen to retire the side.
In the ninth, with struggling closer Aroldis Chapam on the mound for New York, the Sox nearly manufactured another late two-out rally, with Hunter Renfroe — pinch-hitting for Franchy Cordero — drew a two-out walk and Christian Vazquez — pinch-hitting for Michael Chavis — followed with a ground-rule double.
That dramatic sequence put the potential tying run at third base and the potential winning run at second base with two outs for Hernández, but he fell victim to a five-pitch strikeout that sealed a dispiriting 4-3 defeat for the Sox.
With the loss, the Red Sox see their four-game winning streak come to an end as they drop to 60-39 on the season.
The Rays, meanwhile, topped the Indians by a final score of 8-2 in their game on Saturday, meaning Tampa Bay and Boston will be tied atop of the American League East standings going into Sunday’s action.
Next up: Game No. 100
The Red Sox will play their 100th game of the 2021 season on Sunday afternoon as they go for the series victory over the Yankees.
Left-hander Martin Perez is slated to get the ball for Boston in the weekend finale, while right-hander Domingo German is lined up to do the same for New York.
First pitch Sunday is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN and TBS.
(Picture of Adam Ottavino: Winslow Townson/Getty Images)