Alex Verdugo certainly made his first home run since June 15 count on a hazy Monday night at Fenway Park.
With the Red Sox trailing the Blue Jays, 4-3, in the late stages of the eighth inning, Verdugo came to the plate representing the potential go-ahead run with one out and a runner on first in the form of Hunter Renfroe.
Matched up against Jays reliever Trevor Richards, the left-handed hitter got ahead in the count at 3-1 before taking the fifth pitch he saw — an 85 mph changeup over the outer half of the plate — and depositing it 414 feet over everything in right field.
Verdugo’s 10th homer of the season, which left his bat with an exit velocity of 101.1 mph, was quite a dramatic one, as it allowed Boston to pick up a 5-4 win over Toronto, marking the club’s 33rd comeback victory of the year.
Before Verdugo’s late-game heroics, it was Nick Pivetta who made his 20th start of the season for the Sox on Monday.
As has been the case since right before the All-Star break, Pivetta certainly was not at his best in this one. Over 4 2/3 innings of work, the right-hander surrendered four runs — all of which were earned on six hits and two walks to go along with three strikeouts on the night.
Pivetta was gifted an early two-run lead, as Verdugo and Michael Chavis got the Sox on the board first with an RBI single and RBI groundout off Blue Jays starter Thomas Hatch in the bottom of the second, but he gave up that lead by issuing back-to-back run-scoring base hits to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Marcus Semien a half inning later.
Rafael Devers pushed Boston back in front by a run by crushing his 27th big fly of the year — a 392-foot solo shot — off Hatch in the third, and Pivetta nearly got through five innings before running into some two-out trouble.
After giving up a leadoff ground-rule double to George Springer in the fifth, Pivetta responded by recording the first two outs of the inning rather quickly.
Just one out away from stranding a runner in scoring position, Pivetta served up a two-run homer to Bo Bichette on a 1-1, 89 mph changeup on the inner half of the plate that he sent over the Green Monster to put his side up a run at 4-3.
That would turn out be how Pivetta’s night came to a close, as Red Sox manager Alex Cora quickly exited the dugout to give him the hook. The 28-year-old finished with a final pitch count of 92 (59 strikes) in the process of raising his ERA on the season to 4.51.
In relief of Pivetta, Phillips Valdez got the first call out of the Boston bullpen and picked up where he left off on Friday by getting through the fifth, tossing a 1-2-3 sixth, and stranding a pair in a scoreless seventh inning to keep the deficit at just one run.
From there, Adam Ottavino maneuvered his way around a one-out double in an otherwise clean eighth inning, setting up the Red Sox lineup to strike in their half of the frame.
By drawing a one-out walk off Richards, Renfroe broke up a string of nine straight Red Sox hitters to be retired by Blue Jays relievers, and Verdugo followed by delivering in the clutch with his two-run, go-ahead homer.
Given a one-run lead to protect all of the sudden, Red Sox closer Matt Barnes was deployed for the ninth and slammed the door on the Jays to notch his 22nd second save of the season as well as a 5-4 victory for his side.
With the win, the Sox improve to 62-39 on the year while also moving to 1 1/2 games up on the Rays for first place in the American League East.
Next up: Ray vs. Richards
Tuesday’s starting pitching matchup between the Blue Jays and Red Sox will feature a pair of veteran hurlers going at it, with left-hander Robbie Ray toeing the rubber for Toronto and right-hander Garrett Richards will be doing the same for Boston.
First pitch Tuesday is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN and MLB Network.
(Picture of Alex Verdugo: Kathryn Riley/Getty Images)