The Red Sox capped off one of the more memorable weekends of the 2021 season by finishing off a three-game sweep of the Orioles with a 6-2 victory at Fenway on Park on Sunday.
Eduardo Rodriguez, making his 23rd start of the year for the Sox, put together yet another solid outing, as he has done since the calendars flipped to August.
Over six innings of work against his former team, the left-hander surrendered just one unearned run while scattering three hits and three walks to go along with six strikeouts on the afternoon.
The lone Rodriguez gave up came right away in the top half of the first after he issued a one-out walk to Austin Hays that was followed by a Trey Mancini single.
Anthony Santander ripped a single to left field of his own that should have just loaded the bases, but a poor throw from J.D. Martinez allowed Hays to score all the way from second to give his side the early 1-0 lead.
Martinez’s throwing error also put a runner at third base, but Rodriguez was able to escape the jam by recording back-to-back punchouts.
Despite falling behind by a run before even taking their first at-bats, the Sox lineup was undeterred, as they were matched up against Orioles starter Keegan Akin, who came into play Sunday the owner of a 8.23 ERA on the season.
With that favorable matchup in mind, Martinez did not waste any time in making up for his defensive miscue, as he came to the plate for the first time with two outs in the first and two runners on.
On the fourth pitch he saw from Akin, a 2-1, 86 mph slider on the outer half of the plate, Martinez clobbered a three-run home run 396 feet over the Green Monster and off the National Car Rental sign to give Boston their first lead of the day at 3-1.
While Martinez’s 23rd homer of the season looked like it would set the tone for another explosive day from the Red Sox offense, they actually did not get on the board again until their half of the sixth.
Between the time the Sox scored their first and last runs of the afternoon, Rodriguez was in the midst of stringing together five consecutive scoreless frames after he got pushed around a bit in the top half of the first.
From the beginning of the second inning through the middle of the sixth, the point in which his outing came to a close, Rodriguez retired 14 of the final 17 Orioles hitters he faced to end his day on an extremely encouraging note.
Though he certainly would have liked to have pitched beyond the sixth inning, the 28-year-old hurler did finish with a final pitch count of 83 — 55 of which were strikes.
In completing six quality frames, Rodriguez was able to pick up his ninth winning decision of the year while also lowering his ERA on the season down to 4.97.
Moments after Rodriguez’s outing had concluded, the Sox lineup picked things up again in their half of the sixth inning.
There, with old friend Fernando Abad on the mound for Baltimore, Kyle Schwarber made his impact felt by leading things off with a line-drive double to deep right field, marking his first hit in a Red Sox uniform and his first of two doubles on the day.
Back-to-back one-out walks drawn by Alex Verdugo and Christian Vazquez filled the bases for leadoff man Enrique Hernandez, who greeted new Orioles reliever Tanner Scott by lacing an RBI single that deflected off the leg of third base umpire Will Little and brought in Schwarber while also keeping the bases loaded.
Hunter Renfroe took advantage of that by drawing a bases-loaded walk to record an RBI while bringing in Verdugo from third, and Xander Bogaerts followed by beating out a double play on a ground ball that plated Vazquez, thus giving the Sox a commanding 6-1 lead.
From the top of the seventh inning on, the Red Sox bullpen took over in relief of Rodriguez, with Adam Ottavino getting the first call to action.
Making his first appearance out of the bullpen in exactly one week, Ottavino was clearly rusty, as he plunked the first batter he faced in Pedro Severino before throwing two wild pitches that allowed Severino to move all the way up to third base.
A one-out walk of Maikel Franco put runners at the corners for Jorge Mateo, who promptly laced a 105 mph off Ottavino’s left shoulder that scored Severino and would ultimately force the veteran righty to exit, as he was later diagnosed with a left shoulder contusion.
Garrett Whitlock, who was already warming up in the Boston bullpen, was forced to enter sooner than he may have expected, but he kept Baltimore at bay by stranding Mateo at first in the seventh and striking out the side in order in the eighth to hold the opposition at two runs.
That paved the way for Matt Barnes to enter in the ninth in a non-save situation, and despite allowing two of the five batters he faced to reach base, the Red Sox closer was able to shut the door on the Orioles to preserve the 6-2 victory for his side.
With the win, not only do the Sox finish off their first series sweep of at least three games since early July, but they also improve to 69-51 on the season and move to 3 games back of the Rays for first place in the American League East.
Next up: On to the Bronx
The Red Sox will board a flight to Newark Sunday evening and enjoy a well-deserved off day in New York on Monday before opening up a three-game, two-day series against the Yankees in a split doubleheader on Tuesday afternoon.
Right-handers Nathan Eovaldi and Tanner Houck are slated to start for Boston in Tuesday’s twin bill at Yankee Stadium, though the order in which the two will pitch has not yet been determined.
The Yankees, meanwhile, will go with right-hander Luis Gil for Game 1 and left-hander Jordan Montgomery for Game 2.
First pitch of the day cap on Tuesday is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. eastern time on NESN and MLB Network, while the night cap will begin at approximately 7:05 p.m. ET and also be broadcasted on NESN and MLB Network.
(Picture of Xander Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez, and Rafael Devers: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)