The Red Sox put their four-game losing streak in the rearview mirror and bounced back with a 6-0 shutout victory over the Orioles at Camden Yards on Wednesday.
J.D. Martinez came into play Wednesday having gone 4-for-20 (.200) at the plate over his last six games, but quickly made up for that while going up against Baltimore starter Zac Lowther.
In his first plate appearance of the night with one out in the top half of the second inning, Martinez took a 2-1, 85 mph changeup down the heart of the plate from Lowther and deposited it a whopping 444 feet off the batter’s eye in deep center field.
Martinez’s 28th home run of the season — a solo shot that left his bat at a scorching 109.6 mph — gave Boston an early 1-0 lead, though the slugger was not done there.
Fast forward all the way to the sixth, with reliever Eric Hanhold now in the game for the O’s, and Martinez took advantage of one crucial mistake from the opposition.
After Rafael Devers led off the inning off Lowther with a broken-bat single, Xander Bogaerts proceeded to greet Hanhold by ripping a groundball in the direction of third baseman Kelvin Gutierrez.
It looked as though the Sox were about to ground into yet another double play, but Bogaerts’ grounder deflected off Gutierrez’s glove and rolled into foul territory, thus allowing both runners to reach base safely.
Rather than coming to the plate with two outs and nobody on, Martinez had no outs and two runners on, and he capitalized on that by plating both Devers and Bogaerts on a two-run double down the left field line.
That sequence put Boston up 3-0 over Baltimore at a point in which Nathan Eovaldi had been dominating.
Eovaldi, making his 32nd start of the season for the Red Sox, was coming off his worst outing of the year in his last time out against the Yankees, but looked much more in command this time around.
Through his first five innings of work, the veteran right-hander retired 15 of the first 18 batters he faced while facing no more than four hitters in a single frame.
After being given a three-run cushion going into the middle of the sixth, Eovaldi did run into a bit of trouble when he issued a leadoff double to Cedric Mullins that was followed by a seven-pitch walk of Ryan Mountcastle.
Despite allowing the tying run to come to the plate with no outs, Eovaldi managed to escape the jam he created by getting Austin Hays to fly out, Trey Mancini to punch out, and Pedro Severino to fly out for the third and final out of the inning that ended his evening on a more positive note.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 90 (62 strikes), the 31-year-old hurler wound up stringing together six scoreless innings while scattering just four hits and one walk to go along with seven strikeouts on the night. He also lowered his ERA on the season down to 3.75 while picking up his 11th win of the year.
In relief of Eovaldi, Ryan Brasier got the first call from Red Sox manager Alex Cora out of the Boston bullpen, and he promptly worked his way around a leadoff walk in an otherwise perfect bottom half of the seventh.
In the eighth, while matched up against former Boston minor-leaguer Konner Wade, back-to-back one-out singles from Bogaerts and Martinez — followed by a two-out walk drawn by the pinch-hitting Travis Shaw — filled the bases for Alex Verdugo.
Verdugo came through in that spot by providing some much-needed insurance, as he slapped a two-run single to the opposite field that brought in Bogaerts and Martinez to make it a 5-0 game in favor of the Sox.
Though Shaw was tagged out between second and third base to end the inning, the Red Sox bullpen took care of things from there.
Hansel Robles tossed a 1-2-3 frame in the bottom half of the eighth, while Hunter Renfroe extended his hitting streak to 10 straight games by clubbing a solo shot off Spenser Watkins with two outs in the top half of the ninth.
Renfroe’s 30th big fly of 2021 gave Boston a commanding six-run advantage, allowing Matt Barnes to preserve a 6-0 shutout victory by slamming the door on Baltimore in the bottom of the ninth.
With the win, not only do the Red Sox snap their four-game skid to improve to 89-69 on the season, they also move back to within a game of the Yankees — who fell to the Blue Jays on Wednesday — for the top American League Wild Card spot.
Next up: Pivetta vs. Wells
The Red Sox will send right-hander Nick Pivetta to the mound as they go for the series victory over the last-place Orioles on Thursday night. The O’s will counter with another left-hander in Alexander Wells.
First pitch Thursday is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. eastern time on NESN and MLB Network.
(Picture of J.D. Martinez: Rob Carr/Getty Images)