The Red Sox put an end to a three-game losing streak on Saturday afternoon with a 5-3 win over the Rays at JetBlue Park. Boston improved to 7-3 in Grapefruit League play on the back of four home runs from a trio of expected regulars.
Matched up against Corey Kluber to begin things on Saturday, the Sox got to the Rays starter right away in the first inning. With no outs and the bases empty, Rafael Devers got his productive day at the plate started by crushing a solo shot over the right field wall and into the Boston bullpen.
An inning later, Bobby Dalbec reached base via a one-out single and came into score when Jackie Bradley Jr. clubbed a towering two-run homer off Kluber to give his side an early 3-0 advantage.
Those two home runs provided Red Sox starter Michael Wacha with a bit of a cushion out of the gate. Making his second start of the spring, the veteran right-hander retired six of the first even Rays batters he faced before running into some trouble in the third.
There, Wacha yielded a single and double in consecutive order to lead off the frame. Randy Arozarena then drove in Tampa Bay’s first run of the day on an RBI groundout before young phenom Wander Franco plated another on a line-drive single that Christian Arroyo could not come up with at second base.
As a result, Boston’s lead was cut down to just one run at 3-2. The Sox quickly got one of those runs back, though, as Devers came through and led off the bottom of the third with his second big fly of the afternoon and third of the spring.
Wacha, in turn, came back out for the fourth and finished his outing on a positive note with a 1-2-3 frame. The 30-year-old hurler wound up allowing two earned runs on four hits, no walks, and one strikeout.
In relief of Wacha, Ryan Brasier got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen beginning in the fifth. After a rough spring debut on Wednesday, the righty issued a leadoff walk to Brett Phillips, who proceeded to steal second base and score on an RBI double off the bat of Ford Proctor.
That again, trimmed the Sox’ lead down to one run at 4-3, but the Boston bats responded immediately when Enrique Hernandez led off the bottom of the fifth with a solo blast over the Fenway South Green Monster off of newly-inserted reliever Matt Wisler.
Hernandez’s second homer of the Grapefruit League campaign gave the Red Sox another two-run lead at 5-3. From there, the Sox bullpen held the Rays at bay as Zack Kelly tossed a scoreless sixth and Phillips Valdez closed things out with a good, old-fashioned three-inning save.
All told, four different Red Sox pitchers (Wacha, Brasier, Kelly, and Valdez) limited the Rays to just three runs on seven hits, four walks, and nine strikeouts over nine combined innings of work.
Next up: Whitlock vs. Ryan
The Red Sox will make the crosstown trek to take on the Twins at Hammond Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Boston currently leads the race for the 2022 Chairman’s Cup at two-games-to-one.
In an intriguing twist, Garrett Whitlock will make his first start and second overall appearance of the spring for the Sox. He will be opposed by fellow right-hander Joe Ryan for the Twins.
First pitch on Sunday is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. eastern time. The game will be televised on NESN.
(Picture of Rafael Devers: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)