The Red Sox improved to 8-5 in Grapefruit League play on Wednesday afternoon with a 10-7 victory over the Braves at JetBlue Park.
Using a lineup that is likely to mirror the one they feature on Opening Day, the Sox got things going right away against Braves starter Ian Anderson. Before recording an out in the first inning, Enrique Hernandez drew a leadoff walk and Rafael Devers clubbed a towering two-run homer over the Fenway South Green Monster.
Devers’ fourth home run of the spring jolted Boston to an early 2-0 lead, but they were not done there. Not with Alex Verdugo ripping a two-out double off Anderson, advancing to third to load the bases, and scoring from third when Jackie Bradley Jr. was hit by a pitch to make it a 3-0 game.
An inning later, the top of the Red Sox lineup struck once more when Hernandez led off with an infield single and scored on a one-out RBI single off the bat of J.D. Martinez.
Christian Vazquez added on to his side’s lead in the bottom of the third. Following a leadoff double from Bobby Dalbec, Vazquez crushed a two-run shot to left field off Anderson. The veteran backstop’s first big fly of the spring made it a 6-0 game in favor of Boston.
That sequence provided Sox starter Tanner Houck with a sizable cushion to operate with out of the gate. Making his third start of the Grapefruit League campaign, the right-hander began his day by retiring eight of the first 13 batters he faced heading into the fourth inning.
That is where things began to get a bit shaky for Houck. The 25-year-old yielded back-to-back singles to Ozzie Albies and Eddie Rosario to begin the frame before spiking a wild pitch that allowed both runners to advance an additional 90 feet.
A sacrifice fly from Alex Dickerson brought in Albies from third for the Braves’ first run of the afternoon. Houck then plunked Guillermo Heredia, but escaped any further damage by fanning Dansby Swanson, who would turn out to be the last hitter he would face on Wednesday.
All told, Houck allowed just one earned run on five hits, no walks, and three hit batsman to go along with four strikeouts over four erratic innings of work. He should be in line to make one more start before the regular season begins.
Shortly after Houck recorded the final out in the top half of the fourth, the Boston bats continued to pound Atlanta pitching in the bottom half of the frame.
With reliever Dylan Lee on the mound for the Braves, Jonathan Arauz provided some more leadoff pop by mashing his first home run of the spring. A J.D. Martinez walk and opposite-field double for Franchy Cordero then put runners at second and third for Trevor Story, who came through with a line-drive RBI single to plate Martinez. Cordero himself scored on another RBI base hit courtesy of Bobby Dalbec.
Despite having a commanding 9-1 lead going into the fifth, the Red Sox bullpen struggled a bit in relief of Houck. Kaleb Ort received the first call from manager Alex Cora and proceeded to serve up a solo homer to Travis d’Arnaud and a three-run blast to Adam Duvall while only managing to record two outs.
Ryan Fernandez then came on for Ort and surrendered a solo home run of his own to Dickerson, though he was able to end the inning with Boston still in possession of a three-run lead at 9-6.
It did not take long for the Sox to get one of those runs back, though, as Yolmer Sanchez followed up a scoreless sixth inning from Hirokazu Sawamura by plating the pinch-running Christin Stewart on a sacrifice fly to right field off Allan Winans.
From there, Ryan Brasier got himself in and out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh, Matt Barnes gave up one run on two hits and one walk in the eighth, and newcomer Matt Strahm closed things out by stranding a pair of base runners in a shutout ninth inning.
Some notes from this win:
In his Grapefruit League debut, Trevor Story went 1-for-2 with an RBI single, a walk, and a strikeout. The 29-year-old started at second base, batted out of the six-hole, and was pinch-ran for by Yolmer Sanchez in the fourth inning.
Franchy Cordero replaced Alex Verdugo in left field in the third inning. He went 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles, one RBI, and one strikeout.
Through seven games this spring, Rafael Devers is slashing .389/.400/1.056 with four home runs, eight RBIs, six runs scored, one walk, and six strikeouts over 20 plate appearances.
Next up: Bundy vs. Hill
The Red Sox will take on the Twins at JetBlue Park on Thursday afternoon, with the race for the 2022 Chairman’s Cup currently tied at two games apiece.
Rich Hill is slated to get the start for Boston and Garrett Whitlock will also pitch. Hill will be opposed by right-hander Dylan Bundy for Minnesota.
First pitch Thursday is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. eastern time. The game will not be televised.
(Picture of Trevor Story: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)