The Red Sox clinched their seventh straight series victory on Saturday with their second straight win over the Guardians at Progressive Field. Boston defeated Cleveland by a final score of 4-2 to extend its winning streak to six consecutive games and improve to 41-31 on the season.
Josh Winckowski, who was born in nearby Toledo, made his fourth start of the season for the Sox. The rookie right-hander allowed two earned runs on six hits and one walk to go along with four strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings of work.
Both runs Winckowski gave up to Cleveland came in the bottom of the third. There, Steven Kwan led off by drawing a seven-pitch walk and immediately scoring from first on an RBI triple from Amed Rosario. Rosario then scored on a Jose Ramirez sacrifice fly to give his side an early 2-0 lead.
Fast forward to the top of the sixth, and the Red Sox lineup finally got something going against Guardians ace Shane Bieber. Held to just two hits up until that point in the contest, J.D. Martinez came to the plate with two outs and ripped a line-drive single to left field. Xander Bogaerts followed with a hard-hit single of his own to put runners at first and second for Alex Verdugo.
On the third pitch he saw from Bieber, Verdugo deposited a 2-0, 81 mph knuckle-curveball on the inner half of the plate 447 feet into the left field seats to give Boston its first lead of the night at 3-2. Verdugo’s fifth home run of the season was his longest of his career to this point. The ball left his bat at a blistering 108.8 mph.
Winckowski, meanwhile, recorded the first out of the bottom of the sixth before yielding a one-out single to Franmil Reyes. Reyes would prove to be the final batter Winckowski would face as he was relieved by Jakie Diekman.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 77 (52 strikes), Winckowski induced all five of his swings-and-misses with a slider, a pitch he threw 29 times. The 23-year-old hurler also topped out at 96 mph with his sinker, a pitch he threw 36 times. His ERA on the season now sits at 3.60.
In relief of Winckowski, Diekman received the first call out of the Boston bullpen from manager Alex Cora. The veteran left-hander stranded the lone runner he inherited by getting the final two outs of the sixth.
The seventh inning was a different story, however, as Diekman allowed two of the four Guardians he faced to reach base to put runners at first and second with two outs. John Schreiber was then summoned to face Rosario, and he won that matchup by fanning the former Met on three straight strikes to retire the side and strand two more base runners.
After the Sox blew multiple scoring chances and Matt Strahm navigated his way around some trouble in the eighth, Jarren Duran provided some insurance in the top of the ninth with an RBI single that plated Bobby Dalbec.
Taking a 4-2 lead into the latter half of the ninth, Tanner Houck made quick work of the Guardians to preserve the win and notch his sixth save of the season.
With the win, the Red Sox move to 18-4 in the month of June and into sole possession of second place in the American League East. Duran went 4-for-5 with an RBI and two stolen bases. Kevin Plawecki went 2-for-4 with a double.
Next up: Hill vs. Civale
The Red Sox will go for the weekend sweep of the Guardians on Sunday afternoon. Veteran left-hander Rich Hill will get the start for Boston while former Northeastern University right-hander Aaron Civale will do the same for Cleveland.
First pitch from Progressive Field is scheduled for 1:40 p.m. eastern time.
(Picture of Alex Verdugo: Nick Cammett/Getty Images)