The Red Sox secured a series victory over the Rays on Saturday afternoon. Boston defeated Tampa Bay by a final score of 5-1 at Fenway Park to improve to 62-65 on the season.
Rich Hill, making his 19th start of the year for the Sox, was just as masterful as he was quick. The veteran left-hander scattered just three hits and one walk to go along with a season-high 11 strikeouts over seven scoreless innings of work.
After taking a perfect game into the third inning, Hill gave up a leadoff infield single to Yu Chang. He proceeded to strand Chang at first base by striking out the side on 16 pitches. The lefty yielded another base hit to Randy Arozarena in the fourth. Arozarena advanced into scoring position with two outs by stealing second base, but Hill stranded him there by retiring Isaac Paredes.
From there, Hill sat down nine of the final 11 Rays hitters he faced. He ended his outing with an emphatic three-pitch strikeout of Chang. Finishing with a final pitch count of 95 (71 strikes), the 42-year-old southpaw induced 12 total swings-and-misses. He also picked up his sixth win of the season while lowering his ERA to 4.32.
By the time Hill recorded the final out of the seventh, the Red Sox were already in possession of a 5-0 lead. Four of those runs came right away in the bottom of the first inning, when they sent all nine hitters to the plate against Rays starter (and old friend) Jeffrey Springs.
Tommy Pham set the tone with a leadoff single that left his bat at 103.8 mph. Alex Verdugo followed with a hard-hit double that put runners at second and third for J.D. Martinez. Martinez came through with a two-run single off the Green Monster to get Boston on the board first.
Springs then recorded the first two outs of the inning, but ran into more trouble when Trevor Story reached base on an infield single. After Enrique Hernandez drew a walk to load the bases, Bobby Dalbec delivered with another two-run single to center field.
Fast forward all the way to the fourth inning, and Hernandez got the best of Springs again by cranking a 366-foot leadoff home run over the Green Monster to make it a 5-0 game. Hernandez’s sixth homer of the season left his bat at 104 mph.
As was the case on Friday night, things once again got interesting for Boston in the eighth inning. Jeurys Familia took over for Hill and recorded the first two outs of the frame on 11 pitches. He then gave up three straight hits, including an RBI single from Randy Arozarena.
That sequence of events prompted Red Sox manager Alex Cora go back to the bullpen to call upon John Schreiber. Schreiber in turn, got the final out of the eighth and worked his way around a one-out walk in the ninth to lock up the win and notch his fifth save of the year.
With the win, the Red Sox now trail the Blue Jays by seven games for the third and final American League Wild Card spot.
Next up: Pivetta goes for sweep
The Red Sox will look to complete a three-game weekend sweep of the Rays on Sunday afternoon. Boston will turn to right-hander Nick Pivetta while Tampa Bay will go with fellow righty Corey Kluber.
First pitch from Fenway Park is scheduled for 1:35 p.m. eastern time on NESN.
(Picture of Rich Hill: Winslow Townson/Getty Images)