The Red Sox extended their winning streak to four straight on Saturday afternoon by taking their third straight from the Rangers. Boston held on for a 5-3 victory over Texas at Fenway Park to move within two games of .500 by improving to 66-68 on the season.
Brayan Bello got the start for the Sox and wound up putting together the best outing of his young career so far. The rookie right-hander scattered just three hits and one walk to go along with five strikeouts over six scoreless innings of work.
Boston provided Bello with an early lead, which certainly didn’t hurt. After Xander Bogaerts reached base with two outs in the bottom of the first, Rafael Devers drove him in with a 337-foot RBI double to left field off Rangers starter Dennis Santana.
Bello continued to roll by keeping Texas off the board through the middle of the fifth. In the bottom half of the frame, Enrique Hernandez and Alex Verdugo each drew a pair of walks off reliever Brock Burke. Burke then balked, allowing both runners to advance an additional 90 feet. With only one out and two runners in scoring position, Bogaerts ripped a chopper to the left side of the infield.
Hernandez took off as soon as contact was made. Rangers shortstop Corey Seager attempted to gun down his former teammate at home plate. But his throw was mishandled by catcher Meibrys Viloria, allowing Hernandez to score on a missed catching error. Verdugo also moved up to third on the play, then scored the second run of the inning when Devers beat out a potential inning-ending double play.
Taking a 3-0 lead into the sixth, Bello ended his day by retiring the final three batters he faced. The 23-year-old hurler threw 88 pitches (60 strikes) and induced nine swings-and-misses en route to picking up his first big-league win.
In relief of Bello, Red Sox manager Alex Cora first turned to Garrett Whitlock out of the bullpen. Whitlock responded by stranding one base runner in an otherwise clean top half of the seventh. A half-inning later, Boston yet again took advantage of sloppy defense from Texas.
Bogaerts reached via a one-out single off Koehi Arihara. Devers followed with a single of his own, but Bogaerts was able to go from first to third on an Adolis Garcia fielding error. He then scored from third on a J.D. Martinez grounder that was misplayed by third baseman Ezequiel Duran. Trevor Story promptly drove in Devers on an opposite field double, making it a 5-0 contest in favor of the Sox.
Whitlock came back out for the eighth and surrendered hits to three of the first four batters he faced, including a two-run home run from Marcus Semien and a solo blast off the bat of Nathaniel Lowe. Those two big swings cut Boston’s lead from five runs down to two.
Looking to protect that lead in the ninth, Matt Barnes loaded the bases while only managing to record the first out of the inning. That prompted Cora to pull Barnes in favor of John Schreiber, who fanned Semien on three pitches before getting Seager to ground out to end it. As a result, Schreiber notched his fifth save of the year.
Next up: Going for the sweep
The Red Sox will go for a four-game sweep over the Rangers on Sunday afternoon. Kutter Crawford was originally supposed to start the series finale for Boston, but has since been scratched due to a sore shoulder. Fellow righty Josh Winckowski, who is currently on the taxi squad, is a likely candidate to start in his place. For Texas, it will be right-hander Dane Dunning taking the mound.
First pitch from Fenway Park is scheduled for 1:35 p.m. eastern time on NESN and MLB Network.
(Picture of Brayan Bello: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)