The Red Sox battled back for a series-opening win over the Royals on Friday night. Boston defeated Kansas City by a final score of 2-1 to improve to 70-74 on the season.
Michael Wacha, making his 20th start of the year for the Sox, pitched well yet again. The veteran right-hander allowed just one run on seven hits and zero walks to go along with four strikeouts over seven strong innings of work.
That lone Royals run came in the top half of the sixth. After giving up a leadoff triple to M.J. Melendez that got over the head of Enrique Hernandez in center field, Wacha yielded a one-out, opposite field RBI single to Salvador Perez that pushed across the first run of the contest.
Wacha then got Vinnie Pasquantino to ground into an inning-ending 6-5-3 double play. Michael Taylor led off the seventh inning with a single, but Wacha retired the next three batters he faced to end his night on a solid note. The 31-year-old hurler finished with 88 pitches (65 strikes) and induced 10 swings-and-misses. He did not factor into Friday’s decision, though he did lower his ERA to 2.61.
In relief of Wacha, Garrett Whitlock received the first call out of the Boston bullpen from manager Alex Cora. The righty worked his way around a two-out single in an otherwise clean inning of work.
To that point in the contest, a Trevor Story-less Red Sox lineup had been held in check by the Royals pitching staff despite having their fair share of scoring opportunities.
In the fifth inning, for instance, Alex Verdugo and Triston Casas each drew a walk off Kansas City starter Jonathan Heasley while Christian Arroyo reached on a groundball single to fill the bases for Hernandez, who grounded into 6-4-3 double play to extinguish the threat.
Two innings later, J.D. Martinez and Casas drew a pair of two-out walks, bringing Arroyo to the plate to face off against Royals reliever Amir Garrett. With the potential tying run at second base, Arroyo fanned on four pitches to send things along to the eighth.
Following Whitlock’s scoreless frame, the Sox finally broke through in the latter half of the eighth. Hernandez led off by drawing a five-pitch walk off Dylan Coleman. Abraham Almonte, who was pinch-hitting for Kevin Plawecki, drew a free pass of his own to put runners at first and second.
After Tommy Pham popped out, Rafael Devers drew yet another walk off Scott Barlow to fill the bases. Xander Bogaerts struck out swinging, but Verdugo delivered by taking ball four to drive in the tying run (Hernandez) from third.
On the very next pitch from Barlow, Martinez dealt the finishing blow by ripping a game-winning RBI single through the left side of the infield to plate Almonte and give the Red Sox their first lead of the night at 2-1.
Taking a one-run lead into the ninth, Boston turned to Matt Strahm to close it out. The lefty issued a two-out walk to Michael Massey to put the tying run on base, but followed that up by getting Hunter Dozier to fly out to Hernandez in center.
Strahm picked up his fourth save of the season as the Red Sox put an end to their two-game losing streak. Whitlock earned the winning decision.
Next up: Hill vs. Singer
The Red Sox will go for a series win over the Royals on Saturday afternoon. Veteran left-hander Rich Hill is expected to start for Boston while right-hander Brady Singer is in line to do the same for Kansas City.
First pitch from Fenway Park is scheduled for 4:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN.
(Picture of J.D. Martinez: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)