The Red Sox may have squandered a five-run lead against the Guardians on Saturday evening, but they still found a way to win in extras. Thanks to a walk-off single from Alex Verdugo, Boston defeated Cleveland in 10 innings by a final score of 8-7 at Fenway Park to get back to .500 at 14-14 on the season.
With Zach Plesac starting for the Guardians, the Sox drew first blood in their half of the first. After Verdugo ripped a leadoff double on the very first pitch of the game, Masataka Yoshida drew a four-pitch walk and Justin Turner struck out. That brought Rafael Devers to the plate with one out and runners at first and second.
Devers wasted little time in getting the Red Sox on the board, as he cranked a 411-foot three-run blast deep to right field for his American League-leading 10th home run of the season. The ball left Devers’ bat at a blistering 114.1 mph and gave Boston an early 3-0 lead.
The Guardians were able to get one of those runs back off Brayan Bello in the top of the second, though. Josh Bell led things off by taking Bello 405 feet over the Green Monster to cut into the deficit and make it a 3-1 game. Bello and Plesac exchanged zeroes in the third before the Sox struck again in the fourth.
Back-to-back one-out doubles from Raimel Tapia and Enmanuel Valdez extended Boston’s lead to 4-1. Christian Arroyo then plated Valdez with an RBI single back up the middle and Connor Wong followed with a base hit of his own to knock Plesac out of the game after just 3 1/3 innings.
Bello, meanwhile, pitched well in his third start of the season for Boston and his first since being recalled from Triple-A Worcester on Friday to take the injured Garrett Whitlock’s spot in the rotation. Over five solid innings of work on Saturday, the young right-hander allowed just the one earned run on five hits and two walks to go along with six strikeouts.
After giving up that solo shot to Bell in the second, Bello retired the next six hitters he faced before working out of a jam in the fourth. He did not issue his first walk until there were two outs in the top of the fifth. Due to a bloody fingernail on his right index finger, Bello received attention from a team trainer. He then walked his second straight batter to put runners at first and second, but he ended his outing by fielding a soft roller off the bat of Amed Rosario and making a strong throw to first base for the final out of the inning.
All told, Bello finished with 84 pitches (47 strikes). The 23-year-old hurler induced eight swings-and-misses while mixing in a 93-96 mph sinker, an 83-87 mph slider, an 86-89 mph changeup, and a 95-97 mph four-seam fastball. Though he did not factor into Saturday’s decision, Bello did lower his ERA on the season down to 6.57.
Following a scoreless inning of relief from Richard Bleier out of the bullpen, the Red Sox tacked on another run in the bottom of the sixth. Arroyo and Wong led off with back-to-back singles off Guardians reliever Xzavion Curry. A Verdugo lineout allowed Arroyo to advance up to third. With one out and Yoshida at the plate, Wong took off for second base. Catcher Mike Zunino attempted to throw his counterpart out, but he instead made an errant throw that wound up in center field.
As a result of Zunino’s throwing error, Wong was credited with a stolen base while Arroyo scored from third to put Boston up, 6-1. Bleier came back out for the seventh but immediately served up a solo homer to Andres Gimenez that panged off the top of Pesky’s Pole. The left-hander was then replaced by Ryan Brasier, who recorded the first two outs of the inning before issuing a four-pitch walk to Jose Ramirez to load the bases.
That sequence of events forced Red Sox manager Alex Cora to dip into his bullpen again, and in came John Schreiber. With one out to get and the bases full, Schreiber surrendered a bases-clearing, three-run double to Josh Naylor. Myles Straw, Steven Kwan, and Ramirez all scored as Boston’s five-run lead was suddenly trimmed to one.
Schreiber was able to avoid any further damage in the seventh and Josh Winckowski followed with a 1-2-3 eighth inning, thus paving the way for Kenley Jansen, who had yet to allow a run through his first eight appearances of the year, to come on for the ninth.
In uncharacteristic fashion, Jansen gave up back-to-back singles to Straw and Kwan out of the gate. After punching out Rosario, the veteran closer yielded a game-tying RBI single to Ramirez that knotted things up at six runs apiece. Jansen got through the rest of the inning unscathed, but he was clearly not himself and was charged with his first blown save of the season as a result.
A scoreless bottom of the ninth from the Red Sox pushed this one into extras. Lefty reliever Brennan Bernardino recorded two quick outs before allowing the automatic runner at second base to score on a hard-hit RBI single from Zunino in the top of the 10th.
Now trailing 7-6, Christian Arroyo led off the bottom of the 10th with a game-tying RBI single off Guardians closer Emmanuel Clase that brought in Valdez from second. Arroyo then moved up to second on a sacrifice bunt from Wong and to third on a pitch that got past Zunino.
With the winning run just 90 feet away and the infield drawn in, Verdugo delivered by ripping a 88.9 mph single to left field. Arroyo came into score and Verdugo was credited with his second walk-off hit of the year and his fifth in a Red Sox uniform.
All nine members of Boston’s starting lineup registered at least one hit on Saturday. Arroyo and Wong led the way with three hits apiece while Verdugo, Devers, and Tapia each had two hits. On the flip side, Bernardino picked up the first winning decision of his big-league career.
Next up: Allen vs. Sale in rubber match
The Red Sox will go for a series win over the Guardians on Sunday afternoon. Chris Sale is slated to start for Boston while fellow southpaw Logan Allen is lined up to do the same for Cleveland.
First pitch from Fenway Park is scheduled for 1:35 p.m. eastern time on NESN, though the forecast does not look particularly encouraging.
(Picture of Alex Verdugo: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)