Alex Verdugo comes through with game-winning 3-run homer as Red Sox hold off Braves, 10-8

Alex Cora’s Red Sox certainly seem to have a flair for the dramatic, especially when it comes to playing games against the Braves at Truist Park in Atlanta.

Brandon Phillips provided the Sox with one of their standout moments in 2018 by crushing a game-winning homer in September of that season. On Tuesday, Alex Verdugo may have done the same for the 2021 Red Sox.

With two outs in the top of the eighth and runners at second and third in what was at the time a 7-7 contest, Verdugo came through in the clutch yet again.

On a 2-0, 86 mph changeup at the top of the zone from Braves reliever Chris Martin, Verdugo demolished a go-ahead, three-run home run 409 feet to left-center field.

While celebrating his ninth homer of the year by pounding chest and pointing to his teammates in the visitor’s dugout, Verdugo put the Sox up. 10-7 late.

The fact that the Red Sox reached such a crucial point on Tuesday was somewhat surprising when considering they had leads of 5-0 and 7-4 over Atlanta, but the late-game dramatics were necessary nonetheless.

Devers notches 500th career hit in first inning

Matched up against Braves rookie left-hander Tucker Davidson to begin things on Tuesday, Rafael Devers got the scoring started for the Sox by reaching a significant career milestone.

Coming into the day with 499 career hits under his belt, Devers certainly made No. 500 count when he took Davidson 435 feet deep to dead center field for a three-run home run that got his side on the board first.

Hunter Renfroe followed with a big fly of his own, and Devers tacked on another on an RBI single in the second to make it a 5-0 contest early.

Rodriguez’s struggles continue

Eduardo Rodriguez, making his 13th start of the season for Boston, was rewarded for tossing two scoreless innings to begin his outing by being given a five-run lead to work with going into the third.

Alas, over his next two frames of work, Rodriguez saw that five-run edge trimmed down to just one as he surrendered a total of four runs on an RBI single from Freddie Freeman in the third and a pair of run-scoring doubles from Abraham Almonte and Ronald Acuna Jr. in the fourth.

The left-hander was able to punch out Freeman to limit any further damage, but that would mark the end of his outing since he had already given up four runs on six hits, one walk, and eight strikeouts over four innings.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 80 (53 strikes), Rodriguez raised his ERA on the season to 6.21 while getting hit with the no-decision. The 28-year-old’s next start should come against the Rays in Tampa Bay next Tuesday.

Bogaerts joins in on the home run action

The Red Sox were able to add to their 5-4 lead in their half of the fifth inning, when Xander Bogaerts deposited a solo shot to left field and Hunter Renfroe later drove in Rafael Devers on a run-scoring single off Braves reliever Edgar Santana.

Costly errors lead to three Braves runs

Garrett Whitlock was the first reliever the Sox turned to on Tuesday, and he delivered by tossing a scoreless fifth inning in addition to picking up his first career big-league hit in the top of the sixth.

Called back out for the bottom half of that frame, Whitlock walked the first batter he faced in Abraham Almonte before falling victim to some sloppy defense behind him, though he was not alone in that respect.

An Enrique Hernandez fielding error and Hunter Renfroe throwing error led to one Braves run crossing the board. 7-5.

After getting the first out of the sixth, Whitlock was replaced by left-hander Darwinzon Hernandez, who subsequently saw Atlanta’s sixth run of the night come into score on a passed ball that eluded Christian Vazquez behind the plate.

That same passed ball allowed Guillermo Heredia to advance to third base, and he came into score on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Freddie Freeman, which knotted things back up at seven runs apiece.

Eighth-inning rally

Following a scoreless frame courtesy of Hirokazu Sawamura in the seventh, Christian Vazquez and Bobby Dalbec led off their half of the eighth with a pair of back-to-back singles off Chris Martin.

Both runners advanced into scoring position on a well-placed bunt from the pinch-hitting Marwin Gonzalez, which paved the way for Alex Verdugo to deliver the moment of the night: a go-ahead, game-winning three-run blast.

Ottavino and Barnes close it out

Adam Ottavino took over in the bottom half of the eighth, and he needed all of 14 pitches to toss yet an shutout inning.

Sox closer Matt Barnes, meanwhile, made things interesting by yielding a run, but he was ultimately able to hold the Braves off to preserve the 10-8 victory as well as his 15th save of the year.

With the win, the Red Sox improve to 41-27 on the season and move to two games back of the Tampa Bay Rays for first place in the American League East.

Next up: Richards vs. Anderson

The Red Sox will send right-hander Garrett Richards to the mound as they go for the quick two-game sweep over the Braves on Wednesday.

The Braves will send fellow righty Ian Anderson to the hill as they look to prevent that from happening.

First pitch Wednesday is scheduled for 7:20 p.m. eastern time on NESN and ESPN.

(Picture of Alex Verdugo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

New Podding the Red Sox episode: The Providence Jorunal’s Bill Koch joins the show

On this week’s installment of Podding the Red Sox: A Podcast, I am joined by Bill Koch, who covers the Red Sox for The Providence Journal.

Among the topics Bill and I discussed were how his New England roots shaped his interest in sports journalism, what led him to covering the Red Sox for The Providence Journal, how he goes about writing and tweeting about the Red Sox, his thoughts on Boston’s season thus far, what Alex Cora will have to deal with in the Bronx this weekend, his prediction for what Chaim Bloom will do before next month’s trade deadline, when Jarren Duran could be making his major-league debut, and much more!

The episode is available to listen to on iTunes and Spotify, among other platforms.

Thank you to Bill for taking some time out of his busy in-season schedule to have a conversation with me.

You can follow Bill on Twitter (@BillKoch25) by clicking here. You can check out his work for the Providence Journal by clicking here.

Thank you for listening and we will see you next time! Please make sure to subscribe and leave a five-star review if you can!

(Picture of Fenway Park: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Martín Pérez tosses 7 2/3 scoreless innings, Christian Arroyo crushes 3-run homer as Red Sox salvage series against Astros with 5-1 win

Powered by Martin Perez’s strongest showing of the season to date, the Red Sox were able to avoid a four-game sweep and salvage their series against the Astros with a 5-1 victory at Minute Maid Park on Thursday.

Perez, making his 11th start of the season, pitched into the eighth inning for the first time in his Red Sox career.

Over 7 2/3 impressive frames of work, the veteran left-hander kept the Astros off the board while scattering just six hits and one walk to go along with four strikeouts on the afternoon.

Five of the six hits Perez gave up were singles. The only extra-base hit was snuffed out right away when he yielded a two-out double to Aledmys Diaz and immediately picked him off trying to steal third base.

The fifth inning presented a little bit more trouble for Perez when he put on two of the first three hitters he faced in the frame. Nevertheless, the southpaw got Myles Straw to pop out to the infield before inducing an inning-ending grounder off the bat of Garrett Stubbs. Bobby Dalbec made a nice diving play on the ball and Perez did a quality job of getting over to first base in time.

From there, Perez held things in check. But a one-out single and two-out walk — his first free pass of the contest — in the bottom of the eighth would mark the end of his outing.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 82 (59 strikes), the 30-year-old hurler improved to 4-2 on the year while lowering his ERA down to 3.09. His next start should come against this same Astros team back at Fenway Park next Tuesday.

In relief of Perez, Adam Ottavino got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen and needed all of five pitches to record the final out of the inning.

With a five-run lead going into the last of the ninth, the Sox were able to go to Brandon Workman to close this one out on the same they promoted him from Triple-A Worcester.

Workman served up a solo homer to Yuli Gurriel, but was otherwise up to the challenge of preserving a 5-1 win for his side.

Red Sox offense wakes up

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against a familiar foe in the form of Astros right-hander Jake Odorizzi.

Unlike the first three games of this series, the Boston bats were actually able to take advantage of early scoring opportunities.

That being the case because with no outs and runners on first and second in the top of the second, a resurgent Christian Arroyo crushed his first home run of the season on a hanging cutter from Odorizzi.

Arroyo’s three-run shot traveled 339 feet over the left field fence and had an exit velocity of 93.2 mph off the bat. It also cleared the bases and gave the Red Sox a 3-0 advantage early on.

Fast forward to the seventh, and the Sox found themselves in a nearly-identical situation.

With no outs and runners at second and third, Xander Bogaerts put an end to one of the worst offensive skids of his career (0-for-his-last-24) by lacing a two-run double off Astros reliever Cristian Javier. He also singled in the ninth to finish the day with his first multi-hit game since May 21.

Bogaerts’ seventh-inning two-base hit put the Red Sox up 5-0 and, as previously mentioned, 5-1 would go on to be Thursday’s final score.

By breaking out of a three-game losing streak, the Sox improve to 33-23 on the season (17-10) on the season to get back to 10 games over .500. They remain two games back of the Rays for first place in the American League East.

Alex Cora ejected

Red Sox manager Alex Cora was ejected for arguing balls and strikes in the sixth inning. He was tossed by home plate umpire Lance Barrett after Kevin Plawecki struck out looking on a questionable third called strike.

Cora has now been ejected two times this season, with Thursday marking his first ejection since April 15. Bench coach Will Venable took over managerial responsibilities for the remainder of the ballgame.

Next up: Big weekend series in the Bronx

The Red Sox will depart Houston for New York, where they will open up a three-game weekend series against the 31-26 Yankees at Yankee Stadium on Friday night.

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi will get the ball for Boston in the opener, and he will be opposed by fellow righty Michael King for New York.

First pitch Friday is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Christian Arroyo: Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Red Sox select Brandon Workman from Triple-A Worcester, designate Colten Brewer for assignment

The Red Sox have selected the contract of Brandon Workman from Triple-A Worcester, the team announced prior to Thursday’s series finale against the Astros.

In order to make room for Workman on both the 26-man and 40-man roster, fellow reliever Colten Brewer was optioned to Worcester following Wednesday’s game before being designated for assignment on Thursday.

Workman, 32, triggered the June 1 opt-out clause in his minor-league contract with the Red Sox on Tuesday, which in turn gave the club 48 hours to either promote or release him to pursue other opportunities.

The right-hander initially inked a minor-league pact with Boston last month shortly after getting released by the Cubs in late April. He posted a 1.29 ERA and a 2.75 xFIP to go along with four walks and 10 strikeouts over seven relief appearances spanning 7 2/3 innings pitched with the WooSox.

After mulling over their options these past two days, the Sox ultimately decided to bring back a familiar face in Workman, who spent the first six years of his major-league career and first 11 years of his professional career with Boston.

2019 was undoubtedly Workman’s best year in a Red Sox uniform, as he put up a miniscule 1.88 ERA over 73 outings in the process of emerging as Boston’s closer.

The 2020 campaign, however, was a different story. The former second-round pick out of the University of Texas was dealt from the Sox to the Phillies in late August as part of a four-player trade and never really got things going in Philadelphia (6.92 ERA in 13 innings).

It took until February for Workman to land a one-year deal with the Cubs. But, as previously mentioned, he was designated for assignment and eventually released by Chicago after just 10 April appearances.

Workman’s second go-around in free agency did not last nearly as long as the first with the Sox signing the veteran hurler to a minor-league deal on May 6.

With his promotion to the big-leagues, Workman now joins a Red Sox bullpen mix that includes the likes of Matt Barnes, Adam Ottavino, Josh Taylor, Darwinzon Hernandez, Phillips Valdez, Hirokazu Sawamura, Matt Andriese, and Garrett Whitlock. He will retain his No. 44.

Brewer, meanwhile, was designated for assignment in order to make room for Workman on Boston’s 40-man roster.

The 28-year-old was originally acquired by the Red Sox in a November 2018 trade with the Padres and has produced a 4.98 ERA and 5.20 FIP in 70 appearances (four starts) over the last three seasons.

After the right-hander was shelled for four runs in his 2021 debut at Minute Maid Park on Monday, the Sox must have felt like Workman was an upgrade over Brewer — at least for the time being.

Boston will now have seven days to either trade, release, or waive Brewer. He could be outrighted to the WooSox if he winds up clearing waivers.

(Picture of Brandon Workman: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Lifeless Red Sox drop third straight to Astros, 2-1; Nick Pivetta hit with first loss of season despite striking out 9 over 6 innings

A stagnant Red Sox offense was once again held in check by the Astros at Minute Maid Park on Wednesday night.

Houston starter Framber Valdez gave Boston a chance to get something going immediately in the first inning. The left-hander loaded the bases with two outs and walked in a run by issuing a free pass to Hunter Renfroe.

Bobby Dalbec was presented with the opportunity to do some more damage in his first at-bat of the night, but he grounded out sharply to shortstop to extinguish the threat.

As it would later turn out, that lone run is all the Sox could get off of Valdez, as the southpaw settled in after a rough first inning and strung together six straight scoreless frames to get through seven strong when all was said and done.

The Boston bats did not fare much better against the Astros’ bullpen, with all three of Alex Verdugo, J.D. Martinez, and Xander Bogaerts lining out to center field against reliever Ryne Stanek in the top half of the eighth.

In the top half of the ninth, a one-out single from Renfroe and two-out single from Vazquez off Astros closer Ryan Pressly provided the Red Sox with some late life and the chance to at least tie things up at two runs apiece.

Alas, Christian Arroyo hit a broken-bat pop-up to the infield, and 2-1 would go on to be Wednesday’s final score.

By dropping their third consecutive contest to the Astros, the Red Sox fall to 32-23 on the season (16-10 on the road), yet still remain two games back of the Rays for first place in the American League East.

Pivetta grinds through first two innings, winds up turning in solid performance

Red Sox starter Nick Pivetta needed 57 pitches to get through the first two innings of his 11th start of the season on Wednesday. Like Valdez, he also put himself in a bases-loaded jam right away in the first, but got out of it having allowed just one run.

From that point, though, the right-hander locked in and put together one of his best outings of the year to this point all things considered.

Over six innings in total, Pivetta yielded two runs — both earned — on three hits and two walks to go along with nine strikeouts on the night.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 111 (72 strikes) to set a new season-high, the 28-year-old was ultimately hit with his first loss of the year — and his first since coming over to the Red Sox from the Phillies last August. His next start should come against the Marlins back at Fenway Park on Monday.

Red Sox bullpen takes over

In relief of Pivetta, left-hander Darwinzon Hernandez tossed a perfect seventh inning while Hirokazu Sawamura and Josh Taylor combined to toss a scoreless bottom of the eighth with the help of Christian Vazquez snuffing out Alex Bregman at second base.

Next up: Perez vs. Odorizzi

The Red Sox will send left-hander Martin Perez to the hill on Thursday afternoon as they look to halt this three-game losing streak, avoid a sweep and in turn end an otherwise forgettable series against the Astros on a positive note.

Perez will be opposed by veteran right-hander and his former Twins rotation mate Jake Odorizzi for Houston.

First pitch Thursday is scheduled for 2:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Nick Pivetta: Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Red Sox commit 2 costly errors, fail to get anything going offensively in 5-1 loss to Astros

The Red Sox were within striking distance of the Astros heading into the bottom of the seventh inning at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday night.

Trailing by a run at 2-1, Hirokazu Sawamura came on for Garrett Richards and yielded a leadoff single to Kyle Tucker. A Rafael Devers fielding error on a Chas McCormick groundball put runners at first and second with no outs.

Sawamura proceeded by inducing another grounder off the bat of Myles Straw, one that was hit directly to Xander Bogaerts for what looked to be the start of a huge 6-4-3 double play.

Bogaerts fielded the ball cleanly and made a routine toss to Marwin Gonzalez, who misfired on his throw to first base that got past a sprawling Danny Santana and allowed Tucker to score easily.

A five-pitch walk of Martin Maldonado, a wild pitch, and an intentional walk of Jose Altuve loaded the bases as Red Sox manager Alex Cora made the switch from Sawamura to Garrett Whitlock.

Making his first appearance out of the bullpen in a week, Whitlock issued a free pass to the first man he faced to bring in another run before Yordan Alvarez tapped an infield single off him to plate an additional run and make it a 5-1 game.

What transpired in the seventh inning on Tuesday was what ultimately did the Red Sox in. By falling to Houston by a final score of 5-1, Boston drops back down to 32-22 (16-9) on the season. They remain two games back of the Rays for first place in the American League East.

Richards provides six solid innings

Garrett Richards made his 11th start of the season for the Red Sox and put together yet another strong showing.

Despite dealing with his fair share of traffic on the base paths, the right-hander surrendered just two earned runs on four hits, four walks, and five strikeouts over six innings of work.

The first of the two Astros runs Richards gave up came on a towering solo home run from Jose Altuve right away in the first inning. The second came on a sacrifice fly from Chas McCormick after Richards served up a leadoff double and followed with a four-pitch walk later in the bottom half of the fourth.

Besides that, the 33-year-old hurler was able to retire six of the final seven Astros he faced to get through six full innings.

Despite lowering his ERA on the season down to 3.75, Richards was charged with his fourth loss and is now 4-4. His next start should come against the Yankees in the Bronx on Sunday night.

Red Sox’ offensive woes continue

For the second straight day, the Red Sox lineup was held in check at Minute Maid Park. Boston was once again limited to five hits while managing to push across just one run against Astros rookie starter Luis Garcia.

Hunter Renfroe sparked the lone offensive output of the night with a leadoff double in the fifth, marking his fifth consecutive game with an extra-base hit. Danny Santana advanced Renfroe to third on a single moments later, and it appeared as though the Sox were ready to pounce.

Christian Vazquez failed to advance either runner by popping out to the infield, Marwin Gonzalez plated Renfroe on an RBI groundout, and Enrique Hernandez also popped out to extinguish the threat.

From there, an Alex Verdugo leadoff single and Vazquez two-out single in the seventh went for naught as Garcia made it through seven complete innings for the first time in his young career.

The Astros bullpen took over in relief of Garcia and preserved the one-run effort by tossing a pair of scoreless frames in the eighth and ninth.

Next up: Pivetta vs. Valdez

Wednesday’s starting pitching matchup between the Red Sox and Astros will feature a pair of right-hander and a left-hander, with righty Nick Pivetta getting the ball for Boston and southpaw Framber Valdez doing the same for Houston.

Pivetta will look to play the role as the stopper with the Sox looking to halt a two-game skid and get back in the win column.

First pitch Wednesday is scheduled for 8:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN and ESPN.

(Picture of Garrett Richards: Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Hunter Renfroe crushes seventh home run of season to put finishing touches on strong month of May; ‘When he’s locked in, it’s fun to watch,’ Alex Cora says

While the Red Sox found themselves on the wrong side of an 11-2 blowout against the Astros to close out their month of May, Hunter Renfroe at least ended his month on a solid note at Minute Maid Park on Monday evening.

Batting out of the nine-hole, Renfroe went 2-for-3 with a double (his 10th of the year), a home run (his seventh of the year) and one RBI (his 23rd of the year) while scoring his side’s only two runs of the contest.

The homer the 29-year-old hit came when this ballgame was already out of reach in the eighth inning, but it was still one that traveled 419 feet to deep left-center field and had an exit velocity of 108.4 mph off the bat on a hanging slider from Astros reliever Nivaldo Rodriguez.

It’s fitting that Renfroe would end his month the same way he began it: by going deep at a Texas ballpark. He mashed his second big fly of the year against the Rangers at Globe Life Field back on May 1.

Prior to the calendar flipping to May, the right-handed slugger was carrying with him a .167/.235/.250 slash line over his first 19 games with the Red Sox.

Since May 1, however, Renfroe has flipped the switch and completely turned things around for himself in regards to offensive production. The defensive production was already there.

Including Monday’s 2-for-3-showing in Houston, Renfroe posted an impressive .319/.333/.604 slash line to go along with eight doubles, six homers, and 15 RBI over 24 games (93 plate appearances) in May.

As noted by The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, the Mississippi native is currently riding a four-game hitting streak in which he is batting .692 (9-for-13) with two homers and five doubles.

“It started in Texas, right? When he hit that big home run and hit some balls the other way,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said when reflecting on Renfroe’s solid month of work. “He’s made some adjustments. He’s actually been more disciplined, although he’s not walking that much, but he’s controlling the at-bat.

“This guy, he’s a gamer,” added Cora. “We know what he brings to the equation defensively. But when he’s locked in, it’s fun to watch. He crushed that ball. Besides the home run, he’s controlling his at-bats. We’re very pleased with where he’s at offensively right now.

With what he did in May in his back pocket, Renfroe will come into the month of June having raised his line on the season to a more respectable .258/.292/.464. He currently ranks fourth on the team in doubles and home runs and fifth in RBI.

Defensively, Renfroe has been just as advertised and then some. The 6-foot-1, 228 pound outfielder came into play Monday tied for the second-most outfield assists in the majors (5) while putting up +4 defensive runs saved and an UZR/150 (ultimate zone rating per 150 games) of 22.9.

(Picture of Hunter Renfroe: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Sunday’s Red Sox-Marlins series finale postponed due to inclement weather

The Red Sox’ series finale against the Marlins at Fenway Park on Sunday has been postponed due to inclement weather, the team announced Sunday afternoon

The game was originally supposed to start at 1:10 p.m. eastern time, but first pitch was delayed at approximately 12:49 p.m. on account of rainy conditions in the Fenway-area.

Shortly after 1:30 p.m., the game was called, meaning the Sox and Marlins will need to make up the finale of this three-game set at a later date.

Per’s Chris Cotillo, Sunday’s game between Miami and Boston will be made up on Monday June 7, with first pitch scheduled for 5:10 p.m. eastern time.

With Sunday’s contest getting postponed, the Red Sox will board a flight to Houston for the start of a two-city, seven-game road trip that begins on Monday afternoon.

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, who was slated to pitch against Miami on Sunday, will now get the start in the first of four against the Astros at Minute Maid Park on Memorial Day. He will be followed by right-handers Garrett Richards and Nick Pivetta and fellow southpaw Martin Perez.

On what was a rather miserable weekend in Boston in regards to the weather, the Red Sox were able to take the first two games of their series with the Marlins to improve to 32-20 on the season.

They currently sit a half game back of the Tampa Bay Rays (33-20) for first place in the American League East as they prepare to embark upon one of their toughest stretches of the year in which they will be playing the Astros and Yankees 10 times in the next 11 days.

Instead of an off day next Monday, though, the Sox will now be playing the Marlins to make up for Sunday’s rainout.

(Picture of Fenway Park: Omar Rawlings/Getty Images)

Red Sox ride bullpen to 3-1 victory over Marlins in Will Venable’s managerial debut

With Alex Cora in Puerto Rico for his daughter’s graduation from high school and a paid attendance of over 25,000 at Fenway Park, the Red Sox were able to hold on and secure a series victory over the Marlins with a 3-1 win on Saturday.

Nathan Eovaldi made his 11th start of the season for Boston in the middle game of this three-game set and provided the Sox with 5 1/3 quality innings of work.

Over those 5 1/3 innings, the veteran right-hander kept Miami off the scoreboard while scattering just four hits and one walk to go along with seven strikeouts on the evening.

While he did retire 16 of the 22 hitters he faced on Saturday, Eovaldi also dealt with his fair share of foul balls — 26 to be exact — which ultimately led to an uneconomical outing, if that makes sense.

By the time he issued a one-out single to Garrett Cooper in the top half of the sixth, Eovaldi’s pitch count was already over 100, and that resulted in his day coming to a close right then there.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 101 (71 strikes), the 31-year-old hurler turned to his four-seam fastball 46% of the time he was on the mound Saturday, inducing six swings-and-misses while topping out at 98.2 mph with the pitch.

Able to improve to 6-2 on the season while lowering his ERA to 4.01, Eovaldi’s next start should come against his hometown Astros in Houston next Thursday.

In relief of Eovaldi, left-hander Josh Taylor got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen, and he stranded the runner he inherited by retiring the side in the sixth before allowing two of the three batters he faced in the seventh to reach base.

Of the three hits Taylor gave up (a single, a ground-rule double, and an infield single, the average exit velocity on those balls put into play was 58.4 mph, so it goes without saying that the lefty was the recipient of some tough luck.

Adam Ottavino came on to face the right-handed hitting Starling Marte, who he walked on five pitches to fill the bases for the meat of the Marlins’ order.

A lengthy battle with Jesus Aguilar wound up going Ottavino’s way, as he got the Miami slugger to whiff on a 3-2 slider. He followed that by fanning Cooper on four pitches, with the fourth and final pitch being an 82 mph slider that got a fiery reaction out of the usually-tepid righty as he made his way back to the Red Sox dugout.

From there, Darwnizon Hernandez got the first two outs of the eighth before handing things over to Hirokazu Sawamura, who, like Ottavino, induced a dramatic, inning-ending strikeout that got him to emphatically pound his chest as he took his leave.

An inning later, Matt Barnes was deployed with a three-run lead to protect, and despite surrendering a run, the Sox closer did just that when he got Cooper to ground into a game-sealing 4-6-3 double play to preserve the win and pick up his 12th save of the year.

All in all, bench coach Will Venable — filling in for Cora — and the rest of the Red Sox coaching staff pieced together a pitching performance in which five relievers were used, only one run was given up, and the final 11 outs were recorded by the Boston bullpen. Not too shabby.

Because of the impressive showing from the Sox’ pitching staff, the Red Sox lineup did not need to do much in terms of offensive firepower on Saturday.

Matched up against Marlins left-hander Trevor Rogers, Bobby Dalbec got the scoring started for Boston with an RBI single in the bottom half of the second.

In the fourth, Kevin Plawecki doubled his side’s lead with another run-scoring that plated Hunter Renfroe from second to make it a 2-0 game.

Renfroe himself delivered with an RBI base hit later on in the bottom of the eighth off Miami reliever Adam Cimber, this time driving in Rafael Devers on his third knock of the day.

That put the Red Sox up 3-0, and 3-1 would go on to be Saturday’s final score from Fenway.

Next up: Alcantara vs. Rodriguez

Sunday’s starting pitching matchup between the 24-28 Marlins and 32-20 Red Sox will feature right-hander Sandy Alcantara getting the ball for Miami and left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez doing the same for Boston.

First pitch Sunday (weather permitting) is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. eastern time at Fenway Park. Red Sox will be looking to complete the sweep.

(Picture of Fenway Park: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Alex Verdugo comes through with clutch, go-ahead 3-run home run as Red Sox top Marlins, 5-2, in rain-shortened contest at Fenway Park

Rainy conditions in Boston could not stop the Red Sox from opening their weekend series against the Marlins with a 5-2 victory in 5 1/2 innings at Fenway Park on Friday night.

With the win, Boston improves to 31-20 (15-13 at home) on the season and moves to a half-game back of the Rays for first place in the American League East.

Perez provides five solid innings

Martin Perez made his 10th start of the season for the Sox on Friday, marking his second straight outing of the interleague variety.

Over five innings of work, the veteran left-hander yielded just two earned runs — both of which were earned — on five hits and zero walks to go along with four strikeouts on the evening.

Both Miami runs Perez surrendered came via the home run ball, as the southpaw gave up a leadoff single to Corey Dickerson to begin things in the top of the second before serving up a 381-foot two-run home run to Jorge Alfaro moments later.

That miscue put the Sox in an early 2-0 hole, but Perez was able to rebound and wound up settling in nicely. That being the case because after giving up the homer to Alfaro, he retired 11 of the final 13 hitters he faced to prevent the Marlins from scoring anything else going into the middle of the fifth.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 79 (51 strikes), the 30-year-old hurler turned to his sinker a game-high 41% of the time he was on the mound Friday, inducing just one swing-and-miss with the pitch. He also topped out at 93 mph with his four-seam fastball, a pitch he threw a total of nine times.

Able to improve to 3-2 on the season while maintaining a 3.55 ERA because of his efforts, Perez’s next start should come against the Astros in Houston next Wednesday.

Martinez pulls Sox even in third inning

After falling behind by a pair of runs early on, the bottom of the Red Sox lineup got things started in their half of the third inning.

Matched up against Marlins rookie starter Cody Poteet, a one-out double from Hunter Renfroe put a runner in scoring position as the order flipped back over and Enrique Hernandez drew a five-pitch walk.

An Alex Verdugo flyout put Poteet just one out away from getting out of the jam, but J.D. Martinez had other ideas.

On the fourth pitch he saw in his second at-bat of the night, the Sox slugger laced a 108 mph two-run double to dead center field to drive in both Renfroe and Hernandez and knot things up at two runs apiece.

Verdugo seals it with clutch homer

Fast forward to the fifth inning, and the bottom of the Boston lineup struck again, this time with Marwin Gonzalez drawing a leadoff walk and Hunter Renfroe advancing him up to third on his second double of the night.

With the go-ahead run just 90 feet away and the rate at which the rain was falling from the sky picking up, Alex Verdugo made up for his previous out by all but putting this game away.

On one swing of the bat, Verdugo absolutely crushed a hanging curveball from Poteet and sent it 408 feet over everything in right field with an exit velocity of 108.7 mph.

That three-run blast, Verdugo’s seventh big fly of the season, gave the Red Sox their first lead of the evening at 5-2.

Ottavino closes it out

Because of the worsening conditions in the Fenway-area, the Red Sox were essentially playing this game like it was a six- or seven-inning contest instead of a nine-inning one, and manager Alex Cora’s tactics reflected that.

As the sixth inning was about to begin, Cora deployed right-hander Adam Ottavino, who is usually reserved for the later innings, to face the Marlins’ 2, 3, and 4 hitters.

Ottavino recorded the first two outs of the frame relatively easily, but as the rain continued to pick up, it became clear that the veteran reliever was losing his grip on his breaking pitches.

Three straight walks came as a result of Ottavino’s struggles, meaning Miami was on the verge of tying things up or even re-taking the lead.

While attempts to dry off the baseballs with a towel initially seemed futile, they proved to be effective in the end as Ottavino fanned the last man he faced — Springfield High School product Isan Diaz — on three straight sliders to retire the side.

Rain delay leads to rain-shortened contest

Moments after the final out of the top of the sixth inning was recorded, the Fenway Park grounds crew rolled the tarp out onto the field and a rain delay began at approximately 9:19 p.m. eastern time.

At approximately 10:46 p.m. eastern time, this game was called after an 87-minute standstill. So the Red Sox are credited with the 5-2 win as Adam Ottavino winds up picking up his second save of the year.

Next up: Rogers vs. Eovaldi

Saturday afternoon’s pitching matchup between the Marlins and the Red Sox will feature left-hander Trevor Rogers (6-2, 1.75 ERA) getting the ball for Miami and right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (5-2, 4.39 ERA) getting the ball for Boston.

Fenway Park will be back at full capacity on Saturday for the first time since September 2019.

First pitch Saturday (weather permitting) is scheduled for 4:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Alex Verdugo and Marwin Gonzalez: Omar Rawlings/Getty Images)