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.
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)