Behind a six-run eighth inning, the Red Sox avoided a sweep at the hands of the Reds on Thursday night. Boston salvaged the series and put an end to a three-game losing streak by defeating Cincinnati by a final score of 8-2 at Fenway Park to improve to 29-27 on the season.
Chris Sale, making his 11th start of the year for the Sox, came out firing out of the gate. Facing the Reds for the first time in his career, the veteran left-hander struck out six of the first eight batters he faced over two scoreless innings before running into some trouble in the top of the third.
With one out and the bases empty, Sale surrendered back-to-back doubles to Curt Casali and Kevin Newman, allowing the Reds to open the scoring. Though he managed to strand Newman in the third, Sale once again gave up back-to-back doubles to Spencer Steer and Tyler Stephenson to lead off the fourth.
That sequence of events put runners at second and third for Stuart Fairchild, who flew out to Alex Verdugo in right field. Steer attempted to tag up from third on the play, but he was instead gunned down by Verdugo, who made an accurate throw to home and picked up his fourth outfield assist of the season after the Reds unsuccessfully challenged the call on the field.
With two outs and Nick Senzel at the plate, Sale fell behind in the count at 3-1, which prompted Red Sox manager Alex Cora and assistant athletic trainer Masai Takahashi to pay him a visit on the mound. The lefty talked his way into staying in the game, but he then walked Senzel on six pitches and was removed from the contest after being visited by Cora and Takahashi yet again.
Sale, who was later diagnosed with left shoulder soreness, will undergo an MRI on Friday to determine just how severe the issue is. The 34-year-old left the mound on Thursday having allowed one earned run on five hits and one walk to go along with six strikeouts over 3 2/3 innings of work. He threw 59 pitches (40 strikes) and did not factor into the decision.
Justin Garza took over for Sale out of the Boston bullpen and recorded the final out in the top of the fourth. The Red Sox lineup then got to Reds starter Hunter Greene in the bottom half of the frame after the talented righty had fanned seven of the first 10 Boston hitters he faced.
Rafael Devers led things off by lofting a 348-foot fly ball that center fielder Jose Barrero lost in the lights. Devers, who was credited with a double after moving up to second, then came into the score the tying run on a groundball RBI single off the bat of Justin Turner.
Following three scoreless innings of relief from Garza, Josh Winckowski, and Nick Pivetta, the Red Sox broke the 1-1 tie in the bottom of the seventh. With new reliever Ian Gibaut in the game for the Reds, Enrique Hernandez crushed a go-ahead, 411-foot solo shot over the Green Monster for his fifth home run of the year.
Hernandez’s 103.5 mph blast gave Boston its first lead of the night at 2-1, but Cincinnati wasted no time in retaliating. Chris Martin, who did not yield a single run in eight May appearances, got the call for the eighth inning and immediately lost the lead by serving up a leadoff double to Newman and a game-tying single to Matt McLain.
Martin avoided any further damage by inducing a 5-4-3 double play and a flyout, paving the way for the Red Sox to get back to work in the latter half of the eighth. After Verdugo drew a leadoff walk off Reds righty Kevin Herget, Devers immediately drove him in by lacing a 106.5 mph go-ahead RBI double into the triangle.
Following a Turner single, the Reds elected to intentionally walk Jarren Duran. Herget then balked with the bases loaded to put the Sox up, 4-2. Hernandez tacked on two more with a two-run single through the right side of the infield before Connor Wong broke it open by depositing a 401-foot two-run homer into the first row of Monster seats.
Wong’s sixth big fly of the season gave the Red Sox a commanding 8-2 lead going into the final frame. Kenley Jansen then slammed the door on the Reds in a non-save opportunity by working his way around a two-out walk in an otherwise clean top of the ninth.
Next up: Rays in for four
After picking up their first home win against a National League Central opponent this season, the Red Sox will next welcome the division rival Rays into town for a four-game weekend series beginning Friday night. The set includes a scheduled day-night doubleheader on Saturday.
In Friday’s series opener, Garrett Whitlock will get the start for Boston opposite fellow right-hander Tyler Glasnow for Tampa Bay. First pitch from Fenway Park is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN.
(Picture of Connor Wong and Enrique Hernandez: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)