Nick Pivetta dominates with 6 2/3 no-hit innings, but Red Sox fall to Rays, 1-0, on walk-off wild pitch from Matt Barnes

The Red Sox received one of their best starting pitching performances of the season at Tropicana Field on Thursday night, yet were walked off by the Rays on a wild pitch and wound up losing 1-0.

Pivetta did not allow a single hit while walking two, plunking one, and striking out eight over 6 2/3 innings of work.

The right-hander was locked in from the get-go, as he made a statement by punching out the side in the first and taking a perfect game into the fourth, at which point he walked Brandon Lowe to begin the inning.

Lowe helped out Pivetta, though, as he ran into an inning-ending double play, while Hunter Renfroe contributed to the cause in the fifth by making a fantastic leaping catch on a Ji-Man Choi line out to deep right field.

After working his way around a HBP in the sixth, Pivetta came back out for the seventh with his pitch count rising, recorded the first two outs, but then got the hook from Red Sox manager Alex Cora with a string of left-handed bats due to hit for Tampa Bay.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 100 (58 strikes), the 28-year-old hurler turned to his four-seam fastball 45% of the time he was on the mound Thursday, inducing five swings-and-misses while topping out at 98.6 mph with the pitch.

Ultimately hit with the no-decision while lowering his ERA on the season to 4.00, Pivetta’s next start should come against the Royals back at Fenway Park next Tuesday.

In relief of Pivetta, left-hander Josh Taylor came on to record the final out of the seventh, which he needed just six pitches to do to extend his scoreless appearance to 22 consecutive games.

From there, Darwinzon Hernandez issued a one-out double to Keven Kiermaier in the eighth that saw the Sox’ combined no-hit bid come to an end. But Adam Ottavino was able to get out of the inning unscathed.

Matt Barnes got the call for the ninth in a scoreless contest, and he got the first two outs of the inning relatively easily before yielding a groundball single to old friend Manuel Margot.

Margot stole second and advanced to third on a Christian Vazquez throwing error, which put him in position to score the game-winning run on a wild pitch moments later.

Despite not being charged with an earned run, Barnes did pick up his second loss of the year.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against another veteran right-hander in the form of Michael Wacha.

Like Pivetta, Wacha was nearly perfect to begin things on Thursday, as he did not allow his first hit — a bloop single off the bat of Christian Vazquez — until the fifth inning.

Vazquez was able to steal second and even moved up to third on a throwing error, but was left there when Bobby Dalbec struck out to extinguish the threat.

Boston threatened once more with two outs in the sixth, with J.D. Martinez singling and Xander Bogaerts drawing a walk off Rays reliever Drew Rasmussen.

Alas, Rafael Devers grounded out to third, and another scoring opportunity was done away with.

That trend continued in the seventh, with Renfroe leading things off with a hard-hit double, but ultimately being gunned down by Kiermaier at home plate on a Vazquez single.

Vazquez’s time on the base paths in the eighth did not last all that long, as he was picked off at second base by Rays catcher Francisco Mejia. And that would prove to be their last legitimate scoring chance.

All in all, the Red Sox went 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position and left seven men on base as a team in Thursday’s 1-0 loss.

With the loss, Boston falls to 44-31 on the season while moving to a half game back of Tampa Bay for first place in the American League East. They have dropped their last two series.

Next up, the Sox will fly back to Boston and welcome the Yankees into town for a three-game weekend series at Fenway Park that begins on Friday night.

Left-hander Martin Perez will get the start for Boston in the series opener, while right-hander Domingo German will do the same for New York.

First pitch Friday is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN and MLB Network.

(Picture of Matt Barnes: Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

Garrett Richards gets rocked in shortest outing of season as Red Sox fall to Rays, 8-2

Garrett Richards has been under the microscope as of late after criticizing Major League Baseball’s decision to crack down on foreign substances, which went into effect on Monday.

In his first start since the league’s new protocols regarding “the sticky stuff” were implemented, Richards could not give the Red Sox much of anything against the Rays at Tropicana Field on Wednesday night.

Lasting just 1 2/3 innings, the veteran right-hander surrendered five runs — four of which were earned — on three hits, four walks, and one hit batsman to go along with zero strikeouts to ultimately take the loss in what would go down as an 8-2 defeat for Boston.

Interestingly enough, Richards got his outing off to a solid start by getting the first two outs of the first inning on five pitches. A five-pitch walk of Wander Franco changed that though, and Austin Meadows followed by taking the righty deep to right-center field off a 1-1, 93 mph fastball on the outer half of the plate to give his side an early 2-0 lead.

In the second, Richards again fell victim to the home run ball followed by a walk, as he served up another two-run shot to Mike Zunino.

A Brandon Lowe double would result in another Rays run crossing the plate on a fielding error committed by second baseman Enrique Hernandez, and Richards’ night would come to a disappointing close after he put the next two batters he faced on via a walk and HBP.

Given the early hook by Red Sox manager Alex Cora, the 33-year-old finished the night having thrown just 54 pitches (28 strikes). Of those 54 pitches, 34 were four-seam fastballs, 11 were curveballs, and nine changeups.

Ultimately falling to 4-5 on the year while inflating his ERA to 4.74, Richards’ next start should come against the Royals back at Fenway Park on Monday.

In relief of Richards, Brandon Workman came on, got out of the second unscathed, and also tossed a scoreless third despite issuing a pair of walks.

From there, Yacksel Rios impressed by punching out two while keeping the Rays off the scoreboard in the fourth and fifth innings and Josh Taylor extended his scoreless appearance streak to 21 consecutive games in the bottom half of the sixth.

Matt Andriese, meanwhile, saw the Sox’ four-run deficit grow to seven runs when he yielded a three-run homer to Lowe later in the eighth. That put the Rays up 8-1.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was held in check by Rays starter Rich Hill even after getting to the veteran southpaw early.

Xander Bogaerts got the scoring started for his side with an RBI single in the first inning that plated Alex Verdugo from second to put Boston up 1-0.

Bogaerts was however thrown out at third base to extinguish the Sox’ threat in the first, and that seemingly halted their offensive momentum as well.

That being the case because despite drawing a total of six walks off Hill and the Rays bullpen, the Red Sox only managed to tack on one more run when Christian Vazquez drove in Rafael Devers on a run-scoring single in the eighth inning.

Vazquez’s 29th RBI of the season made it an 8-2 game in favor of Tampa Bay, and that would go on to be Wednesday’s final score.

With the loss, the Sox drop to 44-30 on the season and maintain just a half-game lead over the Rays for first place in the American League East.

That being said, first place in the AL East will be up for grabs in the rubber match of this three-game series on Thursday.

Right-hander Nick Pivetta will get the ball for Boston, and he will be opposed by fellow righty Michael Wacha for Tampa Bay.

First pitch Thursday is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Garrett Richards: Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

Red Sox injuries: Christian Arroyo should avoid injured list, Tanner Houck allows 2 runs over 3 2/3 innings in latest start for WooSox

Infielder Christian Arroyo remains out of the Red Sox lineup for the middle game of their three-game series against the Rays at Tropicana Field on Wednesday night.

Arroyo suffered a bone bruise in his right shin in Sunday’s loss to the Royals after colliding with center fielder Enrique Hernandez in the fifth inning of that contest.

While the 26-year-old has been held out Boston’s lineup in the two games since sustaining the injury, he has been able to get treatment on his bruised shin and even participated in some running drills earlier Wednesday afternoon. The team appears optimistic that he can avoid a stint on the injured list.

“He’s doing better. Still sore,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said in regards to Arroyo’s status. “We’ll try to stay away from him today. We still believe it’s not an IL situation. Hopefully, he’s ready to play tomorrow — if not, by Friday. So, we’ll be patient with him.”

Boston concludes its three-game set against the Rays on Thursday before opening up a three-game weekend series against the Yankees back at Fenway Park on Friday.

With Arroyo being held out of action once more, Hernandez will get the start for the Sox at second base, while Danny Santana will bat leadoff and start in center field.

Tanner Houck’s tosses 3 2/3 innings in latest start for WooSox

Red Sox pitching prospect Tanner Houck made his second start for Triple-A Worcester on Wednesday since returning from the injured list after being shut down for more than a month with flexor muscle soreness.

After dazzling with three scoreless, no-hit innings in his return to the mound at Polar Park last week, Houck had a tougher time of things when going up the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings (Nationals affiliate) at Frontier Field on Wednesday.

The right-hander served up a leadoff home run to the first man he faced in Luis Garcia, though he was able to settle down for a stretch by retiring nine of the next 10 hitters who came to the plate against him going into the fourth inning.

With one out in the bottom of the fourth, however, Houck yielded a hard-hit double to former White Sox outfielder Daniel Palka and saw his day come to a close after recording the second out of the frame.

The runner he left on wound up scoring later in the inning, and the WooSox would go on to fall to the Red Wings by a final score of 5-3 to snap a modest five-game winning streak.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 58 (38 strikes), Houck wound up surrendering two earned runs on three hits (one home run) and zero walks to go along with six strikeouts over 3 2/3 innings of work.

Assuming he wakes up feeling fine on Thursday, the soon-to-be 25-year-old hurler’s next start for the WooSox should come against the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (Yankees affiliate) back at Polar Park on Monday.

(Picture of Christian Arroyo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

It certainly looks like the Red Sox would like to see Jack Leiter fall to them at No. 4 in next month’s draft

The 2021 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft may still be under three weeks away, but it certainly looks like the Red Sox have their sights set on a specific prospect.

After finishing with the fourth-worst record in baseball last year, Boston owns the No. 4 pick in next month’s draft, putting them in a rare spot to add a top-five talent for the first time since 1967 when they had the third overall selection.

In the time since the 2021 high school and college baseball seasons began in the spring, the Sox have been linked to a number of elite amateur prospects, including a pair of right-handers from the esteemed Vanderbilt University in Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter.

There have been moments these past few months where it seemed as though Rocker and Leiter could be the first two players taken off the board, but recently, Leiter in particular has been heavily linked to the No. 4 pick in this summer’s draft.

Last Monday, in their most recent mock draft, FanGraphs had Leiter falling to the Red Sox at No. 4, with former Astros executive Kevin Goldstein writing: “Word is Leiter is trying to price himself down to Boston and wants to land there. Word is that Boston would love that as well. Thus, a match made in heaven.”

Last Wednesday, in their most recent mock draft, MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo also had the Sox taking Leiter with their top pick. The same can be said for ESPN’s latest mock as well.

On Monday night, Vanderbilt took on North Carolina State in the second round of the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., with Leiter toeing the rubber for the Commodores.

Since the Red Sox had Monday off before opening up a three-game series against the Rays in St. Petersburg on Tuesday, manager Alex Cora had time to tune into ESPN2 to catch some of the highly-anticipated matchup in between catching up on the latest MLB action.

While Cora said he was mainly watching the game since his brother, Joey, attended Vanderbilt, he also caught a glimpse of Leiter’s outing and was asked Tuesday to compare the young righty to a former big-leaguer.

His choice? Former Astros ace right-hander Roy Oswalt, a veteran of 13 major-league seasons.

“Good fastball. I don’t know. I hate to compare guys,” Cora said of Leiter when speaking with reporters (including MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo). “Maybe a stronger version of Roy Oswalt. Short — but he’s a little bit stronger — with a good fastball and a good breaking ball.”

Leiter, who turned 21 in April, allowed just one run while scattering four hits and one walk to go along with 15 strikeouts over eight dominant innings (123 pitches) on Monday night, though the ‘Dores ultimately fell to the Wolfpack by a final score of 1-0.

Monday’s start could be Leiter’s last for Vanderbilt, as the Commodores will face off against Stanford in an elimination game on Wednesday.

The son of two-time All-Star Al Leiter, the 6-foot-1, 205 pound hurler is currently regarded by Baseball America as the third-ranked prospect in this year’s draft class, ranking first among amateur pitchers and college players in general.

In 17 regular and postseason starts for Vandy this year, the sophomore has posted a 2.08 ERA, a 0.84 WHIP, and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 171:42 over 104 total innings pitched.

Per his Baseball America scouting report, Leiter operates with a five-pitch mix that consists of a four-seam fastball, a two-seam fastball, a curveball, a slider, and a changeup.

“This spring, Leiter has primarily worked with a fastball, curveball, slider combination,” the righty’s scouting report reads. “His fastball has been up to 98 mph, but averages 93-95 mph, with excellent carry that generates plenty of whiffs in the zone and above it. Teams love the metrics on Leiter’s fastball, and the combination of his size, extension and carry on the pitch allow it to play up, even when he’s sitting in the 90-93 mph range. His curveball is his best secondary offering now, an upper-70s, 12-to-6 downer that he lands consistently in the zone when he wants but can also bury for a put-away pitch.

“Leiter throws a slider in the low 80s that has less depth but might wind up being a better out-of-the-zone chase offering and he also infrequently throws a mid-80s changeup that scouts loved out of high school and could become an above-average secondary with more reps. Durability was the one concern scouts had with Leiter, and while he did post most weeks throughout the season, he skipped one start to manage fatigue and at times was a bit homer-prone. While Leiter might not project as an ace, scouts see a pitcher who should fit in a No. 2 or No. 3 role and pitch in the big leagues for a long time.”

(Picture of Jack Leiter: George Walker IV/Tennessean.com 

How Red Sox plan on using rookie catcher Connor Wong in prospect’s first big-league stint

With Kevin Plawecki hitting the 10-day injured list due to a left hamstring strain, the Red Sox recalled top catching prospect Connor Wong from Triple-A Worcester to fill in for the veteran backstop for the time being.

While Wong is not in Boston’s starting lineup for Tuesday night’s series opener against the Rays at Tropicana Field, the Sox are planning on using the young catcher while he is up with the big-league club.

As a matter of fact, Wong will make his first start behind the plate in Sunday’s series finale against the Yankees at Fenway Park, according to Red Sox manager Alex Cora — though he could see some playing time in the infield before then considering he has professional experience at both second and third base.

“We’ll use him just like Kevin [Plawecki],” Cora said of Wong. “The plan is for him to start on Sunday… Where we’re at, Christian [Arroyo], as you know, is banged up. We’ll stay away from him today, most likely. In case of an emergency, we’ll move him out there. He can pinch-run, he’s a right-handed bat. As of now, just kind of like Kevin. Use him that way.”

Wong, who turned 25 last month, was one of three players (Alex Verdugo and Jeter Downs being the other two) the Red Sox acquired from the Dodgers as part of the blockbuster trade that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to Los Angeles last February.

Although he did not get the chance to display his skills in a truly competitive environment last year on account of the COVID-19 pandemic cancelling the 2020 minor-league season, Wong did impress at the alternate training site, and he carried that over into his second big-league camp with the Sox this spring after being added to the club’s 40-man roster this past November.

“I do believe the people that saw him last year and the people that are working with him this year, they’re very comfortable with him. I’m very comfortable,” said Cora. “We talked a little bit in spring training. There’s just something about him. There’s a calm behind the plate. There’s not a lot of emotion, he just goes about his business. He’s a good athlete. His at-bats in spring training, he controlled the strike zone, which is very important. We’re very pleased with his progress.”

A former third-round draft selection of the Dodgers out of the University of Houston in 2017, the 6-foot-1, 181 pound backstop opened the 2021 minor-league season with Triple-A Pawtucket having only played 40 career games above the High-A level.

Due to a hamstring injury suffered in early May, however, Wong has been limited to just 16 games with the WooSox and is only slashing .148/.188/.245 with three doubles, one home run, seven RBI, five runs scored, three walks, and 19 strikeouts over his first 64 plate appearances at Triple-A. Those offensive struggles do not seem to concern Cora, though.

“He hasn’t swung the bat well since he came off the IL, but that doesn’t matter,” Cora said. “We like the player, we know what we can do. And hopefully here, working with [hitting coach Tim Hyers and assistant hitting coach Peter Fatse] — obviously with the feedback from [WooSox hitting coach Rich Gedman] down there — just working on the things that he has to work, and he’ll put together a good at-bat whenever we need him.”

Wong will become the second player in Red Sox history to don the No. 74, joining former left-hander Mike Kickham in doing so.

(Picture of Connor Wong: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox ace Chris Sale slated to face live hitters at Fenway Park this weekend

Red Sox ace Chris Sale is slated to take another important step on his road back from Tommy John surgery.

The left-hander is slated to face live hitters for the first time since undergoing the procedure this coming Saturday at Fenway Park, Sox manager Alex Cora announced prior to Tuesday’s game against the Rays at Tropicana Field.

Sale, who was with the team during their latest homestand earlier this month, has been getting work in with some of the club’s affiliates since they hit the road last Monday.

On Friday, the 32-year-old hurler tossed a 45-pitch bullpen session at Triple-A Worcester’s Polar Park. On Tuesday, he threw another 45 pitches during a bullpen session on the mound at Double-A Portland’s Hadlock Field.

Per the Portland Press Herald’s Kevin Thomas, Sale threw to hitters, though they were not swinging, while mixing in all his pitches and topping out at 92 mph with his fastball over the course of two simulated innings.

Sale underwent Tommy John surgery on March 30, 2020 — his 31st birthday — so it goes without saying that the seven-time All-Star is inching closer and closer towards a rehab assignment, with him facing live hitters for the first time in well over a year being the next milestone to reach in this arduous process.

“He’s in a good position,” Cora said of Sale. “He feels great. I’ll get the feedback probably later on. I’ll talk to him tomorrow morning, and we’ll keep moving forward.”

(Picture of Chris Sale: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Red Sox call up top catching prospect Connor Wong from Triple-A Worcester, place Kevin Plawecki on injured list with left hamstring strain

Before opening up a three-game series against the Rays in Tampa Bay on Tuesday night, the Red Sox placed backup catcher Kevin Plawecki on the 10-day injured list with a left hamstring strain.

In a corresponding move, catching prospect Connor Wong has been called up from Triple-A Worcester, the team announced earlier Tuesday afternoon.

Plawecki suffered a hamstring strain in the third inning of Sunday’s loss to the Royals after chasing down an errant throw from center fielder Enrique Hernandez.

The 30-year-old backstop was able to remain in the game for the remainder of the inning, but was pinch-hit for by Christian Vazquez in Boston’s half of the fourth before later being diagnosed with left hamstring tightness.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora did make it seem as though Plawecki could be headed towards a stint on the injured list when speaking with reporters following Sunday’s contest, and that winds up being the case.

Since his stay on the IL was backdated to Monday, the earliest Plawecki could be activated is Thursday, July 1, when the Sox are slated to take on the Royals at Fenway Park.

As of this moment, the amount of time Plawecki will need to miss while recovering from his hamstring injury is unknown.

Wong, meanwhile, is one of three players the Red Sox acquired from the Dodgers last February in the blockbuster trade that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to Los Angeles.

A former third-round pick of the Dodgers out of the University of Houston in 2017, the 25-year-old opened the 2021 minor-league season with Triple-A Worcester as the No. 2 catching prospect in Boston’s farm system according to Baseball America.

Due to a hamstring injury, however, Wong has been limited to just 16 games with the WooSox thus far and has posted a .148/.188/.245 slash line to go along with three doubles, one home run, seven RBI, five runs scored, three walks, and 19 strikeouts over his first 64 plate appearances at the Triple-A level. He has also spent some time on the Sox’ taxi squad.

Outside of Vazquez and Plawecki, the 6-foot-1, 181 pound backstop is one of two catchers on Boston’s 40-man roster alongside fellow prospect Ronaldo Hernandez, who is currently at Double-A Portland.

Because of this, it would appear that the Red Sox ultimately opted to go with Wong as opposed to a veteran with big-league experience — such as Chris Herrmann or Jett Bandy — in place of Plawecki so they would not need to make any additional room on their 40-man roster.

The expectation seems to be that Wong will be up with the Sox only for as long as Plawecki is on the injured list.

MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo was the first to report that the Red Sox would be calling up Wong and placing Plawecki on the IL.

(Picture of Connor Wong: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Red Sox injuries: Christian Arroyo (bone bruise), Kevin Plawecki (hamstring tightness) removed from Sunday’s series finale against Royals

The Red Sox received two potentially serious blows to their roster makeup in the process of falling to the Royals by a final score of 7-3 at Kauffmann Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

In the bottom of the fifth inning on a steamy day in Kansas City, Christian Arroyo needed to be removed from the game after colliding with center fielder Kiké Hernández while the two were going after a fly ball off the bat of Hunter Dozier that wound up going for a double.

In the process of trying to make an over-the-shoulder catch with his back towards the infield, the second baseman inadvertently bumped knees with Hernandez as he slid into the outfield grass.

As a result of the contact he made with Hernandez, Arroyo — who was in visible pain and seemingly could not put a ton of weight on his right knee — needed to be taken out and was replaced by Marwin Gonzalez at second base for the remainder of the contest.

Later diagnosed with a right shin bone bruise, X-rays on the 26-year-old’s knee did come back negative.

“Christian is sore,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora told reporters (including MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith). “It’s right below the patellar. So he’ll be sore for a little bit. He had X-rays. Everything’s good. They moved his knee around. It seems like he’ll be OK. Obviously let’s see how it goes on the plane and when we get to Tampa.”

As noted by The Athletic’s Jen McCaffrey, the Sox were planning on batting Arroyo leadoff for all three of their upcoming games against the Rays this week with left-handers on the mound for Tampa Bay, so this bone bruise certainly puts those plans in jeopardy.

Hernandez, meanwhile, was able to remain in the game after the fifth-inning collision, and he later described what happened on the play from his point of view.

“The collision happened after the ball dropped. I was coming in for the ball. He was still going back for the ball,” he said. “I wasn’t able to get out of the way because I was trying to keep up with the ball. We just happened to hit each other.”

Plawecki exits in fourth inning

Two innings before the collision that forced Arroyo out of this contest early, Hernandez was also somewhat involved in another Red Sox injury.

With one out and a runner at second base in the bottom half of the third, Hernandez fielded a line-drive single off the bat of Salvador Perez and attempted to gun down the runner — Whit Merrifield — at home.

Hernandez’s throw was errant, however, and it forced backup catcher Kevin Plawecki to leave his post and chase after the ball before it hit the backstop. He came up limping in the process of doing so.

Able to remain in the game for the remainder of the inning, Plawecki was ultimately pinch-hit for by Christian Vazquez in the top half of the fourth and was later ruled out with left hamstring tightness.

Based off what Cora told reporters (including The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham) during his postgame media availability, it seems as though the Sox are optimistic that Arroyo will avoid a stint on the injured list; though the same cannot be said for Plawecki.

“With Kevin, we’ll wait a little bit,” Cora said of the 30-year-old backstop. “He wanted to grind it out. We’ll know more [Monday]. I talked to [athletic trainer] Brandon [Henry] and he feels like with that one, we should wait to see where we’re at during the week.”

The Red Sox have Monday off as they prepare to open a three-game series against the Rays in St. Petersburg.

If Plawecki’s status is still uncertain after that, then it’s likely Boston would need to place him on the injured list and, in turn, call up another catcher.

Besides Vazquez and Plawecki, prospects Connor Wong and Ronaldo Hernandez are the only other catchers on the Sox’ 40-man roster and neither have any big-league experience.

Veterans with major-league experience such as Chris Herrmann and Jett Bandy, however, are currently playing for the Red Sox’ Triple-A affiliate in Worcester, so that would likely be the move.

That being said, neither Bandy nor Herrmann are currently on Boston’s 40-man roster, so a corresponding transaction would need to be made in order for one of the two to be added to the big-league roster.

(Picture of Alex Cora and Christian Arroyo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Newly-acquired Yacksel Ríos earns win in Red Sox debut: ‘He’s a guy that from afar, he always intrigued me,’ Alex Cora says

Yacksel Rios’ Red Sox debut came just hours after the reliever arrived in Atlanta and was activated ahead of Wednesday night’s series finale against the Braves at Truist Park.

Acquired from the Mariners in exchange for cash considerations earlier in the week, it seemed as though the Sox were likely going to option Rios to Triple-A Worcester as opposed to keep him up in the majors.

That was not the case, though, as Boston instead optioned infielder Michael Chavis to the WooSox while keeping Rios on their 26-man roster.

Available out of the bullpen in his first game in a Red Sox uniform, the right-hander was called upon by manager Alex Cora in a rather crucial spot with two outs and runners at second and third in the sixth inning of a game his side was trailing, 7-6.

With two potential insurance runs in scoring position for Atlanta, Rios — donning the No. 75 — was tasked with getting out of the jam he inherited by going up against a formidable opponent in Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson.

Having faced Swanson four times prior to Wednesday, Rios, who was working with Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez for the first time, started out by peppering the outer half of the strike zone and initially falling behind in the count before getting a called strike to even things at 1-1.

His third pitch, a 97 mph heater, went for another called strike to get ahead in the count at 2-1. Two of the next three pitches were fouled off by Swanson, which put the right-handed hitter in a 2-2 count as the battle ensued.

On the seventh — and what would turn out to be the final — pitch of the at-bat, Rios delivered a low 88 mph slider that nearly wound up in the dirt and induced relatively weak contact off the bat of Swanson.

Rios was able to knock down Swanson’s 68 mph comebacker with ease and upon corralling the baseball, made the simple toss over to Bobby Dalbec at first base to record the putout and retire the side.

It was not much considering he threw all of seven pitches (five strikes) to end things in the sixth, but Rios’ effort would prove to be meaningful in the end, with the Red Sox coming back to defeat the Braves by a final score of 10-8 courtesy of a game-winning grand slam from Christian Arroyo in the top half of the seventh.

Because he was the last Boston pitcher on the mound before Arroyo came through in the clutch once more, Rios wound up picking up his his first win of the season in his Red Sox debut.

Of the seven pitches the 27-year-old threw on Wednesday night, four were four-seam fastballs and three were sliders. He sat around 95-96 mph with his four-seamer while topping out at 97.1 mph with it, and he also averaged 86.9 mph with his slider.

When speaking with reporters before Wednesday’s game, Red Sox manager Alex Cora acknowledged that Rios’ fastball was something that made him appealing to the Sox when he was designated for assignment by the Mariners earlier this month.

“He has a good fastball,” Cora said. “His fastball got better through the winter. He made some adjustments in spring training with the Rays. He went to Seattle. He gave up some runs and all that, but we believe that if we can use that fastball in certain spots, he should be OK. And the velocity is up, it just gives us another strong arm to our bullpen and that’s always good. So, we’ll see, we’ll see where it takes us.”

Rios, who turns 28 on June 27, was originally selected by the Phillies in the 12th round of the 2011 amateur draft out of high school. He made his major-league debut for Philadelphia in 2017 and has also spent time in the Pirates, Rays, and Mariners organizations.

After being let go by the Pirates over the winter and inking a minor-league pact with the Rays in February, Rios opened the 2021 season with Triple-A Durham, where he posted a 0.66 ERA and 2.31 FIP across 12 relief appearances spanning 13 2/3 innings pitched.

He was then dealt to the Mariners for cash on June 4, though his time in Seattle did not last long considering he gave up one run in each of his three outings with the club from June 5-10 and was later designated on June 11.

Like Cora, Rios hails from Caguas, Puerto Rico. And while the Sox manager might not know the righty all that well, he still has some familiarity with him dating back to the 2017 World Baseball Classic in which Cora served as Team Puerto Rico’s general manager.

“I know him, but I don’t know him that well,” said Cora. “But he’s a guy that from afar, he always intrigued me. We tried to actually add him to the roster in ’17 [for the World Baseball Classic], but he was trying to make a team with the Phillies at that time.

“But good kid, good fastball, good slider,” Cora added. “We’ll see where it takes us.”

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)