Reliving Andrew Benintendi’s ALCS Catch on Its One-Year Anniversary

One year ago Thursday night, October 17th, 2018, the Red Sox were one out away from jumping out to a three-games-to-one lead over the Houston Astros in the American League Championship Series at Minute Maid Park.

Entering the bottom half of the ninth inning with an 8-6 lead to protect after allowing one run to cross the plate in the eighth, former Sox closer Craig Kimbrel walked three of the first five hitters he faced in the frame to fill the bases and put the winning run at first for Astros star third baseman Alex Bregman.

Heading into that at-bat, Kimbrel had thrown just 53% of his 34 pitchers for strikes and even plunked Bregman in the previous inning.

On the very first pitch he saw from Kimbrel this time around, a 97 MPH four-seamer on the inner half of the plate, Bregman ripped laced a line drive to left field, one that was falling quickly as Andrew Benintendi was closing in on it.

Per Statcast, Bregman’s liner had an exit velocity of 86.3 MPH off the bat and 79% chance of being a hit.

If that line drive were to fall in for a hit, it certainly had the potential to clear the bases and give their Astros their second win of the series.

Benintendi had different plans though, as he closed in, sprawled out, and saved the day for the Red Sox with an incredible catch for the third and final out of the contest.

According to Baseball Reference, that catch had a Win Probability added of 18%, the second-highest amount for one play in Game 4 behind only Jackie Bradley Jr.’s two-run home run off Josh James in the fifth inning.

“I thought I got a good jump on it,”Benintendi later said following the Game 4 win. “It wasn’t hit that hard. I thought I could catch it, I timed it up well. At that point, it was do or die.”

Later named the Associated Press’ Play of the Year for 2018, Benintendi’s game-sealing catch was an altering one, and it could have made the difference between the Red Sox eventually topping the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series or getting sent home early by Houston for the second year in a row.

“It was fun. I’m glad I caught it,” Benintendi added.

It was also one of the few times we had seen Benintendi put his emotions on display while on the field to that point.

The 2019 season may not have gone the way the 25-year-old outfielder wanted it to, but the talent he displayed last October surely shows that he is more than capable of bouncing back in 2020.

Red Sox’ Mookie Betts Projected to Earn $27.7 Million in Final Year of Arbitration, per MLB Trade Rumors

MLB Trade Rumors released their ninth annual salary arbitration projections for all 30 major league clubs pertaining to the 2020 season earlier Wednesday, and according to their initial model, the Red Sox have 12 arbitration-eligible players.

As indicated above, All-Star outfielder Mookie Betts is projected to earn a record-setting $27.7 million in his final year of arbitration before becoming a free agent for the first time next winter.

Since about the time the Sox were eliminated from postseason contention last month, most of the attention regarding the club has turned to what the future holds for Betts.

The recently turned 27-year-old has established himself as one of, if not the best corner outfielder in all of baseball and appears set to test the free agency waters in 2020.

That said, the Red Sox would surely like to keep Betts in Boston beyond next season and have made a handful of extension offers in order to make that happen. There seems to be this notion that Betts does not want to play in Boston even though he has shut that speculation down himself several times.

With how unlikely the chances of Betts agreeing to a contract extension before hitting the open market seem, a trade involving the 2018 American League MVP have come into question.

A player of Betts’ caliber has the ability to replenish Boston’s farm system to a certain extent if that is the direction they so choose, but he is also not a player you come across everyday either.

In regard to analytics, Betts’ has accumulated the second-most fWAR in all of baseball since the start of the 2015 season (35.4), trailing only Mike Trout (44.2) over that time period.

I understand that the Red Sox are hoping to get under the $208 million luxury tax threshold for next season, which would require cutting a serious amount of payroll, but if you are still trying to compete for a postseason spot, or you are telling your fans that anyway, then I just do not see how you can deal a player who makes your team seriously better.

Anyway, I kind of went on a rant there, so here are the rest of the Red Sox’ arbitration projections, courtesy of MLB Trade Rumors:

  • Jackie Bradley Jr. – $11 milliom
  • Sandy Leon – $2.8 million
  • Chris Owings – $3.0 million
  • Mookie Betts – $27.7 million
  • Brandon Workman – $3.4 million
  • Steven Wright – $1.5 million
  • Eduardo Rodriguez – $9.5 million
  • Matt Barnes – $3.0 million
  • Heath Hembree – $1.6 million
  • Andrew Benintendi – $4.9 million
  • Marco Hernandez – $700K
  • Gorkys Hernandez – $1.0 million

Out of the names above, some are likely to get non-tendered, while others like Andrew Benintendi and Marco Hernandez are entering arbitration for the first time in their careers and will see decently significant raises in pay.

Red Sox Blow Another Late Lead, Get Walked off on by Rays in 11 Innings for Second Straight Night

For the second straight night, the Red Sox fell to the Tampa Bay Rays by a final score of 5-4 in 11 innings on Saturday, this time squandering a one-run lead in the 11th, compared to doing so in the seventh on Friday, to drop back down to 80-74 on the season.

Making his second start of the season for Boston and 15th appearance overall was Travis Lakins, who tossed two perfect innings in his first go at being an opener against the New York Yankees back on September 7th.

Working into the second inning this time around, the right-hander kept the Rays off the scoreboard while yielding one hit and one walk to go along with two strikeouts on the night.

A one-out double from Matt Duffy, followed by Joey Wendle reaching on a fielding error committed by Marco Hernandez in that bottom half of the second put runners at first and second for Tampa Bay.

Lakins was able to get Kevin Kiermaier to ground into a force out for out number two, but Sox manager Alex Cora did not leave him in to face Willy Adames with runners on the corners, instead opting to turn to his bullpen.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 29 (16 strikes), the 25-year-old hurler turned to his four-seam fastball nearly 52% of the time he was on the mound Saturday, inducing one swing and miss and topping out at 95.8 MPH with the pitch while Christian Vazquez was behind the plate.

Obviously not pitching deep enough to factor into the decision while lowering his ERA on the year down to 4.22, Lakins should continue to see some more work out of the ‘pen before seasons end.

In relief of Lakins, left-hander Bobby Poyner inherited a situation in which there were runners at the corners for the Rays with one out to get in the second, and he got that out by fanning Adames on four pitches.

From there, Mike Shawaryn allowed Tampa Bay’s first run of the night to cross the plate in the third on a one-out RBI single off the bat of Travis d’Arnaud and was charged with another when Colten Brewer served up a run-scoring single to the first man he faced in Joey Wendle.

Fortunately for Boston, Wendle’s single got to Mookie Betts in right field rather quickly, and the reigning AL MVP put his arm strength on full display to nab d’Arnaud at home and retire the side.

Ryan Weber sat down the first eight Rays he faced from the middle of the fourth up until Wendle reached on a two-out single in the sixth, making way for Josh Taylor to come in to face the left-handed Kiermaier.

As it turned out though, Taylor did not even have to throw a pitch in the sixth, as Vazquez snuffed out Wendle trying to swipe second base for the third out.

Taylor also came back out for the seventh, but could not sneak a one-out, 1-0, 95 MPH two-seamer past Adamas, who deposited said pitch 462 feet to dead center to make it a 3-1 contest.

Another base hit to follow that mammoth shot up marked the end of Taylor’s evening, so Ryan Brasier wrapped up the seventh by retiring the only two hitters he faced in consecutive order.

Andrew Cashner did the same in the eighth, except with three Rays instead of two and Matt Barnes punched out the side in the ninth to send this one into extra innings knotted at three runs apiece.

In that first extra inning, Brandon Workman did not get off to the best of starts, as he yielded a leadoff walk to Austin Meadows. That would not come back to bite him however. Not with Sandy Leon and Hernandez connecting on a bang-bang play at second to catch Meadows and extinguish the threat.

And in the 11th, moments after his side went up 4-3 on a Mitch Moreland solo blast, Josh Smith began his frame of work by allowing d’Arnaud to reach on a leadoff double moments before giving the game away on a two-run home run off the bat of Nate Lowe.

That homer, coming off a 2-0, 91 MPH heater right down the heart of the plate, put the Rays up 5-4. Another walk-off loss.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against right-hander Tyler Glasnow for Tampa Bay, someone they had not seen in nearly five months going into the weekend.

Unable to get anything going against the Rays starter, Xander Bogaerts kicked off the scoring for Boston in the fourth by greeting new reliever Yonny Chirinos with a leadoff solo shot to get his side on the board and cut the deficit in half at 2-1.

Fast forward all the way to the eighth, now down by two runs, it was the top of the lineup responding once again, this time with Mookie Betts reaching on a one-out single off of Nick Anderson to bring Rafael Devers to the plate for the second time ever against the Rays right-hander.

On the third pitch he saw from Anderson, a 1-1, 96 MPH four-seamer at the top of the zone, Devers made history on one swing of the bat, becoming the first Red Sox third baseman to ever hit more than 30 home runs in a single season with his 31st of the year.

That 421-foot two-run blast pulled the Sox back even with the Rays at 3-3 and ultimately sent this contest into extra innings for the second straight day.

In extras, or the top of the 11th more specifically, just when it looked like Boston was going to have to settle with trying to force this one to the 12th with two outs in the frame, Mitch Moreland came through in the clutch yet again.

The 34-year-old went deep twice on Friday night, and on the first pitch he saw from Diego Castillo on Saturday, Moreland unloaded on an 87 MPH slider that was essentially right down the middle and sent it 430 feet to center for his 18th of the year.

Moreland’s fifth dinger since returning from the injured list in July gave the Red Sox their first lead of the night at 4-3, and it probably should have won them this game too, but as already mentioned, the Rays put together a rally of their own in their half of the 11th, one that led to Boston getting walked off on by a final score of 5-4.

Some notes from this loss:

From Red Sox Notes:

From MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith:

From The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham:

Next up for the Red Sox, it’s the third installment of this four-game set on Sunday afternoon, with right-hander Nathan Eovaldi getting the ball for Boston and left-hander Ryan Yarbrough doing the same for Tampa Bay.

Since the calendar flipped to September, Eovaldi has allowed a total of nine earned runs over his last 13 1/3 innings pitched spanning three starts. That’s good for an ERA of 6.08.

In one prior appearance at Tropicana Field, the place Eovaldi once called home, this season, the 29-year-old surrendered three runs on five hits while only recording two outs back on July 22nd, in his first game back since returning from the injured list.

Yarbrough, meanwhile, has struggled recently for the Rays, posting an ERA of 5.40 and batting average against of .259 over his last five starts and 28 1/3 innings of work.

When facing the Red Sox this season, the 27-year-old is 2-0 with a 4.80 ERA over three total appearances (one start) and 15 innings pitched.

First pitch Sunday is scheduled for 1:10 PM EDT on NESN. Red Sox STILL trying to play spoiler.

 

 

Red Sox Squander Late Lead, Eventually Fall to Rays in 11 Innings on Same Night They Are Eliminated From Postseason Contention

After salvaging their series against the San Francisco Giants with a 5-4 win on Thursday, the Red Sox kicked off their final road trip of the season and a four-game weekend set against the Tampa Bay Rays with a 5-4 loss in 11 innings on Friday.

While the Red Sox were in the process of losing their 73rd contest of the year, the Cleveland Indians won their 90th in a 5-2 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies, officially eliminating the defending World Series champions from postseason contention in 2019.

Back to Friday’s game itself, making his 31st start of the season for Boston and fourth against Tampa Bay was Rick Porcello, coming off five strong, two-run innings in his last time out against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Tossing six full innings this time around, the right-hander held the opposition scoreless, scattering three hits and zero walks to go along with six strikeouts on the night.

Two of those three hits came on back-to-back singles from Avisail Garcia and Matt Duffy to put runners on the corners with no outs in the bottom half of the third.

Porcello did not back down though, as he fanned Willy Adames on six pitches, got Joey Wendle to fly out to shallow left to hold Garcia at third. and also fanned Austin Meadows on five pitches to escape the jam.

Other than that, the New Jersey native stranded Ji-Man Choi at first following a one-out single in the fourth before retiring the final eight hitters he faced in consecutive order leading into the conclusion of the sixth, the point in which his outing came to a close.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 87 (59 strikes), the 30-year-old hurler turned to his sinker more than 40% of the time he was on the mound Friday, inducing two swings and misses and 15 called strikes with the pitch. He also topped out at 92.8 MPH with his four-seam fastball, a pitch he threw just seven times while Christian Vazquez was behind the plate.

Ultimately getting hit with the no-decision despite the impressive performance while lowering his ERA on the year down to 5.56, Porcello will make his final start of 2019 in his next time out against the Texas Rangers on Wednesday. It could be his last start in a Red Sox uniform as well, but I don’t want to think about that right now.

In relief of Porcello, left-hander Darwinzon Hernandez entered in the seventh inning for his second-to-last appearance of 2019, and he filled the bases on three of the first four Rays he faced, making way for Marcus Walden to come on with still two outs to get in the frame.

Walden was unable to extinguish the flames left behind by Hernandez, however, as he saw his side’s 2-0 lead become a 2-2 tie on a Nate Lowe run-scoring forceout and Adames RBI ground-rule double.

That forced Josh Taylor to come in with two outs and two runners in scoring position, and he allowed the go-ahead run to score on a wild pitch in the dirt with Wendle at the plate. A two-run lead turned into a one-run deficit just like that.

In the eighth, Andrew Cashner walked the first man he faced in Meadows, and that came back to bite him on a one-out RBI double off the bat of Ji-Man Choi to make it a 4-2 contest.

Some heroics on the part of Mitch Moreland that we’ll get to later knotted things up at four runs apiece in the top half of the ninth though, which set up Ryan Brasier to leave one runner on in a scoreless bottom half of the ninth.

Bobby Poyner followed suit by punching out a pair in a clean bottom of the 10th, but Trevor Kelley could not extend things in the 11th, as he walked back-to-back hitters with two outs before serving up a game-winning single to Adames.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against a familiar foe in Rays veteran right-hander Charlie Morton, who held them to two runs over seven innings the last time he opposed Boston at Tropicana Field back on July 24th.

Kept off the scoreboard through the first six innings of this one, it wasn’t until Brock Holt reached base on a one-out double in the seventh when the bats finally got going.

That two-base hit set up Mitch Moreland with a runner in scoring position, and he delivered big time in his third at-bat of the night, taking Morton deep to dead center off an 0-2, 79 MPH curveball on the outer half of the plate.

Moreland’s 16th homer of the season plated the Sox’ first runs of the contest, but Tampa Bay responded with three runs of their own in their half of the seventh as well as another in the eighth.

So, now trailing by two runs headed into the ninth, a Gorkys Hernandez leadoff triple off of Rays closer Emilio Pagan brought the tying run to the plate in the form of Holt.

Holt was unable to come through, lining out to center on the first pitch he saw, meaning Boston was down to their final two outs.

Coming into the weekend, Moreland had only faced off against Pagan three times before Friday, but he came out well on top in round four.

Yup, the 34-year-old did it again, elevating a 1-2, 96 MPH heater from Pagan and depositing it 379 feet into the seats in left field.

That two-run blast, Moreland’s second of the night and 17th of 2019, pulled the Sox back even with the Rays at 4-4, and ultimately sent this one into extras.

Despite that fact though, Mookie Betts, Sandy Leon, and Rafael Devers went down in order in the 10th and Xander Bogaerts, Gorkys Hernandez, Holt, and Moreland were unable to push any runs across in the 11th.

Because of those late offensive struggles, the Rays eventually broke through in the 11th and went on to take the opener of this four-game series by a final score of 5-4 in walkoff fashion.

Some notes from this loss:

Andrew Benintendi left Friday’s game in the third inning due to a left thumb contusion suffered in his first at-bat of the night in the second. He is considered day-to-day.

Mookie Betts went 0-for-5 with one strikeout in his first game back since September 12th.

From MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo:

All in all, pretty brutal night for the Red Sox if we’re being totally honest. The chance to defend their 2018 crown has been squashed before the calendar even turned to October, which is not great.

Next up for the Red Sox, it’s the second game of this weekend series, with right-hander Travis Lakins getting the ball for Boston and fellow righty Tyler Glasnow doing the same for Tampa Bay.

Last time he got the call to serve as the opener for the Sox, Lakins punched out three over two perfect innings back on September 7th against the New York Yankees.

The 25-year-old rookie has yet to face off against the Rays, nor pitch at Tropicana Field.

Glasnow, meanwhile, has posted a 3.60 ERA in two starts spanning five innings since returning from the injured list on September 8th. The Rays are 2-0 in those games.

In his only two starts against the Sox this season, which came in consecutive order back on April 21st and 28th, the 26-year-old surrendered a total of four runs on nine hits and four walks over 12 total innings of work.

First pitch Saturday is scheduled for 6:10 PM EDT on NESN. Red Sox still looking to play spoiler.

 

 

Eduardo Rodriguez Fans 10 Over Six Strong Innings, Picks up 18th Win as Red Sox Hold on to Salvage Series Against Giants

After dropping the first two games of their last interleague series of the year against the San Francisco Giants on on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Red Sox were able to salvage a little something with a tight 5-4 victory on a get away day Thursday to improve to 80-72 on the season.

Making his 32nd start of the season for Boston and second straight of the interleague variety was Eduardo Rodriguez, who yielded just one run over 6 2/3 innings in his last time out against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Tossing six full frames this time around, the left-hander surrendered just one more once more, this one unearned, on two hits and two walks to go along with exactly 10 strikeouts on the afternoon.

That lone San Francisco tally came right away in the top half of the first, when with one out and runners on the corners following a Mauricio Dubon leadoff single and Kevin Pillar reaching first on a fielder’s choice and fielding error committed by Marco Hernandez that allowed Dubon to advance to third, Evan Longoria got his side on the board first with a sacrifice fly to left.

Other than that one blip though, Rodriguez really settled in beginning in the second, retiring 14 of the final 17 hitters he faced with some help from Christian Vazquez throwing Jaylin Davis out at second to end that second inning.

Finishing with a nice final pitch count of 107 (69 strikes), the 26-year-old hurler relied on his four-seam fastball nearly 60% of the time he was on the mound Thursday, inducing 14 of 21 total swings and misses and topping out at 94.7 MPH while Vazquez was behind the plate.

Eventually earning his 18th winning decision while lowering his ERA on the year down to 3.53, the chance for Rodriguez to reach the 20-win milestone is still there, as he has two starts remaining before season’s end. The first of those will come against the Texas Rangers on Tuesday.

In relief of Rodriguez, Ryan Brasier entered the seventh with a four-run cushion to work with, and he punched out two in a scoreless frame.

From there, Marcus Walden got the first two outs of the eighth in fairly simple fashion, but a two-out walk of Dubon and back-to-back knocks from the pinch-hitting Mike Yastrzemski and Pillar cut Boston’s advantage down to two with Pillar driving in two on a bases-clearing double.

So, with the tying run at the plate in the form of Longoria, in came Matt Barnes to try and clean the mess left behind by Walden, and he filled the bases on the first two Giants he faced before fanning the pinch-hitting Stephen Vogt on six pitches to get out of the jam.

And in the ninth, Brandon Workman had an interesting time of things, as he loaded the bases full of Giants with no outs, struck out the next two, walked another to make it a 5-4 contest, but held on to secure the one-run win and his 15th save of 2019 by fanning Longoria on a 3-2, 82 MPH knuckle-curveball in the dirt. Meltdown averted.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against a fairly unfamiliar foe in Giants ace left-hander Madison Bumgarner, who made his first career start at Fenway Park on Thursday.

Trailing by a run before even taking their first at-bats of the afternoon, Andrew Benintendi kicked off his side’s half of the first with a leadoff double.

A seven-pitch walk drawn by Christian Vazquez brought Rafael Devers to the plate for the first time with runners at first and second, and he came through with a hard-hit RBI single to right to plate Benintendi from second and knot things up at one run apiece.

Xander Bogaerts followed suit with a run-scoring single of his own off of Bumgarner to drive in Vazquez from third, and just like that, the Sox had their first lead at 2-1.

An inning later, it was the top of the lineup getting it done yet again, with Benintendi and Vazquez both reaching on two-out singles to set the table once more for Devers and Bogaerts.

Devers maintained his career 1.000 clip against Bumgarner with a bloop of an RBI single to center to score Benintendi and also advance to second, while Bogaerts drove in both Vazquez and Devers on a two-run single through the right side of the infield.

Bogaerts’ second and third RBI on the afternoon gave the Red Sox a relatively commanding 5-1 edge in the second, and after the Giants drove in three runs of their own in their half of the eighth and ninth innings, 5-4 would go on to be Thursday’s final score.

Some notes from this win:

From Red Sox Notes:

From The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier:

Next up for the Red Sox, it’s the last road trip of the 2019 campaign, beginning with a four-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday.

Right-hander Rick Porcello will get the ball for Boston in the opener, while fellow veteran righty Charlie Morton will do the same for Tampa Bay.

Porcello is coming off his best start of the month in his last outing against the Phillies, giving up two runs over five strong innings of work.

In three starts against the Rays this season, the 30-year-old is 0-2 with a 6.23 ERA and .315 batting average against over 17 1/3 total innings pitched.

Morton, meanwhile, shined the last time he faced the Sox at Tropicana Field back on July 24th, striking out 11 and scattering two runs and five hits over seven quality frames in an eventual win.

Since that time, the 36-year-old owns an ERA of 4.59 and batting average against of .265 over his last nine starts spanning 51 innings pitched.

Headed into this weekend, the Rays are a 1/2 game up on the Cleveland Indians for the second American League Wild Card spot, so the Red Sox will have the chance to spoil the postseason hopes of their division rivals if things go accordingly.

First pitch Friday is scheduled for 7:10 PM EDT on NESN. Red Sox looking to play spoiler.

 

Christian Vazquez Has Career Day at Plate as Red Sox Finish off Sweep of Phillies

After being held to two runs in a tight one-run victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday, the Red Sox were able to break out for six runs in a 6-3 win on Sunday to complete the two-game weekend sweep and improve to 79-70 on the season.

Making his 30th start of the season for Boston and second against Philadelphia was Rick Porcello, who surrendered three runs over five innings the last time he faced off against the Phils at Fenway Park back on August 21st.

Tossing five full innings once again this time around, the right-hander yielded two runs, both of which were earned, on five hits and one walk to go along with six strikeouts on the afternoon.

The first of those two Phillies runs came in the bottom half of the second, when with no outs and the bases empty, Rhys Hoskins led things off by unloading on a 2-1, 92 MPH heater from Porcello and crushed it 421 feet to left field to get his side on the board. The 31st long ball of the season given up by Porcelo.

In the fifth, a one-out walk of Scott Kingery and back-to-back two-out singles from the pinch-hitting Phil Gosselin and Cesar Hernandez resulted in another run crossing the plate for the Phillies, but Porcello managed to escape any further damage by getting J.T. Realmuto to ground out to third to both retire the side and end his outing on a more positive note.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 76 (49 strikes), the 30-year-old hurler relied on his two-seam fastball nearly 49% of the time he was on the mound Sunday, inducing zero swings and misses with the pitch. He also topped out at 92.8 MPH with his four-seamer, a pitch he threw eight times while Christian Vazquez was behind the plate.

Ultimately picking up his 13th winning decision while lowering his ERA on the year down to 5.77, Porcello’s best performance of the month is certainly a step in the right direction. He’ll look to build on it in his next time out, which should come against the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday.

In relief of Porcello, Marcus Walden entered the middle of the sixth with a four-run cushion to work with, and he saw that cushion shrink to three on a two-out RBI single off the bat of Jean Segura to drive in Hoskins from second after he drew a one-out walk.

From there, Andrew Cashner maneuvered his way around a leadoff walk in a scoreless seventh, and Matt Barnes faced the minimum in a clean eighth with the help of an inning-ending 3-5-3 double play to make way for Brandon Workman in the ninth for the second time in less than 24 hours.

And in that bottom of the ninth, Workman retired three of the four hitters he faced to lock down the 6-3 win and pick up his 14th save of the season.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against veteran left-hander Jason Vargas for the Phillies, someone they had not seen since July 28th, 2017 when he was a member of the Kansas City Royals.

Coming off a night in which they were relatively held in check by Aaron Nola, J.D. Martinez kicked off the scoring for Boston right away in the first, plating Andrew Benintendi from third on a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to right.

Fast forward to the third, and it was the top of the lineup setting the table once again, this time with Benintendi getting plunked, Xander Bogaerts ripping a single, and Martinez drawing a one-out walk to fill the bases for the second time in three innings.

Mitch Moreland was unable to do anything with that, as he fanned on three pitches for the second out of the frame, but Christian Vazquez did not let the opportunity go to waste.

Yup, the backstop took a 2-1, 72 MPH knuckle-curveball from Vargas and proceeded to deposit it 358 feet into the left field seats for his first career grand slam.

Not only did Vazquez’s slam untie the contest and give the Sox a 5-1 advantage, it was also his 20th homer of the season, marking the first time 29-year-old has reached that plateau in his five-year-career.

And in the sixth, Vazquez struck again by blowing right past that 20-homer plateau, as he greeted new Phillies reliever Mike Morin with his second big fly of the afternoon and 21st of the year off a one-out, 2-2, 91 MPH four-seamer on the inner half of that plate.

That solo shot put the Red Sox up 6-2, and after Philadelphia tacked on a run of their own in the sixth, 6-3 would go on to be Sunday’s final score.

Some notes from this win:

From The Eagle-Tribune’s Chris Mason:

The Red Sox have won three straight games. They are 9 1/2 games off the pace for the second American League Wild Card spot.

Next up for the Red Sox, it’s another off day on Monday before welcoming the San Francisco Giants into town for a three-game interleague series beginning on Tuesday.

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi will get the ball for Boston in the opener, while fellow righty Logan Webb will do the same for San Francisco.

Since moving back to the starting rotation on August 18th, Eovaldi has posted a 5.89 ERA and .254 batting average against over his last five outings and 18 1/3 innings of work, which includes surrendering three runs in 4 1/3 innings in his last time out against the Toronto Blue Jays this past Tuesday.

In six career starts against the Giants, the 29-year-old owns a lifetime 10.86 ERA and .370 batting average against over 29 total innings pitched.

Webb, meanwhile, is ranked as San Francisco’s top pitching prospect and has posted a 6.75 ERA and .337 batting average against in 22 2/3 innings spanning five starts since making his big league debut on August 17th. The Giants are 2-3 in those games.

This series will also feature Giants rookie outfielder Mike Yastrzemski, the 29-year-old grandson of Red Sox legend Carl Yastrzemski, and 25-year-old rookie outfielder Chris Shaw, who played his college ball at Boston College. Both are natives of Massachusetts.

Last time the Giants visited Fenway Park, the Sox swept a two-game series back on July 19-20 of the 2016 season.

First pitch Tuesday is scheduled for 7:10 PM EDT on NESN. Red Sox going for their fourth straight win.

Red Sox Held in Check by J.A. Happ, Fall to Yankees as Xander Bogaerts Picks up 1,000th Career Hit

After taking the opener of a four-game weekend series against the New York Yankees with a commanding 6-1 win on Friday, the Red Sox fell back to Earth on Saturday, as they managed just one run themselves in a 5-1 loss at the hands of the Bronx Bombers to fall back to 76-66 on the season.

Making the first start of his big league career for Boston and 11th appearance overall was Travis Lakins, who was named the opener for this one on Friday in what was another bullpen day for the Sox.

Tossing two no-hit innings like Jhoulys Chacin the day before, the rookie right-hander kept the Yankees off the scoreboard while fanning three of the six hitters he faced on the afternoon.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 29 (17 strikes), Lakins relied on his four-seam fastball more than 48% of the time he was on the mound Saturday, inducing four swings and misses and topping out at 96.1 MPH with the pitch while Christian Vazquez was behind the plate. Four of those heaters were the hardest pitches Lakins has thrown this year, per Red Sox Stats.

Ultimately hit with the no-decision while lowering his ERA on the season down to 4.15, it will be interesting to see if the Red Sox turn to the 25-year-old hurler as an opener again given the level of success achieved in his first go at it.

In relief of Lakins, left-hander Bobby Poyner entered the top of the third in a scoreless contest, and he got another busy day for the Boston bullpen started by sitting down the only three Yankees he faced in order.

The fourth inning is where things got sticky, as Ryan Weber yielded a leadoff double to D.J. LeMahieu before punching out Aaron Judge on four pitches for the first out of the frame.

A line drive to right off the bat of Didi Gregorius should have gone for the second out of the fourth, but with the sun directly in his face, J.D. Martinez, not Mookie Betts, had trouble picking up the ball, and it ended up glancing off his glove before rolling to the wall for a one-out double.

So, with runners at second and third with only one out instead of one runner at first with two outs, Colten Brewer came on for Weber, and he got Gary Sanchez to hit a weak fly ball to shallow right field.

The only thing was, the ball was essentially in no-man’s land, and neither of Mitch Moreland, Brock Holt, nor Martinez were able to come up with it for what would have been the second out.

Nope, instead, Sanchez was credited with a two-run ground-rule double and the Yankees had themselves a 2-0 lead just like that.

Things would not improve for the Sox following that series of mishaps though, not with Edwin Encarnacion unloading on the very first pitch he saw from Brewer, a hanging 81 MPH curveball down the heart of the plate, and depositing it 423 feet over the Green Monster for a two-run blast to double his side’s lead at 4-0.

Brewer was able to escape the fourth without surrendering anything else following that Encarnacion homer, but the damage had already been done.

From there, Trevor Kelley worked his way around two walks in a scoreless fifth, Hector Velazquez stranded the bases loaded with the help of an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play in a shutout sixth, and Josh Smith walked one and struck out another in a clean seventh to make way for Mike Shawaryn in the eighth.

Shawaryn proceeded to punch out the first two Yankees he faced before allowing the next two to reach base, but got out of it by getting LeMahieu to ground into a force out at second to retire the side.

In the ninth, Shawaryn again got the first two outs of the inning in simple fashion, but was unable to keep New York off the scoreboard this time as he plunked Sanchez and served up an RBI double to Encarnacion to increase the deficit to five runs before ending the frame.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against Yankees left-hander J.A. Happ, who entered the weekend fresh off one of his better starts of the season in his last time out against the Oakland Athletics this past Sunday.

Winless against Happ in his first three outings against them this year, that trend continued for Boston on Saturday.

Two hits and one walk. That’s all the Sox bats could manage off of Happ, and none of those three runners made it up to second base either.

It was not until the bottom half of the eighth, with Happ out and right-handed reliever Tommy Kahnle in for the Yankees, when back-to-back one-out singles from Mitch Moreland and the pinch-hitting Marco Hernandez finally put a runner in scoring position.

That led to left-hander Zack Britton taking over for Kahnle, and all Brock Holt could do was watch as strike three blew past him on a 1-2, 95 MPH slider at the knees.

Mookie Betts followed by making hard contact, but only on a ball that was hit right to Aaron Judge in right field to extinguish the threat.

And in the ninth, J.D. Martinez made things a bit interesting against Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman as he took the lefty deep to the Red Sox bullpen off an 0-1, 99 MPH heater on the inner half of the plate for his 35th home run of the season.

That 397-foot solo shot, Martinez’s 16th of the year off a left-handed pitcher, cut the deficit to four runs at 5-1, but that would ultimately go on to be Saturday’s final score.

Some notes from this loss:

The Red Sox went 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position on Saturday. They left four men on base as a team.

Xander Bogaerts collected the 1,000th hit of his major league career on Saturday with a fourth-inning single.

From Red Sox Notes:

From The Eagle-Tribune’s Chris Mason:

As of right now, the Red Sox are 6 1/2 games behind the Oakland A’s for the second American League Wild Card Spot. That is sure to change with the A’s, Cleveland Indians, and Tampa Bay Rays all in action on Saturday night.

Next up for the Red Sox, it’s the third installment of this four-game set on Sunday Night Baseball, with right-hander Rick Porcello getting the ball for Boston and fellow righty Masahiro Tanaka doing the same for New York.

Porcello struggled mightily in his first start of September against the Minnesota Twins, surrendering six earned runs on eight hits in an eventual 6-5 loss this past Tuesday.

In his last start against the Yankes, the 30-year-old toughed out a quality outing after allowing two runs in the second inning of a contest the Sox eventually won by a final score of 19-3.

Tanaka opposed Porcello in that game on July 25th, when he yielded 12 earned runs in just 3 1/3 innings of work and ultimately got hit with the losing decision.

The 30-year-old has recovered nicely since then though, posting an ERA of 3.38 and batting average against of .250 over his last seven starts and 42 2/3 innings pitched. The Yankees are 5-2 in those games.

First pitch Sunday is scheduled for 8:05 PM EDT on ESPN.