Trevor Story’s first home run of season goes for naught as Red Sox blow another lead and get walked off on by Braves in 5-3 loss

The Red Sox had to settle for a series split with the Braves on Wednesday night after getting walked off on in the ninth inning. Boston fell to Atlanta by a final score of 5-3 in what was their fifth walk-off loss of the season. Their record is now 11-20.

Matched up against Braves starter Ian Anderson out of the gate, the Sox got off to a quick start beginning in their half of the second inning. Following a one-out double off the bat of Alex Verdugo, Trevor Story came through with his highly-anticipated first home run of the season.

Story took a 1-1, 88 mph changeup that was down and in and proceeded to crush it 422 feet to dead center field. The second baseman’s first homer in a Red Sox uniform left his bat at 105.8 mph and give his team an early 2-0 lead.

An inning later, Rafael Devers kept the top of the third alive with a hard-hit double to right field. He immediately scored from second base on a J.D. Martinez RBI single that increased Boston’s advantage to 3-0.

Nathan Eovaldi, meanwhile, was in the midst of his seventh start of the season for the Sox. The right-hander wound up allowing three runs on six hits and one walk to go along with six strikeouts over 6 1/3 innings of work.

After getting through the first two innings rather smoothly, Eovaldi ran into some trouble in the bottom of the third when he gave up his first hit of the night — a one-out single to Orlando Arcia. On his very next pitch, Eovaldi was taken 415 feet deep to left field by Travis Demeritte.

Demeritte’s two-run blast cut Atlanta’s deficit down to one run at 3-2. Dansby Swanson then drew a seven-pitch walk off Eovaldi, stole second base, and scored from second on a blistering, game-tying 106.5 mph RBI double from Georgia native Matt Olson.

Eovaldi did manage to strand Olson in scoring position, though, and then retired 10 of the next 12 batters he faced before yielding a one-out single to Arcia in the seventh, which is how is outing would come to a close. Finishing with a final pitch count of 98 (68 strikes), the 32-year-old hurler induced a total of 18 swings-and-misses while topping out at 99.1 mph with his vaunted four-seam fastball.

Shortly before Eovaldi’s night ended, a Red Sox lineup that had been held in check by Anderson since the third inning had a real chance to break out in the sixth. Martinez led off with a single and Verdugo put runners on first and second with a one-out walk. Following an Atlanta pitching change that saw old friend Collin McHugh take over for Anderson, Franchy Cordero loaded the bases for Kevin Plawecki by drawing a two-out walk.

Plawecki worked a 3-2 count against McHugh and was prepared to take the bases-loaded walk by taking an 89.3 mph cutter that was well below the strike zone. Rather than call ball four, however, home plate umpire Adam Beck rung Plawecki up. Plawecki spiked his helmet and was understandably furious, as was Red Sox manager Alex Cora. Both were ejected from the game and Christian Vazquez took over behind home plate.

Picking it back up with one out in the bottom of the seventh, acting manager Will Venable gave Eovaldi the hook in favor of Matt Strahm, who struck out both Demeritte and Dansby Swanson to end the seventh before recording the first out of the eighth as well. John Schreiber then took over for Strahm and got through the rest of the frame unscathed.

Ryan Brasier was responsible for sending this one into extras as he got the call for the ninth. He gave up a leadoff single to Ozzie Albies, got the first out of the inning, but then served up a game-winning, walk-off homer to Arcia.

Arcia’s two-run shot sent the Braves home happy with a 5-3 win. It sent the Red Sox back on the road with a sour taste in their mouths.

Next up: Off day with Rangers on deck

The Red Sox will enjoy their second off day of the week on Thursday before opening up a three-game weekend series against the Rangers in Arlington on Friday night.

Boston will send right-hander Nick Pivetta to the mound on Friday. Texas has yet to name a starter.

First pitch from Globe Life Field is scheduled for 8:05 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

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

Rafael Devers’ early grand slam lifts Red Sox to 9-4 win over Braves to put an end to 5-game losing streak

The Red Sox rode a six-run second inning to a much-needed win over the Braves on Tuesday night. Boston defeated Atlanta by a final score of 9-4 to snap a five-game losing streak and improve to 11-19 on the season.

Matched up against Braves starter Kyle Wright to begin things on Tuesday, the Sox’ second-inning rally was ignited by a one-out double from Alex Verdugo. Trevor Story followed with a single of his own and Franchy Cordero drew a four-pitch walk to fill the bases for Christian Vazquez.

Vazquez kept the line moving with an RBI single to drive in Verdugo for Boston’s first run of the game. Story then came into score himself when Jackie Bradley Jr. drew a bases-loaded walk as the lineup flipped back over and Enrique Hernandez grounded into a force out at home plate.

Because Hernandez made it to first base safely, the bases remained loaded for Rafael Devers, who took the first pitch he saw from Wright — a 96 mph heater down the heart of the plate — and deposited it 432 feet to right-center field.

Devers’ fifth home run and first grand slam of the season had an exit velocity of over 111 mph. It also gave the Red Sox a commanding 6-0 lead in the early going.

On the other side of things, Garrett Whitlock made his fourth start of the year for Boston in his home state of Georgia. It was truly a grind for the right-hander, who allowed three earned runs on four hits and four walks to go along with five strikeouts over just three innings of work.

After getting through the first two innings unscathed, Whitlock gave up all three of his runs in the bottom half of the third. Fellow Georgia native Matt Olson led off with a double and advanced to third base on a wild pitch. A six-pitch walk of Austin Riley put runners on the corners for Marcell Ozuna, who drove in Olson on a sacrifice fly to right field.

The Braves were not done there, though, as Travis d’Arnaud cranked a 401-foot two-run homer to cut the Sox’ lead in half at 6-3 before Whitlock was able to retire the side in his third and final inning. The 25-year-old finished with a final pitch count of 82 (48 strikes) and induced a total of 12 swings-and-misses.

In relief of Whitlock, a clean-shaven Alex Cora first turned to Tyler Danish out of the Boston bullpen beginning in the fourth inning. Danish responded by hurling two scoreless frames to pave the way for Ryan Brasier, who kept Atlanta off the board in the sixth.

Hansel Robles, on the other hand, issued a leadoff walk to Ronald Acuna Jr. in the eighth and allowed Acuna Jr. to score when Ozuna grounded into a force out at second base. Robles faced five batters in the seventh, but only surrendered the one run to make it a 6-4 game going into the seventh-inning stretch.

John Schreiber made quick work of the Braves in the eighth before the Sox tacked on some important insurance runs in their half of the ninth. With old friend Tyler Thornburg on the mound for Atlanta, Devers drew a leadoff walk, J.D. Martinez singled to extend his hitting streak, and Xander Bogaerts singled to once again fill the bases for Verdugo.

Verdugo, in turn, walked on seven pitches to plate Devers. Story followed suit by drilling a 108.6 mph two-run single to left field that brought in both Martinez and Bogaerts to increase Boston’s lead to five runs.

Looking to close things out in the ninth, Schreiber slammed the door on the Braves to secure a 9-4 victory and notch the first save of his big-league career.

Some notes from this win:

The Red Sox drew a season-high seven walks on Tuesday. They also went 4-for-14 with runners in scoring position.

Franchy Cordero went 0-for-0 with three walks on Tuesday, marking his first career three-walk game.

Tyler Danish earned the winning decision to improve to 1-0 in his Red Sox career.

Next up: Eovaldi vs. Anderson

The Red Sox will go for the quick two-game sweep of the Braves when they send right-hander Nathan Eovaldi to the mound on Wednesday night. Atlanta will counter with fellow righty Ian Anderson.

First pitch from Truist Park is scheduled for 7:20 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Rafael Devers: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Red Sox crush 3 home runs, top Braves, 10-7, in Trevor Story’s Grapefruit League debut

The Red Sox improved to 8-5 in Grapefruit League play on Wednesday afternoon with a 10-7 victory over the Braves at JetBlue Park.

Using a lineup that is likely to mirror the one they feature on Opening Day, the Sox got things going right away against Braves starter Ian Anderson. Before recording an out in the first inning, Enrique Hernandez drew a leadoff walk and Rafael Devers clubbed a towering two-run homer over the Fenway South Green Monster.

Devers’ fourth home run of the spring jolted Boston to an early 2-0 lead, but they were not done there. Not with Alex Verdugo ripping a two-out double off Anderson, advancing to third to load the bases, and scoring from third when Jackie Bradley Jr. was hit by a pitch to make it a 3-0 game.

An inning later, the top of the Red Sox lineup struck once more when Hernandez led off with an infield single and scored on a one-out RBI single off the bat of J.D. Martinez.

Christian Vazquez added on to his side’s lead in the bottom of the third. Following a leadoff double from Bobby Dalbec, Vazquez crushed a two-run shot to left field off Anderson. The veteran backstop’s first big fly of the spring made it a 6-0 game in favor of Boston.

That sequence provided Sox starter Tanner Houck with a sizable cushion to operate with out of the gate. Making his third start of the Grapefruit League campaign, the right-hander began his day by retiring eight of the first 13 batters he faced heading into the fourth inning.

That is where things began to get a bit shaky for Houck. The 25-year-old yielded back-to-back singles to Ozzie Albies and Eddie Rosario to begin the frame before spiking a wild pitch that allowed both runners to advance an additional 90 feet.

A sacrifice fly from Alex Dickerson brought in Albies from third for the Braves’ first run of the afternoon. Houck then plunked Guillermo Heredia, but escaped any further damage by fanning Dansby Swanson, who would turn out to be the last hitter he would face on Wednesday.

All told, Houck allowed just one earned run on five hits, no walks, and three hit batsman to go along with four strikeouts over four erratic innings of work. He should be in line to make one more start before the regular season begins.

Shortly after Houck recorded the final out in the top half of the fourth, the Boston bats continued to pound Atlanta pitching in the bottom half of the frame.

With reliever Dylan Lee on the mound for the Braves, Jonathan Arauz provided some more leadoff pop by mashing his first home run of the spring. A J.D. Martinez walk and opposite-field double for Franchy Cordero then put runners at second and third for Trevor Story, who came through with a line-drive RBI single to plate Martinez. Cordero himself scored on another RBI base hit courtesy of Bobby Dalbec.

Despite having a commanding 9-1 lead going into the fifth, the Red Sox bullpen struggled a bit in relief of Houck. Kaleb Ort received the first call from manager Alex Cora and proceeded to serve up a solo homer to Travis d’Arnaud and a three-run blast to Adam Duvall while only managing to record two outs.

Ryan Fernandez then came on for Ort and surrendered a solo home run of his own to Dickerson, though he was able to end the inning with Boston still in possession of a three-run lead at 9-6.

It did not take long for the Sox to get one of those runs back, though, as Yolmer Sanchez followed up a scoreless sixth inning from Hirokazu Sawamura by plating the pinch-running Christin Stewart on a sacrifice fly to right field off Allan Winans.

From there, Ryan Brasier got himself in and out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh, Matt Barnes gave up one run on two hits and one walk in the eighth, and newcomer Matt Strahm closed things out by stranding a pair of base runners in a shutout ninth inning.

Some notes from this win:

In his Grapefruit League debut, Trevor Story went 1-for-2 with an RBI single, a walk, and a strikeout. The 29-year-old started at second base, batted out of the six-hole, and was pinch-ran for by Yolmer Sanchez in the fourth inning.

Franchy Cordero replaced Alex Verdugo in left field in the third inning. He went 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles, one RBI, and one strikeout.

Through seven games this spring, Rafael Devers is slashing .389/.400/1.056 with four home runs, eight RBIs, six runs scored, one walk, and six strikeouts over 20 plate appearances.

Next up: Bundy vs. Hill

The Red Sox will take on the Twins at JetBlue Park on Thursday afternoon, with the race for the 2022 Chairman’s Cup currently tied at two games apiece.

Rich Hill is slated to get the start for Boston and Garrett Whitlock will also pitch. Hill will be opposed by right-hander Dylan Bundy for Minnesota.

First pitch Thursday is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. eastern time. The game will not be televised.

(Picture of Trevor Story: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Michael Wacha hurls 3 scoreless innings in 2022 debut as Red Sox roll on with 5-0 win over Braves

The Red Sox’ quest for a perfect spring continued at JetBlue Park on Monday afternoon as they improved to 5-0 in Grapefruit League play with a 5-0 victory over the Braves.

Looking to make his case for a spot in the Sox’ Opening Day starting rotation, Michael Wacha made a strong first impression in his 2022 debut. The veteran right-hander, who signed a one-year, $7 million deal with Boston in November, scattered four hits and one walk with one strikeout in his three innings of work against Atlanta.

Wacha received an early offensive boost from his catcher in Christian Vazquez, who drove in the Red Sox’ first run of the day on an RBI double off Touki Toussaint with two outs in the bottom of the first inning. Vazquez’s two-base hit scored Xander Bogaerts from second to make it a 1-0 game in favor of Boston.

After retiring each of the last three batters he faced to escape a jam in the third inning, Wacha made way for the Sox bullpen beginning in the fourth. Darwinzon Hernandez received the first call from manager Alex Cora and proceeded to strike out the side in his spring debut.

Following a scoreless top of the fifth from Michael Feliz, fellow non-roster invitee Rob Refsnyder doubled his side’s advantage by plating Jarren Duran on a run-scoring double to left field. Rafael Devers then scored Yolmer Sanchez with an RBI single to give the Red Sox a 3-0 lead heading into the sixth.

From there, John Schreiber fanned a total of four over his two innings of relief before Jonathan Arauz scored on a throwing error by Braves catcher Hendrik Clementina in the bottom of the seventh.

In the eighth, Silvino Bracho twirled a perfect frame in the top half while Ryan Fitzgerald crushed his second home run of the spring to lead off the bottom half. That sequence paved the way for Kaleb Ort to strand one runner and punch out a pair in a scoreless ninth inning to secure a five-run win for the Sox.

All told, it was another impressive performance from Red Sox pitching on Monday. Six different Boston hurlers (Wacha, Hernandez, Feliz, Schreiber, Bracho, and Ort) combined to keep the Braves off the scoreboard while limiting them to six hits and three walks to go along with 11 strikeouts.

Next up: Hill vs. Patino

Rich Hill will take the mound in a Red Sox uniform for the first time since 2015 when Boston travels to Port Charlotte on Tuesday to take on the Rays at Charlotte Sports Park. The seasoned southpaw will be opposed in young right-hander Luis Patino for Tampa Bay.

First pitch Tuesday is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. eastern time. The game will be televised, but only on Bally Sports Sun.

(Picture of Michael Wacha: Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Former Red Sox utility man Marwin Gonzalez added to Astros’ World Series roster

In a surprising turn of events, former Red Sox utility man Marwin Gonzalez was added to the Astros’ World Series roster on Tuesday, shortly before their clash against the Braves begins at Minute Maid Park.

Gonzalez was left off both Houston’s American League Division Series and Championship Series rosters, but was added to the club’s World Series squad on account of rookie outfielder Jake Meyers being sidelined with a left shoulder injury.

The versatile 32-year-old initially signed a one-year, $3 million deal with the Red Sox right at the beginning of spring training in late February and opened the 2021 season on their Opening Day roster.

While he got consistent playing time all over the field, Gonzalez struggled to the tune of a .205/.286/.297 slash line to go along with 14 doubles, two home runs, 18 RBI, 23 runs scored, three stolen bases, 17 walks and 61 strikeouts over his first 70 games (246 plate appearances) with Boston before being placed on the 10-day injured list due to a right hamstring strain on July 16.

That hamstring strain held Gonzalez out of action for nearly a month, as the switch-hitter did not return to the Red Sox until early August and was later designated for assignment on Aug. 13 as a result of his prolonged offensive struggles.

After clearing waivers and becoming a free agent, Gonzalez inked a minor-league pact with his former team in the Astros on Aug. 27 and had his contract selected by the big-league club nine days later.

Revered in Houston for helping the Astros win their first World Series title over the Dodgers in 2017, Gonzalez went 5-for-34 (.176) at the plate with three homers, eight RBI, five runs scored, one walk, and eight strikeouts across 14 games before the regular season ended on October 3.

While Gonzalez has not played in a game in over three weeks, he can still provide value to the Astros in the upcoming Fall Classic as someone who hits from both sides of the plate, play a plethora of defensive positions, and is well-versed in postseason baseball.

“The decision was Meyers is not healthy to play,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said on Tuesday. “Marwin is a switch-hitter. He gives me a lot of flexibility in positions, and he has World Series experience, so you know he’s not going to be like in awe of the game or the situation.”

Gonzalez is not in Houston’s lineup for Game 1 of this best-of-seven World Series against the Braves, but he could be used more during the portion of this series that will take place in a National League Ballpark — where pitchers hit — in Atlanta.

(Picture of Marwin Gonzalez: Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Rafael Devers homers, collects 3 RBI as Red Sox come back to top Braves, 9-5, in rain-filled night at Fenway Park; Nick Pivetta records season-high 9 strikeouts

It took until the wee hours of Thursday morning on account of a 2 hour and 53 minute rain delay, but the Red Sox were able to salvage a series split against the Braves with a 9-5 win at Fenway Park on Wednesday night.

With the victory, which took nearly six hours to see through to the end, the Red Sox snap a two-game losing streak and improve to 30-20 (14-13 at home) on the season. They remain a half-game back of the Rays for first place in the American League East.

Shoutout to Dave Mellor and the rest of the Red Sox grounds crew for their efforts in this one.

Pivetta strikes out nine over six innings

Nick Pivetta made his 10th start of the season for Boston in Wednesday’s series finale, and despite getting hit relatively hard, he did keep his team in the game.

Over six innings of work, the right-hander yielded four runs — all of which were earned — on seven hits and two walks to go along with a season-high six strikeouts on the night.

The first two of those four Atlanta runs came right away in the top of the first, as Pivetta walked Freedie Freeman on five pitches which was promptly followed by an RBI triple off the bat of Ozzie Albies.

Albies came into score on a two-out, run-scoring double from Dansby Swanson, and Boston found themselves down 2-0 just like that.

A Guillermo Heredia leadoff double an inning later would result in another Braves run crossing the plate when William Contreras picked up an RBI on a sacrifice fly. 3-0 Atlanta.

Pivetta would settle in for a bit from there, with the only hiccup coming when he served up a solo home run to Austin Riley in the top half of the fifth.

Wednesday’s outing marks the second straight start in which Pivetta has allowed four or more runs, but he wrapped things up on a much more positive note by punching out four of the final five hitters he faced — which included striking out the side in his sixth and final frame of work.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 102 (68 strikes), the 28-year-old hurler turned to his four-seam fastball 45% of the time he was on the mound Wednesday, inducing seven swings and misses while topping out at 97 mph with the pitch. He also induced eight swings-and-misses with his slider, a pitch he threw 20 times.

Able to improve to a perfect 6-0 on the season despite raising his ERA to 3.86 in what technically goes down as a complete game (the second of his career), Pivetta’s next start should come against the Astros in Houston next Tuesday.

Renfroe homers to get scoring started for Sox

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against veteran left-hander Drew Smyly for the Braves, who came into play Wednesday sporting a 5.11 ERA through his first seven starts of the season.

After finding themselves in an early two-run hole, Hunter Renfroe got things started for the Sox in the second inning when unloaded on a hanging curveball from Smyly and deposited it 377 feet on a line over the Green Monster.

Renfroe’s sixth home run of the season, which made it a 2-1 game in favor of Atlanta, had an exit velocity of 102.4 mph.

Devers’ big fly to dead center ties it

Fast forward to the bottom of the fourth, and the long ball again proved to be Boston’s best friend, as a two-out walk drawn by Xander Bogaerts brought Rafael Devers to the plate, representing the tying run in a 3-1 contest.

On the third pitch he saw from Smyly — yet another hanging curveball — the dangerous left-handed slugger crushed a booming, game-tying two-run shot 434 feet (107. 1 mph off the bat) to deep center field for his team-leading 14th home run of the year.

Four-run rally in sixth proves to be pivotal

The Braves went up by a run on the heels of Devers’ two-run blast to re-take the lead at 4-3, but the Boston bats would not be silenced.

With one out in the bottom half of the sixth, the Sox had Smyly on the ropes with Alex Verdugo and J.D. Martinez each lacing a sharply-hit single to put runners at first and second.

A wild pitch with Bogaerts at the plate allowed Verdugo to advance to third. That miscue would prove to be costly for Atlanta when Bogaerts plated Verdugo on a softly-hit fielder’s choice to third base moments later.

Verdugo — aggressive as ever — was going on contact, and on a headfirst slide he managed to slip under Contreras’ tag at home plate to score and knot things up at four runs apiece.

Devers took responsibility for the go-ahead run by driving in Martinez on an RBI double down the left field line, while Christian Vazquez provided some much-needed insurance by greeting new Braves reliever Luke Jackson with a bases-loaded, opposite field two-run single that scored both Boagaerts and Devers and gave the Red Sox a commanding 7-4 advantage.

Inclement weather results in long delay

As the sixth inning came to a close, the rate at which the rain was falling from the Boston skies picked up. That led to the Red Sox grounds crew rolling out the tarp on the field at a Fenway.

A rain delay began at approximately 9:08 p.m. eastern time. And after a 173-minute standstill, the game resumed shortly after midnight.

Red Sox bullpen closes it out

When the tarp came off the field, it was Josh Taylor who got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen for the start of the seventh inning.

The left-handed reliever plunked the first hitter he faced in Ronald Acuna before recording the first two outs. Adam Ottavino was deployed to face the right-handed hitting Riley and got him to pop out to retire the side.

Ottavino also worked a 1-2-3 top of the eighth. The Sox tacked on two more insurance runs on a Danny Santana RBI and Vazquez sacrifice fly in the bottom half of the inning to give Matt Andriese a five-run lead to operate with.

Andriese, making his first appearance since May 23, got the first out, gave up a towering solo home run to Contreras, and a single to Acuna, which prompted Red Sox manager Alex Cora to turn to his closer, Matt Barnes, to finish things up in a non-save situation.

Barnes, making his first relief appearance since May 22, induced a game-ending double play from Freeman to secure the 9-5 win for his side.

Next up: An off day on Thursday, then a weekend series against the Marlins

The Red Sox will enjoy their second off day of the week on Thursday before welcoming the Miami Marlins into town for a three-game weekend series that begins Friday night.

Left-hander Martin Perez is slated to get the ball for Boston in the series opener, while rookie right-hander Cody Poteet is lined up to do the same for Miami.

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

(Picture of Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Red Sox held to just 3 hits by Charlie Morton in 3-1 loss to Braves

The Red Sox had an opportunity to get to Charlie Morton early on Tuesday night at Fenway Park, but were unable to truly capitalize against the veteran right-hander.

With the bases loaded and no outs in the bottom of the first, Xander Bogaerts struck out on five pitches, Rafael Devers managed to drive in a run by getting hit by a pitch, and Christian Vazquez lined into a deflating inning-ending 6-4 double play.

In the second, the Sox again were presented with a chance to put something together off Morton, as Danny Santana led off with a triple and Hunter Renfroe drew a walk to put runners on the corners with no outs.

Despite having yet another opportunity to jump out to a commanding lead, Bobby Dalbec struck out swinging on three pitches, while Enrique Hernandez grounded into an inning-ending, 4-6-3 twin killing to get Morton out of a jam.

From that point forward, Morton — like quality starting pitchers do — settled in nicely for Atlanta by sitting down 15 of the final 16 Red Sox hitters he faced from the middle of the third until the end of the seventh.

The Braves bullpen took over in the eighth and kept the scoreless stretch going, with Edgar Santana working a scoreless bottom of the eighth and closer Will Smith tossing a 1-2-3 ninth inning to secure what goes down as a 3-1 loss for the Sox.

All in all, Boston went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position on Tuesday and left five runners on base as a team.

With the defeat, their second straight overall, the Red Sox fall to 29-20 on the season and an even 13-13 at Fenway Park. They still trail the Rays by a half-game for first place in the American League East.

Richards grinds through 5 2/3 innings

Garrett Richards made his 10th start of the season for the Red Sox on Tuesday night, and while he was not particularly sharp in this one, he did pitch well enough to keep his team in the game.

Over 5 2/3 innings of work, the veteran right-hander yielded three runs on six hits and four walks to go along with four strikeouts on the night.

For Richards, it’s his second straight outing with at least four walks, and one of those free passes proved to be costly.

With no outs in the third inning, Richards issued a seven-pitch walk to William Contreras — Atlanta’s No. 9 hitter, which would prove to be harbinger of unfortunate things to come.

That being the case because the Braves tacked on their first two runs of the night on an RBI double off the bat of Marcell Ozuna and a run-scoring fielder’s choice in which Ozzie Albies drove in Freddie Freeman from third base.

The third inning could have ben even worse for Richards had Enrique Hernandez, while fielding the groundball from Albies, made a heads-up play by gunning down Ozuna at third base for the second out of the frame.

After getting through the fourth and fifth unscathed, Richards again walked Contreras, this time with two outs in the sixth, which would mark the end of his outing with the Braves lineup turning over.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 97 (59 strikes), the 32-year-old hurler relied on his four-seam fastball 69% of the time he was on the mound Tuesday, inducing eight swings-and-misses while topping out at 96.7 mph with the pitch.

Eventually falling to 4-3 on the season while raising his ERA to 3.83, Richards’ next start should come against the Astros in Houston next Monday.

Red Sox bullpen takes over

In relief of Richards, Hirokazu Sawamura got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen, and he allowed one of the runners he inherited to score on a sharply-hit Ronald Acuna Jr. RBI double before putting together 1 1/3 scoreless innings through the middle of the seventh.

From there, Garrett Whitlock also kept the Braves off the scoreboard while sitting down six of the seven hitters he faced over the eighth and ninth innings to keep his side’s deficit at two runs.

Sandoval notches three hits in Fenway return

While the Red Sox lineup struggled to get anything going on Tuesday, old friend Pablo Sandoval did not.

The former Boston third baseman — in his first game back at Fenway Park since being released by the club in July 2017 — enjoyed a 3-for-4 day at the plate in which he collected three singles and scored one run.

Next up: Pivetta vs. Smyly

Wednesday’s pitching matchup between the Red Sox and Braves will feature a pair of former Phillies toeing the rubber for their respective clubs.

Right-hander Nick Pivetta will get the ball for Boston, and he will be opposed by left-hander Drew Smyly for Atlanta.

First pitch Wednesday is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN. Red Sox will be going for the series split.

(Picture of Christian Vazquez: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Adam Ottavino fans a pair in Red Sox debut, says closing out games is not ‘a must’ for him, but would be something he would ‘definitely embrace’

A little less than two months after being acquired in a surprising trade with the Yankees, Adam Ottavino made his Red Sox debut against the Braves at JetBlue Park on Wednesday afternoon.

Getting the call for the top half of the fourth inning, the veteran right-hander retired three of the four hitters he faced while picking up his first two strikeouts — one looking, one swinging — of the spring.

For Ottavino, Wednesday’s outing marked the first time he had thrown in front of fans in nearly a year, and it also marked the first time he threw in a game with Christian Vazquez behind the plate.

“I felt pretty good out there,” Ottavino said of his performance. “It was exciting to have people in the crowd again and throw to Vazquez for the first time in a game. So that type of stuff was good to get out of the way. And physically it felt good, so that was the bonus.”

As he prepares to embark upon his first season with the Red Sox, Ottavino has the chance to emerge as the club’s closer coming out of camp. He is currently competing with fellow right-handed reliever Matt Barnes for that job.

Over the course of his 10-year major-league career, the 35-year-old hurler has only notched 19 lifetime saves, a majority of which came with the Rockies from 2015-2018.

The closer role is one that Ottavino hasn’t had to undertake in quite a while, but it is not one he would shy away from if given the opportunity to do so with his new team.

“It would be great,” he said when asked how it would feel to close out games for the Red Sox. “The last time I had the job was right before I got hurt in 2015 and a little bit in 2016 when I came back. It was exciting. I really enjoyed it. It’s not something that I feel like is a must for me, but it is something I would definitely embrace. If Alex [Cora] gives me the ball in the ninth, I’ll definitely be pumped up about that.”

For his career, the former Cardinals, Rockies, and Yankees reliever owns a lifetime 2.76 ERA and .596 OPS against when pitching in the ninth inning of games.

Barnes, meanwhile, has posted a 4.03 ERA and .690 OPS against when working in the ninth inning over the course of his seven-year career with Boston.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora has gone as far to say that there is no frontrunner in the team’s closer competition, but the competition between Ottavino and Barnes itself is interesting due to the fact that neither have extensive closing experience and both are slated to become free agents at the end of the 2021 season.

Despite not having too much experience as a closer, though, Ottavino already seems to know what adjustments he will need to make if he does indeed win the job out of spring training.

“I think the biggest thing is you’re pretty much starting clean 80% of the time,” said the Brooklyn native. “You might finish off the eighth once in a while, but for the most part you’re starting clean in the ninth. You know exactly what it’s going to take to get the job done. Whether you’re up by one or up by three or whatever the case may be. So you kind of pitch to the scoreboard a little bit in that way and just try to do your job for the team.

“I’m sure I would get a lot more pinch-hitters — probably lefties, that sort of thing — but I’ve done it before,” he added. “I think the biggest thing is just attacking that first guy and putting yourself in a good position for success.”

The reason Ottavino specifically brought up the possibility of facing left-handed pinch-hitters is because of the struggles he has had against lefty bats in general since making his big-league debut for St. Louis in 2010.

Last season alone, across 24 appearances out of the Yankees bullpen, the Northeastern University product allowed left-handed hitters to slash .294/.458/.353 off of him.

This aspect of his game, not his ability to close out games, seems to take precedence for Ottavino as free agency looms.

“I have no idea what they’re looking at these days in terms of roles and stuff like that,” he said. “But I do think it would benefit me to get a full season in of facing as many lefties as possible so I can put that narrative to bed and show that I can dominate both sides. That would probably be a bonus, but beyond that, I think regardless of role I’m looking to put together a great season. Not only for myself, but for the team.”

Ottavino, who primarily relies on his sinker-slider combination to dominate his competition, has quickly become one of the more intriguing pitchers — if not players — the Red Sox have on their major-league roster.

“He’s just very smart, a great communicator,” Cora said of Ottavino Wednesday. “Him and Christian [Vazquez] were talking about sequences and pitch shapes in the dugout. Like I said before, we’re happy that he’s with us. He’s a great addition to our bullpen and is a guy that we trust.”

Right-handed pitching prospect Frank German, who New York included in the trade that sent Ottavino to Boston, also made his Red Sox debut against the Braves on Wednesday.

The 23-year-old maneuvered his way around a leadoff single and two out-walk while striking out one in a scoreless top of the eighth to pick up his first hold of the spring.

(Picture of Adam Ottavino: Mark Brown/Getty Images)

Matt Barnes, Red Sox closer candidate, impresses with two strikeouts in spring debut

Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes made his first appearance of the spring for Boston as part of Sunday afternoon’s 5-4 defeat at the hands of the Atlanta Braves in North Port.

Working in relief of Garrett Richards and Josh Winckowski in the bottom half of the fourth inning, the veteran right-hander looked sharp in his 2021 debut, as he retired the Braves’ 8-9-1 hitters — Jake Lamb, Cristian Pache, and Ronald Acuna Jr. — in order while needing just 12 pitches to do so.

Recording two strikeouts (one looking, one swinging) in the process of tossing a perfect frame of relief, Barnes worked in a healthy mix of curveballs and high-velocity fastballs on Sunday.

“I felt really comfortable out there,” the 30-year-old hurler said during his in-game media availability. “Felt like my mechanics were working well. Couple of high fastballs got away from me. But overall, the way the ball was coming out, the command of the fastball and the breaking ball, definitely happy.”

Barnes came into camp this spring as a potential closer candidate for Red Sox manager Alex Cora given the experience he gained in that role last year after Brandon Workman was traded to the Phillies.

On the 2020 campaign as a whole, the UCONN product posted a 4.30 ERA and .706 OPS against over 24 appearances out of the Boston bullpen spanning 23 innings of work.

Regardless of how he performs throughout the rest of spring training, Barnes feels as though his body of work in the majors would outweigh what he does this month when it comes to the team’s closer competition.

“I’ll be honest with you,” said Barnes. “I don’t think I’m going to be judged on eight outings in spring training more than the last four or five years worth of work. “If there was something drastic and I was coming out throwing 88 (mph), that’s a topic for a different day. If I come out showing the stuff I’ve had my entire career, I don’t think eight or nine outings in spring training in which I’m building up looking to get ready for the season are going to define the decision and what they want to do.”

Alongside Barnes, another fellow New Englander in Adam Ottavino is also vying for the role as the Sox’ ninth-inning man, though he has yet to make his team debut.

Between the two relievers, Boston has a pair of intriguing arms who bring different skillsets to the table, and both figure to see the majority of their appearances this coming season come late in games regardless of who the closer is.

Barnes, who has accrued 15 career saves over the course of his seven-year big-league career with Boston, had said last week that he would like to close, but Cora does not seem ready to name who his closer will be to kick off the 2021 campaign just yet.

“There’s no frontrunners here,” Cora said Sunday afternoon. “Those guys are going to build up, be ready and we’ll make a decision toward the end of camp.”

Having said that, Cora was still impressed with how Barnes performed in his spring debut against Atlanta to close out the weekend.

“That was impressive,” the Sox skipper stated. “Velocity was up, made some adjustments, and it was a good one for Barnesy. You don’t have to worry too much about him. Physically, he’s always in shape. He’s a guy just like Adam. We’re going to take our time. They know what they need to be ready for the start of the season. But that was impressive. Velocity was up — I think it was a tick up from last year, which is a good sign.”

One reason as to why Barnes’ velocity may be up right now is simply because of how little he pitched last year on account of the 2020 season only being 60 games in length.

As previously mentioned, the former first-round draft pick only pitched 23 innings in 2020. From 2016-2019, he averaged 66 innings of work per season.

“It’s really when I started playing catch during the offseason this year,” Barnes recounted. “I got to a point where the ball was coming out good — a lot sooner — I felt like because I only threw 23 innings, which is only 33% of a normal year’s workload. So when you take that into account, my arm feels fantastic. It almost feels like I didn’t even pitch last year. So I’m really happy with that; really happy with where I’m at right now.”

While Barnes may be pleased with where he is at currently, the flame-throwing righty still has plenty of work to do before Opening Day, so he is going to be sure to not get too ahead of himself between now and then.

“Obviously, you got to be conscious not to try and overdo it,” he said. “Sometimes you feel so great that you push and push, and I got to be conscious that we still have three weeks until the season. I don’t need to go out there and blow it out right now. I got to make sure that I pace myself and that I’m ready for April 1.”

Barnes, who turns 31 in June and will earn $4.5 million this season, is slated to become a free-agent for the first time in his career next winter. He has said that he is open to signing a contract extension to remain with the Red Sox.

(Picture of Matt Barnes: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Nick Yorke, the youngest player at Red Sox camp, makes solid first impression in spring debut

Red Sox infield prospect Nick Yorke was in the midst of his senior year at Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose at this time one year ago.

On Monday afternoon, the 18-year-old made his spring training debut for the Sox as a defensive replacement at second base for Marwin Gonzalez in the fifth inning of a Grapefruit League contest against the Braves.

Playing the final three innings of Monday’s eventual 5-3 loss to Atlanta, Yorke got the chance to step up to the plate for the first time with one out in the bottom half of the fifth.

His opposition? Only Braves right-hander A.J. Minter, who is coming off a 2020 season in which he allowed just two earned runs over 22 relief appearances and 21 2/3 innings pitched.

Going up against that caliber of competition is no easy task, especially for a teenager who had not gotten a legitimate, in-game at-bat in well over a year.

Having said that, Yorke held his own, and after looking at and fouling off a handful of pitches, golfed a single to right-center field that found a nice patch of grass to land on.

Fast forward to the seventh, and the California native again showed discipline at the plate by drawing a walk to cap off what was an impressive 2021 debut.

“That was the highlight of the day, having that kid play,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Yorke during his postgame media availability. “It’s funny because I told him before the game, ‘Hey, you’re playing second base.’ He’s like, ‘Ok, cool.’ I asked him, ‘Are you nervous?’ He’s like, ‘Nope.’ I said, ‘Ok, good for you.’ I was probably more nervous for him, so that’s a good sign.”

Boston selected Yorke with the 17th overall pick in the 2020 amateur draft last June, which at the time was viewed as a somewhat surprising selection considering the notion he was not projected to go that early.

Since then, though, the right-handed hitting, right-handed throwing second baseman has been turning heads on a consistent basis — whether it be at the Red Sox’ alternate training site or fall instructional league — to the point where he is entering the 2021 season as Boston’s ninth-ranked prospect according to Baseball America.

He’s also entering the 2021 season in better shape than he was in the fall, as he explained when speaking to reporters on Monday afternoon.

“In Pawtucket (alternate site) and instructs I wasn’t in the greatest shape,” Yorke explained. “Going into my first offseason, we made a goal to lose 10-15 pounds before I came back, and just focusing on that I came back and lost 25 (pounds).”

Yorke, who turns 19 in just over a month, is far and away the youngest player at Red Sox camp. While he may not be playing for a spot on the club’s Opening Day roster this spring, he is using this time to learn as much as possible by following around the likes of Enrique Hernandez and Xander Bogaerts.

“I’m working out with all the big-league infielders and just trying to be a sponge,” he said. “They’ve been in this game a lot longer than me, so I’m just trying to take what I can from them and piece this thing together.”

Cora himself echoed this same sentiment as well in regards when detailing why Yorke is at major-league spring training in the first place.

“He’s here to learn,” said the Sox skipper. “He’s here to be around big-leaguers and learn how to act in the clubhouse and be a professional, but you can see. He controlled the strike zone, controlled his at-bats.”

One thing that aided Yorke in his ability to control the strike zone and his at-bats on Monday was the fact that he did not let his nerves get to him, which is something the Red Sox coaching staff helped him with in getting him ready for in-game action.

“Once they said, ‘Play ball,’ I was ready to go,” Yorke said. “We haven’t been able to play on the field a lot the last year, so to get on the field, it’s just exciting. You get to go do what you love. I didn’t have a lot of nerves. It’s baseball at the end of the day. It’s just a game. I was just trying to go and have some fun.”

Listed at 6-foot and 200 pounds, Yorke is projected to begin the 2021 minor-league season with Low-A Salem, whose season is slated to begin on May 4.

For the time being, though, Yorke is looking forward to continuing to show what he’s got under the watchful eyes of Red Sox management these next few weeks in southwest Florida.

“Any opportunity they give me to touch a baseball field, I’m going to try to run away with it,” he said. “I’m very grateful for the opportunity and just trying to get better.”

(Picture of Nick Yorke: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)