The Red Sox bounced back from an ugly 10-2 loss on Friday and were carried by their bullpen en route to a 5-3 victory over the defending World Series champion Nationals on Saturday.
Chris Mazza made his second start and third overall appearance of the season for Boston in this one, as he was recalled from Pawtucket on Saturday in a roster move that saw Nathan Eovaldi placed on the injured list.
Working 2 1/3 innings while facing the Nationals for the first time in his career, the right-hander yielded three runs, all of which were earned, on six hits and two walks to go along with three strikeouts on the night.
All three of those Washington tallies came in the top half of the third, when after retiring six of the first nine hitters he faced, Mazza struggled to record a single out and instead allowed three runs to cross the plate on four hits and a walk before fanning Kurt Suzuki on five pitches, which actually marked the end of his outing.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 75 (46 strikes), the 30-year-old hurler turned to his slider and cutter a combined 70% of the time he was on the mound Saturday, inducing 10 swings-and-misses with the two pitches. He also topped out at 94 mph with his four-seam fastball, a pitch he threw 11 times.
Hit with the no-decision due to the length of this outing, Mazza could be a candidate to get another start next time through the rotation, which would likely come against the Blue Jays late next week. We will have to wait and see on that.
In relief of Mazza, left-hander Darwinzon Hernandez was dispatched with runners on first and second and two outs to get in the top of the third, and he got those outs while dancing around a bases-loaded jam in between two swinging strikeouts.
From there, Phillips Valdez stranded two runners and punched out the side in a scoreless fourth inning, and he also put two more runners on and recorded two more outs in the fifth before Austin Brice came on and ended the frame with the help of Alex Verdugo’s seventh outfield assist of the season.
Brice got the call for the start of the sixth as well and kept the Nationals off the board while leaving another two base runners stranded.
Josh Osich, Ryan Brasier, and Matt Barnes followed suit by combining to toss three shutout frames the rest of the way, with Barnes picking up his third save of the year courtesy of a seven-pitch groundout off the bat of Eric Thames to close out the ninth.
All in all, Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke used six different relievers on Saturday — Hernandez, Valdez, Brice, Osich, Brasier, and Barnes — and the six combined to twirl 6 2/3 shutout innings out of the bullpen. Not too shabby.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against another veteran right-hander for the Nationals in Anibal Sanchez. This time around, though, the Boston bats had an easier time of getting runs on the board, and it started right from the jump in the bottom of the first.
There, an Alex Verdugo leadoff single and one-out double from J.D. Martinez put runners in scoring position for Xander Bogaerts, who took full advantage of that opportunity by swinging away at the first pitch he saw from Sanchez, an 89 mph four-seamer above the strike zone, and crushing a 440-foot three-run home run to left-center field.
Bogaerts’ seventh big fly of the season, which had an exit velocity of 106.3 mph off the bat, gave his side an early three-run advantage.
An inning later, the bottom of the lineup got it done this time, as Kevin Pillar led the second off with a hard-hit triple and came into score moments later on a Jackie Bradley Jr. RBI groundout. 4-0.
Fast forward to the fourth, after the Nationals had stormed back to make things interesting at 4-3, Pillar struck once more, collecting his second extra-base hit of the night off an 0-1, 89 mph fastball from Sanchez at the top of the zone. It just so happens that this extra-base knock was hit 435 feet over the Monster and was good for Pillar’s fourth big fly of 2020.
That solo blast gave the Red Sox a two-run edge at 5-3, which would go on to be Saturday’s final score.
Some notes and observations from this victory:
From The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier:
Next up for the Red Sox, it’s the finale of this three-game weekend series against the Nationals on Sunday afternoon.
Right-hander Zack Godley will get the starting nod for Boston, while fellow righty Austin Voth will do the same for Washington.
Under normal circumstances, Godley’s rotation spot may be in jeopardy here seeing how the 30-year-old owns an ERA of 11.17 over his last three starts going back to August 12. However, Godley may be safe regardless of how he performs on Sunday since the Red Sox do not have a great deal of starting pitching options at the moment.
In nine career outings (five starts) against the Nationals, the South Carolina native has posted a lifetime 5.53 ERA and .884 OPS against over 40 2/3 total innings pitched.
Voth, meanwhile, is coming off a start in which he surrendered six runs in less than four innings of work at home against the Marlins on August 24.
The 28-year-old has never faced the Red Sox before in his career, but he does own a lifetime 3.52 ERA in six prior interleague outings that span 30 2/3 innings of work.
First pitch Sunday is scheduled for 1:35 p.m. eastern time on NESN and WEEI. Red Sox going for the series win to close out the weekend.