Red Sox set 26-man roster for ALCS vs. Astros: Darwinzon Hernandez, Hirokazu Sawamura added; Matt Barnes, Austin Davis left off

The Red Sox have released their 26-man roster for their matchup against the Astros in the American League Championship Series, which kicks off at Minute Maid Park on Friday night.

Boston’s roster for their second ALCS with Houston in the last four seasons will consist of 13 pitchers and 13 position players, as was the case for the American League Division Series against the Rays that the Sox won three-games-to-one.

Of the 26 players who were included on the Red Sox’ ALDS roster, two have been left off for the upcoming ALCS. Those two would be a pair of relievers in Matt Barnes and Austin Davis.

Barnes was not named to Boston’s initial ALDS roster last week, but was later added after fellow right-hander Garrett Richards had to be removed on account of a left hamstring strain.

Davis, meanwhile, was one of five left-handers to make the Sox’ ALDS roster alongside the likes of Martin Perez, Eduardo Rodriguez, Chris Sale, and Josh Taylor.

This time around, however, Davis has been taken off the club’s ALCS roster in favor of another southpaw in Darwinzon Hernandez. Barnes, on the other hand, has essentially been replaced by the right-handed Hirokazu Sawamura.

Neither Hernandez or Sawamura were active for the Wild Card Game or Division Series, so the ALCS will mark their first action of the postseason.

With that being said, here is the Red Sox’ full ALCS roster:

Pitchers (13): Ryan Brasier, Nathan Eovaldi, Darwinzon Hernandez, Tanner Houck, Adam Ottavino, Martín Pérez, Nick Pivetta, Hansel Robles, Eduardo Rodriguez, Chris Sale, Hirokazu Sawamura, Josh Taylor, Garrett Whitlock

Catchers (2): Kevin Plawecki, Christian Vázquez

Infielders (5): Christian Arroyo, Xander Bogaerts, Bobby Dalbec, Rafael Devers, Travis Shaw

Outfielders (4): J.D. Martinez, Hunter Renfroe, Kyle Schwarber, Alex Verdugo

Infielder/Outfielders (2): Kiké Hernández, Danny Santana

(Picture of Darwinzon Hernandez: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Chris Sale to start Game 1 of ALCS for Red Sox; Nathan Eovaldi will start Game 2 vs. Astros

The Red Sox have set their starting rotation for the first two games of their American League Series clash against the Astros in Houston.

Chris Sale has been named Boston’s Game 1 starter, while Nathan Eovaldi has been named Boston’s Game 2 starter, Sox manager Alex Cora announced when speaking with reporters from Minute Maid Park on Thursday evening.

Sale will get the ball opposite Astros left-hander Framber Valdez on Friday night to open up this best-of-seven ALCS while working on six days rest. First pitch is scheduled for 8:07 p.m. eastern time on FOX.

The 32-year-old lefty had made just one start so far this postseason, as he got rocked for five runs (all earned) on four hits, one walk, and two strikeouts in just one inning of work against the Rays in Game 2 of the American League Division Series at Tropicana Field last Friday.

While the Red Sox ultimately came back to trounce the Rays by a final score of 14-6, Sale’s struggles are still concerning considering the fact that they are prolonged in that he’s pitched a total of 3 1/3 innings in his last two starts dating back to October 3.

Still, if the situation had arisen, the veteran southpaw was available to pitch out of the Boston bullpen in Game 4 of the ALDS on Monday, but it did not.

That being said, Cora reiterated on Thursday that Sale will not be used as an opener, but rather as a traditional starter on Friday. Eduardo Rodriguez, on the other hand, will be in the bullpen for Game 1.

Following Sale on Friday will be Eovaldi on Saturday night. Eovaldi, who will be working on five days rest, will be opposed by Astros rookie right-hander Luis Garcia. First pitch for Game 2 is scheduled for 4:20 p.m. eastern time on FOX and FS1.

Through his first two starts of the postseason, the 31-year-old righty has posted a 2.61 ERA, a 2.88 FIP, and .559 OPS against to go along with 16 strikeouts to just one walk over 10 1/3 innings pitched.

The first of those two outings came against the Yankees in last Tuesday’s Wild Card Game at Fenway Park. The second came against the Rays in Game 3 of the ALDS in Boston on Sunday, meaning he Red Sox won both of those contests.

Among the 13 pitchers who have taken the mound for the Sox since the postseason began, Eovaldi leads the pack in innings pitched and strikeouts, cementing his status as the de facto ace of Boston’s pitching staff.

Over the course of a successful regular season in which he was selected to his first All-Star team and reached 10 years of major-league service time, Eovaldi only faced off against the Astros once. He gave up five runs — all of which were earned — on a season-high 11 hits, three walks, and five strikeouts to them at Fenway Park back on June 9.

Saturday will not mark Eovaldi’s first exposure to Minute Maid Park in a postseason environment, however, as the Houston-area native appeared in two games there for the Sox in the 2018 ALCS. The veteran hurler allowed a total of two earned runs in 7 1/3 innings pitched across those two outings (one start, one relief appearances) three years ago.

(Picture of Chris Sale: Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Red Sox to take on Astros in ALCS

For the second time in the last four seasons, the Red Sox will be taking on the Astros in the American League Championship Series.

After the Red Sox knocked off the Rays from the American League Division Series in four games at Fenway Park on Monday night, the Astros did the very same to the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field on Tuesday.

Boston walked off on Tampa Bay to to punch their ticket to the ALCS, while Houston trounced Chicago by a final score of 10-1 to advance to their fifth consecutive championship series going back to 2017.

With that, the Red Sox and the Astros are the last two teams standing in the American League, setting up a rematch of the 2018 ALCS that Boston won in a convincing five games.

At this time three years ago, though, the Sox had homefield advantage in that series. That will not be the case this year after the Astros won their division by finishing with a 95-67 record in the regular season.

Over the course of the regular season, the Astros won the season series against the Red Sox, 5-2. They took three of four from them at Minute Maid Park from May 31 through June 3 before taking two of three at Fenway Park the following week.

The Red Sox will presumably board a flight to Houston on Wednesday and participate in a workout at Minute Maid Park on Thursday before kicking off this best-of-seven ALCS on Friday night.

Here is the full schedule. Note that pitching matchups have yet to be determined:

Game 1 – Friday, Oct. 15, 8:07 p.m. eastern time — Red Sox @ Astros — FOX

Game 2 – Saturday, Oct. 16, TBA — Red Sox @ Astros — FOX or FS1

Game 3 – Monday, Oct. 18, TBA — Astros @ Red Sox — FS1

Game 4 – Tuesday, Oct. 19, TBA — Astros @ Red Sox — FS1

Game 5 (if necessary) – Wednesday, Oct. 20, TBA — Astros @ Red Sox — FS1

Game 6 (if necessary) – Friday, Oct. 22, TBA — Red Sox @ Astros — FS1

Game 7 (if necessary) – Saturday, Oct. 23, TBA — Red Sox @ Astros — FOX or FS1

(Picture of Hunter Renfroe and Christian Arroyo: Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Red Sox advance to ALCS on Kiké Hernández’s walk-off sacrifice fly in 6-5 win over Rays in Game 4 of ALDS

The Red Sox punched their ticket to the American League Championship Series for the first time since 2018 by taking care of business against the Rays and capping off a revamped version of Marathon Monday in walk-off fashion.

For the second consecutive night, Boston walked off Tampa Bay to come away with an enthralling 6-5, American League Division Series-clinching victory at Fenway Park. The Sox win the best-of-five series three-games-to-one.

Matched up against Rays rookie left-hander Shane McClanahan to begin things in the third inning, Christian Vazquez — Sunday’s hero — led off with a line-drive single and advanced up to second base when Kyle Schwarber drew a one-out walk.

After Enrique Hernandez flew out to left field to bring McClanahan within one out of getting out of an early jam, Rafael Devers made sure that did not happen, as he took the very first pitch he saw from the lefty and crushed a 404-foot three-run home run over the center field wall.

Devers’ second homer of the series gave the Sox a 3-0 lead, but they were not done there. Not with Xander Bogaerts singling and Alex Verdugo and J.D. Martinez striking for back-to-back run-scoring hits to add on and make it a 5-0 game.

With that sizable of an advantage to work with, Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez was able to settle in nicely and bounce back from his rough outing in the first game of this series.

In Game 4, Rodriguez allowed a total of two runs — both of which were earned — on three hits and zero walks to go along with six strikeouts over five-plus solid innings of work.

The left-hander began his day by taking a perfect game into the fourth inning before yielding a leadoff single to Randy Arozarena. He then got through the remainder of the fourth unscathed, but ran into some trouble an inning later.

On the heels of a leadoff double from Jordan Luplow and a groundout from Yandy Diaz that advanced Luplow up to third base, Rodriguez gave up his first run in the top of the fifth on an RBI groundout off the bat of Austin Meadows.

The Rays threatened once more in the sixth, as they knocked Rodriguez out of the game with a pitch count of 78 (57 strikes) after he surrendered a leadoff double to Kevin Kiermaier.

Tanner Houck got the first call from Red Sox manager Alex Cora in relief of Houck, but the right-hander only endured more difficulties when he served up a two-run home run to fellow rookie Wander Franco.

Franco’s blast trimmed Tampa Bay’s deficit down to two runs at 5-3, and after Josh Taylor tossed a scoreless seventh inning for Boston, they got to Ryan Brasier for even more in their half of the eighth.

Brasier — to put it simply — got rocked in his brief time on the mound Monday. The righty allowed back-to-back doubles to Mike Zunino and Kiermaier to make it a 5-4 contest before the dangerous Arozarena ripped a single to right field to tie things up at five runs apiece.

That sequence resulted in Cora turning to Garrett Whitlock, who put out of the flames of the Rays’ rally by retiring Franco, Brandon Lowe, and Nelson Cruz in order before hurling a 1-2-3 top of the ninth as well.

To that point in the night, the Red Sox lineup had squandered multiple opportunities to add on some insurance runs against a tough Rays bullpen, such as when Bogaerts grounded into an inning-ending double play in the seventh or Renfroe being gunned down at third base for the final out of the eighth.

With that being said, though, the Sox finally broke through against J.P. Feyereisen, and they did so by playing a little bit of small ball in the ninth inning.

After Vazquez led off with a single that just got through the left side of the infield, Christian Arroyo moved him into scoring position by laying down a well-executed sacrifice bunt.

Travis Shaw, pinch-hitting for Bobby Dalbec, advanced Vazquez up to third base on a four-foot infield single to set the stage for Hernandez.

With one out and the potential winning run just 90 feet away from scoring, Hernandez lifted a 300-foot fly ball to left field that was hit plenty deep enough to score the pinch-running Danny Santana from third to send the Red Sox to the ALCS.

Next up: ALCS begins on Friday

While the Red Sox have advanced to their first American League Championship Series in three years, they will have to wait to find out who their opponent will be.

In the other division series, the Astros currently lead the White Sox two-games-to-one, with Game 4 slated to begin on Tuesday afternoon in Chicago after Monday’s contest was postponed due to rain.

Regardless of who comes out on top in that series, though, the Sox will either be traveling to Chicago or Houston for the start of the ALCS on Friday since they are the lowest seed remaining.

(Picture of Enrique Hernandez: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

After starting Game 3, Red Sox’ Nathan Eovaldi told Alex Cora he’s available to pitch an inning in Game 4 of ALDS vs. Rays

Nathan Eovaldi may be less than a full day removed his most-recent start for the Red Sox, but that does not mean he wants to take any time off.

Coming off a solid performance in which he surrendered just two runs on three hits, eight strikeouts, and one walk over five innings of work in Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the Rays at Fenway Park on Sunday, Eovaldi has apparently made himself available for Game 4.

When speaking with reporters (including The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier) ahead of Monday night’s contest with the Rays, Sox manager Alex Cora said the veteran right-hander volunteered to pitch an inning of relief if needed.

In tossing five strong innings in his latest start on Sunday, Eovaldi needed 85 pitches — 58 of which were strikes. Between last Tuesday’s Wild Card Game against the Yankees and Game 3 of the ALDS against the Rays, the flame-throwing 31-year-old has posted a 2.61 ERA and 2.88 FIP to go along with 16 strikeouts to one walk over 10 1/3 total innings pitched.

Eovaldi’s postseason legend, of course, dates back to Game 3 of the 2018 World Series against the Dodgers in Los Angeles. On just one day of rest, he provided Boston with six impressive innings of relief before giving up a walk-off home run to Max Muncy in the bottom of the 18th inning.

While he was lauded for his effort and preserving the Sox bullpen for the remainder of the series, Eovaldi — having just thrown 97 pitches — came up to Cora the following morning and told him he was ‘ready to go’ for Game 4.

At that time, Eovaldi was on the cusp of free agency, leading Cora to respond to him by saying, ‘Your agent is going to kill me.’

Despite his request, Eovaldi was not used again in the World Series following the conclusion of Game 3. It’s unlikely he will be used in Game 4 of this year’s ALDS as well.

That being said, Cora did mention on Monday that the likes of Garrett Whitlock and Tanner Houck would be available out of the bullpen, while Adam Ottavino could be used to record more than three outs.

Eduardo Rodriguez will start for the Red Sox opposite Rays right-hander Collin McHugh to begin things on Monday. With a two-games-to one lead in this best-of-five series, Boston has a chance to punch their ticket to the ALCS with a win.

First pitch from Fenway Park is scheduled for 7:07 p.m. eastern time on FS1.

(Picture of Nathan Eovaldi: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox rolling with Eduardo Rodriguez for Game 4 of ALDS vs. Rays

The Red Sox have an opportunity to advance to the American League Championship Series for the first time in three years on Monday night.

After walking off the Rays in dramatic fashion in a 13-inning thriller on Sunday, the Sox are now just one more victory away from taking this best-of-five American League Division Series.

With a two-games-to-one lead in hand, Boston will turn to Eduardo Rodriguez to try to put the finishing touches on this series in front of what is sure to be a packed house at Fenway Park to cap off a memorable Marathon Monday in the city.

Rodriguez struggled in his last time out, as the left-hander surrendered two runs (both earned) on two hits, two walks, and one strikeout over just 1 2/3 innings of work Thursday’s 5-0 loss to Tampa Bay in Game 1 at Tropicana Field.

Opposing Rodriguez will be a familiar foe in Rays right-hander Collin McHugh, who — like his former teammate — took the loss in Game 2 by allowing three runs over 1 2/3 innings of relief in what would go down as a 14-6 win for the Red Sox on Friday.

In facing another righty on the mound to start things out on Monday, Sox manager Alex Cora has rolled out a nearly-identical lineup to the one he put out for Game 3.

Kyle Schwarber will once again lead off and start at first base while Enrique Hernandez will bat second and start in center field. Rafael Devers will bat third and start at third baset, leaving All-Star shortstop Xander Bogaerts to assume the role as cleanup hitter.

Left fielder Alex Verdugo and designated hitter J.D. Martinez make up the 5-6 portion of Boston’s lineup, while right fielder Hunter Renfroe, catcher Christian Vazquez, and second baseman Christian Arroyo round things out.

Vazquez, who came off the bench to replace Kevin Plawecki in the sixth inning of Game 3 on Sunday, went 1-for-3 with the biggest hit of the night: a two-run, walk-off home run in the bottom of the 13th that sealed a 6-4 win for the Sox.

With that being said, first pitch for Game 4 is scheduled for 7:07 p.m. eastern time on FS1. The Red Sox will not be wearing their yellow City Connect uniforms and will instead go with their alternate red jerseys.

(Picture of Eduardo Rodriguez: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Kyle Schwarber on tipping cap to Fenway Park crowd: ‘You’ve got to be able to make fun of yourself’

Well before Christian Vazquez walked it off for the Red Sox in thrilling fashion on Sunday night, Kyle Schwarber had quite the memorable sequence in Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the Rays at Fenway Park.

He later reminded everyone about the kind of endearing personality he possesses that has quickly made him a fan favorite in Boston.

“You’ve got to be able to make fun of yourself every once in a while and loosen the situation up,” Schwarber said following Boston’s 6-4 win over Tampa Bay in 13 innings.

Going back to the third inning Sunday, with the Rays in front by a score of 2-1, Sox starter Nathan Eovaldi got leadoff man Brandon Lowe to dribble a softly-hit groundball in the direction of Schwarber at first base.

Schwarber, in turn, fielded the ball cleanly, but overthrew Eovaldi on his underhand flip back to the first-base bag, which allowed Lowe to reach base safely.

An inning later, after Boston had taken a 3-2 lead, Schwarber found himself in a similar position when Ji-Man Choi led off the top half of the fourth by hitting another groundball towards him.

This time, however, the relatively inexperienced first baseman was able to hit Eovlaid in stride and successfully make an accurate, underhand flip to get Choi out at first base.

Upon recording what would normally be regarded as a routine out, Schwarber broke out into a celebration in which he pointed to the sky with both hands and pumped his right fist before tipping his cap to the Fenway faithful.

“That was awesome,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “That’s who they are. That’s what we do. Of course we wanted to make the first play, and after that he makes the play, and everyone was excited because he did it. He did what he did, and I think it was great. Sometimes we take this game too seriously, and you can actually not enjoy it. … Although we take it seriously, we also have fun with it.”

Leading up to Sunday’s contest, Schwarber had made just nine regular season starts and postseason start at first base after the Red Sox acquired him in a trade with the Nationals in late July.

The 28-year-old primarily played left field in his time with the Nationals and acknowledged that he still has room to improve at first base — a position he is learning on the fly, though he did show some gratitude towards Eovaldi for helping him out.

“Obviously being new over there at first base, you make the error, and Nate picks you up,” Schwarber said. “Unbelievable job by Nate. You go out there and make the good, old routine play and loosen it up a little bit.”

As Cora alluded to, Schwarber is someone who can have fun doing what he does while also understanding the importance of the moment, as he went 3-for-5 with a home run, one RBI, and two runs scored as part of Sunday’s win that gave the Sox a two-games-to-one edge in this best-of-five ALDS.

“You’ve got to be able to make fun of yourself,” said Schwarber. “It was a good time. I think I got a laugh out of pretty much almost everyone. It’s a game. Like you’ve got to be able to laugh at yourself.”

(Picture of Kyle Schwarber: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Christian Vázquez walks it off for Red Sox in 6-4 win in 13 innings over Rays in Game 3 of ALDS

With both teams presented with the opportunity to go up a game on their opposition, the Red Sox and Rays partook in an instant October classic at Fenway Park in Game 3 of the American League Division Series on Sunday that spanned more than five hours.

In the process of making some more postseason history, Boston held on for a 6-4 walk-off victory in 13 innings over Tampa Bay on Sunday night. They now lead this best-of-five ALDS two-games-to-one.

Nathan Eovaldi, making his second October start for the Sox after dazzling in last Tuesday’s Wild Card Game, put together yet another strong outing to add to his impressive postseason resume.

Over five solid innings of work, the veteran right-hander allowed just two runs — both of which were earned — on three hits and one walk to go along with eight strikeouts on the night.

Both runs Eovaldi surrendered to his former team came in the top half of the first, as he yielded a one-out single to Wander Franco before serving up a two-run home run to Austin Meadows on a first-pitch fastball.

While Eovaldi’s miscue put his side in an immediate 2-0 hole, a revamped Red Sox lineup was able to back their starter up.

Matched up against Rays right-hander Drew Rasmussen to begin things on Sunday, Kyle Schwarber instantly cut that two-run deficit in half. The left-handed hitter greeted Rasmussen in the bottom of the first by crushing a leadoff home run 390 feet over the Green Monster.

Schwarber’s second homer of the postseason made it a 2-1 game in favor of Tampa Bay, though the Boston bats struck once more two innings later.

On the heels of back-to-back singles from Christian Arroyo and Kyle Schwarber to lead off the latter half of the third, Enrique Hernandez stayed hot by lifting a game-tying, RBI single that brought in Arroyo.

Following a pitching change that saw left-hander Josh Fleming take over for Rasmussen, Rafael Devers broke the tie by plating Hernandez on a run-scoring single that left his bat at 104.9 mph and gave the Red Sox their first lead of the night at 3-2.

Eovaldi, meanwhile, was in the midst of a dominat stretch at the time Devers made it a 3-2 contest. After giving up the homer to Meadows, the righty settled in by retiring 14 of the next 17 batters he faced. His day came to an end as soon as he recorded the final out of the fifth, at which point he had thrown 85 pitches.

Of those 85 pitches (58 strikes) thrown by the 31-year-old hurler, 33 were four-seam fastballs, 23 were splitters, 19 were curveballs, six were sliders, and four were cutters. He topped out at 99.3 mph and averaged 96.9 mph with his heater.

After Hernandez tacked on additional run to his side’s lead and made it a 4-2 game by clubbing a 424-foot solo blast over the Monster off newly-inserted reliever Pete Fairbanks to lead off the bottom of the fifth, Josh Taylor got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen from manager Alex Cora to begin the sixth inning.

Taylor issued a single to Nelson Cruz in between getting the first two outs of the frame before making way for Ryan Brasier, who retired the dangerous Randy Arozarena to end the inning while also getting the first two outs of the seventh.

Austin Davis was then dispatched and ran into some trouble before getting through the seventh unscathed when he got Brandon Lowe to fly out to center field.

Heading into the eighth inning with a 4-2 advantage still in tact, Hansel Robles was next up out of the Boston bullpen. Robles, who last yielded a run in late August, was quite simply unable to hold the Rays down for long.

Wander Franco led the top of the eighth off by taking Robles 364 feet deep into the Monster seats to trim the Sox’ lead down to one run at 4-3. A double from Meadows and groundout from Cruz put the potential tying run at third base in the form of pinch-running Manuel Margot.

Robles did manage to keep Margot at third momentarily by punching out Yandy Diaz on a foul tip for the second out of the inning, but Arozarena — as he has had the tendency to do — did not let Robles escape easily.

On an 0-1, 92 mph slider on the outer half of the plate, Arozarena added on to his October legend by lacing a line-drive double to left-center field past an outstretched Hernandez that allowed Margot to easily score from third to knot things up at four runs apiece.

Robles, who was charged with the blown save, was immediately removed from the game due to a stomach illness — as he left the field with head trainer Brad Pearson — and was subsequently replaced by Garrett Whitlock.

Whitlock, in turn, stranded the runner he inherited by intentionally walking Kevin Kiermaier before striking out Mike Zunino to retire the side. The right-handed rookie also sat down all three batters he faced in the top of the ninth to hold the Rays at four runs.

The Red Sox, however, could not take advantage of this in their half of the ninth, meaning this contest headed into extra innings with a score of 4-4.

Nick Pivetta, in his first relief appearance since Game 1 of this series, gave up a single to the speedy Margot to lead off the top of the 10th. After he got both Cruz to Cruz to fly out, though, Christian Vazquez threw out Margot as he attempted to steal second base while Arozarena was at the plate.

Arroyo was able to keep his tag on Margot’s leg as he slid over the bag, resulting in a confirmed third out upon a brief replay review.

In the bottom of the 10th, with former Yankees closer David Robertson on the mound for Tampa Bay, Verdugo reached base via a one-out single to left field.

J.D. Martinez followed by barreling a 375-foot fly ball to deep center field, but it was one that was caught on the warning track by an awaiting Kiermaier. Hunter Renfroe then popped out to first base for the final out.

Pivetta, called upon again for the 11th, got himself in and out of trouble after issuing a leadoff walk to Arozarena. The righty allowed the speedy outfielder to advance to second on a stolen base that came after a strikeout, but followed by fanning both Zunino and Jordan Luplow to escape a potential jam.

That sequence paved the way for the Sox to finally break through in their half of the 11th, but they could not muster anything even after Arroyo ripped a one-out double down the left field line off of Robertson to put the winning run in scoring position.

Bobby Dalbec, who previously pinch-ran for Schwarber, whiffed on three straight strikes before Hernandez grounded out to Franco at shortstop to extinguish the threat.

In the 12th, Pivetta continued to impress, as the righty sat down the lone three batters he faced in the inning. With the chance to pick Pivetta up in the bottom half of the frame, though, the trio of Devers, Bogaerts and Verdugo saw a combined six pitches from Luis Patino in yet another 1-2-3 inning.

Back out once more for the 13th, Pivetta endured some late-game drama. With two outs and a runner at first, Kiermaier crushed a 381-foot flyball to right field that nearly left the yard. It instead bounced off the warning track and deflected off Renfroe before caroming into the Red Sox bullpen.

As a result, Kiermaier was rewarded with a ground-rule double, though he and the Rays thought it should have been ruled a triple that would have scored the go-ahead run.

Tampa Bay challenged the call and it was upheld, meaning Kiermaier had to stay at second base while the potential go-ahead run in Diaz remained in third.

Having yet to allow a run, Pivetta followed by fanning Zunino on four pitches to send this one to the bottom of the 13th still deadlocked at four runs each.

At long last, the Red Sox finally responded to Pivetta’s efforts while matched up against Patino.

Martinez flew out and Renfroe drew a six-pitch walk to set the stage for Vazquez, who originally replaced Kevin Plawecki back in the sixth inning.

On the very first pitch he saw from Patino, a 96 mph heater down the heart of the plate, Vazquez absolutely unloaded on it and sent it 394 feet into the first row of Green Monster seats to walk it off for the Red Sox.

With Vazquez’s walk-off two-home run to seal a 6-4 victory, the Red Sox are now just one win away from eliminating the Rays from playoff contention and advancing to the American League Championship Series.

All told, Pivetta tossed four innings of scoreless baseball in which he scattered three hits, struck out seven and walked one batter to pick up the winning decision on Sunday.

Next up: Rodriguez likely for Marathon Monday

Neither the Red Sox or Rays have yet to officially name a starter for Game 4 of this series on Monday, though Cora told reporters Sunday night that the responsibility would likely fall to left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez.

Monday will also mark the first running of the Boston Marathon since April 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so the Sox will have the chance to cap off a special day in the city by to closing out this series with their third straight win.

That being said, first pitch from Fenway Park Monday night is scheduled for 7:07 p.m. eastern time on FS1.

(Picture of Christian Vazquez: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

J.D. Martinez once again batting sixth for Red Sox in Game 3 of ALDS vs. Rays

J.D. Martinez made his impact felt in his return to the Red Sox lineup in Friday’s 14-6 trouncing of the Rays in Game 2 of the American League Division Series at Tropicana Field, and he did so while batting out of the six-hole.

Prior to Friday night, Martinez had never started a regular season game below the No. 5 spot in the batting order in his time with the Sox, but his first exposure to the No. 6 spot in quite some time netted extremely positive results.

Hitting behind Alex Verdugo and in front of Hunter Renfroe, the 34-year-old slugger went 4-for-5 with a double, a home run, three RBI and one run scored while starting at designated hitter. He was pinch-ran for by Danny Santana in the ninth inning.

Martinez did all that while still nursing a left ankle sprain, and with another right-handed pitcher in Drew Rasmussen getting the start for the Rays, he will once again be batting sixth in Game 3 of the ALDS on Sunday afternoon.

As was also the case with Red Sox manager Alex Cora’s lineup on Friday, the left-handed hitting Kyle Schwarber will lead off and start at first base in place of Bobby Dalbec. He will be followed by center fielder Enrique Hernandez, third baseman Rafael Devers, and shortstop Xander Bogaerts.

Verdugo, Martinez, and Renfroe comprise the 5-6-7 portion of Boston’s lineup, which will be rounded out by Kevin Plawecki and second baseman Christian Arroyo.

Plawecki will be catching right-hander Nathan Eovaldi to begin things on Sunday. The pair developed quite a bit of chemistry over the course of the regular season, which carried over into Tuesday’s Wild Card Game win over the Yankees.

Eovaldi allowed just one run on four hits and eight strikeouts over 5 1/3 strong innings while earning the victory in that outing, and he will look to do more of the same on Sunday opposite Rasmussen.

Rasmussen, one of two pitchers the Rays acquired as part of the trade that sent Willy Adames to the Brewers back in May, made his postseason debut for Milwaukee in last year’s Wild Card Series against the Dodgers. He tossed a scoreless eighth inning in Game 1 of that series.

As Eovaldi goes up against his former team, he will have the opportunity to get the Red Sox ahead of the Rays after the two clubs split the first two games of this best-of-five ALDS at Tropicana Field.

With that being said, first pitch from Fenway Park on Sunday is scheduled for 4:07 p.m. eastern time on MLB Network.

(Picture of J.D. Martinez: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Chris Sale will be available out of bullpen for Red Sox in Game 3 of ALDS

Red Sox manager Alex Cora had said on Saturday that the team was not considering moving Chris Sale to the bullpen on a full-time basis “for health reasons.”

Less than 24 hours later, and those plans have since changed, as Sale will be available out of the Sox bullpen for Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the Rays at Fenway Park on Sunday afternoon.

Per Cora, Sale is on board with the decision, though it is unclear if his transition to a reliever will last beyond Sunday since Cora “wouldn’t say if Sale would or would not be considered as a starter moving forward.”

The decision to move Sale to the bullpen for the time being likely comes as a result of the left-hander’s performance on the mound as of late.

Upon making his highly-anticipated return from Tommy John surgery in mid-August, Sale put up a respectable 2.52 ERA and 3.93 FIP to go along with 30 strikeouts to six walks over five starts spanning 25 innings of work.

Since testing positive for COVID-19 and returning from the COVID-related injured list on September 17, though, Sale has seemingly been less effective — with his two most-recent starts sticking out in that regard.

In last Sunday’s regular season finale against the Nationals, the 32-year-old southpaw lasted 2 1/3 innings while allowing two runs on four hits, three walks, and seven strikeouts on 62 pitches (37 strikes) at Nationals Park.

In Game 2 of the ALDS at Tropicana Field on Friday, Sale got rocked for five runs (all earned) on four hits, one walk, and two strikeouts before getting pulled after just one inning.

Needless to say, whether it be that his changeup had an expected batting average against of .332 or that right-handed hitters slashed .291/.363/.461 off him in the regular season, Sale certainly has some things to work on with very little time to waste.

Sale, as well as fellow lefty Eduardo Rodriguez and right-handers Nick Pivetta and Tanner Houck, will all be available out of the Red Sox bullpen behind Game 3 starter Nathan Eovaldi.

Boston will look to go up two games to one in this best-of-five ALDS with Tampa Bay, as first pitch Sunday is scheduled for 4:07 p.m. eastern time on MLB Network.

(Picture of Chris Sale: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)