RECAP: Brandon Phillips Comes up Clutch with Go-Ahead Ninth Inning Home Run as #RedSox Finish off Sweep of Braves.

After taking the first two games of this interleague series against the Atlanta Braves over these last two days, the Red Sox looked to head into an off day with a three-game sweep to end their road trip on a positive note.

Making his seventh start of the season on Wednesday was Hector Velazquez, who entered the afternoon with a lifetime 3.38 ERA in two career relief appearances against Atlanta, both of which have come in 2018.

Tossing four full innings, the right-hander yielded just two runs on five hits and three walks to go along with two strikeouts on the day.

For as lousy as a start Velazquez got off to with the Braves tacking on two runs on a Ronald Acuna leadoff home run and Nick Markakis RBI single before a single out was recorded in the bottom half of the first, it was nice to see him settle down a bit.

After that disastrous first frame, the 29-year old buckled down and did not surrender a single hit to the final 12 Braves he faced in this one, as he worked his way around three walks along the way to a decent outing.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 57 (37 strikes), the Mexico native turned to his slider 33% of the time on Wednesday while topping out at 92.2 MPH with his four-seam fastball, a pitch he only threw seven times, in the fourth inning.

Although his ERA did rise from 3.24 up to 3.30 following this afternoon’s performance, Velazquez will look to build on a solid start to September in his next time out, which should come against the Toronto Blue Jays sometime next week if it’s in a starting capacity. If not, I would not be surprised to see him come out of the bullpen during this upcoming weekend series against the Houston Astros.

In relief of Velazquez, the Red Sox bullpen was responsible for the final five innings of Wednesday afternoon’s contest, and they did not really have an easy go of it.

Drew Pomeranz, who entered the day with a 2.93 ERA since moving to the bullpen earlier last month, was first out of the ‘pen to relieve Velazquez in the bottom of the fifth.

The southpaw came into the game with the score at 2-1 in favor of the Braves. By the time he departed, that one-run lead had inflated all the way up to five after Pomeranz could only record one out on a force out while technically allowing all six hitters he faced to reach base.

That was certainly not great, and the situation got even worse when William Cuevas, who came in for Pomeranz, allowed an inherited runner to score from third on a Tyler Flowers single to make it a 7-1 game.

From that point on, both Cuevas and Bobby Poyner held the Braves scoreless in a combined 2.2 innings of work before Brandon Workman made an appearance to start the eighth.

Just moments after his team rallied from a six-run deficit to even things up at seven runs a piece, Workman allowed the then go-ahead run to score on a two out, pinch hit solo home run from Freddie Freeman.

However demoralizing it was at the time, the Red Sox still made another successful comeback effort, and Workman ended up getting credited with the winning decision, his fourth of the year.

Finally, to wrap this thing up, Craig Kimbrel came in for the save opportunity against his former club with a fresh one-run lead to protect.

Despite a two out walk, the flame throwing closer rebounded by striking out the next and final batter he faced to secure both his 38th save and the team’s 97th win of the season.

On the other side of things, a Red Sox lineup absent of Mookie Betts, JD Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, and Ian Kinsler to begin things was matched up against Braves right-hander Mike Foltynewicz, who entered Wednesday with the fourth lowest ERA (2.80) among qualified starters in the National League.

Foltynewicz, 26, had already faced Boston once before this season, and he dominated with seven innings of one run ball back on May 27th in a 7-1 win for Atlanta.

Similar to that outing more than three months ago, the Braves hurler was at the top of his game again, as he allowed another lone run in another six quality innings of work.

That one run, though, was scored by none other than Brandon Phillips, who in his first game in a Red Sox uniform, had himself quite the day, and it all started with this wild sequence at third to plate Boston’s first run of the contest in the second inning.

Fast forward all the way to the top of the eighth now, with Foltynewicz out and RHP Dan Winkler in for the Braves, it was surprisingly Christian Vazquez who got a huge rally started with a leadoff single.

Three batters and two additional singles later, Blake Swihart trimmed the Red Sox’s deficit down to four runs with a two RBI double lined to center field.

Following a pitching change that saw left-hander Jonny Venters take over for Winkler, Andrew Benintendi picked up right where Swihart left off by lacing another RBI knock to score Jackie Bradley Jr. from third and make it a three-run game.

Steve Pearce, pinch-hitting for Mitch Moreland, made it a two-run game with a sacrifice fly to left field that was deep enough to drive in Swihart from third.

After Brandon Phillips reached first on a throwing error that also allowed Benintendi to advance to third, the Braves turned to their bullpen once again and out came former Oriole Brad Brach to try and get out of a sticky situation.

Greeted first by pinch-hitter Ian Kinsler, Brach could not sneak a 1-0 94 MPH fastball by Kinsler, as the Red Sox second baseman came through with the clutchest hit of the inning, a bases clearing two RBI double to pull his team even.

That would do it for the scoring in the eighth, and after the Braves jumped out to a brand new one-run lead in their half of the inning, it would all come down to the just called up Phillips in the ninth.

Down to their final out with Andrew Benintendi at first and closer AJ Minter on the mound for Atlanta, Phillips smacked the first pitch he saw, a 95 MPH fastball down the middle of the plate, and sent it 432 feet to left field. No doubt about it.

Phillips’ first big league homer since September 26th proved to be the most important hit of the afternoon, as it put the Red Sox up 9-8, which would go on to be your final score in this thrilling series finale.

Some notes from this 9-8 win:

From @SoxNotes: Brandon Phillips is the first player in Red Sox history to hit a go-ahead HR in the 9th inning or later in his debut with the team (source: ).

From @KNegandhiESPN: MLB teams were 487-0 when leading by 6 runs entering the 8th inning this season.. That streak came to an end as the erase a 7-1 deficit to beat the , 9-8.

Since August 26th, Ian Kinsler is slashing .361/.395/.528 with one home run and eight RBI in his last 10 games.

Finishing a seven-game road trip with a solid 5-2 record, the Red Sox will head into a much deserved off day on Thursday with 97 wins already under their belt.

Following the off day, the team will welcome the defending World Series Champion Houston Astros into town for a three-game weekend series at Fenway Park.

The pitching matchups for that series go as follows:

9/7. RHP Gerrit Cole (13-5, 2.86 ERA) vs. LHP David Price (14-6, 3.60 ERA)

9/8. RHP Charlie Morton (13-3, 3.14 ERA) vs. LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (12-3, 3.34 ERA)

9/9. RHP Dallas Keuchel (11-10, 3.46 ERA) vs. RHP Rick Porcello (16-7, 4.20 ERA)

For Price, Friday’s start will be the first in-game action he has seen since taking a line drive comebacker off his left wrist in his last outing against the Miami Marlins on August 29th, where he had to leave after only pitching three innings.

First pitch of the series opener against the ‘Stros is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET on Friday.

 

Brandon Phillips and Rafael Devers Both Set to Join #RedSox in Atlanta on Tuesday.

The Red Sox officially announced on Tuesday that infielders Brandon Phillips and Rafael Devers will join the big league club in Atlanta, with Phillips being added to the active roster and Devers being activated from the 10-day disabled list.

Phillips, 37, signed a minor league contract with Boston on June 27th after spending the first 16 years of his professional career with the Cleveland Indians, Cincinnati Reds, Atlanta Braves, and Los Angeles Angels, where he made three National League All-Star teams, won four Gold Gloves, and won one Silver Slugger.

In 44 minor league games this season, the former second round pick of the Montreal Expos is slashing .304/.348/.474 with five home runs and 26 RBI with both Low A Lowell and Triple A Pawtucket.

Known mostly for his time in a Reds uniform, the savvy Phillips will look to provide his new team with a boost off the bench for this final home stretch of the 2018 season.

Since he was added to Boston’s active roster this late into the year, the North Carolina native will unfortunately be ineligible for any postseason roster next month. But still, it should be fun to watch what he can do given the opportunity during these last 23 games.

Over his career, Phillips has played in just six games at Fenway Park, where he owns a .507 OPS in 26 plate appearances.

As the tweet above reads, Phillips will wear the number zero, meaning he will be the first such player in Red Sox history to do so.

On the other side of this news was the activation of 3B Rafael Devers from the 10-day disabled list.

Having been on the DL with a strain of the left hamstring since August 17th, there is no guarantee that Devers will get regular playing time. He has to earn it, according to Red Sox manager Alex Cora.

With the heavy volume of infielders currently on this team’s active roster in the likes of Ian Kinsler, Eduardo Nunez, Brock Holt, and now Brandon Phillips, it’s understandable why Devers may see his role diminish a bit over the next handful of weeks.

If he’s up to the task of playing at the level he did towards the latter half of last season though, then I’m sure he will still get regular at bats.

In his first full season in the majors, the 21-year-old is slashing .242/.298/.422 with 16 homers and 15 RBI.

First pitch of tonight’s game against the Braves is scheduled for 7:35 PM ET.

 

Ian Kinsler Headed to Disabled List with Left Hamstring Strain.

Not great.

After being removed from last night’s contest against the New York Yankees in the second inning, the Red Sox have announced that their new second baseman is headed to the 10-day disabled list with a strain in his left hamstring.

The injury appeared to happen in the bottom of the first, when after drawing a walk and stealing second base, Kinsler came around to score on an Eduardo Nunez RBI single.

While he was heading towards home, a replay of what happened showed that Kinsler was in some pain as he crossed the plate in the first.

A half inning later, he was out of the game, and by the time Alex Cora got to his press conference at around 9:30, a trip to the DL seemed pretty imminent.

Although the Red Sox are being cautious here, similar to the Chris Sale injury, it certainly is a bummer to lose a guy who just got here, especially someone who was going to be a full-time player over at second base.

In Kinsler’s place, the team has announced that infielder Tony Renda has been added to the 25-man roster from Triple A Pawtucket.

Renda, 27 and a former second round pick of the Washington Nationals in 2012, is in his first year with the Red Sox organization.

Most notable for being part of the trade that sent Aroldis Chapman from the Cincinnati Reds to the New York Yankees, Renda, a native of California, owns a big league slash line of .183/.246/.217 in 32 games with the Reds back in 2016.

Playing in both Double A Portland and Triple A Pawtucket this season, Renda owns a .928 OPS to go along with five home runs and 24 RBI in 47 games with the Sea Dogs and PawSox.

Capable of playing second and third base, I can’t imagine Renda will have that large of a role with the big league club.

Eduardo Nunez has done a fine job filling in at third base for Rafael Devers, who should return from the DL himself very soon, and Brock Holt is more than competent over at second base.

We’d usually see Tzu-Wei Lin get the call up in this situation, but he is hurt himself with bruised ribs.

Brandon Phillips, another former Red who hit a three-run walk-off homer for the PawSox last night, could have gotten the promotion as well, but the team decided to roll with Renda.

Dustin Pedroia has also been transferred to the 60-day disabled list.

First pitch of tonight’s game against the Yankees is scheduled for 4:05 PM ET, weather permitting.