Christian Vázquez catching Eduardo Rodriguez for Red Sox in Game 3 of ALCS vs. Astros

The Red Sox will look to celebrate manager Alex Cora’s 46th birthday by taking a two-games-to-one-lead over the Astros in the American League Championship Series on Monday night.

After splitting the first two games of this best-of-seven series in Houston over the weekend, the Sox have momentarily taken homefield advantage away from the Astros as the next three games of this ALCS will be played at Fenway Park.

In celebrating his birthday on Monday, Cora is rolling out a nearly-identical starting lineup to the one he used in Saturday’s Game 2 victory.

With another right-hander in Jose Urquidy getting the start for Houston in Game 3, Kyle Schwarber will once again be leading off and starting at first base for Boston on Monday. He will be followed by the red-hot Enrique Hernandez in center field.

Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, and Alex Verdugo make up the 3-4-5 portion of the Sox’ batting order, meaning J.D. Martinez will bat sixth ahead of Hunter Renfroe, Christian Vazquez, and Christian Arroyo.

Vazquez is the only one of these nine players who did not start on Saturday since it was Kevin Plawecki who caught Nathan Eovaldi. This time around, however, the 31-year-old backstop will be catching Game 3 starter Eduardo Rodriguez.

Rodriguez, who was named by Cora as Boston’s Game 3 starter on Sunday, has posted a 5.40 ERA and 1.97 FIP to go along with seven strikeouts to two walks through his first two starts (6 2/3 innings pitched) of the postseason.

The left-hander is a week removed from his last outing against the Rays in which he allowed two earned runs on three hits, zero walks, and six strikeouts over five-plus solid innings of work in Game 4 of the American League Division Series on October 11.

Earlier this season, Rodriguez faced off against the Astros twice within an 11-day span from May 31 to June 10 — with the first start coming in Houston and the second in Boston.

In those two outings, the Venezuelan southpaw surrendered a total of 12 runs — all of which were earned — on 13 hits, five walks, and nine strikeouts in 9 1/3 innings pitched. That’s good for an ERA of 11.57.

Urquidy, on the other hand, held the Red Sox to just one run on three hits, one walk, and nine punchouts over six innings of work in his lone start against them this year when he opposed Rodriguez at Minute Maid Park back in late May.

That being said, first pitch from Fenway Park on Monday is scheduled for 8:08 p.m. eastern time on FS1.

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

J.D. Martinez batting fifth for Red Sox in Game 1 of ALCS vs. Astros

The Red Sox have made some slight alterations to their starting lineup for Game 1 of the American League Championship Series against the Astros at Minute Maid Park on Friday night.

After batting sixth for all three of his starts in the American League Division Series with the Rays, designated hitter J.D. Martinez has moved up to the No. 5 spot in the Sox’ lineup for Friday’s ALCS opener in Houston.

While still recuperating from a left ankle sprain that he sustained in Boston’s regular season finale against the Nationals on October 3, Martinez — after being held out of action in Game 1 — went 7-for-15 (.467) with one double, one home run, four RBI, one run scored, zero walks, and one strikeout in the final three games of the ALDS, all of which the Red Sox won.

With left-hander Framber Valdez getting the start for the Astros to kick off this best-of-seven series, Sox manager Alex Cora has gone with a primarily right-handed heavy lineup.

Enrique Hernandez, a former Astro, will lead off and get the start in center field, while Kyle Schwarber will bat second and start at first base. Schwarber starting at first base means the right-handed hitting Bobby Dalbec will start Game 1 on the Sox’ bench.

Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, and Martinez make up the most dangerous portion of Boston’s batting order.

Those three will be followed by the likes of right fielder Hunter Renfroe, left fielder Alex Verdugo, second baseman Christian Arroyo, and — last but not least — Christian Vazquez.

Vazquez, of course, will be catching Game 1 starter Chris Sale, who will be looking to bounce back from a rough outing against Tampa Bay in Game 2 of the ALDS in which he surrendered five runs (all earned) on four hits, one walk, and two strikeouts in just one inning of work at Tropicana Field last week.

The roof will be closed at Minute Maid Park on Friday night. First pitch is scheduled for 8:07 p.m. eastern time on FOX.

(Picture of J.D. Martinez: Elsa/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)

Red Sox’ Kevin Plawecki expected to start over Christian Vázquez, catch Nathan Eovaldi in Tuesday’s Wild Card Game vs. Yankees

When the Red Sox take the field at Fenway Park for Tuesday night’s Wild Card Game against the Yankees, it will most likely be Kevin Plawecki — not Christian Vazquez — catching starter Nathan Eovaldi.

While Vazquez clearly established himself as the Sox’ top catcher this season by leading all major-league backstops in innings caught (1,051 1/3), Plawecki forged a better repertoire with Eovaldi over the course of the 2021 campaign.

Of the team-leading 32 starts Eovaldi made for Boston this year, 17 came with Plawecki behind the plate and 13 came with Vazquez catching him. With Plawecki, the right-hander posted a 3.28 ERA and .644 OPS against over 96 innings of work. With Vazquez, on the other hand, he put up a significantly higher 4.77 ERA and .766 OPS against in 66 innings.

“Those two have done an amazing job together,” Red Sox manager Cora said Monday in regards to the Eovaldi-Plawecki battery. “Nothing against Christian, but they have been good. I think that’s just the answer. You know, offensively, I think both have done a good job lately. You know, Kevin can catch up with the fastball, too. We know that.”

Though Cora did mention that Vazquez will be ready in the event that he is needed Tuesday, the decision to start Plawecki speaks to the level of confidence the Sox have in their backup.

Despite some defensive concerns, the 30-year-old veteran enjoyed another productive season at the plate in which he slashed .287/.349/.389 (102 wRC+) with seven doubles, three home runs, 15 RBI, 15 runs scored, 12 walks, and 26 strikeouts over 64 games (173 plate appearances) in limited playing time.

As Cora alluded to, Plawecki did have success against the fastball this season, as he hit .280 and slugged .410 while clubbing all three of his homers off that particular pitch.

Plawecki’s ability to handle the fastball should come in handy on Tuesday with ace right-hander Gerrit Cole on the mound for New York to start things off. Per Baseball Savant, Cole relied on his four-seam fastball more than any other pitch this season by turning to it more than 47% of the time.

In seven games — four of which were starts — against the Yankees this year, the right-handed hitting Plawecki slashed an impressive .313/.389/.563 across 18 trips to the plate.

Against Cole specifically, Plawecki is 1-for-3 with a single and strikeout, though all three of those plate appearances came back in 2015 — when Plawecki was a rookie with the Mets and Cole was still with the Pirates.

(Picture of Kevin Plawecki and Nathan Eovaldi: Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

Despite recent slump, Xander Bogaerts remains in Red Sox lineup for Friday’s series opener against Nationals

Xander Bogaerts may be in the midst of a prolonged slump at the plate, but he is once again starting at shortstop and batting third for the Red Sox in their series opener against the Nationals at Nationals Park Friday night.

Bogaerts, who is celebrating his 29th birthday, comes into play Friday having gone just 3-for-25 (.120) with a .185 on-base percentage and .120 slugging percentage over his last seven games dating back to September 22.

In Thursday’s crushing 6-2 loss to the Orioles, Bogaerts grounded into a pair of crucial double plays as part of an 0-for-3 showing at the plate that certainly did not help the Red Sox avoid their fifth defeat in their last six games.

“Just not getting it done,” Bogaerts told reporters (including’s Chris Cotillo) Thursday night. “The quality of my at-bats have been bad… just have had very unproductive at-bats and it sucks, bro. It sucks. I have three more games to get going and try to help this team try to turn this around.”

The Red Sox will need to get the most out of their All-Star shortstop in their final series of the regular season this weekend if they want to play postseason baseball. While dropping five of their last six contests, Boston has averaged just a little more than three runs per game.

With those struggles in mind, it appears as though Sox manager Alex Cora is looking to maximize his lineup’s offensive potential as they go up against left-hander Josh Rogers in the first of three against the Nationals in the nation’s capital.

That being the case because Cora is going with a right-handed heavy lineup — and is sacrificing defense in order to do so.

Enrique Hernandez will lead off while making his 43rd start of the year at second base and he will be followed by Kyle Schwarber in left field.

Bogaerts and Rafael Devers will bat third and cleanup at their respective positions, while J.D. Martinez will get the start in right field since there is no designated hitter at a National League ballpark.

Hunter Renfroe is batting sixth and making just his fourth start of the season in center field. He will be followed by first baseman and Christian Vazquez, who will be catching Eduardo Rodriguez.

Of these eight hitters, only Bogaerts (0-for-1), Devers (1-for-1), and Vazquez (1-for-2) have previously faced off against Rogers, who spent parts of the 2018 and 2019 campaigns with the Orioles.

In what could be his final regular season start in a Red Sox uniform, Rodriguez will be going for his 12th win of the year on Friday. The 28-year-old left-hander has made three prior starts interleague in interleague play this season and owns an ERA of 7.30 across 12 1/3 innings of work in those outings.

Friday will mark just Rodriguez’s second-ever start at Nationals Park. The Venezuelan southpaw previously pitched there on July 4 of the 2018 season and tossed six scoreless innings while scattering just three hits and one walk to go along with six strikeouts.

Considering the fact that Rodriguez, a lifetime .000 (0-for-23) hitter, will be batting for himself on Friday, it’s safe to assume he could have a relatively short leash if the Red Sox need some offensive production out of the No. 9 spot in their lineup.

All that being said, first pitch Friday is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Xander Bogaerts: Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Jarren Duran comes through with game-winning RBI single as Red Sox halt skid with 3-2 victory over Rays

After wrapping up their first losing month of the season on Tuesday, the Red Sox were able to open the month of September with a hard-fought 3-2 victory over the Rays at Tropicana Field on Wednesday night.

Chris Sale, making his fourth start of the season and fourth since returning from Tommy John surgery, was not at his sharpest while going up against his toughest opponent to date, but was still effective nonetheless.

Over six solid innings of work to set a new season-high in that category, Sale surrendered just two runs — both of which were earned on six hits, two walks, and two hit batsman to go along with three strikeouts on the evening.

In addition to that, the Sox gave Sale an early lead to work with in the top half of the second.

Matched up against Rays starter Drew Rasmussen, Alex Verdugo ripped a one-out triple to center field and was promptly driven in on an RBI single off the bat of Christian Vazquez.

Both runs Sale gave up, meanwhile, came on one swing of the bat an inning later, as the veteran left-hander served up a two-run home run to Wander Franco with two outs in the inning.

Besides that one blunder that put Boston in a 2-1 hole, Sale managed to maneuver his way around some traffic on the base paths to the point where he kept the Tampa Bay offense off the board over his final three innings pitched.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 95 (57 strikes) to set another season-high, the 32-year-old hurler did not factor into Wednesday’s decision, though this particular outing may be his most encouraging of the season thus far.

Moments after Sale’s outing came to an end, Vazquez continued to build on his productive night at the plate by demolishing a one-out, 389-foot solo shot off Rays reliever and former teammate Collin McHugh on the very first pitch he saw in the top of the seventh.

Vazquez’s sixth big fly of the season pulled the Red Sox even with the Rays at two runs apiece, and the score would remain that way for quite some time.

In relief of Sale, Garrett Whitlock got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen to begin things in the seventh and immediately gave up a leadoff double to Joey Wendle.

Wendle proceeded to advance to third on a fly out to center field, but also attempted to score from third on a sharply-hit ground ball to the left side of the infield off the bat of Randy Arozarena.

Rafael Devers, however, had different plans, as he — with the help from Vazquez behind the plate — gunned down Wendle at home to preserve the stalemate.

In the eighth, Whitlock was put into just about the exact same situation when he yielded another leadoff double to Franco, who moved up to third on a groundout.

Once more, though, the Rays’ base running bailed out the Red Sox, as Franco attempted to score on a grounder from Manuel Margot, but was instead thrown out at home by shortstop Jonathan Arauz.

Having halted Tampa Bay’s momentum in two consecutive innings, the Boston bats broke out in their half of the ninth, where Devers proved to be the catalyst by lacing a leadoff single off Pete Fairbanks.

Devers was able to move up into scoring position on an infield single from a hustling Verdugo, ultimately putting the potential go-ahead run at second base with two outs for Jarren Duran.

Duran, at that point, was 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts, but came through when it mattered most by sneaking an RBI single through the right side of the infield to bring in Devers from second to make it a 3-2 game.

Given a brand-new one-run lead to protect, Adam Ottavino got the call for the ninth, and he shut the door on the Rays by retiring the side in order to notch his 11th save of the season and secure the 3-2 victory for the Sox.

With the win, the Red Sox snap their three-game losing streak to improve to 76-59 on the season as well as 4-0 in games started by Sale. Their lead over the Athletics for the second American League Wild Card spot also increased to two full games.

Next up: Rodriguez vs. McClanahan

The Red Sox will send left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez to the mound on Thursday as they look to head back to Boston having secured a four-game series split with their division rivals.

The Rays, meanwhile, will turn to fellow southpaw Shane McClanahan, who will be making his 21st start of the season for Tampa Bay.

First pitch Thursday is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN and MLB Network.

(Picture of Jarren Duran: Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

Red Sox bullpen combines to walk 6 batters in 5-3 loss to Yankees in Game 1 of doubleheader

The Red Sox certainly had their chances, but lost their hold on a late lead over the Yankees and ultimately fell to their division rivals by a final score of 5-3 in the seven-inning day cap of Tuesday’s doubleheader in the Bronx.

Right from the jump, the Sox lineup had an opportunity to get on the board while matched up against Yankees starter Jordan Montgomery.

With one out in the top of the first inning, Hunter Renfroe ripped a line-drive single to left field. Following a Xander Bogaerts strikeout, Renfroe attempted to go from first to third on another single off the bat of Rafael Devers, but was instead gunned down at third base by Luke Voit to retire the side.

Tanner Houck, meanwhile, made his seventh start (and ninth overall appearance) for Boston after being appointed as the club’s 27th man earlier in the day.

Pitching just four innings, Houck surrendered two runs — both of which were earned — on five hits, no walks, and one hit batsman to go along with two strikeouts on the afternoon.

Both New York runs the right-hander gave up came in his second inning of work when he filled the bases by grazing Luke Voit and issuing a pair of singles to Rougned Odor and Tyler Wade.

Though he was just one out away from escaping the jam, Houck could not get out of it before yielding a two-run single to the Yankees’ No. 9 hitter in Andrew Velazquez.

That sequence allowed New York to jump out to an early 2-0 lead, but the Boston bats countered with two runs of their own a half inning later.

There, in the top of the third, Bobby Dalbec and Enrique Hernandez each reached base with one out and advanced an additional 90 feet on a groundout from Renfroe.

Bogaerts then came through by lacing a game-tying, two-run single to left field that brought in both Dalbec and Hernandez to knot things up at two runs apiece, but was thrown out at first base after rounding the bag to prematurely end the inning.

From there, Houck wrapped up his outing by retiring six of the final eight batters he faced, though he was pulled having thrown all of 58 pitches (39 strikes).

To kick things off in the fifth, Christian Vazquez snapped the 2-2 stalemate by crushing his fifth home run of the season off Montgomery, thus giving his side their first lead of the day at 3-2.

Vazquez’s first homer since June 27, which traveled 409 feet to left field and left his bat at 106.2 mph, very well could have paved the way for the Red Sox to run away with a win, but that was simply not the case.

Why? Because in relief of Houck, the Boston bullpen struggled mightily, particularly in the fifth inning.

Garrett Whitlock got the first out of the fifth rather quickly, then walked back-to-back hitters, which led to him getting the hook from Red Sox manager Alex Cora in favor of Josh Taylor.

Taylor, just back from a short stay on the COVID-19 related injured list, had control issues of his own, as the left-hander walked Joey Gallo to fill the bases before issuing a softly-hit two-run single to Voit.

Voit’s clutch hit was just out of the reach of Hernandez in shallow center field, but it was still good enough to give the Yankees a 4-3 lead. The pinch-hitting Giancarlo Stanton followed by drilling another RBI single off Taylor, providing what would prove to be an important insurance run in doing so.

Hansel Robles took over for Taylor with one out in the fifth, got out of the inning, and also got the first two outs of the sixth before fellow trade deadline acquisition Austin Davis came on to finish it without allowing a single run to cross the plate.

All in all, though, four different Red Sox relievers combined to walk six batters in just two total innings of work out of the Boston bullpen.

Despite those struggles, the Sox still had a chance to pull off what would have been an epic comeback in their half of the seventh.

With righty Jonathan Loaisiga on the hill looking to protect a two-run lead for New York, Kyle Schwarber, Vazquez, Alex Verdugo all reached base to fill the bases with no outs.

In that crucial spot, Bobby Dalbec was slated to hit next for Boston, but was instead pinch-hit for by the recently-acquired Travis Shaw.

Shaw, making his first appearance for the Red Sox in nearly five years, worked a six-pitch at-bat against Loaisiga, but ultimately flew out to left field without bringing in Schwarber from third.

Hernandez followed by getting ahead in the count against Loaisiga at 0-3, but the Yankees reliever battled back to punch out the right-handed hitter on six pitches.

Down to their final out, Renfroe went down on four pitches, meaning the Red Sox stranded three runners on base to seal a frustrating 5-3 defeat at the hands of the Yankees.

With the loss, the Sox see their three-game winning streak come to an end as they fall to 69-52 on the season.

Next up: Eovaldi vs. Gil

Boston will send right-hander Nathan Eovaldi to the hill in the night cap of Tuesday’s doubleheader at Yankee Stadium. New York will counter with fellow righty Luis Gil.

First pitch Tuesday night is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. eastern time on NESN and MLB Network.

(Picture of Garrett Whitlock: Adam Hunger/Getty Images)

Red Sox roster moves: Chris Sale, Christian Vázquez activated; Yacksel Rios, Connor Wong optioned to Triple-A Worcester

The first Sale Day of 2021 has finally arrived.

Before taking on the Orioles in the second game of their three-game weekend series at Fenway Park on Saturday, the Red Sox made a series of roster moves.

First off, ace left-hander Chris Sale was returned from his rehab assignment with Triple-A Worcester and activated from the 60-day injured list, while catcher Christian Vazquez was activated from the bereavement list.

Secondly, in order to make room for both Sale and Vazquez on Boston’s major-league roster, both right-hander Yacksel Rios and catcher Connor Wong were optioned to Worcester, the club announced earlier Saturday afternoon.

Sale will make his first start for the Red Sox in just over two years in Saturday’s contest against the Orioles as he makes his highly-anticipated return from Tommy John surgery.

After starting the 2021 season on the 60-day injured list on account of the fact that he was still recovering from Tommy John surgery, which he underwent last March (on his 31st birthday), Sale was first sent out on a rehab assignment with the rookie-level Florida Complex League Red Sox in mid-July.

In five rehab outings between the FCL Red Sox, Double-A Portland, and Triple-A Worcester from July 15 through August 7, the 32-year-old hurler posted a 1.35 ERA and 1.59 FIP to go along with 35 strikeouts to just five walks over 20 total innings of work.

Because Saturday will mark Sale’s first major-league appearance in approximately 732 days, the Sox will surely look to manage the seven-time All-Star’s workload effectively so that he does not overexert himself and remains in line to make his next start against the Rangers this coming Friday.

By activating Sale from the 60-day injured list, the Red Sox were able to utilize the open spot on their 40-man roster that was created on Friday when utility man Marwin Gonzalez was designated for assignment at the same time Kyle Schwarber was activated from the 10-day IL.

Catching Sale in his season debut will be Vazquez, who makes his return to Boston’s lineup after missing three days of action while on the bereavement list.

Vazquez, who will hit out of the eight-hole on Saturday, has caught Sale on 17 previous occasions. The veteran lefty has put up a 4.61 ERA and .763 OPS against over 84 innings pitched while the 30-year-old backstop out of Puerto Rico was calling the shots behind the plate.

With both Sale and Vazquez being activated, Rios and Wong wound up getting sent down to the WooSox.

Rios, acquired from the Mariners in exchange for cash considerations on June 14, pitched to the tune of a 3.70 ERA with 21 strikeouts and 14 walks across 20 relief appearances (24 1/3 innings pitched) in his first stint with the Sox.

Wong, meanwhile, heads back to Worcester after being called up in place of Vazquez this past Wednesday.

The 25-year-old catching prospect appeared as a defensive replacement for Kevin Plawecki in the eighth inning of Wednesday’s 20-8 rout of the Rays, and he made his lone at-bat count by recording his first career triple and RBI in the blowout victory.

Through six games spanning four separate stints with the Red Sox now, Wong has gone 4-for-13 (.308) with one double, one triple, one RBI, three runs scored, one walk, and seven strikeouts over 14 total plate appearances.

While it’s likely both Rios and Wong will be up with the big-league club once more before season’s end, the Red Sox will be taking on the Orioles without them on Saturday afternoon.

Sale, again, will be getting the ball for Boston, while right-hander Jorge Lopez will be doing the same for Baltimore.

Here is how the Red Sox will be lining up behind Sale:

First pitch Saturday is scheduled for 4:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Chris Sale and Christian Vazquez: Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

Red Sox place Christian Vázquez on bereavement list, recall Connor Wong from Triple-A Worcester

Before taking on the Rays at Fenway Park on Wednesday night, the Red Sox placed catcher Christian Vazquez on the bereavement list.

In a corresponding move, fellow catcher Connor Wong was recalled from Triple-A Worcester to take Vazquez’s place on the major-league roster, the club announced.

Per’s Christopher Smith, “it’s unclear how much time Vázquez will miss” on account of the fact that “the announcement was made approximately an hour before Wednesday’s game.”

Vazquez was not in Boston’s starting lineup for Wednesday’s contest against the Rays, as Kevin Plawecki will catch right-hander Nathan Eovaldi and bat out of the six-hole.

Plawecki has been hot at the plate as of late. The 30-year-old backstop is slashing a sizzling .448/.500/.552 over his last 10 games (eight starts) and 32 plate appearances dating back to July 24.

Wong, meanwhile, is back up with the Red Sox for a fourth time this season after previously being used as a COVID fill-in over the weekend in Toronto.

Across his three prior stints with the big-league club, the 25-year-old rookie has gone 3-for-12 at the plate (.250) with one double, two runs scored, one walk, and seven strikeouts over five games, three of which were starts.

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

Red Sox swept by Rays following 3-2 defeat; Boston extends losing streak to season-high 4 straight games

After Xander Bogaerts essentially described Sunday night’s series finale against the Rays as a must-win, the Red Sox came up short at Tropicana Field and were unable to avoid a three-game series sweep at the hands of their division rivals by a final score of 3-2.

Nick Pivetta, making his 21st start of the season for the Sox, took a perfect game into the third inning after sitting down each of the first eight batters he faced in order.

A two-out walk to the Rays’ No. 9 hitter in the bottom of the third, however, altered the course for Pivetta, as he saw his no-hit bid come to an end moments later by serving up a two-run home run to Brandon Lowe on a 3-2, 85 mph slider that was grooved down the heart of the plate.

Lowe’s blast put Tampa Bay up 2-0, but the Boston bats were able to cut that deficit in half in the top of the fourth. There, when matched up against tough Rays starter Shane McClanahan, ex-Rays outfielder Hunter Renfroe put a charge into his 16th big fly of the year.

Renfroe turned around a 2-2, 97 mph fastball from McClanahan and deposited it 427 feet to deep center field. The solo shot, which had an exit velocity of 104 mph, made it a 2-1 game in favor of the Rays.

The Sox had a chance to do more damage in the inning, with Christian Vazquez ripping a one-out single and Alex Verdugo advancing him into scoring position by drawing a walk, but McClanahan rallied by getting Kevin Plawecki to fly out and Bobby Dalbec to strike out to escape the jam.

Pivetta, meanwhile, got through a scoreless fourth inning unscathed, but ran into more trouble in the fifth when he yielded a leadoff single to rookie phenom Wander Franco.

A wild pitch from the right-hander allowed Franco to move up to second base, and old friend Manuel Margot took full advantage of that miscue by lacing a run-scoring single to right field to bring in Franco and make it a 3-1 contest in favor of his side.

Following that sequence, Pivetta was able to record the first two outs of the fifth, but his night ended then and there when Red Sox manager Alex Cora gave him the hook with the left-handed hitting Lowe due up next for the Rays.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 76 (54 strikes), the 28-year-old hurler wound up surrendering three earned runs on three hits, one walk, and six strikeouts.

In relief of Pivetta, left-hander Josh Taylor was called upon to face Lowe, and he won that particular matchup by getting him to pop out into foul territory to retire the side.

From there, recently-acquired reliever Hansel Robles made his Red Sox debut in the sixth inning, and he maneuvered his way around a leadoff single by inducing a fielder’s choice out and 3-6-3 double play in his lone scoreless frame of work.

The Rays turned to their bullpen starting in the seventh after McClanahan had given them six strong innings, and Verdugo greeted their first reliever of the night — Drew Rasmussen — by lining a scorching 111 mph double down the right field line to lead things off.

Verdugo moved up to third on a Plawecki fly out and scored on a wild pitch while Kiké Hernández, but even after Hernández himself singled and Rafael Devers drew a walk with two outs, a slumping J.D. Martinez was unable to bring in either runner and instead grounded into a force out to leave things at 3-2 in favor of Tampa Bay.

Following two scoreless innings of relief from Garrett Whitlock in which he scattered three total hits thanks to some stellar defense behind him out of the bullpen, the Red Sox were down to their final three outs going into their half of the ninth inning.

With righty reliever Matt Wisler on the mound for the Rays, Plawecki and Jarren Duran (pinch-hitting for Dalbec) grounded out and punched out, respectively. But Hernández provided a spark by reaching base on a two-out single.

The pinch-running Jonathan Arauz took over for Hernández as the base runner at first base, and Devers was able to advance him all the way up to third on another base hit to center field, leaving things in the hands of Martinez.

Very much in need of a hit, Martinez got ahead in the count against Wisler at 3-1, but swung at an outside pitch that likely would have been a ball before putting an 81 mph slider that was down and away in play.

Unfortunately for Martinez, the ball left his bat at just 71 mph and traveled a mere 226 feet before landing in the glove of Margot for the third and final out of the ninth, thus sealing a 3-2 defeat for the Sox.

In the process of getting swept by the Rays on Sunday night, the Red Sox went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position while leaving 10 men on base as a team.

Sunday’s loss also extends Boston’s losing streak to a season-high four consecutive games, dropping them to 63-44 on the year. They now trail Tampa Bay by 1 1/2 games for first place in the American League East after what was undoubtedly a crushing weekend.

That said, the Red Sox will be off on Monday as they prepare to embark upon the next portion of this three-city road trip in Detroit against a surprising 51-57 Tigers team led by Cora’s former colleague in A.J. Hinch.

Boston previously bested Detroit by taking the opening and concluding games of a three-game set at Fenway Park back in early May. The Sox outscored the Tigers, 28-22, in the process of doing so.

This time around, right-hander Garrett Richards will get the ball for Boston in Tuesday’s series opener at Comerica Park. He will be opposed by fellow righty Wily Peralta for Detroit.

First pitch Tuesday is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN. Red Sox will be looking to snap this four-game skid.

(Picture of Alex Verdugo and Hunter Renfroe: Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)