The Red Sox wasted no time in bouncing back from their second shutout loss of the season on Tuesday by plating five runs on five hits in the first inning of Wednesday’s game against the Blue Jays at TD Ballpark in Dunedin, Fla.
Matched up against veteran starter Ross Stripling, a leadoff single from Kiké Hernández to begin things on Wednesday night proved to be the catalyst for an offensive outpouring.
Alex Verdugo followed by obliterating a hanging slider 391 feet to right field for his sixth home run of the season — a two-run shot — to give the Red Sox an early 2-0 lead.
J.D. Martinez made it a 3-0 game moments later when he mashed his 11th homer of the year to go back-to-back with Verdugo, while Christian Vazquez and Bobby Dalbec knocked in two more runs on an RBI groundout and RBI double, respectively.
With Garrett Richards leading the way on the other side of things, the Red Sox rode a productive first inning all the way to a 7-3 victory over the Blue Jays to snap a two-game skid and improve to 26-18 (13-6 on the road) on the season.
Hernandez finishes triple shy of cycle
Kiké Hernández’s leadoff single in the first not only proved to be the start of a solid day at the plate for the Red Sox as a team, but for Hernandez himself as well.
The 29-year-old homered off his former Dodger teammate in Stripling to lead off the top half of the second inning and later ripped a two-out double in the fourth for his third hit of the night.
Having already completed three-quarters of the cycle in his first three at-bats Wednesday, Hernandez was unable to see it through until the end as he flew out in the sixth and struck out swinging in the eighth. Still, a three-hit day is a three-hit day.
Richards improves to 4-2, lowers ERA to 3.72
Before even taking the mound at TD Ballpark for the first time on Wednesday night, Red Sox starter Garrett Richards was gifted a five-run cushion to work with.
The right-hander got off to a shaky start by walking the first man he faced and serving up a hard-hit RBI double to Vladimir Guerrero Jr before issuing yet another free pass, which led to pitching coach Dave Bush coming out for a mound visit.
That mound visit certainly proved to be beneficial for Richards, as he settled in nicely from that point on by stringing together five consecutive scoreless frames of work.
After punching out the first two hitters he faced in the seventh, Richards yielded a single to Reese McGuire, which would mark the end of his night.
Garrett Whitlock came on in relief of the righty and allowed the runner he inherited to score on a two-run home run off the bat of Marcus Semien.
That two-run blast closed the book on Richards’ outing, who wound up being charged with two earned runs on seven hits and four walks to go along with five strikeouts over 6 2/3 total innings pitched.
Though inconsistent with his command at times, Richards proved to be effective enough to pick up his fourth winning decision of the season while lowering his ERA to 3.72.
Of the 99 pitches (64 strikes), the 33-year-old hurler threw on Wednesday, 64 were four-seam fastballs, 18 were curveballs, and 17 were sliders. His next start should come against the Braves back at Fenway Park next Tuesday.
Vazquez homers for first time since April 7
After seeing his team’s five-run lead shrink to a three-run lead in the bottom of the seventh, Christian Vazquez got one of those runs back by crushing his third home run of the season a half inning later.
Whitlock, Ottavino, and Taylor close it out
As previously mentioned, Garrett Whitlock was deployed in relief of Richards and immediately served up a two-run shot to Marcus Semien before getting Bo Bichette to ground out to retire the side in the seventh.
From there, Adam Ottavino maneuvered his way around a one-out single in an otherwise perfect eighth inning, while left-hander Josh Taylor preserved the 7-3 win for his side by working a scoreless bottom half of the ninth.
Cordero’s exit velocity
While the likes of Kiké Hernández, Alex Verdugo, and J.D. Martinez stole the show offensively, Franchy Cordero also had a strong day at the plate, though the results may not show it.
Returning to the Red Sox lineup for the first time since Saturday, Cordero went 1-for-4 while batting out of the nine-hole.
Of the four balls Cordero put in play on Wednesday, two –a first-inning lineout and sixth-inning double — had exit velocities of 109 and 115.2 mph. His double was the hardest-hit ball of the night.
Next up: Pivetta vs. Matz
The Red Sox will go for a series win over the Blue Jays before getting on a plane to Philadelphia on Thursday night.
Right-hander Nick Pivetta will get the start for Boston, while left-hander Steven Matz will do the same for Toronto.
First pitch Thursday is scheduled for 7:37 p.m. eastern time on NESN.
Picture of Kiké Hernández and Alex Verdugo: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)