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)

Red Sox crush 5 homers en route to 7-4 win to finish off sweep of Blue Jays in Buffalo

An unplanned off day on account of inclement weather in the Buffalo-area could not halt the Red Sox from pouring it on against the Blue Jays on Wednesday night.

In the final major-league game to be played at Sahlen Field this season, Boston finished off their two-game sweep of Toronto with a 7-4 victory that was powered by five home runs from five different players.

Matched up against a tough opponent in Jays left-hander Robbie Ray, a right-handed heavy Sox lineup got things started in their half of the third after not recording a hit through the first two innings.

There, a hard-hit leadoff double from Bobby Dalbec set the stage as the lineup flipped back over, and a red-hot Kiké Hernández took full advantage of that by crushing a 434-foot two-run home run to left field off an 0-2, 95 mph fastball from Ray.

Hernández’s 14th homer of the season — and third of the series — gave the Red Sox an early 2-0 lead, but Rafael Devers tacked on another with his 24th big fly of the year to lead off the top half of the fourth.

While the Sox offense was getting it done by way of the long ball against Ray, Garrett Richards was in the midst of putting together one of his better outings of the season.

Making his 19th start of the year for Boston, Richards allowed just one base hit to the first 12 Blue Jays he faced, though Vladimir Guerrero Jr. took him deep to right-center field in the fourth inning to put an end to the shutout bid.

Michael Chavis was able to get one of those runs back with a solo shot off Ray in the top half of the fifth, while Christian Vazquez plated another on an RBI single that brought in J.D. Martinez an inning later.

With a 5-1 cushion to work with now, Richards appeared to be on his way to six clean innings as he recorded the first two outs of the sixth in simple fashion.

A two-out walk of Guerrero Jr. prevented that from happening, though, and the veteran right-hander faltered even further by serving up back-to-back homers to George Springer and Teoscar Hernandez, thus allowing the Blue Jays to trim their deficit down to one run at 5-4.

Having yielded home runs to the last two hitters he faced, Richards’ night came to an end with Red Sox manager Alex Cora giving him the hook in favor of Garrett Whitlock.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 82 (55 strikes), the 33-year-old hurler wound up giving up four earned runs on four hits, one walk, and five strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings of work.

Able to pick up the win to improve to 6-5 on the season despite raising his ERA to 4.99, Richards’ next start should come against these same Blue Jays back at Fenway Park next Tuesday.

In relief of Richards, Whitlock came on, got out of the sixth, and maneuvered his way around a two-out double in an otherwise perfect seventh inning.

From there, the Boston bats responded with back-to-back home runs of their own in their half of the eighth, with Martinez and Hunter Renfroe clubbing their 20th and 15th big flies of the year for some valuable insurance that gave their side a 7-4 edge.

Adam Ottavino followed by facing the minimum three batters in the bottom half of the eighth, and Matt Barnes — making his second half debut — shut the door on the Blue Jays in the ninth to secure the 7-4 victory and notch his 20th save of the campaign.

With the win — Alex Cora’s 250th with the team — the Red Sox improve to 58-38 on the season while maintaining a one-game lead over the Rays for first place in the American League East.

Santana suffers groin injury

Danny Santana was originally starting Wednesday’s contest in left field, but was forced to exit in the seventh inning because of a tight left groin he sustained while diving for a fly ball.

The 30-year-old was replaced by Alex Verdugo in left field and seems likely to be placed back on the injured list just two days after being activated from it.

Next up: Four against the Yankees at Fenway

The Red Sox will return to Fenway Park to open up a four-game weekend series against the Yankees that begins on Thursday night.

Right-hander Tanner Houck is slated to start for Boston in the series opener, while left-hander Jordan Montgomery is in line to do the same for New York.

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

(Picture of Kiké Hernández: Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images)

Garrett Whitlock on 2021 Red Sox: ‘We’re here to win’

It’s fair to say that Garrett Whitlock has quickly immersed himself into the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry.

As a former Yankees prospect who came over to the Sox by way of the Rule 5 Draft over the winter, that was probably to be expected. Still, Whitlock has seemingly exceeded expectations while serving a key role out of the Boston bullpen in his rookie season, especially when going up against his former club.

Sunday afternoon’s outing at Fenway Park proved to be the latest instance of that, as the right-hander was dispatched in the seventh inning of a 6-2 game in favor of the Sox.

Inheriting a situation in which the Yankees had put runners at first and second while only recording one out, Whitlock walked the first man he faced in Gary Sanchez, which brought the tying run to the plate in the form of one of, if not New York’s most dangerous hitter: D.J. LeMahieu.

On just four pitches, Whitlock struck out LeMahieu, getting the two-time batting champ to go down looking on a 96 mph sinker on the outer half of the plate.

Having cleared one hurdle, the next challenge for the young reliever was to retire the vaunted Aaron Judge, who had already gone deep off Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez the inning prior.

This time needing three pitches, Whitlock got Judge to pop out to first baseman Danny Santana in foul territory, thus putting out the flames by leaving the bases loaded going into the bottom half of the seventh.

When asked about what his approach was while going up against a hitter who has the ability to drive one out of the ballpark at any moment such as Judge, Whitlock credited his catcher, Christian Vazquez, for the preparation that went into that anticipated matchup.

“I was trusting Vazqy,” he said. “During our meetings, we knew exactly how we were going to attack him. So I trusted Vazqy and we just stuck to the approach and got some executed pitches and, luckily, he got out.”

The pitch Whitlock got Judge to pop out on was a well-executed, 84 mph slider on the outer half of the plate that the Yankees slugger got under with no real force.

The slider is a pitch Whitlock has been implementing more and more into his repertoire — especially against right-handed hitters — as of late to complement his fastball and changeup as well as add another dimension to his effectiveness. It has proven to be a useful asset thus far.

“It’s something we needed to implement against righties,” said the Georgia native. “Because, as you all saw, once the quote-unquote book got out on me, they were just taking the fastball to the opposite field, and that would make them on-time for the changeup.

“So with the slider, it adds a third speed and a different direction that the ball moves,” he added. “So it’s just something that to try so that the hitters can’t just sit fastball the other way and be on time for changeups. Now we’re just trying to be able to have a three-pitch mix rather than just two.”

After the Red Sox added to their lead in the seventh, Whitlock came back out for the eighth, worked his way around a leadoff single by inducing an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play off the bat of Gio Urshela to face the minimum, and later earned his sixth hold of the season in what would go down as a 9-2 win for Boston.

On the 2021 campaign as a whole, Whitlock has been more than impressive, as the 25-year-old rookie now owns an ERA of 1.42 and batting average against of .234 over 22 relief appearances spanning 38 total innings of work.

Against the Yankees specifically, Whitlock has essentially been lights out. Sunday’s performance marked the righty’s third appearance of the year against the team he began his professional career with, and he has yet to give up a run to them while scattering three hits and one walk to go along with six strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings pitched in those appearances.

This weekend also marked the first time Whitlock had the opportunity to pitch against the Yankees at Fenway Park, as his only outing against them earlier this month had come in the Bronx.

While taking the mound at either venue has proven to be nothing out of the ordinary for Whitlock performance-wise, he certainly appreciates having the support of the home fans when working at Fenway as opposed to Yankee Stadium.

“I would say it was a lot more fun today because this time the crowd was behind me, rather than cheering on me to not do good,” Whitlock said when asked about the atmosphere the fans created on Sunday. “Got to love the Red Sox faithful. That’s for sure.”

With a 9-2 win over New York, Boston improved to 6-0 on the season against their archrivals, having swept them twice this month alone. From 2019-2020, the Sox went a combined 6-23 when going up against the Yankees.

“Any time we get a win against anybody, it’s great,” Whitlock said. “But obviously, with the history between the Red Sox and Yankees, you love to beat the Yankees any chance you get. To take six of them so far this year, hopefully we take a lot more than just six.”

For someone who is just three months into his major-league career with the Red Sox, Whitlock is certainly establishing himself as a driving force for why the team has been so successful this year.

After being given just a 39% chance to make the postseason by FanGraphs prior to Opening Day, the Sox are nearly halfway into their 2021 campaign and are currently in possession of first place in the American League East with a record of 47-31.

As is the case with Whitlock, this year’s Red Sox — led by Alex Cora — have unquestionably exceeded preseason expectations, but don’t tell that to anyone inside the Boston clubhouse.

“We’re here to win. This isn’t just another year for the Red Sox,” said Whitlock. “We’ve got a competitive team and we’re trying to go out there every single day. We believe we can win every single day.”

(Picture of Garrett Whitlock: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Kiké Hernández delivers with go-ahead RBI double, Bobby Dalbec crushes 453-foot homer as Red Sox come back to take series from Yankees with 7-3 win

Kiké Hernández made sure to make his first hit in nearly two weeks count.

After not playing on Thursday or Friday, Hernández came into the weekend in the midst of an 0-for-21 slump and was dropped to seventh in Alex Cora’s lineup as a result.

In the eighth inning of a 3-3 game Friday night, Hernández came to the plate for the fourth time with two outs and Rafael Devers at first following a leadoff single with reliever Chad Green on the mound for New York.

On the fifth pitch he saw from Green — a 2-2, 95 mph fastball at the top of the zone — Hernández laced a go-ahead RBI double down the left field line that allowed a husting Devers to score all the way from first.

Hernández’s late-game heroics gave the Red Sox a 4-3 lead, but they were not done there.

Christian Vazquez followed with a run-scoring double of his won to drive in Hernández, while Bobby Dalbec put this one to bed by crushing a 453-foot two-run home run to deep center field.

Dalbec’s sixth homer of the season, which had an exit velocity of 115.6 mph to make it the hardest-hit ball of his career to this point, put the Red Sox up 7-3, which would go on to be Friday’s final score in the team’s series-clinching victory over the Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

Five straight hits in the sixth

Before the eighth-inning rally, Boston put up their first three runs of the night earlier in their half of the sixth.

There, five straight one-out hits courtesy of Alex Verdugo, Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, Hunter Renfroe resulted in some serious offensive production, with Devers driving in a pair off Yankees starter Jameson Taillon on a two-run single and Gonzalez plating Devers on yet another run-scoring double off reliever Jonathan Loaisiga.

That little outburst gave the Sox a 3-2 lead going into the middle of the sixth inning.

Rodriguez’s no-decision

Eduardo Rodriguez made his 11th start of the season for the Red Sox on Friday. The left-hander took a perfect game into the third inning before giving up back-to-back two-out singles, though nothing came of it.

The fourth inning, however, was a different story for Rodriguez, as he served up a two-run blast to Gleyber Torres to give the Yankees their first lead of the night at 2-0.

Rodriguez ran into some more trouble in the sixth when he issued a one-out walk to Aaron Judge and yielded a ground-rule double to Gio Urshela to put runners in scoring position. With Torres due to hit next for New York, Rodriguez’s outing came to a close.

Garrett Whitlock was deployed from the Red Sox bullpen to replace Rodriguez, and he allowed one of the runners he inherited to score on a sacrifice fly before ending the inning.

With that third run being charged to Rodriguez, the 28-year-old hurler finished the day having surrendered three earned runs on one walk and seven strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings of work on 88 pitches — 55 of which were strikes.

Able to lower his ERA on the season to 5.59 despite not being involved in the decision, his next start should come against the Astros back at Fenway Park on Thursday.

Whitlock and Ottavino impress against former organization

Whitlock, who the Red Sox selected from the Yankees in the 2020 Rule 5 Draft, came back out for the seventh inning after finishing things in the sixth.

Facing off against the team that selected him in the 18th round of the 2017 draft, the right-hander wound up facing the minimum three batters in the seventh by inducing an inning-ending double play off the bat of Gary Sanchez.

Adam Ottavino, meanwhile, had spent the previous two seasons with the Yankees prior to getting traded to the Red Sox over the winter.

In his first appearance at Yankee Stadium since that trade went down, the Brooklyn native continued the dominating run he has been on of late by sitting down the only three hitters he faced in order in the bottom half of the eighth.

Workman struggles with walks, which leads to Barnes closing it out

From there, the Sox had already jumped out to a late 7-3 lead and turned to Brandon Workman to wrap things up.

Workman, making his second appearance out of the Boston bullpen since re-joining the club on Thursday, got the first two outs of the ninth rather easily, but then proceeded to walk the next two Yankees who came to the plate.

That resulted in Cora making the call for closer Matt Barnes, who fanned the lone hitter he faced on five pitches to secure the 7-3 win for his side and notch his 14th save of the season.

With the 7-3 triumph, the Red Sox guarantee their first series victory in the Bronx since the 2018 ALDS. They also pick up their third straight win to improve to 35-23 and remain within a game of the Tampa Bay Rays for first place in the American League East.

Next up: Richards looks to complete the sweep

The Red Sox will send right-hander Garrett Richards to the hill on Sunday night as they look to complete the sweep against their divisional foes.

The Yankees will be going with fellow righty Domingo German as they look to avoid a three-game sweep.

First pitch Sunday is scheduled for 7:08 p.m. eastern time on ESPN.

(Picture of Kiké Hernández: Richard Schultz/Getty Images)

Red Sox commit 2 costly errors, fail to get anything going offensively in 5-1 loss to Astros

The Red Sox were within striking distance of the Astros heading into the bottom of the seventh inning at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday night.

Trailing by a run at 2-1, Hirokazu Sawamura came on for Garrett Richards and yielded a leadoff single to Kyle Tucker. A Rafael Devers fielding error on a Chas McCormick groundball put runners at first and second with no outs.

Sawamura proceeded by inducing another grounder off the bat of Myles Straw, one that was hit directly to Xander Bogaerts for what looked to be the start of a huge 6-4-3 double play.

Bogaerts fielded the ball cleanly and made a routine toss to Marwin Gonzalez, who misfired on his throw to first base that got past a sprawling Danny Santana and allowed Tucker to score easily.

A five-pitch walk of Martin Maldonado, a wild pitch, and an intentional walk of Jose Altuve loaded the bases as Red Sox manager Alex Cora made the switch from Sawamura to Garrett Whitlock.

Making his first appearance out of the bullpen in a week, Whitlock issued a free pass to the first man he faced to bring in another run before Yordan Alvarez tapped an infield single off him to plate an additional run and make it a 5-1 game.

What transpired in the seventh inning on Tuesday was what ultimately did the Red Sox in. By falling to Houston by a final score of 5-1, Boston drops back down to 32-22 (16-9) on the season. They remain two games back of the Rays for first place in the American League East.

Richards provides six solid innings

Garrett Richards made his 11th start of the season for the Red Sox and put together yet another strong showing.

Despite dealing with his fair share of traffic on the base paths, the right-hander surrendered just two earned runs on four hits, four walks, and five strikeouts over six innings of work.

The first of the two Astros runs Richards gave up came on a towering solo home run from Jose Altuve right away in the first inning. The second came on a sacrifice fly from Chas McCormick after Richards served up a leadoff double and followed with a four-pitch walk later in the bottom half of the fourth.

Besides that, the 33-year-old hurler was able to retire six of the final seven Astros he faced to get through six full innings.

Despite lowering his ERA on the season down to 3.75, Richards was charged with his fourth loss and is now 4-4. His next start should come against the Yankees in the Bronx on Sunday night.

Red Sox’ offensive woes continue

For the second straight day, the Red Sox lineup was held in check at Minute Maid Park. Boston was once again limited to five hits while managing to push across just one run against Astros rookie starter Luis Garcia.

Hunter Renfroe sparked the lone offensive output of the night with a leadoff double in the fifth, marking his fifth consecutive game with an extra-base hit. Danny Santana advanced Renfroe to third on a single moments later, and it appeared as though the Sox were ready to pounce.

Christian Vazquez failed to advance either runner by popping out to the infield, Marwin Gonzalez plated Renfroe on an RBI groundout, and Enrique Hernandez also popped out to extinguish the threat.

From there, an Alex Verdugo leadoff single and Vazquez two-out single in the seventh went for naught as Garcia made it through seven complete innings for the first time in his young career.

The Astros bullpen took over in relief of Garcia and preserved the one-run effort by tossing a pair of scoreless frames in the eighth and ninth.

Next up: Pivetta vs. Valdez

Wednesday’s starting pitching matchup between the Red Sox and Astros will feature a pair of right-hander and a left-hander, with righty Nick Pivetta getting the ball for Boston and southpaw Framber Valdez doing the same for Houston.

Pivetta will look to play the role as the stopper with the Sox looking to halt a two-game skid and get back in the win column.

First pitch Wednesday is scheduled for 8:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN and ESPN.

(Picture of Garrett Richards: Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Red Sox held to just 3 hits by Charlie Morton in 3-1 loss to Braves

The Red Sox had an opportunity to get to Charlie Morton early on Tuesday night at Fenway Park, but were unable to truly capitalize against the veteran right-hander.

With the bases loaded and no outs in the bottom of the first, Xander Bogaerts struck out on five pitches, Rafael Devers managed to drive in a run by getting hit by a pitch, and Christian Vazquez lined into a deflating inning-ending 6-4 double play.

In the second, the Sox again were presented with a chance to put something together off Morton, as Danny Santana led off with a triple and Hunter Renfroe drew a walk to put runners on the corners with no outs.

Despite having yet another opportunity to jump out to a commanding lead, Bobby Dalbec struck out swinging on three pitches, while Enrique Hernandez grounded into an inning-ending, 4-6-3 twin killing to get Morton out of a jam.

From that point forward, Morton — like quality starting pitchers do — settled in nicely for Atlanta by sitting down 15 of the final 16 Red Sox hitters he faced from the middle of the third until the end of the seventh.

The Braves bullpen took over in the eighth and kept the scoreless stretch going, with Edgar Santana working a scoreless bottom of the eighth and closer Will Smith tossing a 1-2-3 ninth inning to secure what goes down as a 3-1 loss for the Sox.

All in all, Boston went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position on Tuesday and left five runners on base as a team.

With the defeat, their second straight overall, the Red Sox fall to 29-20 on the season and an even 13-13 at Fenway Park. They still trail the Rays by a half-game for first place in the American League East.

Richards grinds through 5 2/3 innings

Garrett Richards made his 10th start of the season for the Red Sox on Tuesday night, and while he was not particularly sharp in this one, he did pitch well enough to keep his team in the game.

Over 5 2/3 innings of work, the veteran right-hander yielded three runs on six hits and four walks to go along with four strikeouts on the night.

For Richards, it’s his second straight outing with at least four walks, and one of those free passes proved to be costly.

With no outs in the third inning, Richards issued a seven-pitch walk to William Contreras — Atlanta’s No. 9 hitter, which would prove to be harbinger of unfortunate things to come.

That being the case because the Braves tacked on their first two runs of the night on an RBI double off the bat of Marcell Ozuna and a run-scoring fielder’s choice in which Ozzie Albies drove in Freddie Freeman from third base.

The third inning could have ben even worse for Richards had Enrique Hernandez, while fielding the groundball from Albies, made a heads-up play by gunning down Ozuna at third base for the second out of the frame.

After getting through the fourth and fifth unscathed, Richards again walked Contreras, this time with two outs in the sixth, which would mark the end of his outing with the Braves lineup turning over.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 97 (59 strikes), the 32-year-old hurler relied on his four-seam fastball 69% of the time he was on the mound Tuesday, inducing eight swings-and-misses while topping out at 96.7 mph with the pitch.

Eventually falling to 4-3 on the season while raising his ERA to 3.83, Richards’ next start should come against the Astros in Houston next Monday.

Red Sox bullpen takes over

In relief of Richards, Hirokazu Sawamura got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen, and he allowed one of the runners he inherited to score on a sharply-hit Ronald Acuna Jr. RBI double before putting together 1 1/3 scoreless innings through the middle of the seventh.

From there, Garrett Whitlock also kept the Braves off the scoreboard while sitting down six of the seven hitters he faced over the eighth and ninth innings to keep his side’s deficit at two runs.

Sandoval notches three hits in Fenway return

While the Red Sox lineup struggled to get anything going on Tuesday, old friend Pablo Sandoval did not.

The former Boston third baseman — in his first game back at Fenway Park since being released by the club in July 2017 — enjoyed a 3-for-4 day at the plate in which he collected three singles and scored one run.

Next up: Pivetta vs. Smyly

Wednesday’s pitching matchup between the Red Sox and Braves will feature a pair of former Phillies toeing the rubber for their respective clubs.

Right-hander Nick Pivetta will get the ball for Boston, and he will be opposed by left-hander Drew Smyly for Atlanta.

First pitch Wednesday is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN. Red Sox will be going for the series split.

(Picture of Christian Vazquez: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Homers from Kiké Hernández, Alex Verdugo, J.D. Martinez, and Christian Vázquez power Red Sox to 7-3 win over Blue Jays

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)

Rule 5 picks Tyreque Reed (1.166 OPS at High-A), Kaleb Ort (0.00 ERA at Triple-A) among early Red Sox minor-league standouts

Back in December, the Red Sox selected right-hander Garrett Whitlock from the Yankees in the major-league phase of the 2020 Rule 5 Draft.

Since arriving in Fort Myers for the start of spring training in February, Whitlock has done nothing but impress in his time in a Red Sox uniform to this point.

Through his first 10 appearances out of Boston’s bullpen this season, the 24-year-old rookie owns an ERA of 1.77 and an xFIP of 2.92 in addition to 21 strikeouts to just three walks over 20 1/3 innings of work.

To say that Whitlock — who had not pitched above Double-A and underwent Tommy John surgery in July 2019 before joining the Red Sox — has been one of the club’s biggest and brightest surprises this year would be an understatement.

Having said that, though, Whitlock is not the only player the Sox selected in last December’s Rule 5 Draft that has gotten his 2021 campaign off to an impressive start.

In addition to taking Whitlock, Boston also selected first baseman Tyreque Reed from the Rangers and right-hander Kaleb Ort from the Yankees in the minor-league phase of the draft.

Reed, who turns 24 next month, is a former 2017 eighth-round draft pick who played for three Texas affiliates over three seasons before joining the Red Sox organization over the winter.

Known for his power, Reed — listed at 6-foot-1 and 250 pounds — has been crushing the ball with High-A Greenville so far this spring.

Over his first eight games with the Drive, the right-handed hitter is slashing .240/.406/760 with four home runs, nine RBI, nine runs scored, and five walks in 32 trips to the plate.

His latest home run was a walk-off piece that gave Greenville a 10-9 win over the Brooklyn Cyclones at Fluor Field on Sunday.

Among the top hitters in the High-A East (formerly the South Atlantic League), Reed ranks second in homers, 10th in RBI, 11th in on-base percentage, second in slugging percentage, and second in OPS (1.166).

The Mississippi native has also struck out in 25% of his plate appearances, which he has shown the tendency to do. But by getting on-base at a solid .406 clip, Reed has proven to be effective at the plate thus far, as evidenced by his early 207 wRC+.

“Power bat,” Red Sox vice president of pro scouting Gus Quattlebaum said of Reed this past December. “Big, physical right-handed hitting first baseman with big, big power that you see not only with the scout’s naked eye but also with the batted ball data. There’s a propensity from some strikeouts. We know he’s not immune to that. We really believe in the power potential. We’re really excited to bring him into the organization.”

Kaleb Ort, meanwhile, was selected by the Red Sox in the minor-league portion of the 2020 Rule 5 Draft after spending the previous four seasons as a member of the Yankees organization.

Unlike Reed, Ort was not drafted out of college and instead began his professional career in the Frontier League (independent) before signing as an undrafted free-agent with the Diamondbacks in 2016.

After being cut by Arizona the following spring, the Michigan native returned to the Frontier League before signing with New York in May 2017.

While with the Yankees, Ort appeared in a total of 90 games across five levels between 2017-2019 prior to getting scooped up by the Red Sox in December.

After receiving an invite to big-league camp in February, the 6-foot-4, 233 pound hurler opened the 2021 season at the Sox’ alternate training site and later Triple-A Worcester.

In six appearances out of the WooSox’ bullpen thus far, the 29-year-old has been lights out, as he has allowed just one unearned run on three hits and no walks to go along with nine strikeouts over six innings pitched. He has also converted four of a possible four save opportunities in the process of emerging as Worcester’s primary closer.

“Kaleb Ort is a guy who has really stood out to me, he took the closer role and ran with it,” WooSox pitching coach Paul Abbott recently told MassLive.com’s Katie Morrison. “He’s come in and slammed the door without really any threat of a hiccup at all. He’s throwing strikes, aggressive, and he’s been impressive.”

Per his SoxProspects.com scouting report, Ort works with a two-pitch mix that consists of a mid-90s fastball that can top out at 98 mph and a slider.

That two-pitch mix has proven to be a potent combination for the righty reliever thus far, as he is holding opponents to a .150 batting average against while boasting a 40.9% strikeout rate, a 0.89 FIP, and a 2.20 xFIP.

What Ort has been doing in Worcester has caught the attention of Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who got to first know him earlier this year during spring training.

“He’s a good one,” Cora said before Tuesday’s game against the Blue Jays . “His stuff plays. I really like what I saw. Velocity got better in spring training and he was throwing the ball well down there. He’s a guy we’re looking at, obviously, for the right reasons. We’re very excited with what he’s doing, what he did in spring training and what he can do, probably, in the future.”

With that, it sounds as though Ort could garner big-league consideration at some point this season if he continues to turn heads while closing out games for the WooSox.

Because the 2021 minor-league season is less than two full weeks old, it’s no sure thing that either one of Reed or Ort will be able to keep up with the level at which they are performing at at the moment.

Still, what these two Red Sox minor-league Rule 5 picks have done in their first month with their new organization has been eye-opening to say the least. If they can keep it up over the course of the summer will be something worth monitoring for sure.

(Picture of Kaleb Ort: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox activate Garrett Whitlock from COVID-19 related injured list, option Colten Brewer to Triple-A Worcester

Before wrapping up their three-game series against the Angels on Sunday, the Red Sox activated right-hander Nick Pivetta from the COVID-19 related injured list.

In a corresponding move, right-handed reliever Colten Brewer was optioned to Triple-A Worcester, the team announced earlier Sunday.

Whitlock was originally placed on the COVID IL on Saturday due to side effects from vaccination. He wound up only missing one game on account of feeling under the weather after receiving the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Through 10 appearances out of the Boston bullpen this season, the 24-year-old rookie has posted a 1.77 ERA, a 2.92 FIP, and a 21:3 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 20 1/3 innings pitched.

Per MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, “Whitlock will be available out of the bullpen in Sunday’s series finale but is unlikely to pitch after throwing three innings Thursday night against Oakland.”

Brewer, meanwhile, was not used in the brief amount of time he was up with the Red Sox this weekend after beginning the year in the WooSox’ bullpen.

The 28-year-old hurler has compiled a 4.59 ERA, a 5.14 FIP, and a 77:48 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 69 total appearances (four starts) and 80 1/3 innings pitched in parts of two seasons with Boston since coming over from the Padres in a November 2018 trade.

(Picture of Garrett Whitlock: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox place Garrett Whitlock on COVID-19 related injured list (side effects from vaccination), recall Colten Brewer from Triple-A Worcester

Before taking on the Angels in the second game of a three-game series at Fenway Park Saturday afternoon, the Red Sox placed right-hander Garrett Whitlock on the COVID-19 related injured list due to side effects from vaccination.

In a corresponding move, fellow right-hander Colten Brewer was called up from Triple-A Worcester, the team announced Saturday.

As was the case with Nick Pivetta earlier this week, Whitlock was feeling under the weather after receiving the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, hence the move to put him on the IL.

“Whitlock is under the weather for the same reasons as Nick,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said earlier Saturday. “He got his second shot. So we’re going to put him on the COVID IL, and most likely it’s going to be Brewer who is going to be with us.”

Whitlock can be activated at any time since the COVID-19 related injured list does not require a minimum stint.

The 24-year-old last worked in a game against the Athletics on Thursday, so it’s unlikely he would have been available for Saturday’s contest anyway.

Through 10 appearances in what is his rookie season, Whitlock has been thoroughly impressive. Over 20 1/3 total innings pitched, the Rule 5 pick has yielded five runs (four earned) on 17 hits and three walks to go along with 21 strikeouts. That’s good for an ERA of 1.77. Opponents are slashing .227/.266/.347 off him.

Brewer, meanwhile, opened the 2021 minor-league season with Triple-A Worcester and has made just one appearance out of the WooSox’ bullpen thus far.

Originally acquired in a trade with the Padres in November 2018, the 28-year-old hurler has compiled a 4.59 ERA, a 5.14 FIP, and a 77:48 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 69 total appearances (four starts) and 80 1/3 innings pitched in parts of two seasons with the Red Sox.

(Picture of Garrett Whitlock: Omar Rawlings/Getty Images)