After dropping the first two games of their last interleague series of the year against the San Francisco Giants on on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Red Sox were able to salvage a little something with a tight 5-4 victory on a get away day Thursday to improve to 80-72 on the season.
Making his 32nd start of the season for Boston and second straight of the interleague variety was Eduardo Rodriguez, who yielded just one run over 6 2/3 innings in his last time out against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Tossing six full frames this time around, the left-hander surrendered just one more once more, this one unearned, on two hits and two walks to go along with exactly 10 strikeouts on the afternoon.
That lone San Francisco tally came right away in the top half of the first, when with one out and runners on the corners following a Mauricio Dubon leadoff single and Kevin Pillar reaching first on a fielder’s choice and fielding error committed by Marco Hernandez that allowed Dubon to advance to third, Evan Longoria got his side on the board first with a sacrifice fly to left.
Other than that one blip though, Rodriguez really settled in beginning in the second, retiring 14 of the final 17 hitters he faced with some help from Christian Vazquez throwing Jaylin Davis out at second to end that second inning.
Finishing with a nice final pitch count of 107 (69 strikes), the 26-year-old hurler relied on his four-seam fastball nearly 60% of the time he was on the mound Thursday, inducing 14 of 21 total swings and misses and topping out at 94.7 MPH while Vazquez was behind the plate.
Eventually earning his 18th winning decision while lowering his ERA on the year down to 3.53, the chance for Rodriguez to reach the 20-win milestone is still there, as he has two starts remaining before season’s end. The first of those will come against the Texas Rangers on Tuesday.
In relief of Rodriguez, Ryan Brasier entered the seventh with a four-run cushion to work with, and he punched out two in a scoreless frame.
From there, Marcus Walden got the first two outs of the eighth in fairly simple fashion, but a two-out walk of Dubon and back-to-back knocks from the pinch-hitting Mike Yastrzemski and Pillar cut Boston’s advantage down to two with Pillar driving in two on a bases-clearing double.
So, with the tying run at the plate in the form of Longoria, in came Matt Barnes to try and clean the mess left behind by Walden, and he filled the bases on the first two Giants he faced before fanning the pinch-hitting Stephen Vogt on six pitches to get out of the jam.
And in the ninth, Brandon Workman had an interesting time of things, as he loaded the bases full of Giants with no outs, struck out the next two, walked another to make it a 5-4 contest, but held on to secure the one-run win and his 15th save of 2019 by fanning Longoria on a 3-2, 82 MPH knuckle-curveball in the dirt. Meltdown averted.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against a fairly unfamiliar foe in Giants ace left-hander Madison Bumgarner, who made his first career start at Fenway Park on Thursday.
Trailing by a run before even taking their first at-bats of the afternoon, Andrew Benintendi kicked off his side’s half of the first with a leadoff double.
A seven-pitch walk drawn by Christian Vazquez brought Rafael Devers to the plate for the first time with runners at first and second, and he came through with a hard-hit RBI single to right to plate Benintendi from second and knot things up at one run apiece.
Xander Bogaerts followed suit with a run-scoring single of his own off of Bumgarner to drive in Vazquez from third, and just like that, the Sox had their first lead at 2-1.
An inning later, it was the top of the lineup getting it done yet again, with Benintendi and Vazquez both reaching on two-out singles to set the table once more for Devers and Bogaerts.
Devers maintained his career 1.000 clip against Bumgarner with a bloop of an RBI single to center to score Benintendi and also advance to second, while Bogaerts drove in both Vazquez and Devers on a two-run single through the right side of the infield.
Bogaerts’ second and third RBI on the afternoon gave the Red Sox a relatively commanding 5-1 edge in the second, and after the Giants drove in three runs of their own in their half of the eighth and ninth innings, 5-4 would go on to be Thursday’s final score.
Some notes from this win:
From Red Sox Notes:
From The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier:
Next up for the Red Sox, it’s the last road trip of the 2019 campaign, beginning with a four-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday.
Right-hander Rick Porcello will get the ball for Boston in the opener, while fellow veteran righty Charlie Morton will do the same for Tampa Bay.
Porcello is coming off his best start of the month in his last outing against the Phillies, giving up two runs over five strong innings of work.
In three starts against the Rays this season, the 30-year-old is 0-2 with a 6.23 ERA and .315 batting average against over 17 1/3 total innings pitched.
Morton, meanwhile, shined the last time he faced the Sox at Tropicana Field back on July 24th, striking out 11 and scattering two runs and five hits over seven quality frames in an eventual win.
Since that time, the 36-year-old owns an ERA of 4.59 and batting average against of .265 over his last nine starts spanning 51 innings pitched.
Headed into this weekend, the Rays are a 1/2 game up on the Cleveland Indians for the second American League Wild Card spot, so the Red Sox will have the chance to spoil the postseason hopes of their division rivals if things go accordingly.
First pitch Friday is scheduled for 7:10 PM EDT on NESN. Red Sox looking to play spoiler.