The Red Sox closed out the month of April with a series-clinching win over the Guardians. On a drizzly Sunday afternoon at Fenway Park, Boston defeated Cleveland by a final score of 7-1 to improve to 15-14 on the season.
Starters Chris Sale and Logan Allen traded zeroes through the first four innings of Sunday’s series finale. The Sox then drew first blood in their half of the fifth, when Connor Wong led off with a groundball single.
Jarren Duran followed by blooping a ground-rule double down the left field line to put runners at second and third base. After Enmanuel Valdez struck out on five pitches, Alex Verdugo opened the scoring by plating both Wong and Duran on a a two-run single to left-center field off Allen to put Boston up, 2-0.
Cleveland got one of those runs back in the top of the sixth. After working his way out of a jam by striking out the side in the fifth inning, Sale gave up a leadoff double to Steven Kwan. Seven pitches later, Amed Rosario drove in Kwan with an opposite-field single to cut the deficit in half.
Rosario was able to advance to second on Verdugo’s errant throw home. He then moved up to third on a Jose Ramirez flyout, but Sale left him there by getting both Josh Bell and Oscar Gonzalez to ground out, thus limiting the damage to one run.
It did not take long for the Red Sox to respond. With reliever Nick Sandlin taking over for the Guardians, Christian Arroyo ripped a one-out single in the latter half of the sixth and Wong followed by crushing a 1-2, 91.8 mph fastball on the inner half of the plate 427 feet over the Green Monster for his first home run of the year.
Wong’s two-run blast left his bat at 111.8 mph. It also gave his side a 4-1 lead. Sale, meanwhile, came back out for the seventh and retired the final batter he faced by getting Andres Gimenez to line out to Duran — who made a nice sliding catch — in center field. Having already thrown 98 pitches (71 strikes) to that point in the contest, Sale was given the hook in favor of John Schreiber.
All told, Sale allowed just the one earned run on three hits, no walks, and one hit batsman to go along with five strikeouts over 6 1/3 strong innings of work. The 34-year-old hurler induced 11 swings-and-misses while averaging 94.1 mph and topping out at 97.8 mph with his four-seam fastball, a pitch he threw 59 times. He picked up his second winning decision of the season and lowered his ERA to 6.75.
After Schreiber ended things in the top half of the seventh, the Sox lineup got back to work on the other side of the stretch. Verdugo greeted new Guardians reliever Peyton Battenfield by lacing a 107.9 mph leadoff home run 373 feet down the right field line for his fourth big fly of the year. Following back-to-back two-out walks from Rafael Devers and Masataka Yoshida, Arroyo extended Boston’s lead with a two-run double off the rightmost part of the Green Monster.
Both Devers and Yoshida scored on the play to make it a 7-1 contest. Arroyo then made a fantastic leaping grab in the top of the eighth to help out Richard Bleier and rob Kwan of a base hit that had an expected batting average of .810. Bleier got through the rest of the eighth unscathed, paving the way for Brennan Bernardino to come in for the ninth and secure a 7-1 victory with another 1-2-3 inning.
Sunday’s win took two hours and 32 minutes to complete. Verdugo, Arroyo, and Wong accounted for six of Boston’s nine hits and all seven RBIs. Yoshida, Duran, Arroyo, and Valdez all doubled.
Next up: Kluber vs. Berrios in first of four against Jays
Coming off a 15-13 April, the Red Sox will open the month of May by welcoming the Blue Jays into town for the first of a four-game series on Monday night. In the first meeting of the year between the two division rivals, Corey Kluber will get the start for Boston opposite fellow right-hander Jose Berrios for Toronto.
First pitch from Fenway Park is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN.
(Picture of Chris Sale: Winslow Townson/Getty Images)