Late rally lifts Red Sox to 5-3 victory over Nationals after Tanner Houck tosses 5 scoreless innings

It took nearly four hours to complete, but the Red Sox managed to hold off the Nationals on Saturday afternoon to ensure that their season will extend beyond Sunday one way or the other.

Powered by a four-run outburst in the ninth inning, Boston outlasted Washington by a final score of 5-3 at Nationals Park, marking their second straight win that tightens their grip on one of the two American League Wild Card spots.

The Sox did not announce a starter for Saturday’s contest until a few hours before first pitch, but who they ultimately rolled with — Tanner Houck — turned in quite the outing to put the finishing touches on his rookie season.

Houck, making his first start since September 17, twirled five perfect innings in which he kept the Nationals off the scoreboard while striking out eight and walking none in the process of retiring each of the first 15 batters he faced in order.

The right-hander got through those five flawless frames on just 53 pitches (39 strikes), but given the fact he had just thrown 41 pitches this past Tuesday, the 25-year-old’s day came to an end as soon as he recorded the final out of the fifth.

In the process of witnessing Houck put together a bid at a perfect game, the Red Sox got very little production out of their lineup while matched up against Nationals starter Josiah Gray.

Rafael Devers put Boston on the board by crushing his 36th home run of the season off Gray with two outs in the top of the fourth, but that was all they could push across while Houck was still on the mound.

In relief of Houck, Garrett Richards got the first call from Red Sox manager Alex Cora out of the Boston bullpen, and he saw the combined perfect game bid come to a close when he issued a two-out single to the pinch-hitting Gerardo Parra in an otherwise clean sixth inning.

Ryan Brasier, taking over for Richards in the seventh, got himself in and out of trouble, as he loaded the bases with two outs on a pair of singles and a walk before emphatically punching out Jordy Mercer on five pitches to extinguish the threat.

Brasier, who completed his fourth straight scoreless appearance in as many days, celebrated getting out of the jam by pounding his chest, though the Sox lineup found themselves in a similar situation just a half-inning later.

After Enrique Hernandez, Kyle Schwarber, and Xander Bogaerts had each drawn a walk with two outs in the eighth, Devers had an opportunity to put this one way, but instead struck out against Nationals reliever Tanner Rainey.

With the score remaining at 1-0 in favor of Boston, Adam Ottavino appeared well on his way to recording the first two outs of the bottom of the eighth rather quickly. The veteran righty punched out Carter Kieboom on three straight strikes and proceeded to get Ryan Zimmerman to lift a 288-foot fly ball in the direction of center fielder Hunter Renfroe.

Renfroe, however, lost the ball in the sky, which allowed Zimmernan to reach base safely on a double that allowed the Nats to fill the bases when Ottavino yielded back-to-back walks to Lane Thomas and Alcides Escobar.

At that moment, the dangerous, left-handed hitting Juan Soto was looming in the on-deck circle for Washington, which prompted Cora to turn to the left-handed throwing Austin Davis out of the bullpen.

Davis got Soto to hit a 303-foot sacrifice fly to deep center field that brought in Zimmerman from third to tie things up at 1-1, but followed that up by getting Josh Bell to line out to shortstop to retire the side there.

Potentially down to their final three outs in the ninth, J.D. Martinez led the inning off by drawing a 10-pitch walk that put the go-ahead run on base.

Jose Iglesias took over for Martinez as the runner at first, and he came in to score all the way from first when Christian Vazquez unloaded on a first-pitch fastball from Rainey and laced a run-scoring single to deep right field.

Travis Shaw followed by plating Vazquez on an RBI single of his own, and the Red Sox had themselves a 3-1 lead just like that. Hernandez provided what would turn out to be some much-needed insurance when he greeted new Nationals reliever Mason Thompson by clubbing a 401-foot tow-run shot to left-center field.

Hernandez’s 20th home run of the year gave Boston a commanding 5-1 lead going into the bottom half of the ninth. And although Davis gave two of those runs back on a two-run homer off the bat of Andrew Stevenson, Hansel Robles took over from there.

Robles worked his way around a two-out walk in relief of Davis and ultimately slammed the door on the Nationals to secure the 5-3 victory for the Sox as well as notch his 14th save of the season.

With the win, not only do the Red Sox improve to 91-70 on the season, they also move into a tie with the Yankees, who lost on Saturday, for the top American League Wild Card spot.

Additionally, Boston remains one game ahead of the Blue Jays, who also won on Saturday, while remaining one game up on the Mariners, who defeated the Angels on Saturday.

That being said, the Sox have ensured that they will be playing beyond Sunday’s series finale regardless of who wins and loses elsewhere. Whether their first action after Sunday comes in the form of a tiebreaker on Monday or the American League Wild Card game on Tuesday has yet to be determined.

Next up: Sale vs. Adon in regular season finale

While their plans could change, the Red Sox — at the moment — are slated to give the ball to ace left-hander Chris Sale in Sunday’s finale against the Nationals.

The Nationals in turn, will have right-handed pitching prospect Joan Adon make his major-league debut and close out their season.

First pitch Sunday is scheduled for 3:05 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Bobby Dalbec and Enrique Hernandez: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

J.D. Martinez homers, drives in 3 runs as Red Sox bounce back with 6-0 victory over Orioles

The Red Sox put their four-game losing streak in the rearview mirror and bounced back with a 6-0 shutout victory over the Orioles at Camden Yards on Wednesday.

J.D. Martinez came into play Wednesday having gone 4-for-20 (.200) at the plate over his last six games, but quickly made up for that while going up against Baltimore starter Zac Lowther.

In his first plate appearance of the night with one out in the top half of the second inning, Martinez took a 2-1, 85 mph changeup down the heart of the plate from Lowther and deposited it a whopping 444 feet off the batter’s eye in deep center field.

Martinez’s 28th home run of the season — a solo shot that left his bat at a scorching 109.6 mph — gave Boston an early 1-0 lead, though the slugger was not done there.

Fast forward all the way to the sixth, with reliever Eric Hanhold now in the game for the O’s, and Martinez took advantage of one crucial mistake from the opposition.

After Rafael Devers led off the inning off Lowther with a broken-bat single, Xander Bogaerts proceeded to greet Hanhold by ripping a groundball in the direction of third baseman Kelvin Gutierrez.

It looked as though the Sox were about to ground into yet another double play, but Bogaerts’ grounder deflected off Gutierrez’s glove and rolled into foul territory, thus allowing both runners to reach base safely.

Rather than coming to the plate with two outs and nobody on, Martinez had no outs and two runners on, and he capitalized on that by plating both Devers and Bogaerts on a two-run double down the left field line.

That sequence put Boston up 3-0 over Baltimore at a point in which Nathan Eovaldi had been dominating.

Eovaldi, making his 32nd start of the season for the Red Sox, was coming off his worst outing of the year in his last time out against the Yankees, but looked much more in command this time around.

Through his first five innings of work, the veteran right-hander retired 15 of the first 18 batters he faced while facing no more than four hitters in a single frame.

After being given a three-run cushion going into the middle of the sixth, Eovaldi did run into a bit of trouble when he issued a leadoff double to Cedric Mullins that was followed by a seven-pitch walk of Ryan Mountcastle.

Despite allowing the tying run to come to the plate with no outs, Eovaldi managed to escape the jam he created by getting Austin Hays to fly out, Trey Mancini to punch out, and Pedro Severino to fly out for the third and final out of the inning that ended his evening on a more positive note.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 90 (62 strikes), the 31-year-old hurler wound up stringing together six scoreless innings while scattering just four hits and one walk to go along with seven strikeouts on the night. He also lowered his ERA on the season down to 3.75 while picking up his 11th win of the year.

In relief of Eovaldi, Ryan Brasier got the first call from Red Sox manager Alex Cora out of the Boston bullpen, and he promptly worked his way around a leadoff walk in an otherwise perfect bottom half of the seventh.

In the eighth, while matched up against former Boston minor-leaguer Konner Wade, back-to-back one-out singles from Bogaerts and Martinez — followed by a two-out walk drawn by the pinch-hitting Travis Shaw — filled the bases for Alex Verdugo.

Verdugo came through in that spot by providing some much-needed insurance, as he slapped a two-run single to the opposite field that brought in Bogaerts and Martinez to make it a 5-0 game in favor of the Sox.

Though Shaw was tagged out between second and third base to end the inning, the Red Sox bullpen took care of things from there.

Hansel Robles tossed a 1-2-3 frame in the bottom half of the eighth, while Hunter Renfroe extended his hitting streak to 10 straight games by clubbing a solo shot off Spenser Watkins with two outs in the top half of the ninth.

Renfroe’s 30th big fly of 2021 gave Boston a commanding six-run advantage, allowing Matt Barnes to preserve a 6-0 shutout victory by slamming the door on Baltimore in the bottom of the ninth.

With the win, not only do the Red Sox snap their four-game skid to improve to 89-69 on the season, they also move back to within a game of the Yankees — who fell to the Blue Jays on Wednesday — for the top American League Wild Card spot.

Next up: Pivetta vs. Wells

The Red Sox will send right-hander Nick Pivetta to the mound as they go for the series victory over the last-place Orioles on Thursday night. The O’s will counter with another left-hander in Alexander Wells.

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

(Picture of J.D. Martinez: Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Darwinzon Hernandez gives up game-winning grand slam to Giancarlo Stanton as Red Sox squander late lead in 5-3 loss to Yankees

No longer donning their yellow City Connect threads, the Red Sox squandered a late lead and dropped their second straight to the Yankees in dramatic fashion at Fenway Park on Saturday.

Despite a strong performance from Nick Pivetta, Boston fell to New York by a final score of 5-3, marking their second consecutive defeat coming on the heels of a seven-game winning streak.

Pivetta, making his 29th start of the season for the Sox, rebounded from a rather short outing against the Orioles in his last time out by providing more length in Saturday’s contest against another American League East foe.

Over 5 1/3 frames of work, the right-hander surrendered just one run on three hits and zero walks to go along with seven strikeouts on the night.

One of the three hits Pivetta gave up came on a leadoff single off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to begin things in the top of the second, but he kept Stanton at first base by punching out the next three batters he faced.

Pivetta nearly ran into more leadoff trouble in the third when Rougned Odor lifted a 385-foot fly to ball to the deepest part of right field, but it was one that stayed in the park for Hunter Renfroe, as the right fielder took a potential home run away while up against the wall for the first out of the inning.

While the Yankees had a home run taken away from them in their half of the third, the Red Sox made sure the same did not happen to them in their half of the third.

To that point, Yankees starter Nestor Cortes Jr. had held the Sox hitless by retiring each of the first seven batters he faced, but Kevin Plawecki quickly changed things in that regard.

Plawecki, catching Pivetta in place of Christian Vazquez, took the second pitch he saw from Cortes Jr. — a 1-0, 86 mph cutter on the inner half of the plate — and crushed it 408 feet off the leftmost light tower over the Green Monster.

Plawecki’s third homer of the season left his bat at a sizzling 106.9 mph, and it also gave the Red Sox their first lead of the day at 1-0.

Kyle Schwarber doubled that lead in the bottom of the fifth, as he led off against Cortes by drilling a single to right field. Bobby Dalbec, like Odor, nearly clubbed a two-run homer that was instead robbed by Aaron Judge in right field. Schwarber then advanced up to second on a base hit from Plawecki and an infield single from Jose Iglesias that loaded the bases with one out.

With right-handed reliever Michael King deployed to face off against Enrique Hernandez, Schwarber easily scored from third when a wild pitch from King that eluded Sanchez wound up rolling all the way towards the visitor’s dugout.

Though Schwarber was the only one to score in the inning, Pivetta was now given a 2-0 advantage to operate with. Unfortunately for him, he was unable to get through the sixth inning, as he issued back-to-back one-out hits to Gio Urshela and Brett Gardner that put the tying run in scoring position.

That sequence resulted in Pivetta getting the hook from Red Sox manager Alex Cora, with the 28-year-old finishing with a final pitch count of 90 (60 strikes). Of those 90 pitches, 55 were four-seam fastballs — seven of which led to swings-and-misses from Yankees batters.

Cora, in a tough spot, turned to Hansel Robles, who promptly uncorked a wild pitch past Plawecki that allowed Urshela to score from third while Judge was at the plate.

Gardner also moved up an additional 90 feet on the play, but he was gunned down at home plate by Devers when he attempted to score on a soft grounder from Judge, thus keeping the 2-1 lead intact for Boston.

From there, Tanner Houck took over for Robles in the seventh, walked the first two Yankees he faced on eight straight balls, but escaped the jam by inducing a 4-6-3 double play before getting Sanchez to whiff on an 0-2 slider in emphatic fashion for the final out of the inning.

In the eighth, after recording the first two outs, Houck issued another walk to Gardner, who — while representing the tying run — successfully stole second base. The righty then issued another free pass to Judge to put runners at first and second, and that prompted Cora to roll with Darwinzon Hernandez with the left-handed hitting Anthony Rizzo looming for New York.

Hernandez, however, plunked Rizzo to load the bases, meaning he was now tasked with facing the ever-dangerous Stanton, who wasted no time in taking advantage of the opportunity in front of him even after Cora took the time to talk things over with the lefty on the mound beforehand.

On a first-pitch, 94 mph fastball that was grooved down the heart of the plate by Hernandez, Stanton absolutely demolished a 452-foot grand slam well over everything in left field.

Stanton’s go-ahead, bases-clearing grand slam, which had an exit velocity of 114.1 mph, put the Yankees up for the first time all day, as it gave them a commanding 5-2 lead.

Luis Severino took that brand-new three-run advantage and ran with it, tossing two scoreless frames in the seventh and eighth before making way for Aroldis Chapman in the ninth.

Chapman, New York’s closer, got the first out of the inning before serving up a solo shot to Dalbec (his 24th) and plunking Plawecki on the right foot, which brought the tying run to the plate as Vazquez replaced his fellow backstop as the runner at first base.

Iglesias, representing that ever-important tying run, fanned on three straight strikes, leaving things in the hand of Hernandez.

Having gone 0-for-4 with two strikeouts to that point, Hernandez was unable to come through in the clutch — as he worked a full count before ultimately grounding out to seal the 5-3 defeat for the Sox.

With the loss, their second straight coming off a seven-game winning streak, the Red Sox fall to 88-67 on the season. They are now locked in a tie with the Yankees (also 88-67) for the top American League Wild Card spot.

Next up: Rodriguez vs. Montgomery in rubber match

The Red Sox will wrap up the home portion of their regular season schedule by looking to salvage this series against the Yankees on Sunday night.

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will get the ball for Boston in the finale of this three-game set, and he will be opposed by fellow southpaw Jordan Montgomery for New York.

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

(Picture of Kevin Plawecki: Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Kiké Hernández, Xander Bogaerts both homer as Red Sox top Mets, 6-3, for sixth straight win

Exactly two weeks out from the American League Wild Card game, the Red Sox continued their winning ways against the Mets to kick off their final homestand of the regular season.

Although they fell behind first, Boston fought their way back for a 6-3 victory over New York at Fenway Park on Tuesday night, marking their sixth straight win.

Eduardo Rodriguez, making his 29th start of the season for the Sox and his very first against the Mets, was sharp early on, but later fell off in what turned out to be another relatively short outing.

Over just 4 1/3 innings of work, Rodriguez allowed two runs — both of which were earned — on five hits and three walks to go along with five strikeouts on the night.

The veteran left-hander took a perfect game into the third inning, as he did not give up his first hit until yielding a two-out single to New York’s No. 9 hitter, Tomas Nido, in the top half of the frame.

While it appeared as though Rodriguez was well on his way to putting together a strong performance, things took a turn for the worse in the fourth when he loaded the bases with no outs before issuing a bases-loaded, run-scoring walk to J.D. Davis to give the Mets their first lead of the night at 1-0.

Michael Conforto followed by grounding another RBI single through the left side of the infield that scored Javier Baez and very well could have pushed across another had Enrique Hernandez not gunned down Pete Alonso at home plate from center field.

Hernandez’s seventh outfield assist of the season proved to halt the Mets’ momentum, as Rodriguez escaped the jam by recording the final two outs of the fourth in consecutive order.

At that point, the Red Sox lineup had struggled to get anything going against Rodriguez’s counterpart in Mets starter Marcus Stroman despite having their fair share of opportunities — particularly in the third inning.

There, with no outs and the bases full, Xander Bogaerts grounded into what was at the time a back-breaking 5-2-3 double play, which was followed by an inning-ending flyout off the bat of Rafael Devers.

Compounded with New York jumping out to a 2-0 lead in their half of the fourth, things were looking rather dire for the Boston bats, but they were able to bounce back in a tremendous way beginning in the bottom of that particular frame.

With two outs in the inning, Bobby Dalbec stayed hot by ripping a 104.5 mph line-drive double off the center field wall. Christian Vazquez followed by lacing another liner, though this one flew over the outstretched glove of a back-pedaling Kevin Pillar, took a bounce off the Green Monster, and brought in Dalbec to cut the deficit in half at 2-1.

Rodriguez, meanwhile, came back out for the fifth, though he gave up back-to-back hits to Brandon Nimmo and Francisco Lindor that put runners at second and third with only one out.

That led to Red Sox manager Alex Cora giving Rodriguez the hook at that moment, as the 28-year-old ended his day having thrown 92 pitches (55 strikes).

In relief of Rodriguez, Cora first turned to the recently-recalled Ryan Brasier, who inherited a bit of a mess but got out of it by fanning Baez on three straight strikes before getting the dangerous Alonso to ground out to short.

With their lineup flipping over for a third time beginning in the middle of the fifth, the Sox continued to pound Stroman, as Hernandez clubbed a game-tying, 379-foot solo shot over the Green Monster (his 18th home run of the season, Kyle Schwarber drilled a hard-hit double to the left-center field gap, and Bogaerts capped it off with an act of redemption — mashing a 426-foot, two-run moonshot to left field.

Bogaerts’ 23rd homer of the year put the Sox up 4-2, but the star shortstop was not done there, as he — with the bases full and two outs in the sixth — plated two more on a 107 mph two-run double off Brad Hand to make it a 6-2 game in favor of Boston.

From there, after Brasier and left-hander Austin Davis combined to work a scoreless sixth inning, fellow trade deadline acquisition Hansel Robles took over and did the very same in the seventh.

Garrett Richards, on the other hand, served up a towering solo homer to Alonso in an otherwise clean eighth inning. He also got the first out of the ninth before Darwinzon Hernandez slammed the door on the Mets to preserve the 6-3 victory for the Sox, though the lefty did not pick up the save.

With the win, not only do the Red Sox extend their winning streak to six consecutive games, but they also improve to 87-65 on the season by doing so. The Blue Jays and Yankees also won on Tuesday, so the Sox maintain their 1 1/2 game lead over Toronto for the top Wild Card spot in the American League.

Next up: Sale vs. Walker

The Red Sox will hand the ball to ace left-hander Chris Sale as they go for the quick two-game sweep over the Mets on Wednesday night. Sale will be working on regular rest in just his second start back from the COVID-19 related injured list.

The Mets, in turn, will counter with right-hander and 2021 All-Star Taijuan Walker as they look to prevent the sweep from happening.

First pitch Wednesday is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN and ESPN.

(Picture of Xander Bogaerts: Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

Hunter Renfroe leads the way with 2 homers as Red Sox hold on to defeat Twins, 11-9

Despite getting out-hit 14-11, the Red Sox were able to hold on to a series-opening, 11-9 victory over the Twins at Fenway Park on Tuesday night.

Tanner Houck, just recalled from Triple-A Worcester earlier in the day, made his eighth start (10th overall appearance) of the season for the Sox, and he was not particularly sharp.

Over 4 2/3 innings of work, Houck allowed three runs — all of which were earned — on eight hits, one walk, and one hit batsman to go along with six strikeouts on the evening.

The Twins got to the right-hander right away on Tuesday, as he served up a leadoff triple to Max Kepler to begin things in the top half of the first that was quickly followed by a one-out RBI single off the bat of Jorge Polanco to put the Sox in an early 1-0 hole.

Houck was, however, able to settle in by keeping Minnesota off the board in the second and third innings, and the Boston bats rewarded him for that in their half of the third.

Matched up against Minnesota starter Griffin Jax, Travis Shaw picked up where he left off on Monday and belted a leadoff home run 413 feet into the bleachers, marking his second straight homer in as many swings of the bat.

Shaw’s solo shot pulled the Sox back even at one run apiece, but the Twins countered by getting to Houck for two more runs in the fourth, with Luis Arraez and Nick Gordon each reaching base and Miguel Sano driving both runners in on a two-run single back up the middle.

That put the Twins back up by two runs at 3-1, though the Red Sox did not let their second deficit last all that long with Rafael Devers drawing a leadoff walk and Alex Verdugo ripping a one-out double to left field to put a pair of runners in scoring position for Hunter Renfroe.

Renfroe got his productive day at the plate started by taking a hanging, 83 mph slider from Jax and depositing it 374 feet over the Green Monster for his first of two home runs on the night.

Even with Renfroe giving the Sox a 4-3 advantage with his three-run blast, Houck ran into a bit more trouble in the fifth when he plunked the first man he faced in Brent Rooker and allowed him to advance up to second base on a wild pitch.

After punching out Polanco and getting Josh Donaldson to pop out to third base, Houck’s outing came to an unceremonious end as he got the hook from Red Sox manager Alex Cora.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 90 (54 strikes), the 25-year-old hurler did not factor into Tuesday’s decision, though he did raise his ERA on the season to 3.43.

In relief of Houck, Cora turned to Josh Taylor out of the Boston bullpen, and the left-hander — who ultimately earned his first win of the year — did his job by getting Arraez to ground out to second base to end the inning.

At the halfway point, the Red Sox were in possession of a 4-3 lead. With Jax still on the mound for the Twins, they made sure to pad said lead in the bottom of the fifth.

Enrique Hernandez, celebrating his 30th birthday on Tuesday, led off with a single and moved up to second base on a Minnesota fielding error.

Jax quickly recorded the first two outs of the frame, but Devers kept the rally alive by lacing a ground-rule, RBI double into the right field seats that brought in Hernandez from third to make it a 5-3 contest.

J.D. Martinez followed by drawing another walk, though he was quickly brought in on yet another double from Verdugo, which brought Renfroe to the plate in a prime run scoring spot.

On the fifth pitch he saw from Jax, another hanging slider, Renfroe took full advantage of that opportunity by crushing his second home run of the night — and 25th of the season — 420 feet over everything in left-center field.

Renfroe’s league-leading 10th homer in the month of August alone gave his side a commanding 9-3 lead, and at that point, it looked like the Sox were going to run away with another lopsided win over a last-place team.

That did not turn out to be the case, however, as Martin Perez struggled mightily in his relief appearance. After allowing one run on one hit and an RBI groundout in the top of the sixth, the lefty got rocked for two more runs in the seventh when he served up a two-run shot to Polanco.

Hirokazu Sawamura, working in relief of Perez, did not fare much better, as he walked one, gave up a single to another, and misdirected a wild pitch that allowed both runners to advance into scoring position with one out.

After fanning Mitch Garver, it appeared as though Sawamura was out of trouble when he got Nick Gordon to swing at a 93 mph splitter in the dirt.

Gordon, however, was able to just barely foul off the pitch to keep his at-bat alive, and he followed by lining a two-out, two-strike, and two-run single back up the middle to pull the Twins back to within one at 9-8.

Adam Ottavino, working in relief of Sawamura in the eighth, worked his way around a Jake Cave leadoff single (with the help of Christian Vazquez gunning Cave down at second base) and a two-out walk of Rooker in an otherwise clean inning.

Looking to add some insurance in their half of the eighth, the Red Sox offense got just that from Hernandez, who truly celebrated his birthday in style by following up a Vazquez leadoff single and clubbing a towering two-run shot over the Monster off Twins reliever Caleb Thielbar.

Hernandez’s 16th home run of the year, which traveled 425 feet and left his bat at 108.6 mph, put the Sox ahead 11-8, which would prove extremely beneficial a half inning later with Matt Barnes on the hill in the ninth.

To put it simply, Barnes’ August woes continued, as the Boston closer served up a leadoff homer to Donaldson before walking two straight to bring the go-ahead run to the plate — all without recording a single out in the inning.

That ugly sequence resulted in Cora turning to Hansel Robles, who promptly saved the day — literally — in the process of punching out two and recording the third and final out when he got Cave to line out to end the game.

By securing the 11-9 victory for his side, Robles was able to notch his 11th save of the year (and first with the Red Sox) while also topping out at 99.4 mph with his high-octane four-seam fastball.

With the win, the Red Sox improve to 72-55 on the season to increase their lead over the Athletics for the second American League Wild Card spot to two full games.

Next up: Pivetta vs. Ober

The Red Sox will go for the series win over the Twins and look to extend their winning streak to three consecutive games on Wednesday night.

Right-hander Nick Pivetta will look to bounce back as he gets the start for Boston, while fellow righty Bailey Ober will do the same for Minnesota.

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

(Picture of Hunter Renfroe: Adam Glanzman/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)

Red Sox acquire veteran reliever Hansel Robles from Twins in exchange for pitching prospect Alex Scherff

The Red Sox have acquired veteran reliever Hansel Robles and cash considerations from the Twins in exchange for pitching prospect Alex Scherff, the team announced Friday afternoon.

Robles, who turns 31 on August 13, posted a 4.91 ERA and 4.82 FIP to go along with 43 strikeouts and 24 walks over 45 relief appearances spanning 44 innings of work for Minnesota this season.

The right-hander, formerly of the Mets and Angels, signed a one-year, $2 million deal with the Twins back in December and has converted 10 of a possible 12 save opportunities so far this year, though he has struggled to the tune of a 9.64 ERA in 10 outings (9 1/3 innings) in the month of July alone.

Per Baseball Savant, Robles operates with a four-pitch mix that consists of a four-seam fastball, changeup, slider, and sinker. He has averaged 96.7 mph with his four-seamder — his go-to pitch — in 2021, which ranks in the 91st percentile among all major-leaguers.

Since he is on a one-year deal, Robles is essentially a rental since he can become a free agent at the end of the season. In the meantime, the Dominican-born righty will join a Boston bullpen mix that includes the likes of Matt Barnes, Adam Ottavino, Josh Taylor, Darwinzon Hernandez, Yacksel Rios, Hirokazu Sawamura, and Austin Davis (more on him later).

Scherff, meanwhile, becomes the second intriguing pitching prospect the Red Sox have had to part ways with along with Aldo Ramirez — who was sent to the Nationals in exchange for All-Star outfielder Kyle Schwarber late Thursday night.

Originally selected by the Sox in the fifth round of the 2017 amateur draft out of Colleyville Heritage High School (Colleyville, Texas), the 23-year-old began his pro career as a starter but has since been converted into a reliever.

After opening the 2021 campaign with High-A Greenville and posting a 2.78 ERA and 2.73 FIP over 17 appearances and 22 2/3 innings, Scherff earned a promotion to Double-A Portland on July 6.

In six outings spanning 6 2/3 innings pitched with the Sea Dogs, the young right-hander allowed just two runs (one earned) on five hits and two walks to go along with nine strikeouts.

At the time he was traded, Scherff was regarded by SoxProspects.com as the No. 53 prospect in Boston’s farm system. He is also eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this winter, so the Red Sox create some more roster flexibility in dealing him away since they were unlikely to protect him, or in other words, add him to their 40-man roster by November 20.

(Picture of Hansel Robles: David Berding/Getty Images)