Bobby Dalbec breaks out of slump with 3-run home run as Red Sox open series against Orioles with 6-2 win

Bobby Dalbec came into Friday’s game against the Orioles in the midst of an 0-for-27 slump at the plate having not recorded a hit since April 27.

In his first at-bat of the night, Dalbec ripped a one-out single to left field in the top half of the third inning.

An inning later, the 26-year-old then clubbed a 399-foot three-run home run in that same direction off Orioles starter Matt Harvey to give his side a 4-0 lead.

The Red Sox ultimately topped the O’s by a final score of 6-2 at Camden Yards on Friday to improve to 20-13 on the season and become the first team this year to reach the 20-win mark.

Rodriguez goes five innings

Eduardo Rodriguez made his sixth start of the season — and second against Baltimore — for Boston in this one. The left-hander surrendered just one run, though he did scatter seven hits and three walks to go along with a season-low two strikeouts over five innings of work.

The one run Rodriguez gave up in his final frame of work, when he allowed three straight hitters to reach base on a double, walk, and RBI single from Trey Mancini. He did manage to retire the last two Orioles he faced to hold them at one run.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 91 (61 strikes), the 28-year-old hurler turned to his changeup 31% of the time he was on the mound Friday, inducing three swings-and-misses with the pitch. He also topped out at 92.8 mph with his four-seam fastball, a pitch he threw 19 times.

Able to improve to a perfect 5-0 on the season while lowering his ERA to 3.82, Rodriguez’s next start should come against the Athletics back at Fenway Park on Wednesday.

Sawamura’s homer troubles continue

In relief of Rodriguez, Hirokazu Sawamura got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen in the middle of the sixth inning.

The right-hander served up a leadoff home run to Ryan Mountcastle to cut Boston’s lead to two runs at 4-2 before sitting down the next three hitters he faced in order.

Sawamura has now allowed at least one homer in two of his last four appearances and has seen his ERA on the season inflate up to 3.77 as a result.

Whitlock bounces back with two scoreless frames

On the flip side of Sawamura’s struggles, Rule 5 pick Garrett Whitlock bounced back from back-to-back poor outings against the Rangers and Tigers by tossing two scoreless innings of relief against the Orioles on Friday.

Renroe takes advantage of O’s sloppy defense, gets Sox on the board in the fourth

Before Dalbec went deep in the fourth, Hunter Renfroe provided Boston with an early 1-0 lead by driving in Rafael Devers from third on an RBI single off Harvey.

Devers had reached base — and advanced to second — in the first place on a missed catch error committed by the Orioles starter. He then stole third base to make it even easier for Renfroe to pick up his 15th RBI of the season.

Vazquez, Gonzalez provide late-inning insurance

With a 4-2 lead already in hand, the Sox tacked on two additional runs on a pair of run-scoring doubles from the likes of Christian Vazquez and Marwin Gonzalez in the eighth and ninth innings to make it a 6-2 contest.

This in turn, allowed Boston to rest closer Matt Barnes another day and deploy Phillips Valdez for the bottom half of the ninth.

Valdez closes it out

Valdez, making his second relied appearance in as many days after not appearing in a game for nearly two weeks, stranded the one hitter he allowed to reach base in an otherwise perfect inning to secure the 6-2 victory for his side.

Rain delay leads to late start

Friday’s game between the Sox and Orioles did not start until 8:43 p.m. eastern time due to a one-hour and 38 minute rain delay. The final out was not recorded until after midnight.

Next up: Richards vs. Lowther

Next up for the Red Sox, they will send right-hander Garrett Richards to the mound Saturday night to face off against left-hander Zac Lowther for Baltimore.

First pitch Saturday is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Bobby Dalbec and Co.: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Hunter Renfroe homers, but Red Sox squander scoring chances while Eduardo Rodriguez allows 4 runs over 5 innings in 8-6 loss to Rangers

The Red Sox lost a game they very well could have won against the Rangers at Globe Life Field on Saturday night.

In the fifth inning of what at the time was a 3-3 game, the first five Red Sox hitters to come to the plate reached base, resulting in two more runs crossing the plate on back-to-back RBI singles from J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts.

Now up 5-3, Boston had the chance to really blow this one open as Rafael Devers drew a five-pitch walk to re-load the bases for the bottom of the lineup.

Matched up against hard-throwing left-hander Taylor Hearn for Texas, Christian Vazquez grounded into a 5-2 force out at home plate while both Bobby Dalbec and Hunter Renfroe struck out on foul tips to retire the side.

Even while adding two runs in their half of the fifth, the Red Sox could have done more to put this game out of reach. They later paid for their inability to do much with runners in scoring position when the Rangers came back to secure an 8-6 win for themselves.

Rodriguez allows four runs in five innings

Eduardo Rodriguez made his fifth start of the season for the Sox on Saturday, but was unable to improve to 5-0.

Over five innings of work, the left-hander yielded a season-high four earned runs on eight hits and one walk to go along with five strikeouts on the night.

The Rangers first got to Rodriguez for three runs in the third inning on a run-scoring base hit from Nick Solak and a two-run knock from Nate Lowe.

They got to him once more in the fifth inning when Isiah Kiner-Falefa led things off by belting a booming solo shot to left field, which at the time broke a 4-4 deadlock.

Rodriguez then sat down the final three hitters he faced in order, but his outing came to an end relatively quickly when considering the fact he only threw 67 pitches — 46 of which were strikes.

Of those 67 pitches, the 28-year-old hurler mixed in a healthy diet of 19 cutters, 14 sinkers, 14 changeups, 12 four-seam fastballs, and eight sliders. He topped out at 93.4 mph with his four-seamer.

Andriese, Sawamura struggle out of bullpen

In relief of Rodriguez, Matt Andriese got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen for the bottom half of the sixth inning.

Facing off against the bottom half of the Rangers’ lineup, the veteran right-hander allowed Jose Trevino to reach base on a one-out single before serving up a two-run blast to Willie Calhoun that put Texas ahead by one run at 6-5.

Andriese walked the next man he faced in Charlie Culberson, who came around to score on a two-out RBI triple off the bat of Kiner-Falefa moments later.

Josh Taylor managed to stop the bleeding by working a 1-2-3 bottom of the seventh, but Hirokazu Sawamura’s struggles in the Lone Star State continued as he allowed the Rangers to score what would prove to be an important insurance run on an RBI double from Culberson in the eighth.

Renfroe homers to give Red Sox early lead

Before any of Saturday’s mid-inning drama took place, Hunter Renfroe gave the Sox an early 2-0 lead when he crushed his second home run of the season: a towering 417-foot two-run blast to deep left field off Rangers starter Jordan Lyles in the top of the second.

There was a moment in the sixth inning where Renfroe had the opportunity to perhaps prevent Kiner-Falefa’s RBI triple from ever happening, but he could not come up with the hard-hit groundball that wound up rolling all the way to the right-center field wall.

Late comeback attempt falls short

After the Rangers took a 7-5 lead in the sixth, the Sox attempted to get back into it in the seventh with a leadoff double courtesy of Bogaerts.

The star shortstop moved up an additional 90 feet by swiping third base, then scored on a Vazquez sacrifice fly to make it a 7-6 game.

In the eighth, Bogaerts essentially had the game in his hands when with two outs, the Rangers intentionally walked Martinez to fill the bases for Boston’s No. 4 hitter.

On an 0-1, 89 mph changeup from Joely Rodriguez, Bogaerts laced a sharply-hit ground ball to the left side of the infield, but it was one that could be fielded by Culberson at third base and went down as an inning-ending 5-3 groundout.

Rangers closer Ian Kennedy struck out the side in order in the top of the ninth to pick up the save.

Some notes from this loss:

From The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham:

From MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith:

Next up: Richards vs. Foltynewicz

The 17-11 Red Sox will look to wrap up their six-game road trip on a positive note in Sunday afternoon’s series finale against the Rangers.

Right-hander Garrett Richards will be getting the ball for Boston, and he will be opposed by fellow righty Mike Foltynewicz for Texas.

First pitch Sunday is scheduled for 2:35 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Eduardo Rodriguez and Co.: Aric Becker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Red Sox manage just three hits off Kyle Gibson; Hirokazau Sawamura gets taken deep twice in 4-1 loss to Rangers

The Red Sox did not arrive in Arlington until about 2:30 a.m. local time on Thursday morning, just hours ahead of their series-opening matchup against the Rangers at Globe Life Field.

In said contest, the Sox bats could manage all of one run on three hits as they saw their three-game winning streak come to an end following a 4-1 loss to Texas.

Rafael Devers was responsible for that lone Red Sox run. The 24-year-old plated Alex Verdugo from second on a two-out RBI double off Rangers starter Kyle Gibson in the top half of the sixth.

Devers’ 20th RBI of the year knotted things up at one run apiece. But outside of that, Gibson proved to be a tough opponent in this one. The veteran right-hander worked his way around three hits and three walks while limiting Boston to one run over six innings of work.

Perez puts together solid outing

Opposing Gibson was a former teammate of his in the form of Martin Perez for Boston.

Coming off back-to-back outings in which he pitched just 3 2/3 innings, the left-hander put together his best start of the season on Thursday.

Over 5 2/3 innings, Perez yielded two runs — only one of which was earned on zero walks and one hit batsman to go along with a season-high seven strikeouts on the night.

Fielding errors prove costly

In Perez’s fourth inning of work, the Rangers’ Joey Gallo laced a one-out double to the opposite field.

Alex Verdugo tracked down the ball in the left field corner, appeared to bobble it for a moment, and then made a casual throw back to the infield.

Verdugo’s throw was a casual one at best, and it wound up eluding the cutoff man in Devers and rolled to the other side of the infield, allowing Gallo to advance to third.

The Rangers took full advantage of the Red Sox’ sloppiness, as Adolis Garcia plated Gallo on a sacrifice fly to deep center field to give his side an early 1-0 lead.

Fast forward to the sixth, and Xander Bogaerts failed to come up with a groundball off the bat of Garcia, which allowed the Rangers outfielder to reach base safely with one out in the inning.

Perez’s outing came to an end after he retired Nate Lowe for the second out of the inning, leading to Hirokazu Sawamura coming on with one out to get in the sixth.

Sawamura wound up serving up a two-run home run to the very first man he faced in Nate Lowe, and the Red Sox suddenly found themselves down by two runs at 3-1.

In the seventh inning, Sawamura got taken deep once again, this time by Isiah-Kiner Falefa to raise his ERA on the year to 3.18.

Hernandez strikes out the side

In relief of Sawamura, left-hander Darwinzon Hernandez needed all of 13 pitches to punch out Texas’ 3-4-5 hitters in order in a scoreless bottom half of the eighth.

Martinez dealing with migraine

J.D. Martinez left Thursday’s game in the eighth inning due to migraine-like symptoms. He was pinch-hit for by Christian Arroyo. It sounds like the Red Sox will be staying away from Martinez on Friday.

Next up: Eovaldi vs. Arihara

Friday’s pitching matchup between the 16-10 Red Sox and 11-15 Rangers will feature a pair of right-handers, with Nathan Eovaldi getting the ball for Boston and Kohei Arihara doing the same for Texas.

First pitch Friday is scheduled for 8:05 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Hirokazu Sawamura: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Garrett Richards issues 6 walks as Red Sox fall to Blue Jays, 6-3

On a rainy Wednesday night at Fenway Park that caused first pitch of their game to be pushed back by about 31 minutes, the Red Sox fell short of their pursuit of another come-from-behind-victory and were instead beaten by the Blue Jays, 6-3, to drop to 12-7 on the season.

Garrett Richards struggled mightily and battled control issues in his fourth start of the year for Boston in this one.

Over 4 2/3 innings of work, the veteran right-hander yielded four runs — all of which were earned — on four hits, one hit batsman, and a season-high six walks to go along with two strikeouts on the night.

Richards put the first three Blue Jays he faced — Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. — on base on a walk, a HBP, and an RBI single off the bat of Guerrero Jr.

He managed to escape the top half of the first having just given up the one run, but more trouble arose for Richards in the second when he surrendered an additional three runs in an inning that included three hits, two walks, a sacrifice fly and run-scoring groundout, and a wild pitch.

After recording the final out of the second, Richards did string together a decent stretch in which he retired eight out of 10 Toronto hitters at one point, but a two-out walk of Marcus Semien in the fifth that put runners on first and second would mark the end of his day.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 92 — only 48 of which were strikes, the 32-year-old hurler turned to his four-seam fastball 72% of the time he was on the mound Wednesday, inducing just two swings-and-misses while topping out at 95.7 mph with the pitch.

Falling to 0-2 on the year while seeing his ERA inflate to 6.48, Richards will look to bounce back in his next time out, which should come against the Mets in Queens next Tuesday.

In relief of Richards, Hirokazu Sawamura came on with two outs and two runners on in the top half of the fifth, recorded the final out of the frame, then faced the minimum three batters in a scoreless sixth inning.

From there, Phillips Valdez continued his impressive season-opening run by punching out two in a perfect top of the seventh, Austin Brice danced his way around traffic while keeping the Jays off the board in the eighth, and Josh Taylor got rocked for two runs on two hits and three walks in the ninth, which resulted in Toronto going from having a 4-3 lead to a 6-3 lead.

Taylor now owns a 10.80 ERA through his first eight appearances of the season.

On the other side of things, a Red Sox lineup that welcomed back the likes of Alex Verdugo and Rafael Devers was matched up against Blue Jays right-hander Trent Thornton to begin things on Wednesday.

After falling behind 4-0 early on, Devers got the scoring started for his side in the fourth inning by driving in J.D. Martinez from third on an RBI groundout to short off reliever Tommy Milone.

A double and single from Marwin Gonzalez and Bobby Dalbec to lead off the fifth put the Sox in a prime position to score, and they did so when Enrique Hernandez greeted David Phelps and drilled a one-out, run-scoring double down the left field line that brought in Gonzalez from second.

Now trailing by just two runs with one out and runners in scoring position, Boston appeared ready to turn this game on its head with the meat of their lineup due to hit.

Instead of that happening, though, Verdugo was called out on strikes, Martinez walked to fill the bases, and Xander Bogaerts grounded out to retire the side and thus extinguish the threat.

Bogaerts was able to cut into the deficit by crushing his second home run in as many days in the bottom of the eighth, but three runs is all the Red Sox could manage offensively in what would go down as a 6-3 defeat.

Some notes from this loss:

The Red Sox went 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position on Wednesday.

The Red Sox are 11-4 in games not started by Garrett Richards.

The Red Sox are 6-6 at Fenway Park and 6-1 away from Fenway Park.

After winning nine in a row from April 5-14, the Red Sox are 3-4 in their last seven games.

The Red Sox — after settling for a series-split against the Jays — will welcome the Mariners into town for a four-game weekend series that begins Thursday night.

Right-hander Nick Pivetta will be getting the ball for Boston, and he will be opposed by fellow righty Justin Dunn for Seattle.

Dunn, a former first-round pick of the Mets back in 2016, spent three years at Boston College from 2014-2016.

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

(Picture of Garrett Richards: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Red Sox see 9-game winning streak come to an end in 4-3 walk-off loss to Twins

It turns out winning 10 consecutive Major League Baseball games is actually a difficult task. The Red Sox found that out themselves on Thursday when their nine-game winning streak came to an end following a 4-3, walk-off loss at the hands of the Twins at Target Field.

Matched up against veteran right-hander Michael Pineda, the Sox lineup struggled to get anything going offensively, as they were limited to no runs on two hits in the seven innings the ex-Yankees hurler was on the mound.

Alex Verdugo, the star of Wednesday’s doubleheader sweep, was able to finally get his side on the board in the top half of the eighth.

There, with two outs and the bases loaded, the left-handed hitter greeted recently-inserted Twins reliever Taylor Rogers by putting together what might go down as the best at-bat of any Red Sox hitter this season.

After fouling off a plethora of sinkers and sliders, Verdugo — on the 10th pitch of the at-bat — laced a line-drive, bases-clearing double down the left field line to knot things up at three runs apiece.

Alas, Verdugo’s triumphant three-run double would not turn out to be enough in the end, as the Twins bounced back to walk things off an inning and a half later.

Richards solid once again

While Boston’s winning streak may have been halted at nine games, Garrett Richards became the 10th straight Sox starter to go at least five innings into his start.

Over those five innings of work, Richards held the Twins to two runs on four hits and two walks to go along with four strikeouts on the afternoon.

Both runs the right-hander surrendered wound up being unearned, as a walk and a throwing error committed by Bobby Dalbec in the second would later result in the Twins plating their first two runs of the day on a two-run single off the bat of Luis Arraez.

From there, though, Richards was able to settle in and actually retired 10 of the final 13 hitters he faced in this one.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 89 (56 strikes) while lowering his ERA on the year to 6.00, the 32-year-old’s next start should come against the Mariners back at Fenway Park on Tuesday.

Bullpen gives up two runs over four innings

In relief of Richards, Hirokazu Sawamura got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen for the bottom of the sixth, and he gave up his first run of the season by serving up a towering 404-foot solo shot to Miguel Sano.

From there, Josh Taylor tossed a scoreless seventh inning and Matt Andriese and Darwinzon Hernandez combined to work their way around traffic in a scoreless bottom half of the eighth after the Sox had battled back to tie things up at 3-3.

After nearly plating a fourth run when Christian Arroyo reached base on a one-out double — and was stranded at second — in the top of the ninth, that set the stage for Adam Ottavino to come on for the bottom half of the frame.

The righty reliever put the first two Twins he faced on base via a leadoff single and HBP, which put a runner in scoring position with one out for Max Kepler, who proceeded to hit a walk-off single on a jam shot of a flyball to center field to win it for Minnesota, 4-3.

Some notes from this loss:

Red Sox manager Alex Cora was ejected from this game in the bottom of the eighth inning. After Andriese appeared to punch out Twins catcher Ryan Jeffers on a swinging strike in the dirt, home plate umpire Jordan Baker ruled that Jeffers had fouled the pitch off, though it was abundantly clear the ball had missed the bat entirely.

Cora came out to argue that was indeed the case, but after convening with the other umpires, Baker upheld the non-reviewable call and the Sox skipper was tossed as a result of his continuous arguing.

For what it’s worth, Andriese fanned Jeffers on the very next pitch.

There was also a siren delay that lasted approximately five minutes during the top half of the fifth inning.

Next up: 10-game homestand

Coming off a 6-1 road trip despite falling to 9-4 on Thursday, the Red Sox will head back to Boston to begin their longest homestand of the season on Friday night.

Welcoming in the White Sox for the first of four to kick off Patriots’ Day weekend, the Red Sox will turn to right-hander Nick Pivetta for Friday’s series opener. He will be opposed by fellow righty Dylan Cease.

First pitch Friday is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN, though the weather does not look particularly promising.

(Picture of Garrett Richards: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Hirokazu Sawamura tosses scoreless ninth inning in Red Sox debut; ‘For him to go out there and get his feet wet at the big-league level, that was fun to watch,’ Alex Cora says

While the 2021 season did not get off to the best of starts for the Red Sox on Friday, it did to some degree for Japanese reliever Hirokazu Sawamura.

The soon-to-be 33-year-old right-hander made his Red Sox — and major-league — debut in the ninth inning of Friday’s 3-0 Opening Day loss to the Orioles.

Coming on with his side already trailing by three runs, Sawamura was tasked with keeping that deficit where it was at to give the Sox a chance in their half of the ninth. And with the bottom half of the Orioles’ lineup due to hit in the inning, he wound up doing just that.

There was some trouble along the way, as Sawamura yielded a two-out double to Freddy Galvis to make things a little interesting. But all in all, the righty retired three of the four Baltimore hitters he faced, picked up his first career major-league strikeout, and put together his first scoreless relief appearance in the process of doing so.

“I wasn’t nervous at all, actually,” Sawamura said during his postgame media availability through interpreter Yutaro Yamaguchi. “Just trying to focus on taking it one hitter at a time, one pitch at a time, and just trying to execute my pitches today.”

By the time he had gotten Orioles catcher Pedro Severino to ground out to second for the final out of the frame, Sawamura had reached 21 pitches — 13 of which went for strikes.

Of those 21 pitches, 11 were four-seam fastballs, six were sliders, and four were split-finger fastballs. His fastest four-seamer of the day registered at 95.8 mph, while his fastest splitter registered at 93.5 mph, per Baseball Savant. He also induced five swings-and-misses — three of which came on the slider — as well.

As noted by MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith, Sawamura was known for having a nasty splitter upon signing with the Red Sox back in February. It’s a pitch the Sox should be familiar with considering how much Koji Uehara used it in his four seasons in Boston from 2013-2016.

On top of that, itt turns out that Sawamura and Uehara are actually close. They were teammates on the Yomiuri Giants of Nippon Professional Baseball from 2018-2019 and Sawamura even wears the No. 19 and uses Darude’s “Sandstorm” as his entrance song to honor the former Sox closer.

Uehara, per Smith, averaged 81.6 mph with his splitter during his best season with the Red Sox in 2013. Sawamura, who is just getting his Red Sox career started, averaged 92.7 mph with his split-finger fastball on Friday.

“Yeah, I think that’s about my average or a little below my average [normally],” Sawamura said in regards to the velocity of his splitter.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora was among those who was impressed by what he saw from Sawamura in his team debut on Friday. After all, it was just a few weeks ago that the Japanese hurler was still trying to find his footing in a new and unfamiliar setting during spring training.

“That was good, man,” Cora said of Sawamura’s outing. “The game’s still on the line, 3-0. … He was in control. Good splits today. That was probably his best split-fingered fastball since he got here. So that’s a plus. And for him to go out there and get his feet wet at the big-league level, that was fun to watch.”

(Picture of Hirokazu Sawamura: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Red Sox manage just 1 hit off John Means in Opening Day shutout loss to Orioles

For the first time since 1976, the Red Sox were held scoreless on Opening Day, as the club fell to the Orioles by a final score of 3-0 on Friday afternoon to kick off the 2021 regular season at Fenway Park.

Nathan Eovaldi made his first start of the season and second consecutive Opening Day start for Boston in this one, and he picked up where he left off last year in terms of performing well against Baltimore.

That being the case because on Friday, the veteran right-hander limited the O’s to just one run on four hits and one walk to go along with four strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings of work.

Eovaldi was not on the mound at the time he was charged with that one run. He had retired nine of the last 10 hitters he faced leading up to the one-out mark in the top half of the sixth, at which point he got the hook in favor of fellow righty Matt Andriese on account of a relatively high pitch count.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 89 (54 strikes), the 31-year-old hurler turned to his four-seam fastball 52% of the time he was on the mound Friday, inducing five swings-and-misses while topping out at 98.6 mph with the pitch.

Ultimately hit with his first losing decision of the year, Eovaldi will look to rebound in his next time out, which should come back at Fenway Park against the reigning American League champion Tampa Bay Rays next Wednesday.

In relief of Eovaldi, Andriese came on in relief with a runner on and two outs to get in the top half of the sixth inning.

Making his Red Sox debut in this one, the 31-year-old walked the first man he saw in Trey Mancini on six pitches to put runners at first and second with still just only one out in the frame.

Andriese nearly got out of the jam on one of the very next pitches he threw following that free pass, as he got Anthony Santander to rip a hard-hit groundball to second baseman Enrique Hernandez — playing in a shift — for what looked to be the start of an inning-ending, 4-6-3 double play. Just what the doctor ordered.

Instead, Hernandez, also making his Red Sox debut, had a difficult time corralling Santander’s groundball on a hop that allowed all Orioles runners to reach base safely. Hernandez was charged with a fielding error as a result.

That mishap allowed the top of half of the sixth to continue, and the Baltimore bats took full advantage of that when rookie sensation Ryan Mountcastle laced a two-run double off the Green Monster on a 3-2, 93.2 mph inside fastball from Andriese to give his side a 2-0 advantage.

Andriese managed to escape the sixth without yielding anything else and even worked a 1-2-3 seventh , but the damage had already been done.

From there, left-hander Josh Taylor managed to record just one out while surrendering another run on three hits to begin the top of the eighth before Austin Brice came on to clean up after Taylor by retiring the only two hitters he faced in order.

Japanese right-hander Hirokazu Sawamura, another Red Sox making their team debut on Friday, got the call for the ninth, looking to keep Boston’s deficit at a reachable three runs.

Making his major-league debut as well in this one after spending the first 10 years of his professional career overseas, Sawamura looked sharp with his four-seamer, splitter, and slider and allowed just one Oriole to reach base — a two-out double from Freddy Galvis — before getting Pedro Severino to ground out to second to retire the side and wrap up what was a solid 2021 debut.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against a familiar foe in Orioles left-hander John Means, who was supposed to get the Opening Day nod for Baltimore last year but was held out of that start due to a “dead arm.”

Fast forward to Opening Day 2021, and Means was clearly on a mission on Friday.

The 27-year-old southpaw served up a leadoff single to the very first hitter he faced in Hernandez, but nullified that by picking off the Sox second baseman at first after he had slipped off the bag while retreating towards it on Means’ throw to first.

As simple as a play as it was, Means picking off Hernandez may have played a pivotal role in the way the rest of Friday’s contest played out.

From that point on, the O’s starter was dealt another leadoff base runner when Xander Bogaerts reached safely on a fielding error to begin the second, but then proceeded to mow down the next 18 Red Sox hitters he faced.

From the bottom of the second through the end of the seventh, Means did not allow a single man to reach base against him. There were certainly some close calls, like when Bobby Dalbec nearly barreled what would turn out to be a flyball out to left field in the sixth, but the All-Star hurler got through seven clean innings unscathed. Quite the way to kick off the new season.

In the eighth, with Means out and lefty reliever Tanner Scott in, the Sox did show some signs of life with Rafael Devers and Christian Vazquez reaching base on a pair of walks.

Vazquez’s free pass came with two outs in the frame, and it brought the tying run to the plate in the form of Dalbec, ever the home run threat.

Rather than put the ball in the air, though, the 25-year-old slugger watched a first-pitch called strike whizz by, then whiffed at a 96 mph fastball on the inner half of the plate, and was caught looking on an 0-2, 97 mph heater on the outer edge of the strike zone to extinguish said threat.

In the ninth, J.D. Martinez collected his first hit of the season on a two-out double off Orioles reliever Cesar Valdez, but it went for naught as Bogaerts followed by lining out to right field to put an end to things on Friday with a final score of 3-0 in favor of Baltimore.

Some notes from this loss:

Alex Cora is now 0-3 on Opening Day as a big-league manager.

From Red Sox Notes:

Next up for the Red Sox, it’s the middle game of what is now a three-game weekend series following Thursday’s rainout.

Saturday’s pitching matchup will feature a pair of right-handers seemingly on the opposite ends of their careers, with Tanner Houck getting the start for Boston and veteran righty Matt Harvey doing the same for Baltimore.

Houck, 24, was not originally going to make the Sox’ Opening Day starting rotation out of spring training, but Eduardo Rodriguez being placed on the injured list resulted in the rookie righty getting called up from the alternate training site on Thursday.

Houck impressed upon getting called up to the majors for the first time last September, posting a 0.53 ERA and .443 OPS against over three starts spanning 17 innings of work. Neither of those three outings were against the Orioles.

Harvey, meanwhile, made the Orioles’ starting rotation out of camp after signing a minor-league deal with the club back in February.

The 32-year-old Connecticut native was once a star in the making with the Mets, but he has since regressed to the point where he is coming off a 2020 campaign in which he surrendered 15 runs over 11 2/3 innings pitched for the Royals.

First pitch Saturday is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN. Red Sox will be going for their first win of the season.

(Picture of Nathan Eovaldi: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Red Sox reliever Hirokazu Sawamura puts together first perfect outing of spring; ‘You can tell he feels more comfortable,’ Alex Cora says

Pitching in a game that was broadcast on NESN for the first time this spring, Red Sox reliever Hirokazau Sawamura put together what was without a doubt his most impressive outing with his new team thus far.

Coming into Wednesday night’s Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles, the Japanese right-hander having allowed two earned runs on three hits and seven walks through his first three appearances and 2 1/3 innings pitched of the spring. That’s good for an ERA of 7.71.

After Nathan Eovaldi recorded the first 17 outs on Wednesday in pretty simple fashion, Red Sox manager Alex Cora departed from the third base dugout to give the veteran starter the hook in favor of Sawamura.

With the bases empty and one out to get in the top half of the sixth, the 32-year-old got that out by getting Tyler Nevin to ground out to first to retire the side.

An inning later, Sawamura came back out for the sixth, marking the first time this spring he was going to be used in multiple frames. The righty did not miss a beat, though, as he proceeded to punch out both Rio Ruiz and Pat Valaika before inducing a groundout off the bat of Ramon Urias to end things there.

All in all, Sawamura needed all of 23 pitches to get four outs en route to picking up his second hold of the spring.

Since signing a two-year, $3 million deal — which includes a dual club/player option for 2023 — with the Sox back in February, it’s fair to say the past few weeks have been an adjustment period for Sawamura.

Not only is he dealing with a new country and new culture, but he is also adjusting to a style of baseball in the United States that differs from what he had grown accustomed to in the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization overseas.

That being said, Sawamura, who is listed at 6-foot-2 and 212 pounds, is clearly starting to find his footing with the Sox. Wednesday’s performance marked his second consecutive scoreless appearance out of the Boston bullpen, and it also marked the first time all spring he did not allow a single base runner.

The fact he worked multiple innings for the first time indicates just how vital he could be for Boston’s pitching plans in 2021.

“That was important,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of getting Sawamura into a multi-inning appearance. “He’s going to have to do that during the season. And you can tell he feels more comfortable. He’s been able to throw his slider for strikes. Today was his best fastball out of all the outings. The split is still a work in progress. Little that we knew. We thought we had a fastball up, split guy. Now he’s developed a slider all of a sudden. And it’s a really good one. He can throw it for strikes and expand. We just wanted to see that and he did an outstanding job.”

Known for his fastball and splitter combination during his time with the Yomiuri Giants and Chiba Lotte Marines over the course of a 10-year career in Japan, Sawamura figures to emerge as late-inning option out of the Sox’ bullpen for Cora once the regular season begins.

Before Opening Day, though, the next step for Sawamura will be to pitch on back-to-back days, which should happen soon according to pitching coach Dave Bush.

“We’re trying to encourage him just to get comfortable and go one step at a time,” Bush said earlier Wednesday afternoon. “Each outing has been better than the previous one… He’s going to have back-to-back appearances coming up soon. Offhand, I don’t know the exact days, but it will be soon. He’s built up well. He’s getting better each time and is on the right path.”

The two-year contract Samura signed with the Red Sox over the winter does include a unique dual option for a potential third year in 2023, and it also includes escalators and bonuses that could take its total value up to $7.65 million.

(Picture of Hirokazu Sawamura: Mark Brown/Getty Images)

Nathan Eovaldi, Hunter Renfroe power Red Sox to 2-0 victory over Orioles

The Red Sox improved to 13-8-1 in Grapefruit League play on Wednesday following a 2-0 shutout victory over the Orioles at JetBlue Park.

Nathan Eovaldi made his sixth start of the spring for Boston in this one, and it turned out to be his best start of the spring thus far.

That being the case because over 5 2/3 innings of work, the veteran right-hander kept Baltimore off the scoreboard while scattering four hits and one walk to go along with three strikeouts on the night.

With the help of two twin killings and some fine defensive work from Enrique Hernandez and Hunter Renfroe, Eovaldi did not face more than four hitters in a single frame. He also retired the last three Orioles he faced in order before getting the hook with two outs in the top half of the sixth.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 83 (48 strikes) on Wednesday, the 31-year-old’s fifth and final start of the Grapefruit League campaign should come against the Braves in North Port next Monday.

In relief of Eovaldi, right-hander Hirokazu Sawamura got the call with one out to get in the sixth, and he wound up putting together his most impressive outing of the spring to this point by getting Tyler Nevin to ground out to end the inning before fanning a pair in a 1-2-3 top of the seventh.

Wednesday marked the 32-year-old’s fourth appearance in a Red Sox uniform, and it was his first without registering a walk or allowing a single base runner. Certainly a step in the right direction there.

From there, Adam Ottavino also struck out two Orioles in a perfect inning of relief in the eighth, while left-hander Josh Taylor closed things out and picked up the save by sitting down the only three batters he faced in order with some more assistance from Hernandez.

All in all, Sox pitchers collectively retired the last 13 Orioles batters who came to the plate from the top of the fifth until the end of the game, which ended with a final score of 2-0.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup, which featured the likes of Hernandez, Alex Verdugo, Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, Marwin Gonzalez, Franchy Cordero, Michael Chavis, and Kevin Plawecki, was matched up against Orioles right-handed pitching prospect Dean Kremer to start things out on Wednesday.

After stranding a handful of base runners over the first two innings of this one, the top of the Boston lineup got things going in the third when Hernandez drew a leadoff walk.

A few moments later, Renfroe came to the plate for his second at-bat of the night after singling in the first, and he again got the best of Kremer — though to a much higher degree — by crushing a two-run home run deep to the opposite field.

That two-run shot — Renfroe’s third of the spring — put the Sox up 2-0 early, and that would prove to be all they needed to secure the 2-0 victory over the Orioles on Wednesday.

Some notes from this win:

After a slow start to the Grapefruit League campaign, Alex Verdugo put together his first multi-hit performance of the year in this one. The 24-year-old went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles while playing all nine innings in center field.

Franchy Cordero, who started in left and hit out of the seven-hole, went 1-for-3 with a hard-hit single to right-center field. He is 3-for-7 with a walk in his first three exhibition games with the Sox.

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll host the crosstown rival Twins at JetBlue Park on Thursday night — their second consecutive contest under the lights.

Left-hander Martin Perez will be making his fourth start of the spring for Boston, and he will be matched up against right-hander Randy Dobnak for Minnesota.

First pitch Thursday is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. eastern time. The game will be broadcast on NESN Plus and will air on MLB Network on delay.

(Picture of Nathan Eovaldi: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Red Sox make Hirokazu Sawamura signing official, designate Jeffrey Springs for assignment

The Red Sox have officially signed right-hander Hirokazu Sawamura to a two-year contract that includes a dual club/player option for the 2023 season, the team announced Tuesday.

In order to make room for Sawamura on their 40-man roster, Boston also designated left-hander Jeffrey Springs for assignment.

According to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, Sawamura will earn $3 million over the next two seasons with the chance to earn a total of $7.65 million over the next three years if he “hits every performance bonus and escalator.”

Rosenthal also described Sawamura’s option as “conditional and complex,” and seeing how it is a dual club/player option, that would fit said description.

Expanding on that, MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo tweets that Sawamura will earn a base salary of $1.2 million in 2021 and a base salary of $1.2 million in 2022 that can escalate up to $1.7 million.

As for Sawamura’s dual option for 2023, Cotillo adds that if its a club option, it’s worth anywhere between $3 and $4 million depending on escalators. If the Red Sox decline that, the option then becomes a player option worth anywhere between $600,000 and $2.2 million depending on escalators.

For this year alone, Sawamura will count as a $1.2 million hit against Boston’s competitive balance tax threshold.

The soon-to-be 33-year-old hurler had been pitching in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball Organization since 2011, mostly for the Yomiuri Giants.

This past season, Sawamura got off to a tough start with Yomiuri and was ultimately dealt to the Chiba Lotte Marines as part of a midseason trade between the clubs.

Once he arrived in Chiba City though, things turned around for the better for the Japanese-born righty.

Across 22 relief appearances spanning 21 total innings of work, Sawamura posted a dazzling 1.71 ERA and 0.95 WHIP to go along with 29 strikeouts and just 10 walks.

Sawamura’s pitch arsenal consists of a 94-99 mph four-seam fastball, a swing-inducing splitter, and a below-average slider.

With his new club, Sawamura figures to slide into a late-inning role alongside the likes of Matt Barnes, Adam Ottavino, Ryan Brasier, Darwinzon Hernandez, and Josh Taylor.

As for Springs, the 28-year-old southpaw was designated for assignment 13 months after the Red Sox acquired him from the Texas Rangers in exchange for infielder Sam Travis.

In his debut season with Boston, Springs produced a 7.08 ERA and 4.81 FIP over 16 relief outings and 20 1/3 innings of work in two stints with the club.

That being said, there was a stretch from August 31 through September 23 of last season in which the North Carolina native thoroughly impressed to the tune of a 2.53 ERA and 2.39 xFIP over nine appearances out of the Sox’ bullpen.

Considering the fact he still has three minor-league options remaining, it would not be all that surprising to see another team take a chance on Springs through waivers.

Having said that, the Red Sox will have seven days to either trade Springs, release him, or try to sneak him through waivers themselves.

On another note, Boston’s 40-man roster is back at full capacity, so there will be another move to make in order to accommodate the signing of Marwin Gonzalez, which should be made official in the coming days.

(Picture of Hirokazu Sawamura: Sports Nippon/Getty Images)