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)

Hunter Renfroe and Bobby Dalbec go back-to-back as Red Sox hold on for 4-2 win over Nationals

The Red Sox prioritized offense over defense with their starting lineup for Friday’s series opener against the Nationals, and it paid off in a tremendous way.

Boston came out on top over Washington, 4-1, at Nationals Park to kick off the month of October and their final series of the regular season with a crucial.

Eduardo Rodriguez may have very well made his final start for the Sox on Friday, but the impending free-agent-to-be certainly put together a solid outing.

Over five-plus innings of work, the left-hander kept the Nationals off the scoreboard while scattering five hits and three walks to go along with six strikeouts on the night.

After retiring nine of the first 11 batters he faced, Rodriguez ran into some trouble in the bottom of the fourth when he loaded the bases with no outs for the bottom half of Washington’s lineup. The lefty did escape the jam, however, as he got Jordy Mercer to punch out and Carter Kieboom to fly out into foul territory before Andrew Stevenson dribbled a grounder in the direction of second baseman Enrique Hernandez.

The ball left Stevenson’s bat at 75 mph, which forced Hernandez to charge towards the infield grass, grab the ball with his barehand, and make a side-armed toss to an awaiting Bobby Dalbec while going into a head-first dive.

To Dalbec’s credit, the first baseman himself made an athletic play to record the out and keep the potential go-ahead run from scoring going into the fifth — another frame in which Rodriguez put up a zero.

At that point, the Red Sox lineup had been held in check by Rodriguez’s counterpart in Nationals starter Josh Rogers, though that changed when Xander Bogaerts, who was celebrating his 29th birthday on Friday, led off the top of the sixth with a groundball single.

Another base hit from J.D. Martinez put runners at first and second with one out for Hunter Renfroe, who greeted Rogers after a brief mound visit by crushing a towering three-run blast 423 feet to center field.

Renfroe’s 31st home run of the season gave Boston their first lead of the night at 3-0, but Dalbec quickly added on to that by going deep himself off the very next pitch from Rogers — a hanging 79 mph slider down the heart of the plate — moments later.

Dalbec made it a 4-0 contest on his 25th homer of the year. It also allowed Rodriguez to bat for himself (he hit a 101.2 mph groundout) and come back out for the bottom of the sixth, though he did not remain on the mound for long after issuing a leadoff walk to Josh Bell that was followed by a single off the bat of Keibert Ruiz.

That sequence marked the end of the line for Rodriguez, as he promptly got the hook from Red Sox manager Alex Cora in favor of Ryan Brasier.

Brasier continued his impressive run since being recalled from Triple-A Worcester on September 21, as he got Mercer to ground into a force out at third base before fanning both Kieboom and Stevenson to strand the runners he inherited and officially close the book on Rodriguez’s night.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 93 (62 strikes), the 28-year-old ultimately earned his 12th winning decision of the year while lowering his ERA on the season down to 4.77.

Matt Barnes took over for Brasier in the seventh and got the first two outs of the inning before serving up a solo shot to Alcides Escobar, resulting in Cora turning to Darwinzon Hernandez to face off against the left-handed hitting Juan Soto.

Hernandez walked Soto on six pitches and proceeded to yield a hard-hit single to Josh Bell that was corralled in right field by Martinez. Soto attempted to test Martinez’s arm strength by heading towards third base, but Martinez — with the help of a swift tag from Rafael Devers — made him pay by gunning him down there for the final out of the inning.

Martinez’s fourth outfield assist of the season kept the score at 4-1 in favor of Boston. Adam Ottavino, however, made things a bit more interesting in the eighth by surrendering another solo blast to Mercer that cut his side’s lead down to two runs.

Ottavino did get through the eighth, though, and Hansel Robles — despite walking two — followed by slamming the door on the Nationals in the ninth to preserve a 4-2 victory for the Sox as well as notch his 13th save of the year in doing so.

With the win, the Red Sox improve to 90-70 on the season. They maintain a one-game lead over the Blue Jays, who won on Friday, for the second American League Wild Card spot and now trail the Yankees, who lost on Friday, by just one game for the top Wild Card spot.

The Mariners lost to the Angels on Friday night, so they, too, remain one game back of the Red Sox.

Next up: TBD vs. Gray

The Red Sox have yet to name a starter for Saturday afternoon’s contest against the Nationals, who will counter with right-hander Josiah Gray — one of four players they acquired from the Dodgers in the blockbuster trade that sent Max Scherzer and Trea Turner to Los Angeles back in July.

First pitch Saturday is scheduled for 4:05 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Hunter Renfroe: Mitchell Layton/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)

Bobby Dalbec sits, Kyle Schwarber starts at first base as Chris Sale, Red Sox look to complete sweep of Mets

Bobby Dalbec is not in the Red Sox’ starting lineup for their series finale against the Mets at Fenway Park on Wednesday night.

Despite slashing a scorching .368/.500/.842 with two home runs and five RBI over his last six games, Dalbec will sit in favor of Kyle Schwarber, who will get the start at first base as the Sox go up against Mets starter Taijuan Walker.

Walker, who did not pitch against Boston the last time these two teams matched up in April, was named an All-Star for the first time in his big-league career earlier this summer.

Since the All-Star break, though, the 29-year-old right-hander has struggled to the tune of a 7.04 ERA and 6.87 FIP over his last 11 starts and 55 innings pitched dating back to July 18. He does however own a lifetime 1.69 ERA in two career starts (10 2/3 innings) at Fenway Park.

In his career against Walker, Schwarber has fared quite well, going 3-for-8 (.375) with three home runs and a walk off the righty. Between the Nationals and Red Sox this season, the 28-year-old left-handed hitter has slashed .257/.352/.605 (149 wRC+) against right-handed pitchers.

Schwarber will be batting second in Boston’s lineup behind leadoff man Enrique Hernandez, who has reached base in each of his last four games and will be starting in center field on Wednesday. They will be followed by Xander Bogaerts at shortstop, Rafael Devers at third base, and J.D. Martinez at designated hitter.

Martinez, like Schwarber, has also got the best of Walker, as he is a lifetime .546 (6-for-11) off him.

Rounding out Red Sox manager Alex Cora’s lineup is Alex Verdugo in left field, Hunter Renfroe making his return in right field, Christian Vazquez behind the plate, and Jose Iglesias — who has three hits in eight career plate appearances against Walker — at second base.

Vazquez will be catching ace left-hander Chris Sale, who will be making his seventh start of the season for the Sox. The 32-year-old hurler last pitched on September 17, meaning he will be working on regular rest in just his second start back from the COVID-19 related injured list.

Since making his 2021 debut after returning from Tommy John surgery last month, Sale has put up a 2.40 ERA and 4.26 FIP to go along with 31 strikeouts to six walks in exactly 30 innings of work thus far. He owns a career 2.45 ERA in two prior outings against the Mets.

The Red Sox (87-65) on Wednesday will be going for the quick two-game sweep of the Mets while also extending their winning streak to seven consecutive games. They currently hold a 1 1/2 game lead over the Blue Jays (85-66) for the top American League Wild Card spot.

Boston will also be wearing their City Connect uniforms once again, for what it’s worth.

Taking that point into consideration, first pitch Wednesday is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN and ESPN.

(Picture of Chris Sale: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Kyle Schwarber, Hunter Renfroe commit 2 costly errors as Red Sox fall to Mariners, 5-4

If the Red Sox were looking to make a statement in regards to how they should be viewed as a Wild Card contender on Monday, they certainly came up short of doing that against a team hot on their trail in the Mariners.

Boston fell to Seattle, 5-4, in the opening contest of a three-game series at T-Mobile Park, marking their sixth loss in their last eight games.

Eduardo Rodriguez, making his 28th start of the season for the Sox, bounced back from a rough outing in his last time out against the Rays by surrendering just two runs — only one of which was earned — on six hits and one walk to go along with six strikeouts on the night.

That said, Rodriguez on Monday did not get off to the best starts, as he gave up a double and single to the first two batters he faced (J.P. Crawford and Mitch Haniger) before allowing the Mariners to take an early 1-0 lead on a run-scoring double play from Ty France in the first inning.

The left-hander had to battle his way through the bottom of the second as well, with Abraham Toro drawing a leadoff walk off him and Luis Torrens ripping a hard-hit single to right field as well as advancing up to second base when Hunter Renfroe booted the ball.

Tom Murphy then doubled his side’s advantage with an RBI groundout, but Rodriguez was ultimately able to settle in — and he did so while getting some help from the Red Sox lineup.

Mariners starter Logan Gilbert had nearly got through Boston’s batting order for the first time without giving up a hit before No. 9 hitter Jose Iglesias altered those plans.

With one out and the bases empty in the top half of the third, Iglesias clubbed a 386-foot solo shot off Gilbert for his ninth home run of the season and his first in a Red Sox uniform in more than eight years.

Fast forward to the fifth, after Alex Verdugo and Christian Vazquez each laced a pair of singles to put runners at the corners with one out, Iglesias came through once more, this time by plating Verdugo on a blooper of an RBI single that knotted things up at two runs apiece.

While Iglesias and Co. were grinding away at the plate, Rodriguez was dealing on the mound, as he ended his day by retiring 12 of the final 16 batters he faced following a 32-pitch second inning.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 107 (74 strikes), his second-highest pitch total of the year, the 28-year-old hurler did not factor into the decision on Monday, though he did lower his ERA on the season to 5.00.

In relief of Rodriguez, right-hander Ryan Brasier got the first call from Red Sox manager Alex Cora out of the Boston bullpen, and it appeared he was well on his way to a 1-2-3 seventh inning.

After needing all of five pitches to record the first two outs of the seventh, Brasier induced a relatively-weak grounder off the bat of the pinch-hitting Jake Bauers that was hit in the direction of Kyle Schwarber at first base.

Schwarber, however, misplayed the ball and was charged with a fielding error, thus allowing Bauers to reach first base safely.

The Mariners made the Sox pay dearly for yet another defensive miscue, as Crawford singled to put runners at first and second before Haniger drilled a go-ahead three-run homer 363 feet to left field. Austin Davis had to get the last out of the seventh after his side had suddenly found themselves in a 5-2 hole.

Despite the three-run deficit, the Boston bats did not go away in the eighth, with both Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers crushed a pair of back-to-back solo shots off Seattle reliever off Paul Sewald to make it a 5-4 game.

After Kaleb Ort (making his major-league debut) and Josh Taylor combined to toss a scoreless eighth inning, though, Mariners closer Drew Steckenrider slammed the door shut on the Red Sox in the ninth.

Verdugo fanned on a foul tip into the catcher’s mitt, Renfroe was called out on strikes, and Vazquez flew out to center field for the third and final out, as 2-1 would go on to be Monday’s final score in favor of the Mariners.

With the loss, the Red Sox fall to 81-65 on the season while also relinquishing the top American League Wild Card spot to the red-hot Blue Jays and moving into a virtual tie with the Yankees for the second and final spot.

Next up: Eovaldi vs. Anderson

The Red Sox will turn to right-hander Nathan Eovaldi on Tuesday as they look to put an end to this two-game skid. The Mariners will counter with left-hander Tyler Anderson.

First pitch Tuesday night is scheduled for 10:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN and MLB Network.

(Picture of Ryan Brasier: Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

Hunter Renfroe comes through with game-winning homer, 2 clutch outfield assists as Red Sox hang on for 2-1 victory over Rays

A pair of former Rays helped the Red Sox snap a three-game losing streak and avoid a sweep at the hands of their division rivals at Fenway Park on Wednesday night.

Powered by yet another strong outing from Nathan Eovaldi and Hunter Renfroe showing out on both sides of the ball, Boston was able to hold on to a 2-1 victory over Tampa Bay to close out the season series — which the Rays won 11-8 –between the two clubs.

Eovaldi, making his 28th start of the season for Boston, was stellar, as he kept the Rays off the board while scattering just three hits and two walks to go along with eight strikeouts over seven scoreless innings of work.

The veteran right-hander seemed to struggle with his command early on considering that both of his walks came in the top of the third, but he was able to settle in.

Former Red Sox prospect Manuel Margot had made things a bit interesting by ripping a two-out single off Eovaldi in the fourth, but was ultimately gunned down by Renfroe at second base while trying to extend his single into a double — marking the right fielder’s first of two outfield assists on the evening.

From there, Eovaldi sat down nine of the final 10 batters he faced, and his night came to a close once he recorded the last out of the seventh with a pitch count of 98 (65 strikes).

Though the 31-year-old hurler did not factor into the decision on Wednesday, he did lower his ERA on the season to 3.57 while also inducing 20 total swings-and-misses.

In relief of Eovaldi, left-hander Josh Taylor got the first call out of the Boston bullpen from Red Sox manager Alex Cora, but he was only able to get the first two outs of the eighth before issuing a two-out single to Brandon Lowe.

That prompted Cora to turn to Garrett Richards, who walked Wander Franco on five pitches to advance Lowe into scoring position, then surrendered a go-ahead RBI single to Nelson Cruz to put the Sox in a 1-0 hole.

Boston headed into their half of the eighth trailing by one, but that deficit may have seemed more insurmountable at the time on account of the fact that they had been held to just four hits by Rays starter Shane McClanahan and two relievers (Andrew Kittredge and Pete Fairbanks) out of the Tampa Bay bullpen.

Cora, in turn, relied heavily on his bench in the eighth inning, as he had Alex Verdugo hit for Jose Iglesias and Kyle Schwarber hit for Jonathan Arauz at the bottom of the lineup.

Verdugo, matched up against Matt Wisler, ripped a leadoff single to right field. Schwarber, matched up against J.T. Chargois after Wisler left with an apparent injury, reached first base himself on a force out, and thus represented the tying run.

Enrique Hernandez was unable to come through as he lined out to center field, but Renfroe certainly made the most of his opportunity in the spotlight.

On the very first pitch he saw from Chargois, a hanging, 90 mph slider down the heart of the plate, Renfroe clobbered a go-ahead, two-run home run a whopping 415 feet over the Green Monster.

Renfroe’s 27th homer of the year gave his side their first lead of the night at 2-1, and it was one in which Hansel Robles was tasked with protecting in the ninth inning.

Robles swiftly fanned Ji-Man Choi and Margot for the first two outs of the frame, but then gave up a 311-foot fly ball to Joey Wendle that was headed for the gap in right-center field.

Danny Santana, who had shifted from left field to center field, made a diving attempt at the ball but came up short, leaving things in the hands of Renfroe.

Renfroe, backing up Santana on the play, quickly chased down the ball, gathered himself and threw out Wendle at third base on one hop as he attempted to extend a double into a triple.

Having notched his 16th outfield assist of the season at just the right time, Renfroe locked down the 2-1 victory for the Sox, while Robles picked up his 12th save of the year as well.

With the win, not only do the Red Sox break out of a three-game skid and improve to 80-62 on the season, but they also leapfrog the Yankees for the first American League Wild Card spot.

Next up: Six-game road trip on deck

The Red Sox will enjoy an off day on Thursday as they depart for Chicago for the start of a six-game road trip and the start of a three-game weekend series against the American League Central-leading White Sox that begins on Friday night.

Right-hander Tanner Houck is slated to get the ball for Boston in Friday’s series opener, while Chicago has yet to name a starter for the contest.

First pitch from Guaranteed Rate Field on Friday is scheduled for 8:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Kyle Schwarber and Hunter Renfroe: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Red Sox squander 6-run lead, commit 4 errors in 11-10 loss to Rays in extras

Despite holding leads of 7-1, 8-6, and 9-7 on Monday afternoon, the Red Sox were unable to keep the Rays at bay and ultimately fell to their division rivals by a final score of 11-10 in 10 innings at Fenway Park.

Chris Sale, making his fifth start of the season for the Sox, did not factor into Monday’s decision, though Boston did lose a game he started for the first time this year.

Over just 3 2/3 innings of work, Sale surrendered five runs — only one of which was earned — on 10 hits and one walk to go along with six strikeouts on the afternoon.

The veteran left-hander began his day by fanning Randy Arozarena on three straight strikes, but then issued a 394-foot triple to rookie sensation Wander Franco.

Franco quickly came into score on an RBI single off the bat of Nelson Cruz to give the Rays their first lead of the contest at 1-0.

Sale did manage to get out of the top of the first by escaping a bases-loaded jam, and the Red Sox lineup responded by getting to Rays starter Ryan Yarbrough for an equalizing run on a run-scoring single from J.D. Martinez.

Pushing across one run in their half of the first was not the only damage the Boston bats did while Yarbrough was on the mound, as they plated six additional runs off the left-hander an inning later.

On an RBI single from Taylor Motter, an RBI double from Hunter Renfroe, an RBI single from Rafael Devers, a two-run double from Bobby Dalbec, and a sacrifice fly from Alex Verdugo, the Sox took a commanding 7-1 lead and appeared as though they would be well on their way to a series-opening win.

At that point, Sale had seemingly settled in by putting up a zero in the second and third innings while also recording the first two outs of the fourth rather quickly.

The division-leading Rays, however, did not go down quietly, as Taylor Walls ignited a two-out rally by reaching base via softly-hit, two-foot infield single. Arozarena and Franco followed with singles of their own, loading the bases for the ever-dangerous Cruz.

Sale got Cruz to lift a 370-foot fly ball to center field that had an expected batting average of just .270. Verdugo, the center fielder, was in position to make the inning-ending catch, but instead battled with the sun and was unable to make a clean snag, resulting in the ball rolling towards right field.

On Verdugo’s fielding error, Cruz managed to unload the bases while also advancing all the way up to third base. He then scored from third when Motter, the second baseman, overthrew Devers.

Tampa Bay’s little-league grand slam allowed them to trim Boston’s advantage down to two runs at 7-5 while also getting Sale out of this contest after just 86 pitched (65 strikes).

In relief of Sale, right-hander Garrett Richards closed out the fourth inning, tossed a 1-2-3 top of the fifth, and surrendered one run on three singles in the sixth, with Jordan Luplow making it a 7-6 game on his RBI base hit.

The Sox answered back in their half of the sixth, though, with Motter ripping a leadoff triple off Rays reliever J.T. Chargois and Renfroe plating him on a hard-hit RBI single through the left side of the infield.

Boston’s newfound two-run lead did not last long, with Arozarena driving in Mike Zunino in the seventh while Adam Ottavino was on the mound.

Jonathan Arauz quickly got that run back by clubbing a 416-foot solo shot off J.P. Feyereisen a half inning later, but Ottavino — for the second appearance in a row — served up a leadoff home run to Cruz to begin things in the eighth.

The Rays completed their comeback in the ninth, with Austin Meadows drilling an inside-the-park homer off Garrett Whitlock.

Meadows had scorched a 393-foot line drive to center field to lead off the inning, but it was one Verdugo could not come up cleanly with while leaping in the direction of the wall.

Neither Martinez nor Renfroe backed up Verdugo as the ball caromed away, resulting in recently-signed shortstop Jose Iglesias to hustle out from the infield to make the play himself.

Iglesias, however, bobbled the ball while attempting to corral it, and that allowed the speedy Meadows to complete his trek around the base paths to tie things up at nine runs apiece.

Whitlock did manage to get through the rest of the frame unscathed to keep the 9-9 stalemate intact, and the pinch-hitting Travis Shaw led things off against former Red Sox hurler Collin McHugh in the bottom of the ninth by lacing a leadoff ground-rule double.

The Rays intentionally walked Verdugo and the Sox had Franchy Cordero run in place of Shaw, but Christian Vazquez was not able to advance the lead runner when his botched bunt attempt wound up getting caught by Zunino in foul territory.

Arauz followed by grounding into an inning-ending 5-6-3 double play, meaning the Red Sox had squandered yet another scoring opportunity as this one headed into extras.

Whitlock, back out for the 10th, gave up back-to-back RBI singles to Cruz and the pinch-hitting Brandon Lowe, thus putting his side in a two-run hole while giving the Rays their first lead of the first inning at 11-9.

Down to their last chance in the bottom of the 10th, Iglesias promptly drove in Arauz from second base and later advanced to second himself when Renfroe reached base on a fielding error.

Devers proceeded to draw a two-out walk against McHugh, meaning the potential tying run was just 90 feet away from scoring while the potential winning run was 180 feet away.

In that spot, Red Sox manager Alex Cora opted to have Kevin Plawecki hit for Cordero, but the veteran backstop could only dribble a softly-hit, inning-ending groundout to shortstop that secured a hard-fought 11-10 win for the visitors and a disappointing 11-10 defeat for the home side.

In a game that took 4 hours and 54 minutes to complete, the Red Sox committed four errors, went 6-for-15 with runners in scoring position, and left 12 runners on base as a team in the process of falling to 79-61 on the season.

Next up: Rodriguez vs. Rasmussen

The Red Sox will send left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez to the hill on Tuesday night as they look to halt this latest skid. The Rays will counter with right-hander Drew Rasmussen.

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

(Picture of Alex Verdugo: Rich Gagnon/Getty Images)

Red Sox mash 4 homers, hold on to 8-5 victory over Indians for third straight win

It was no simple task, but the Red Sox kicked off Labor Day weekend in style with a series-opening, 8-5 victory over the Indians at Fenway Park on Friday night to extend their winning streak to three consecutive games.

Matched up against Indians starter Cal Quantrill to begin things on Friday, the Sox received an immediate boost from leadoff man Kyle Schwarber, who crushed a 428-foot solo shot to dead center field on just the second pitch he saw in the bottom half of the first inning.

Schwarber’s 29th home run of the season, which left his bat at 106.8 mph, gave Boston an early 1-0 lead.

Kevin Plawecki doubled his side’s advantage an inning later, as he, too, took Quantrill deep by drilling a 390-foot solo homer over the Green Monster to make it a 2-0 contest.

Those two home runs took some off the pressure off Nathan Eovaldi out of the gate, and that proved to be quite beneficial.

Eovaldi, making his 27th start of the season for Boston, was — for the most part — exceptional on Friday night, allowing a total of three runs on six hits and two walks to go along with nine strikeouts over 6 1/3 solid innings of work.

The veteran right-hander began his evening by retiring nine of the first 11 Indians he faced, but saw his shutout bid come to an end when he served up a leadoff home run to the dangerous Jose Ramirez in the top of the fourth.

The Red Sox offense, however, returned the favor in the bottom half of the fourth, as Jonathan Arauz clubbed his second big fly of the year — both of which have come against the Indians — to right field off a Quantrill sinker, thus allowing his side to maintain its two-run lead.

After giving up the home run to Ramirez, Eovaldi responded by putting together another impressive run in which he strung together two more scoreless frames, but ran into some trouble with one out in the seventh.

At that point, Eovaldi had given up a one-out single to Bobby Bradley which was promptly followed by a game-tying, two-run blast off the bat of Austin Hedges moments later.

Having seen a 3-1 lead become a 3-3 stalemate, Eovaldi’s night came to a close after he yielded another base hit to Andres Gimenez, which led to him getting the hook from Red Sox manager Alex Cora.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 98 (66 strikes), the 31-year-old did raise his ERA on the season to 3.73, though he did not factor into Friday’s decision.

In relief of Eovaldi, Adam Ottavino got the first call out of the Boston bullpen, and — after allowing Jimenez to steal second base — he stranded the lone runner he inherited by punching out Myles Straw and Amed Rosario back-to-back to end the inning.

While the Sox did lose hold of their lead over the Indians momentarily, they quickly got it back in their half of the seventh, and it all started when the pinch-hitting Travis Shaw drew a leadoff walk off Quantrill.

Arauz followed by lacing double to center field that put runners at second and third base with no outs for Schwarber, who greeted new Indians reliever Trevor Stephan by ripping a two-run double to the right-center field gap.

With an exit velocity of nearly 109 mph, Schwarber’s second run-scoring hit of the night put the Red Sox back in front at 5-3.

Stephan did manage to get the first two outs of the frame by punching out Rafael Devers and J.D. Martinez, but Cleveland opted to intentionally walk the left-handed Alex Verdugo so that their right-handed reliever could face Hunter Renfroe.

The right-handed hitting Renfroe made the Tribe pay dearly for that decision, as he worked a nine-pitch at-bat and — on the ninth and final pitch he saw — deposited a 2-2, 84 mph slider on the outer half of the plate a nice 369 feet over everything in left field.

Renfroe’s 26th homer of the year gave the Sox a commanding 8-3 lead going into the eighth, and it gave Ryan Brasier a comfortable cushion to work with as well.

Brasier, making his 2021 debut on Friday after dealing with a plethora of injuries, got the first two outs of the eighth inning rather quickly, but allowed the next three batters he faced to reach base, with the third and final one — Bradley — lifting an RBI single to left field to cut Boston’s lead down to four runs.

That set the stage for rookie sensation Garrett Whitlock to come on in an attempt to get the final out of the eighth, and he did just that by getting Hedges to fly out to right field.

Coming back out for the ninth, Whitlock did surrender a run that made things even more interesting, but ultimately slammed the door on the Indians with two clutch strikeouts to notch his second save of the year while also securing an 8-5 victory for the Sox.

With the win, the Red Sox improve to 78-59 on the season as their lead over the Athletics for the second American League Wild Card spot increases to three games.

Brasier’s 2021 debut

Of the 21 pitchers Brasier threw in his season debut on Friday, 11 went for strikes. The right-hander turned to his four-seam fastball 71% of the time he was on the mound in the eighth inning and averaged 94.4 mph with the pitch.

Lopez’s first major-league hit

Since making his big-league debut earlier this week, infielder Jack Lopez had been hitless in eight plate appearances leading into Friday. The 28-year-old rookie came through in the second inning, though, as he picked up his first career hit — a 370-foot double — with two outs in the frame.

A first for Devers at second

After Shaw pinch-hit for Lopez to lead off the seventh inning, Danny Santana was inserted as a pinch-runner once Shaw reached base upon drawing a six-pitch walk.

As a result of that substitution, Santana took over for Bobby Dalbec at first base and Dalbec slid over to third base, leading Devers to fill in for Lopez at second base.

That being said, Friday night marked Devers’ professional debut at second base, as he had never played the position at the minor- or major-league level beforehand.

Next up: Houck vs. Morgan

The Red Sox will turn to right-hander Tanner Houck as they go for the series win over the Indians on Saturday afternoon.

The Indians, meanwhile, will hand the ball to fellow rookie righty Eli Morgan as they look to prevent that from happening.

First pitch Saturday is scheduled for 4:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Kyle Schwarber, Alex Verdugo, and Hunter Renfroe: 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)

Chris Sale strikes out 8 over 5 solid innings in triumphant return to mound as Red Sox cruise past Orioles, 16-2

The Red Sox certainly made sure to give Chris Sale plenty of run support in his return to the mound at Fenway Park on Saturday afternoon, as they came away with a 15-2 blowout victory over the lowly Orioles to clinch their first series win in over two weeks.

Sale, making his first major-league start in over two years and first since undergoing Tommy John surgery last March, showed flashes of what makes him so special in his 2021 debut.

Over five solid innings of work, the ace left-hander yielded just two runs — both of which were earned — on six hits and zero walks to go along with eight strikeouts on the afternoon.

Both runs Sale surrendered came by way of the home run ball, as he served up pair of back-to-back solo shots to Austin Hays and Trey Mancini with two outs in the top half of the third after retiring eight of the first nine hitters he faced.

Still, even with that tough sequence that saw Baltimore net their first and only two runs of the day, Sale was able to settle in, as he got the final out of the third before working his way around some traffic in a scoreless fourth inning.

In his fifth and final frame, Sale issued a leadoff single to Richie Martin and another single to Austin Wynns that was hit to Hunter Renfroe in right field. Renfroe, however, put his arm strength on full display by gunning down Martin at third base for his league-leading 14th outfield assist of the season.

That turned a potential situation in which there would have been runners on the corners with no outs to a situation where there was one out and just one runner on first, and Sale took full advantage of that by fittingly sitting down the final two batters he faced — Hays and Mancini — to end his outing on an extremely encouraging note.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 89 (60 strikes), the 32-year-old hurler induced 16 total swings and misses while topping out at 96 mph and averaging 93.3 mph with his four-seam fastball.

Able to pick up his first win in his first start of the year, Sale is slated to pitch again against the Rangers back at Fenway Park next Friday.

While Sale was in the process of putting together his five impressive frames in his season debut, the Red Sox lineup was busy piling it on against Sale’s counterpart in Orioles starter Jorge Lopez.

Right from the jump, the Boston bats provided Sale with a sizable cushion by compiling four runs in their half of the first inning alone.

Enrique Hernandez kicked things off with a leadoff single, while Alex Verdugo got his productive day at the plate started with a single of his own. Lopez then drilled Xander Bogaerts on the wrist to load the bases having yet to record an out.

A wild pitch from Lopez allowed Hernandez to score easily from third for his side’s first run of the contest, and Rafael Devers followed by emptying the bases on a 424-foot three-run shot to right field that left his bat at a sizzling 107.7 mph.

Devers’ team-leading 29th home run of the year gave the Sox a commanding 4-0 lead early on, and they tacked on two more an inning later with Bogaerts and Verdugo each drilling run-scoring hits to make it a 6-0 contest.

Though Baltimore cut the deficit down to four with two runs of their own in their half of third, Boston got one of those runs back an inning later when Devers greeted newly-inserted reliever Paul Fry by lacing a bases-loaded RBI single to left field.

Going up 7-2 on Devers’ base knock, the Sox offense opted to double their run total to that point in their half of the fifth.

There, moments after Sale’s evening had come to a close, Renfroe led the inning off by drawing a leadoff walk off Orioles reliever Adam Plutko, though he did not remain on first base for long since Jarren Duran promptly brought him in on an RBI triple into the triangle in center field.

Another Red Sox rookie got in on the action a few moments later, as Bobby Dalbec stayed hot and crushed a two-run big fly 373 feet over the Green Monster.

Dalbec’s first of two home runs on the day added on to the Sox’ lead and also flipped the lineup back over for Hernandez, who drew another walk, moved up to third on a Verdugo single, and scored on an RBI single off the bat of Bogaerts.

After Devers struck out for the second out of the fifth, J.D. Martinez came through by depositing a three-run blast 424 feet to left-center field.

Martinez’s 22nd homer of the year put Boston up 14-2 and also capped off an explosive seven-run inning.

Dalbec’s second homer of the afternoon in the sixth and Renfroe’s first in the eighth (off Wynns, a catcher) gave the Red Sox a 16-2 lead.

At that point, Hirokazu Sawamura, Hansel Robles, and Austin Davis already provided three scoreless innings of relief out of the Red Sox bullpen to follow up Sale’s impressive performance, and Martin Perez closed things out by shutting the door on the O’s in the ninth to preserve the 16-2 victory for his side.

With the win, the Red Sox have now won two consecutive games for the first since July 25-26 to earn the series victory over the Orioles. They also improved to 68-51 on the season to move 4 1/2 games back of the Rays for first place in the American League East.

Next up: Rodriguez vs. Akin

The Red Sox will send left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez to the mound as they go for the three-game sweep over the Orioles on Sunday afternoon. The Orioles will counter with fellow southpaw Keegan Akin as they look to prevent that from happening.

First pitch Sunday is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Chris Sale: Rich Gagnon/Getty Images)