Red Sox’ Hunter Renfroe hits 100th career home run: ‘He’s in a good place right now,’ Alex Cora says

For what was a slow start to begin his Red Sox career, Hunter Renfroe has been turning it around for the better as of late.

The latest instance of the outfielder’s offensive resurgence popped up in the Sox’ 11-7 win over the Tigers at Fenway Park on Tuesday night.

As part of a 3-for-4 evening at the plate, Renfroe ripped an RBI single in the first inning, laced a 108.5 mph ground-rule double in the third inning, and picked up the 100th home run of his big-league career in the fifth inning.

With one out in the bottom half of the fifth, the 29-year-old was matched up against Tigers reliever Buck Farmer, someone he had never faced before Tuesday.

On an 0-1, hanging 83 mph slider down the heart of the plate from Farmer, Renfroe crushed said pitch 362 feet into the second row of Green Monster seats in left field.

Renfroe’s homer gave the Red Sox a 9-3 lead, and as previously mentioned, it marked an important milestone for the Mississippi native.

“Any person that says it doesn’t is lying,” Renfroe said when asked if achieving career milestones is meaningful to him. “Anytime you can get a big milestone — 100th career home run, 200th career home run, 500th RBI — it means a lot. Those are not easily done.

“People that come in the league and stay in the league are the only guys that really get to do that,” he added. “And the guys that just come in and go out, it’s tough to get 100 home runs or 500 RBI or whatever. Any kind of milestone needs to be celebrated in baseball, and I think it’s awesome.”

The ball that Renfroe took out of the yard on Tuesday wound up back on the field. Not knowing how significant that ball was, Tigers left fielder Robbie Grossman threw it back into the stands upon retrieving it.

The fan who got the ball from Grossman could later be seen negotiating with Red Sox security, as the two sides were presumably working out a deal that would net Renfroe his 100th career home run ball in exchange for some signed memorabilia.

Renfroe was asked if he had the ball in his possession, as well as what he plans to do with it.

“I got it,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s the right one or not, but I got a ball. And they said they wrote ‘100 career homers.’ So I don’t know if it’s the right one or not, but we’ll see.”

He also told NESN’s Jahmai Webster that he plans on putting the ball on display in his office at home “for everybody to see.”

With Tuesday’s near-cycle performance in his back pocket, Renfroe has gotten his month of May off to a tremendous start. Through three games this month, the Mississippi State product is 6-for-12 (.500) with two homers, five RBI, and four runs scored.

His numbers on the season as a whole (.222/.275/.389) still might not look that impressive, but this recent turnaround is certainly an encouraging development for the Red Sox.

“He’s swinging the bat well,” Sox manager Alex Cora said Tuesday night. “It started in Texas, right? He hits the home run… he got two hits the opposite way, he put the ball in play. And today, he did the same thing. Even the out was a good swing going opposite field. So he’s in a good place right now. He looks like he’s having confidence, he’s seeing the ball better, and it seems like good things are going to happen.”

(Picture of Hunter Renfroe: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Alex Verdugo, Xander Bogaerts, Hunter Renfroe, Kiké Hernández all homer as Red Sox hold on to defeat Tigers, 11-7

It was no easy feat, but the Red Sox held on to take the opener of their three-game series against the Tigers by a final score of 11-7 at Fenway Park on Tuesday.

The Sox jumped out to an early four-run lead in this one by teeing off on Tigers starter Michael Fulmer, with J.D. Martinez getting his side on the board in the first inning by grounding into a run-scoring fielder’s choice.

A string of RBI singles from the likes of Christian Vazquez, Marwin Gonzalez, and Hunter Renfroe would knock Fulmer out of Tuesday’s contest earlier than he probably expected, but Boston was far from done in the scoring department.

That being the case because an inning later, Alex Verdugo and Xander Bogaerts tacked on three more runs to the Red Sox’ total by crushing a pair of home runs over the Green Monster off Tigers reliever Alex Lange.

In the third, Renfroe scored on a wild pitch. In the fifth, he belted a solo homer to make it a 9-3 game.

After Detroit made things interesting in the middle innings, Vazquez provided some much-needed insurance in Boston’s half of the sixth when he plated Martinez on an RBI double down the left field line.

Enrique Hernandez followed suit in the eighth, as the leadoff man joined the home run party and clubbed his fourth of the season to left-center field to give his side an 11-7 lead.

Pivetta fans eight over five innings

Nick Pivetta made his his sixth start of the season for the Red Sox on Tuesday, and his first ever start (second career appearance) against the Tigers.

Over five innings of work, the right-hander yielded three runs — all of which were earned — on six hits and two walks to go along with a season-high eight strikeouts on the night.

Those first two Tigers runs were given up by Pivetta in the top half of the first. The other one was given up in the top half of the fifth, an inning in which it seemed like Pivetta would not be able to get through after he put the first three hitters he faced on base.

Inducing a 5-4-3 double play off the bat of Miguel Cabrera aided Pivetta tremendously, though, and he was able to end the fifth by getting Jonathan Schoop to ground out to third.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 100 (65 strikes), the 28-year-old hurler turned to his four-seam fastball 54% of the time he was on the mound Tuesday and topped out 96 mph with the pitch. He also induced eight of his 10 swings-and-misses on his slider, a pitch he threw 36 times.

Able to improve to a perfect 4-0 on the season, Pivetta will look for winning decision No. 5 in his next time out, which should come against the Orioles on Tuesday.

Red Sox bullpen takes over for final four innings

In relief of Pivetta, Austin Brice got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen for the sixth inning, and he put two of the first three Tigers he faced on base before serving up a three-run home run to JaCoby Jones.

Only able to record one out while inflating his ERA on the season to 7.88, Brice was given the hook in favor of Matt Andriese, who allowed one inherited runner to cross the plate before fanning a pair to retire the side.

From there, Adam Ottavino maneuvered his way around a one-out walk in an otherwise clean seventh inning, while Darwinzon Hernandez managed to get just one out in eighth before filling the bases on a Victor Reyes groundball that was misplayed by Bobby Dalbec and a pair of walks.

That led the Sox to make another pitching change, as Matt Barnes came on in a 10-7 game to face the potential go-ahead run for the Tigers in the form of Cabrera.

Fresh off being named the American League Reliever of the Month for April, Barnes escaped the jam by getting Cabrera to ground into yet another twin killing. He then 1-2-3 ninth inning to preserve an 11-7 win for the Red Sox and notch his seventh save of the season in the process of doing so.

Renfroe reaches milestone

By depositing a 362-foot solo shot off Buck Farmer in the fifth inning of Tuesday’s win, Renfroe picked up the 100th big fly of his major-league career.

With a 3-for-4 showing at the plate, the 29-year-old is now slashing .333/.364/.714 over his last seven games played.

Next up: Rookie vs. a vet

Wednesday’s pitching matchup between the 18-12 Red Sox and 8-22 Tigers will feature rookie right-hander Casey Mize getting the ball for Detroit and veteran left-hander Martin Perez doing the same for Boston.

Mize, a 2018 first-round draft pick out of Auburn, will be making his first career start against the Sox.

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

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

Red Sox close out road trip by blowing another lead in 5-3 loss to Brock Holt’s Rangers

Despite strong efforts from Garrett Richards on the mound and Xander Bogaerts at the plate, the Red Sox squandered yet another lead in the process of dropping another winnable game to the Rangers by a final score of 5-3 on Sunday.

After getting a quality outing from Richards and a scoreless sixth inning from Darwinzon Hernandez, the Sox turned things over to Garrett Whitlock with a 3-1 lead to work with in the seventh.

Whitlock, who had not surrendered a run through his six big-league appearances, served up a solo home run to the first man he faced in Isiah Kiner-Falefa.

As noted by MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith, Whitlock gave up the homer to Kiner-Falefa on an 83 mph changeup, marking the first time he had given up a hit on that particular pitch this seaason.

Adam Ottavino was responsible for the eighth, and he walked the first batter he faced — Nate Lowe– to put the tying run on base.

Lowe stole second base to advance into scoring position, then scored from second on an RBI single from David Dahl, which knotted things up at three runs a piece.

Another walk from Ottavino resulted in the righty getting the hook in favor of Matt Barnes for a rare eighth inning appearance.

With one out to get and runners at first and second in the eighth, Barnes was greeted by old friend Brock Holt, who gave the Rangers their first lead of the afternoon by lacing a hard-hit single to center field that Alex Verdugo could not come up with cleanly.

One run was already going to score regardless, but Verdugo’s miscue — which was ruled a fielding error — allowed another runner to cross the plate for Texas to put them up 5-3 going into the ninth.

Richards allows one run over five innings

Richards, making his sixth start of the season for Boston, allowed just one earned run on four hits and one walk to go along with seven strikeouts over five solid innings of work on Sunday.

The lone Rangers run the right-hander gave up came in the bottom half of the fourth, when Joey Gallo led things off with a double, advanced to third on a flyout, and scored on a groundout.

Outside of that, it’s fair to say Richards was not as efficient as he was in his last time out against the Mets, but he was still effective nonetheless.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 93 (63 strikes), the 32-year-old hurler turned to his four-seam fastball 48% of the time he was on the mound Sunday, inducing five swings-and-misses and topping out at 96.4 mph with the pitch.

Hit with the no decision in this one, Richards’ next start should come against the Orioles in Baltimore next weekend.

Renfroe and Bogaerts give Red Sox early two-run lead

Matched up against right-hander Mike Foltynewicz for the Rangers, the Red Sox jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the top half of the second when Bogaerts led off with a single and came around to score on a Hunter Renfroe RBI groundout later in the inning.

Fast forward to the fourth, and Bogaerts struck again, this time taking Foltynewicz 435 feet to deep center field for his fifth home run of the season.

Bogaerts’ big fly, which had an exit velocity of 103.7 mph, to lead off the top of the fourth gave Boston a 2-0 advantage.

After Texas tacked on a run of their own, Enrique Hernandez provided what at the time looked to be an important insurance run in the seventh when he drove in Renfroe on an RBI single, but it would not prove to be enough in the end.

Some notes from this loss:

The Red Sox went 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position on Sunday. They left five runners on base as a team.

Per Baseball Savant, the Red Sox had a 70% chance to win this game at the midway point of the eighth inning.

Next up: Off day

After closing out a 3-3 six-game road trip, the 17-12 Red Sox will have a day off on Monday before opening up a three-game series against the Tigers at Fenway Park on Tuesday.

Right-hander Nick Pivetta is slated to get the ball for Boston. Detroit has yet to name a starter.

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

(Picture of Brock Holt and Xander Bogaerts: Ron Jenkins/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 prospect Jarren Duran spending time in left field at team’s alternate training site

Red Sox outfield prospect Jarren Duran has started to see playing time in left field at the team’s alternate training site in Worcester, as evidenced by his participation in Monday’s simulated game at Polar Park.

During the live stream of Monday’s sim game, Worcester Red Sox broadcaster Josh Maurer said that Duran has “been transitioning to playing corners over the past few days, not just in today’s game (h/t SoxProspects.com’s Chris Hatfield).

The 24-year-old was originally drafted by the Red Sox as a second baseman out of Long Beach State in 2018.

The area scout who had signed Duran, Justin Horowitz, thought that the speedster played second base well, but saw an opportunity for him to move to center field given his freakish athleticism.

“I just thought his athleticism was a little bit bottled up at second base,” Horowitz told MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith last month. “He could play second base. He did it fine. I had no issues with it. I just thought there was a chance for impact in center field if you could kind of let this kid go be himself and run around out there and be a ball hog. So that’s what I recommended.”

Since making the move to center field, Duran has emerged as the top outfield prospect in Boston’s farm system and came into the 2021 season regarded by Baseball America as the organization’s fifth-ranked prospect overall.

Of the 1,645 1/3 defensive innings Duran has played in the minor-leagues since making his pro debut in 2018, 164 have come at second base, 1,220 2/3 have come in center field, and 260 2/3 have come in right field.

Over the course of the spring, the 6-foot-2, 202 pounder only played left field on a few occasions after exclusively playing center during the 2019 minor-league season as well as at the alternate site last year.

The fact that the Red Sox have Duran exploring a new position comes at an interesting time considering the fact that corner outfielders Franchy Cordero and Hunter Renfroe have gotten their 2021 campaigns off to slow starts.

Cordero, who the Sox acquired from the Royals in February as part of the trade that sent Andrew Benintendi to Kansas City, is struggling to the tune of a .200/.265/.244 slash line out of the gate to go along with a 47% strikeout rate.

Renfroe, who signed a one-year, $3.1 million with Boston in December, is currently slashing .176/.241/.255 with just one home run and eight RBI over his first 58 plate appearances.

Despite the offensive struggles, Renfroe has proven to be the best defensive outfielder on the Red Sox’ major-league roster. The same cannot be said for Cordero, who at 26 only has 112 career big-league games under his belt over five seasons.

The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier wrote Monday that “the Red Sox aren’t at the point of giving up on either [Cordero or Renfroe], but their outfield situation hardly seems settled for the long haul.”

If Cordero and/or Renfroe’s struggles do continue, Duran would then represent a potential solution to Boston’s outfield problems, but only after immediate holes on the big-league club have been filled.

That’s why the Sox have made sure to get Duran acquainted with a new position while he is in Worcester as opposed to under the lights in Boston. Red Sox farm director Brian Abraham said as much in a recent conversation with Speier.

“If there is an opportunity for [Duran] to get to the big leagues at some point this season or in the future, if he gets put in left field at Fenway Park, we don’t want that to be the first time he’s playing left field in a professional baseball game,” explained Abraham. “We want players to feel comfortable in an uncomfortable spot and to prepare guys for the potential for there to be different things that happen, whether it be a transaction or an injury. The more versatile the player, the better chance they have of impacting the big league club.”

To put it simply, the Red Sox want to put Duran in a position (no pun intended) where he is capable of being a big-league contributor for an extended period of time.

By having Duran patrol unfamiliar territory in left field, the Sox are hopeful that the experience will open more doors for the California native to make an impact in the majors sooner rather than later.

That being said, Duran receiving a callup anytime soon is no sure thing. As Speier notes, the young outfielder “still has yet to play an official minor-league game above Double-A.”

The last minor-league game he played in also took place more than 19 months ago, too.

Because he is already in Worcester, it seems more than likely that Duran will begin the 2021 minor-league campaign with the WooSox, who are slated to kick off their inaugural season on May 4.

And while there is no timetable as for when Duran could be getting called up, the Red Sox will be sure to closely monitor how the left-handed hitter adjusts to a new tier of competition at the Triple-A level as he is coming off a year in which he made several improvements to his game on both sides of the ball.

(Picture of Jarren Duran: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

What do Franchy Cordero and Hunter Renfroe’s offensive woes mean for Red Sox’ outfield picture?

22 games into the 2021 season, it’s fair to say the Red Sox are not getting the results they had hoped for from two significant outfield additions they made over the winter.

Those two additions would be a pair of former Padres outfielders in Hunter Renfroe and Franchy Cordero.

Renfroe, who signed a one-year, $3.1 million deal with Boston back in December, did not play in the Sox’ 8-2 loss at the hands of the Mariners on Saturday afternoon.

Through 14 games this season, the 29-year-old is slashing a dismal .188/.241/.271 with just one home run and seven RBI over 54 plate appearances.

What Renfroe has lacked in offensive production, he has made up for it with his glove thus far as he came into play Saturday ranked seventh among qualified American League outfielders in ultimate zone rate per 150 games (22.7).

The same cannot be said for Cordero, whom the Sox acquired from the Royals as part of the trade that sent Andrew Benintendi to Kansas City back in February.

Cordero did play in Saturday’s loss to the M’s while starting in left field and batting out of the eight-hole, but struck out swinging in all three of his trips to the plate.

The 26-year-old out of the Dominican has now punched out 23 times in 49 plate appearances this season while watching his slash line dip to an underwhelming .200/.265/.244 with just two extra-base hits and five RBI to his name so far.

While he has yet to put his power on full display in Boston, Red Sox manager Alex Cora attributed Cordero’s early struggles and high strikeout rate to the notion that the left-handed hitter was trying to make too much contact rather than stay within himself at the plate.

“I do believe he’s actually trying too much to make contact instead of staying on his swing,” Cora said of Cordero prior to Saturday’s loss. “Instead of recognizing your pitch and put a good swing on it, he’s not actually doing that. He’s late on the fastball. Now he’s out in front of offspeed pitches.”

Despite an 0-for-3 showing with three strikeouts in Saturday’s contest, Cora still remains confident that Cordero will be able to turn things around and prove to be a valuable member of this Red Sox team.

“You’ve got to keep coaching the player and giving him confidence,” said Cora. “He’s working on his craft every day with (hitting coaches) Timmy (Hyers) and Peter (Fatse). He’s in a bad stretch right now. But this is a guy that we trust and we believe he’s going to make contact. And when he makes contact, good things happen.”

Prior to being dealt to Boston in February, Cordero accrued 315 plate appearances with the Padres and Royals from 2016-2019. He crushed 12 total home runs in those 315 plate appearances, but — as previously mentioned — has yet to hit a homer in a Red Sox uniform.

As noted by MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom described Cordero as someone who “hits the ball about as hard as anyone in the big-leagues,” upon acquiring him from Kansas City this winter.

So far this season, the 6-foot-3, 232 pound pound outfielder has yet to barrel a ball and is averaging an exit velocity of just 87.8 mph on the balls he has put in play, per FanGraphs.

It should be said that the Red Sox invested in both Cordero and Renfroe with the idea that they could prove to quintessential low-risk, high reward players.

Besides Renfroe’s fine defense, there really has not been much of a reward from either outfielder thus far. Again, it’s still relatively early on in the season, but that point begs the question: How long will the Red Sox wait before making a significant change in the outfield?

And by make a significant change, I mean call up Jarren Duran.

Duran, 24, is regarded by Baseball America as the top outfield prospect in Boston’s farm system and is currently waiting in the wings at the club’s alternate training site in Worcester.

With the 2020 minor-league season being cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the former seventh-round draft pick has not played in a competitive (non-spring training game) since 2019 and has yet to play above Double-A.

The Red Sox initially drafted Duran as a second baseman out of Long Beach State, but converted him to an outfielder on account of his speed and power potential.

This spring, the left-handed hitter clubbed three home runs, collected seven RBI, and slashed .340/.367/.702 across 47 Grapefruit League appearances.

While he has provided that much offensive firepower at spring training, the Puerto Rican winter league, and the alternate training site this year and last, the Sox still feel as though Duran can improve upon his defense in center field, which is understandable given the fact he is still relatively new to the position.

Bloom has said before that the Red Sox do not want to skip any steps in a prospect’s development, which would certainly seem to indicate that Duran is bound to see playing time for the Triple-A Worcester Red Sox before garnering any big-league consideration.

On top of that, Duran — who turns 25 in September — has yet to be added to Boston’s 40-man roster, which as you might expect is full at the moment.

The California native needs to be added to the Sox’ 40-man roster before November 20 in order to avoid eligibility for the Rule 5 Draft, but that is yet another obstacle in the way.

Still, Duran is undoubtedly one of the more exciting prospects the Red Sox have to offer. He seems to be more big-league ready than the likes of outfielders Jeisson Rosario or Marcus Wilson (both of whom are on the 40-man roster), too.

So, if Cordero and Renfroe continue to sputter along, it would not be surprising to see the Red Sox give Duran a crack in the outfield sooner rather than later.

His time is coming, and maybe it will come sooner than expected.

(Picture of Hunter Renfroe, Franchy Cordero, and Alex Verdugo: Kathryn Riley/Getty Images)

Alex Verdugo comes up with game-saving catch as Red Sox top Twins, 3-2, for eighth straight win in Game 1 of doubleheader

In the first game of a straight doubleheader at Target Field Wednesday afternoon, the Twins had Red Sox closer Matt Barnes on the ropes.

With a 3-2 lead to protect, Barnes had recorded the first two outs of the bottom half of the ninth, but only after putting the tying run on base in the form of a leadoff walk to Cave.

Cave stole second base to advance into scoring position, which brought Luis Arraez to the plate with the chance to knot things up at three runs a piece.

After falling behind in the count at 3-1, Barnes delivered an 86 mph curveball that Arraez — a right-handed hitter — slapped the other way.

Alex Verdugo, having moved from center to left field in place of Franchy Cordero an inning prior had just seconds to react to the screamer heading in his direction.

The young outfielder sprawled out to his right and wound up making a catch that was eerily similar to the one Andrew Benintendi made at Minute Maid Park in Game 4 of the 2018 ALCS.

Verdugo’s was still awe-inspiring snag secured a 3-2 victory for the Red Sox that extends their winning streak to eight consecutive games.

Arroyo, Renfroe stay hot at the plate

Facing off against a tough opponent in Twins right-hander Kenta Maeda, a three-run second inning is what gave the Sox the edge in this one.

Hunter Renfroe stayed hot and got his side in the board first by scoring Marwin Gonzalez from second on an RBI single.

After advancing to second on another single off the bat of Cordero, Renfroe came into score when upon fielding a softly-hit bunt from Kevin Plawecki, Maeda attempted to get the force out at third and instead air-mailed his throw well over Arraez’s head.

That blunder doubled Boston’s lead, and Christian Arroyo tacked on another run by plating Cordero on an RBI base-hit to left field. Arroyo also doubled in the top of the fourth.

Eovaldi improves to 2-1 on the season

The Red Sox continue to get consistency from their starting rotation, and Nathan Eovaldi provided that consistency in his third start of the season on Wednesday.

Over five solid frames of work, the veteran right-hander held the Twins to two runs on five hits, no walks, and one hit batsman to go along with three strikeouts on the afternoon.

Both runs Eovaldi gave up came in a rather laborious bottom half of the third, but the fireballer rebounded by retiring six of the final seven hitters he faced through the end of the fifth — with some defensive help mixed in there as well.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 82 (60 strikes), the 31-year-old topped out at 99.1 mph with his four-seam fastball, a pitch he threw 34 times. His next start should come against the White Sox back at Fenway Park on Monday.

In relief of Eovaldi, left-hander Darwinzon Hernandez got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen in the middle of the sixth. The 24-year-old needed all of seven pitches to retire the side in order before Barnes came on for the seventh.

Next up: Game 2

Next up, the Red Sox will wrap up this twin bill against the Twins later Wednesday evening.

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will make his second start of the season for Boston, and he will be opposed by ace right-hander Jose Berrios for Minnesota.

First pitch of Game 2 is scheduled for approximately 5:25 p.m. eastern time. Red Sox will be going for their ninth straight win.

(Picture of Matt Barnes and Alex Verdugo: David Berding/Getty Images)

Bobby Dalbec comes through with 2 clutch hits, Hunter Renfroe and Rafael Devers both homer as Red Sox come back to defeat Twins, 4-2, and pick up seventh straight win

An unexpected off-day on Monday and frigid, snowy conditions in Minneapolis on Tuesday could not halt the Red Sox’ early-season momentum, as the club extended its winning streak to seven consecutive games following a 4-2 come-from-behind victory over the Twins at Target Field.

Improving to 7-3 to start the 2021 campaign, the Sox become the first team since the 1991 Mariners to begin a season with a losing streak of three-plus games and follow it by winning seven-plus games in a row.

Tuesday’s win in Minnesota was not easy to come by. The Sox were held off the scoreboard until the fifth inning and did not plate the go-ahead run until their half of the eighth.

Bobby Dalbec was responsible for the two-most important Boston runs of the afternoon.

The 25-year-old slugger came into the week in the midst of a 3-for-25 slump to begin his first season in the majors, but came through in the clutch during his first visit to Target Field by driving in the tying and go-ahead runs on a pair of RBI doubles in the fifth and eighth innings.

Christian Arroyo was the one who scored on both of those two-base hits from Dalbec. The young second baseman enjoyed a successful day at the plate batting out of the eight-hole, as he he went 2-for-3 with a double and two runs scored.

Arroyo also turned a nifty double play in the sixth when he fielded a 105 mph scorcher off the bat of Andrelton Simmons while playing in a defensive shift behind second base.

Renfroe gets on the board while Devers stays hot

Before Dalbec’s heroics, the Red Sox first got on the board courtesy of Hunter Renfroe.

With two outs in the top half of the fifth, the right-handed power threat that is Renfroe took a 1-1 slider from Twins starter J.A. Happ 416 feet deep to dead center field for his first home run in a Sox uniform.

Fast forward to the ninth, after Boston had already taken a 3-2 lead over Minnesota, and Rafael Devers wrapped things up by extending his homer-streak to four consecutive games.

The 24-year-old deposited a 1-2, 89 mph slider from Twins reliever Jorge Alcala 404 feet over the left field wall — with an exit velocity of 108.4 mph off the bat — for his fifth big fly of the season.

Perez gets off to shaky start, but pulls through with five strong frames

Martin Perez’s second start of the year looked like it was going to be a short one, for the veteran southpaw allowed four of the first six hitters he faced on Tuesday to reach base.

Command issues for Perez resulted in the Twins jumping out to an early 2-0 lead in the first, but the Venezuelan-born hurler was able to settle in once he got more adjusted to the freezing temperatures.

That being the case because over his final four innings of work, Perez only faced more than four hitters in one frame on one occasion en route to keeping his former team off the board through the end of the fifth.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 88 (49 strikes), Perez’s next start should come against the White Sox back at Fenway Park on Sunday.

Bullpen holds steady, preserves winning streak

Between Hirokazu Sawamura, Adam Ottavino, Darwinzon Hernandez, and Matt Barnes, the Red Sox bullpen combined to toss four scoreless, one-hit innings of relief on Wednesday afternoon.

Barnes, in particular, was sharp once again as the right-hander needed all of 14 pitches to retire the side in order in the ninth, pick up his first save of the season, and preserve his side’s 4-2 series-opening win.

Next up: Straight doubleheader on Wednesday

The Red Sox and Twins will be playing a straight doubleheader on Wednesday to make up for Monday’s game being postponed.

Each game of the twin-bill will be seven innings long with the second contest beginning approximately 30 minutes after the first one ends.

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi is slated to get the ball for Boston in Game 1, and he will be opposed by fellow righty Kenta Maeda.

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, meanwhile, will start Game 2 for the Sox. He will be opposed by Twins ace right-hander Jose Berrios.

First pitch of the first game Wednesday is scheduled for 2:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN. Red Sox will be going for their eighth straight win, and then their ninth if they come out on top in Game 1.

(Picture of Hunter Renfroe and Rafael Devers: Hannah Foslien/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 free agency rumors: Jackie Bradley Jr. seeking ‘significant contract, perhaps beyond four years,’ per report

Potential Red Sox free-agent target Jackie Bradley Jr. remains unsigned as major-league camps in Arizona and Florida are set to begin in just a matter of weeks.

There have not been too many recent rumblings as to where Bradley Jr. could land, but on Wednesday evening, The New York Post’s Mike Puma reported that the 30-year-old outfielder “has been seeking a significant contract, perhaps beyond four years.”

Bradley Jr., who turns 31 in April, is a client of super-agent Scott Boras.

The one-time All-Star and one-time Gold Glove award winner is coming off a 2020 campaign in which he slashed .283/.364/.450 with seven home runs and 22 RBI over 55 games played (217 plate appearances) for the Sox.

Boston has expressed interest in a reunion with Bradley Jr. since the closing stages of last season, but the two sides do not appear to be anywhere close to an agreement on a new contract at the moment.

“As far as Jackie, as it’s been all offseason, we continue to stay in touch with him,” Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom told reporters late last month. “We have been this entire time. And I expect we’ll continue to until his free agency resolves.”

Although it’s out there that Bradley Jr. may be seeking a four-plus year deal from interested clubs, it would be interested to see how much he is looking for in terms of average annual value.

The former first-round draft selection may be the top centerfielder on the open market now that George Springer has signed with the Blue Jays, but the fact of the matter is that Bradley Jr., while superb in the outfield, has proven to be inconsistent at the plate over the course of eight-year major-league career.

With that in mind, it seems unlikely that a team such as the Mets would be willing to invest that much in a practically defense-first outfielder who is now on the other side of 30, as noted by MLB Trade Rumors’ Jeff Todd.

The Red Sox, meanwhile, are inching towards towards the $210 million luxury tax threshold with their 2021 payroll following the signings of Enrique Hernandez and Garrett Richards being made official, so they would probably prefer to avoid that much of an investment as well.

Given those circumstances, Boston could stand put and roll with an everyday outfield of Andrew Benintendi in left, Alex Verdugo in center, and Hunter Renfroe in right to open the 2021 season if they so choose.

Jarren Duran, one of the club’s top outfield prospects, also appears to be on the cusp of getting big-league consideration sometime this summer.

The 24-year-old, who played winter ball for Criollos de Caguas of the Puerto Rican Winter League, is currently representing Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Series.

If not Verdugo or Duran, the Red Sox could look at other free-agents still available who have experience playing center field, such as Jake Marisnick and old friend Kevin Pillar.

(Picture of Jackie Bradley Jr.: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)