James Paxton’s 8 strikeouts not enough as Red Sox blow late lead in 5-4 loss to Reds; Masataka Yoshida, Enmanuel Valdez homer

For the second night in a row, the Red Sox fell short of a comeback win over the Reds in the process of suffering their second straight one-run loss and their third straight loss overall.

Despite receiving a strong performance from James Paxton and leading after six innings, Boston fell to Cincinnati by a final score of 5-4 at Fenway Park on Wednesday to drop back to one game of .500 at 28-27 on the season.

With right-hander Luke Weaver starting for the Reds, the Red Sox opened the scoring when Masataka Yoshida belted a 359-foot solo shot down the right field line to lead off the bottom half of the second inning. Yoshida’s seventh home run of the year, and first since May 4, left his bat at 97.8 mph.

An inning later, Connor Wong extended his hitting streak to seven by reaching base on a one-out single. He then moved up to second on an Alex Verdugo groundout before coming into score on an opposite-field RBI double from Rafael Devers. The run-scoring knock was the 200th two-base hit of Devers’ career, but he was left at second as Justin Turner grounded out to end the third.

Boston would maintain a two-run lead through four innings. Paxton, who to that point had experienced very little turbulence in his fourth start of the season for the Sox, then ran into some trouble in the fifth. After recording the first two outs of the frame via strikeout, the veteran left-hander issued a four-pitch walk to Jose Barrero.

Luke Maile, Cincinnati’s No. 9 hitter, wasted no time in making Paxton pay for the free pass by driving in Barrero all the way from first on a towering RBI double off the Green Monster. Maile then advanced to third on a Kevin Newman single, but Paxton stranded the runners on the corners by fanning the final batter he faced in Matt McLain.

All told, Paxton allowed just the one earned run on four hits and one walk to go along with eight strikeouts over five solid innings of work. The 34-year-old finished with exactly 100 pitches (68 strikes) and induced 22 swings-and-misses, the most of any big-league pitcher on Wednesday. He also lowered his ERA on the season to 4.26.

With Paxton’s night done, the Red Sox got that run right back in the bottom of the fifth when rookie Enmanuel Valdez took Weaver 356 feet over the Green Monster for his fourth homer of the year. The 99.1 mph blast put Boston back up, 3-1, going into the sixth.

Kutter Crawford received the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen from manager Alex Cora. Making his first appearance since tweaking his right ankle in Arizona this past Saturday, Crawford immediately issued back-to-back walks out of the gate. The righty then retired Tyler Stephenson and the pinch-hitting Jake Fraley on a pair of flyouts, but he could not escape the jam entirely.

Instead, Crawford extended the inning by giving up an RBI single to Nick Senzel that cut Boston’s lead down to one at 3-2. Josh Winckowski came on to record the final out of the sixth but he, too, was not his usual self in the top of the seventh.

After Maile reached on a Devers throwing error to lead off the inning, Newman and McClain delivered back-to-back singles to fill the bases with no outs. Winckowski then got Jonathan India to ground into a a 6-4-3 double play, but it was enough to allow the pinch-running Will Benson to score from third to knot things up at three runs apiece.

Just moments after they tied the game, Spencer Steer gave the Reds their first lead of the night by crushing a go-ahead, two-run home run into the Monster seats off Winckowski, who was ultimately charged with a blown save as well as the losing decision.

Trailing 5-3 now, the Red Sox had a golden opportunity to respond in the latter half of the inning. Valdez, Verdugo, and Devers all reached to fill the bases with two outs. But lefty reliever Alex Young got Turner to ground out to short to extinguish the threat.

Following a 1-2-3 top of the eighth from Chris Martin, Yoshida led off the bottom half with a hard-hit double off new Reds reliever Lucas Sims. Jarren Duran then drove in Yoshida from second with a two-base hit of his own. Alas, the potential tying run was left on base as the pinch-hitting Raimel Tapia (lineout) and Valdez were each retired by Sims.

Like Martin, Nick Pivetta put up a zero in the top of the ninth to give the Red Sox one more shot in the latter half. With two outs and the bases empty, Devers lifted a 104.6 mph line drive to center field off Buck Farmer, but it fell well short of the bleachers and was caught by Senzel on the warning track for the final out.

Next up: Sale gets ball in series finale

On the heels of a 13-13 May, the Red Sox will look to open the month of June by putting an end to this three-game losing streak and avoid a three-game sweep at the hands of the Reds in Thursday’s series finale. Left-hander Chris Sale will get the start for Boston while Cincinnati will counter with hard-throwing right-hander Hunter Greene.

First pitch from Fenway Park is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Josh Winckowski: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)


Red Sox release prospect acquired in Andrew Benintendi trade

The Red Sox have released minor-league outfielder-turned-pitcher Freddy Valdez, per the club’s transactions log.

Valdez, 21, was one of five players Boston acquired as part of the three-team trade with the Royals and Mets that sent outfielder Andrew Benintendi to Kansas City in February 2021. The Red Sox initially obtained outfielder Franchy Cordero and right-hander Josh Winckowski and then received three more prospects (Valdez, and righties Grant Gambrell and Luis De La Rosa) as players to be named later that June.

At the time of the trade, Valdez was regarded by MLB Pipeline as the No. 14 prospect in the Mets’ farm system after originally signing with the club for $1.450 million as an international free agent coming out of the Dominican Republic in July 2018.

As a then-19-year-old outfielder, Valdez had impressed scouts by flashing intriguing power potential and athleticism. Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom had high praise for the right-handed hitter after acquiring him from New York.

“Corner outfielder, power-profile,” Bloom said of Valdez when speaking with reporters (including MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith) back in June 2021. “ery young. For a guy who is as power-oriented as he was as an amateur — and who has a lot of the strengths and weaknesses that come with that profile — to get into pro ball and perform the way he did initially was really impressive. Got him on our radar. And we got to see him a little bit in extended (spring training).”

Despite the high praise from Bloom, Valdez struggled at the plate in each of the last two seasons and never graduated past rookie ball. He batted just .229/.356/.33 with no home runs and 16 RBIs over 31 Florida Complex League games in 2021 and then slashed .192/.286/.289 with one homer and nine RBIs across 22 games while repeating the same level last year.

On the heels of back-to-back disappointing campaigns, Valdez was converted into a pitcher earlier this season. But the 6-foot-3, 212-pounder never made it out of extended spring training before being cut loose by the Red Sox on Thursday.

Valdez joins Cordero, who was non-tendered over the winter after spending two seasons in Boston, as two pieces from the Benintendi trade who are no longer with the organization. The three players who remain are all pitchers. Winckowski, 24, has posted a 2.15 ERA in 17 appearances (29 1/3 innings) out of the Red Sox bullpen so far this year. Gambrell, 25, was recently promoted from High-A Greenville to Double-A Portland and has put up a 1.69 ERA in his first two starts (10 2/3 innings) with the Sea Dogs. De La Rosa, 20, owns a 2.88 ERA in 25 innings of work for Low-A Salem.

As noted by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, though, neither Gambrell or De La Rosa are ranked among the top 60 prospects in the Red Sox’ farm system by SoxProspects.com.

(Picture of Freddy Valdez: Bryan Green/Flickr)

Connor Wong powers Red Sox to 7-6 win over Blue Jays with first career multi-homer game

The Red Sox survived a six-run fifth inning from the Blue Jays and held on for their fourth straight win on Tuesday night. Powered by four home runs, including two from Connor Wong, Boston defeated Toronto by a final score of 7-6 at Fenway Park to improve to 17-14 on the season.

With left-hander Yusei Kikuchi starting for the Jays, the Sox opened the scoring in their half of the second inning. Following back-to-back groundouts from Enrique Hernandez and Masataka Yoshida, Christian Arroyo got his side on the board by crushing a 404-foot solo shot over the Green Monster for his first home run of the year.

An inning later, Alex Verdugo led off with his second double in as many at-bats and then scored from second on a one-out RBI single off the bat of Rob Refsnyder. In the third, Yoshida extended his hitting streak to 12 consecutive games by taking his countryman in Kikuchi 392 feet deep into Boston’s bullpen for his sixth homer of the season. The 103.1 mph blast put Boston up, 3-0, going into the fifth.

To that point in the contest, Red Sox starter Tanner Houck was cruising. The right-hander kicked off his sixth start of the year by tossing four straight scoreless frames. He than ran into some serious trouble in the top of the fifth. Back-to-back one-out singles from Danny Jansen and Kevin Kiermaier followed by a two-out walk from Bo Bichette filled the bases for Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Guerrero Jr. came through by plating both Jansen and Kiermaier on a two-run single to left field to cut Toronto’s deficit to one. Bichette, who went from first to third on the play, then scored the tying run on a passed ball. The Blue Jays were not done there, though. After Matt Chapman singled to put runners on the corners, Daulton Varsho deposited a 406-foot three-run home run into the right field bleachers.

Just like that, the Blue Jays were in possession of a 6-3 lead. The Red Sox, however, wasted little time in responding to Toronto’s six-run rally. Verdugo was hit by a pitch and Justin Turner singled to lead off the bottom of the fifth. Refsnyder then drove in Verdugo on his second run-scoring hit of the night. Two batters later, Yoshida brought Boston back to within one run by pushing across Turner off new reliever Zach Pop.

Despite struggling in the fifth, Houck came back out for the sixth on account of the Red Sox having a short bullpen on Tuesday. He bounced back and kept the deficit at one by retiring the final three batters he faced. And so the 26-year-old wound up allowing six earned runs on six hits and three walks to go along with five strikeouts over six innings of work. Of the 96 pitches he threw, 57 went for strikes.

After Houck blanked the Jays in the top of the sixth, Wong led off the latter-half of the inning with his first homer of the night — a 368-foot laser off Pop that deflected off the top of the Monster and knotted things up at six runs apiece. Following two scoreless innings of relief from John Schreiber and lefty Richard Bleier, Wong was yet again in the spotlight.

Going up against Erik Swanson to lead off the bottom of the eighth, Wong took aim at the Green Monster once more. This time, he took a 2-1, 93.1 mph fastball down the heart of the plate and demolished it 353 feet into the first row of Monster seats. The towering blast gave the Red Sox a 7-6 edge heading into the ninth.

With closer Kenley Jansen and setup man Chris Martin not available, manager Alex Cora turned to Josh Winckowski, who had just pitched two innings on Monday. Winckowski responded to the call by working his way around a one-out single and inducing a game-ending double play. He earned the first save of his career as a result.

Wong stays hot, literally

In his first career multi-homer game, Connor Wong went a perfect 4-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored. He may have finished a triple shy of the cycle, but his four hits left his bat at 113.6 mph, 105.4 mph, 98.2 mph, and 105.2 mph.

Next up: Manoah vs. Pivetta

The Red Sox will look to ensure a series victory over the Blue Jays with another win on Wednesday night. Nick Pivetta is slated to get the start for Boston opposite fellow right-hander Alek Manoah for Toronto.

First pitch from Fenway Park is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN and MLB Network.

(Picture of Connor Wong: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Alex Verdugo continues to come through in the clutch, delivers with walk-off home run as Red Sox top Blue Jays, 6-5

The Red Sox squandered another late lead in Monday’s series opener against the Blue Jays, but it was not enough to hold them down. Thanks to some more late-game heroics from Alex Verdugo, Boston defeated Toronto by a final score of 6-5 at Fenway Park to improve to 16-14 on the season.

With Jose Berrios starting for the Jays, the Sox drew first blood in their half of the first inning. Verdugo led off with a hard-hit double and immediately scored from second on another two-base hit from Masataka Yoshida. Justin Turner followed by plating Yoshida on an opposite-field RBI single to give his side a 2-0 lead right out of the gate.

It did not take long for Toronto to respond, though. As Corey Kluber made his sixth start of the season for Boston, Danny Jansen and Kevin Kiermaier drew a pair of walks to put runners at first and second with two outs in the top of the second. Bo Bichette then got his productive night at the plate started by crushing a 312-foot three-run home run over the Green Monster to put the Blue Jays up, 3-2.

While it appeared as though Kluber was about to have another rough go of it, he was able to settle in a bit after getting through the first. The veteran right-hander allowed just the three earned runs on five hits and four walks to go along with seven strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings of work.

After putting up zeroes from the top of the third through the middle of the fifth, Kluber came back out for the sixth and recorded the first out of the inning before issuing a five-pitch walk to Jansen. Having already thrown a season-high 104 pitches (59 strikes) to that point in the contest, the 37-year-old was given the hook in favor of Brennan Bernardino.

Bernardino ended things in the top of the sixth by retiring the only two batters he faced. Moments later, Jarren Duran led off the bottom of the sixth by taking Berrios 434 feet to dead center for his second home run of the year. The ball left Duran’s bat at a blistering 109.1 mph and pulled Boston back even with Toronto at three runs apiece.

The stalemate did not last long, however. After Triston Casas drew a one-out walk off Berrios, Enmanuel Valdez followed by launching a go-ahead, two-run shot 427 feet into the center field bleachers for the first home run of his big-league career. Valdez’s 106 mph blast gave the Red Sox a 5-3 lead going into the seventh.

Chris Martin, making his first relief appearance since April 12 after being activated from the injured list on Sunday, took over for Bernardino and worked his way around a bases-loaded jam by getting the pinch-hitting Alejandro Kirk to ground out to himself for the final out of the inning.

Josh Winckowski came on for the eighth and got the first out by getting Jansen to ground out to Enrique Hernandez at short. Hernandez, who made a fantastic diving grab and throw from his knees in the left field grass to nab Jansen, them made two costly throwing errors.

Following a Cavan Biggio double, Hernandez fielded a grounder from Kiermaier but made a poor throw to Casas at first. Biggio scored as a result to cut Toronto’s deficit to one. Kiermaier moved up 90 feet on a Bichette single (his fifth hit of the night) to put runners at first and second for Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Guerrero Jr. roped another grounder in the direction of Hernandez, who hustled over to second to get the force out but airmailed his throw to first in an attempt to finish off the double play. The ball sailed well over Casas’ head and landed in the Red Sox dugout. As a result, Kiermaier was able to score from second to tie the score at 5-5.

Winckowski, who was only charged with one of those two runs, got through the rest of the eighth unscathed and then retired the side in order in the top of the ninth. Jordan Romano took over for Nate Pearson out of the Blue Jays bullpen in the following half-inning, but he was not on the mound for long.

On the third pitch he saw from Romano to lead things off, Verdugo came through in the clutch yet again by lacing a 385-foot line-drive to right-center field that barely cleared the bullpen fence and lifted the Red Sox to a 6-5 walk-off victory.

Verdugo’s fifth home run was good for his third walk-off hit of the year and his second in Boston’s last three games. He finished the night going 2-for-5 with one RBI and two runs scored. On the flip side, Winckowski was credited with the winning decision.

Next up: Kikuchi vs. Houck

Winners of three straight and now at two games over .500 for the first time this season, the Red Sox will look to take the first two games of this four-game set from the Blue Jays on Tuesday night. Right-hander Tanner Houck will get the start for Boston while left-hander Yusei Kikuchi is expected to do the same for Toronto.

First pitch from Fenway Park is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN and TBS.

(Picture of Alex Verdugo: Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

Rafael Devers homers, Kenley Jansen records first save at Fenway Park as Red Sox snap skid with 5-3 win over Angels

Five hits is all the Red Sox needed to pick up a series-opening win over the Angels on Friday night. Donning the yellow City Connect uniforms for the first time in 2023, Boston defeated Los Angeles by a final score of 5-3 at Fenway Park to put an end to a four-game losing streak and improve to 6-8 on the season.

Tanner Houck, making his third start of the year, for the Sox, allowed two earned runs on four hits and four walks to go along with six strikeouts over just four innings of work.

Both of those Angels runs came right away in the top of the first. After putting Shohei Ohtani (walk) and Anthony Rendon (single) on base with two outs, Houck surrendered a two-run double to former teammate Hunter Renfroe that was inches away from clearing the Green Monster in left field.

Despite the early struggles that put the Angels up 2-0, Houck was at least able to settle in a bit, though he did deal with his fair share of traffic on the base paths. After Connor Wong threw out Luis Rengifo at second to end the second and Renfroe grounded into a force out to end the third, the right-hander stranded two more runners in the fourth by retiring the final three batters he faced.

Because he had already thrown 90 pitches (56 strikes) to that point, though, Houck was done after four, meaning a Red Sox starter has still yet to pitch into the sixth inning of a game this season. The 26-year-old hurler did not factor into Friday’s decision as his ERA on the year remained at 4.50.

With Houck’s day done, the Red Sox got on the board in their half of the fourth. Still opposed by Angels starter Patrick Sandoval, Rafael Devers led off by reaching on Rengifo fielding error. He then took second on a wild pitch before coming into score on opposite-field RBI double off the bat of Enrique Hernandez.

Three batters later, Wong prolonged the inning by drawing a two-out walk off Sandoval to put runners at first and second for Yu Chang. Chang, in turn, hit a groundball towards Rendon at third base. Rendon fielded the ball cleanly, but he made a poor throw that got past first baseman Jake Lamb. As a result of the throwing error, Hernandez scored from second to knot things up at two runs apiece.

Josh Winckowski received the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen from manager Alex Cora as he took over for Houck in the fifth. The righty began his outing by putting two runners on with one out before getting Renfroe to ground into an inning-ending, 6-4-3 double play.

In the bottom of the fifth, Devers broke the tie by crushing a one-out solo shot to right field off Angels reliever Jimmy Herget. Devers’ sixth home run of the season already had an exit velocity of 106.6 mph and travelled 349 feet off his bat. It also gave the Red Sox their first lead of the night at 3-2.

An inning later, the Red Sox again took advantage of some sloppy defense from the Angels infield. With two outs and two runners (Chang and Wong) at second and third, Rendon committed yet another throwing error on a Rob Refsnyder groundball. Devers then drew a walk off lefty reliever Aaron Loup, which filled the bases for Hernandez.

Hernandez, however, did not need to do anything, as Angels catcher Logan O’Hoppe could not corral a first-pitch changeup in the dirt, which allowed Chang to come in to score from third and give the Red Sox a 5-2 advantage heading into the seventh.

Los Angeles did get one of those runs back in the seventh, as Winckowski yielded an RBI groundout to Rendon after putting runners at second and third with one out. Still, it was a productive outing for Winckowski, who allowed just the one run over three innings of relief and was later credited with his first winning decision of the year.

From there, John Schreiber worked a scoreless eighth inning to pave the way for Kenley Jansen, who recorded his first career save at Fenway Park by striking out three of the four batters he faced.

The veteran closer made it a bit interesting by giving up a two-out single to Rendon, which brought the tying run to the plate in the form of Renfroe. But Jansen did not falter and instead responded by getting Renfroe to whiff on a nasty 87 mph slider to end it.

With the victory, the Red Sox pick up their first win in a night game this season while improving to 3-4 at home.

Next up: Anderson vs. Pivetta

The Red Sox will go for their second straight win over the Angels on Saturday (Jackie Robinson Day) afternoon. Right-hander Nick Pivetta will get the start for Boston while left-hander Tyler Anderson will do the same for Los Angeles.

First pitch from Fenway Park is scheduled for 4:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Rafael Devers: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox held to just 4 hits in 4-1 loss to Pirates

The Red Sox were held to just four hits in their second straight loss to the Pirates on Tuesday night. Boston fell to Pittsburgh by a final score of 4-1 to drop to 2-3 on the young season.

With Roansy Contreras starting for the Pirates, the Red Sox drew first blood in their half of the first inning. Alex Verdugo led off with a 109.9 mph single and went from first to third on a one-out single from Justin Turner. Masataka Yoshida then drove Verdugo in with a softly-hit RBI groundout.

Yoshida gave the Red Sox an early 1-0 lead with his sixth RBI of the year, but the lineup sputtered from there. Nick Pivetta, meanwhile, was on the mound making his 2023 debut for Boston.

Over five innings of work, Pivetta allowed three runs (one earned) on three hits and three walks to go along with six strikeouts. The right-hander maneuvered his way around a leadoff walk in the first and recorded the first two outs of the second before running into a bit of trouble.

Pivetta actually should have retired the side in order in the second, as he got Canaan Smith-Njigba to strike out swinging on a 3-2, 79 mph curveball. But catcher Reese McGuire could not come up with the pitch cleanly as it rolled towards the backstop, allowing Smith-Njigba to reach base safely.

The Pirates immediately took advantage of McGuire’s blunder as the very next batter, Ji Hwan Bae, uncorked a two-run blast to left field that barely cleared the Green Monster for the first home run of his big-league career. Neither of those runs were charged to Pivetta.

Bryan Reynolds, fresh off a two-homer performance on Monday, continued to torment the Red Sox in the third inning when he took the first pitch he saw from Pivetta — a hanging 77 mph curveball — and crushed a 388-foot leadoff shot into the Red Sox bullpen. Reynolds’ fourth big fly of the season put Pittsburgh up, 3-1.

Pivetta, for his part, was able to settle down after that by retiring nine of the last 11 batters he faced. The only other hit he gave up came in the fifth on a two-out double off the bat of Reynolds, who he stranded at second to at least end his evening on a more positive note.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 87 (54 strikes), Pivetta topped out 95.5 mph with his four-seam fastball, an offering he threw 52 times. The 30-year-old hurler also induced seven swings-and-misses.

With Pivetta’s day done, Josh Winckowski received the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen. The righty pitched well yet again, yielding just one run across three innings of relief. That lone run came in the seventh, when Tyler Heineman reached on a one-out single, stole second base, and scored an important insurance run on an RBI single from Reynolds.

Trailing 4-1 going into the latter half of the seventh, McGuire ripped a two-out double — his second in three innings — but was stranded at second when the pinch-hitting Christian Arroyo struck out looking against Pirates reliever Jose Hernandez. After going down quietly in the eighth, and getting a scoreless top of the ninth from Ryan Brasier, the Red Sox were suddenly down to their final three outs.

Opposed by All-Star closer Will Bednar, Yoshida led off the ninth inning by reaching on a fielding error committed by Pirates first baseman Carlos Santana. But Yoshida was left at first as Adam Duvall popped out, Triston Casas flew out, and Enrique Hernandez struck out to end it.

All told, the Red Sox only recorded three hits after the first inning. They also went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and left six runners on base as a team in their quickest game of the season (two hours and 36 minutes) thus far.

Other worthwhile observations:

Nick Pivetta went five full innings on Tuesday, meaning a Red Sox starter has yet to pitch into the sixth inning through one turn in the rotation.

Through five games, teams are 12-for-12 on steal attempts against the Red Sox. All 12 of those stolen bases have come while Reese McGuire was behind the plate.

Next up: Kluber looks to avoid sweep in series finale

The Red Sox will look to avoid getting swept by the Pirates on Wednesday afternoon. Corey Kluber, who surrendered five earned runs in 3 1/3 innings on Opening Day, will get the start for Boston while fellow righty Mitch Keller will do the same for Pittsburgh.

First pitch from Fenway Park is scheduled for 1:35 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Reese McGuire: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Bobby Dalbec, Ronaldo Hernández, and Jorge Alfaro all hit two-run homers as Red Sox hold on for 7-4 win over Pirates

The Red Sox put an end to their three-game losing streak with a win over the Pirates in Bradenton on Thursday afternoon. Boston defeated Pittsburgh by a final score of 7-4 at LECOM Park to improve to 13-10-4 in Grapefruit League play.

Right out of the gate, Bobby Dalbec provided the Sox with an early two-run lead in the top of the first inning. Following a one-out double from Triston Casas, Dalbec took 1-2, 84 mph curveball from Pirates opener Duane Underwood Jr. and deposited it 409 feet to deep left field for his second home run of the spring.

Dalbec’s blast gave Josh Winckowski a two-run cushion to work with ahead of his third start and fourth overall appearance of the spring. The right-hander pitched well on Thursday, allowing just two earned runs on five hits and no walks to go along with two strikeouts over four innings of work.

Both of those Pirates runs came in the latter half of the second inning. After giving up a one-out single to Ke’Bryan Hayes, Winckowski yielded an RBI double to Canaan Smith-Njigba that Hayes scored all the way from first base on. Smith-Njigba was then driven in on a then-game-tying RBI single from Ji Hwan Bae. Jarren Duran fielded Bae’s single cleanly in center field and made an accurate throw towards home plate, but catcher Jorge Alfaro was unable to land a tag on Smith-Njigba.

Despite getting relatively hit hard in the second, Winckowski settled in retired six of the final seven batters he faced. He received some significant defensive help from second baseman Nick Yorke, who hustled out to right field to rob Carlos Santana of a base hit and then, from his knees, made a strong throw to first base to double up Bryan Reynolds for the final two outs of the third.

Winckowski made quick work of the Pirates in the fourth to end his day on a strong note. The 24-year-old hurler finished with a final pitch count of 55 (39 strikes). He induced two swings-and-misses while mixing in a slider, sinker, cutter, changeup, and four-seam fastball, per Baseball Savant.

Shortly after Winckowski recorded the final out of the fourth, the Red Sox struck again in the fifth. This time, former Pirates outfielder Greg Allen reached base on a one-out double off Johan Oviedo before Ronaldo Hernandez crushed another two-run homer to left field, making it a 4-2 game in favor of Boston.

Following a scoreless bottom of the fifth from Richard Bleier, Daniel Palka drew a leadoff walk off Chase De Jong to begin things in the sixth. Jorge Alfaro then unloaded on a 2-2, 83 mph slider from De Jong and sent it 408 feet into the left field seats. Alfaro’s second big fly of the spring left his bat at a blistering 105.1 mph. It also gave the Red Sox a 6-2 lead.

From there, Ryan Brasier and Ryan Sherriff combined for two more shutout frames out of the Boston bullpen. In the top of the eighth, Allen picked up an RBI by driving in Caleb Hamilton on a sacrifice fly to center field. The Pirates responded by tagging Luis Guerrero for two runs in their half of the inning. Both of those runs came on a two-run shot from Rodolfo Castro to cut the deficit to three.

Taking a 7-4 edge into the ninth, Joe Jacques worked his way around a walk and hit batsman by striking out the side to simultaneously notch the save and secure a win for the Red Sox.

Casas doubles twice in return:

After missing the last two games with a swollen left pinky, Triston Casas went 2-for-4 with two doubles and a run scored out of the two-hole on Thursday. The two doubles left his bat at 107.8 mph and 80.1 mph, respectively.

Next up: Pivetta makes final start of spring

The Red Sox will return to Fort Myers on Friday night to host the Braves. Right-hander Nick Pivetta will make his final start of the spring for Boston opposite Atlanta left-hander Dylan Dodd.

First pitch from JetBlue Park is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Bobby Dalbec: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Kutter Crawford, Josh Winckowski impress in respective starts as Red Sox top Orioles, fall to Rays in split-squad doubleheader

As part of a split-squad doubleheader on Saturday, the Red Sox beat the Orioles at home and lost to the Rays on the road. In Fort Myers, Boston defeated Baltimore by a final score of 9-6. Up the road in St. Petersburg, Boston fell to Tampa Bay by a final score of 3-1.

At JetBlue Park, Kutter Crawford made his third start and fourth overall appearance of the spring for the Red Sox. The right-hander pitched well, scattering just three hits and two walks to go along with five strikeouts over 4 2/3 scoreless innings of work.

Crawford dealt with traffic on the basepaths in every inning except the fourth. But he managed to avoid any serious damage and retired six of the last seven hitters he faced to finish with a final pitch count of 83. With two outs in the fifth, the 26-year-old righty was given the hook in favor of left-hander Oddanier Mosqueda, who walked the first two batters he faced to load the bases before punching out Ryan Mountcastle on a foul tip.

At the midway point, the Red Sox had already jumped out to a 5-0 lead over the Orioles. All five of those runs came off Baltimore starter Grayson Rodriguez, who is considered to be one of the best pitching prospects in all of baseball.

Boston first got to Rodriguez in the bottom half of the third. After Rafael Devers reached base via a one-out double, Adam Duvall followed by crushing a two-run home run over the faux Green Monster for his third homer of the spring. An inning later, Bobby Dalbec drew a leadoff walk off Rodriguez and was able to move up to third with two outs before scoring on a wild pitch.

Greg Allen, who was at the plate when Dalbec scored, drew a walk himself and wasted no time in showing off his speed by scoring all the way from first on an RBI double off the bat of Christian Arroyo. Following an Orioles pitching change that saw old friend Eduard Bazardo replace Rodriguez, Devers greeted his former teammate by ripping an RBI single to right field that brought in Arroyo to make it a 5-0 contest in favor of the Red Sox.

The Red Sox and Orioles then exchanged zeroes for the next three innings. After Crawford and Mosqueda got through the fifth, Chris Martin retired the side in order in the sixth before Richard Bleier faced the minimum by inducing an inning-ending, 6-4-3 double play in the seventh.

Picking things up in the eighth, the Sox saw their combined shutout bid come to an end when Heston Kjerstad drove in Jordan Westburg with an RBI groundout off Joely Rodriguez. Rodriguez gave up a single to the next batter he faced in Maverick Handley before being removed from the game with a right side injury. The veteran lefty was replaced by minor-leaguer Jake Thompson, who issued a leadoff walk to Colton Cowser and then surrendered three consecutive run-scoring hits to Shayne Fontana, Franchy Cordero, and Mark Kolozsvary.

Just like that, Boston’s commanding five-run lead had been cut down to just one. The Red Sox, however, wasted little time in getting all four of those runs back in the latter half of the eighth. After Niko Goodrum reached on a fielding error, Jorge Alfaro came through by demolishing a two-run home run off Orioles reliever Austin Voth.

Nick Decker and Nick Sogard followed suit by hitting back-to-back singles. With two outs in the eighth, the speedy Tyler McDonough delivered the finishing blow in the form of a two-run triple into the triangle in deep center field. Both Decker and Sogard scored on the play, giving the Red Sox a 9-4 advantage heading into the final frame.

Though he made things interesting by yielding two runs on three hits, John Schreiber was ultimately able to slam the door on the Orioles in the ninth to wrap up a high-scoring victory for Boston.

At Tropicana Field, Josh Winckowski made his second start and third overall appearance of the spring for the visiting Red Sox. Like Crawford, the right-hander pitched well by allowing two unearned runs on just one hit and one walk to go along with three strikeouts over five innings of work.

Both runs scored off Winckowski came in the bottom of the second. There, the righty got the first two outs of the inning before Jose Siri reached base on a fielding error committed by third baseman Matthew Lugo. Siri, ever the speedster, promptly stole second base and was prepared to swipe third as well. Caleb Hamilton attempted to pick Siri off at third base, but his throw wound up in left field, which allowed Siri to easily score the first run of the game.

Winckowski then issued his one and only walk to Rene Pinto before serving up an RBI double to Ben Gamel, thus giving the Rays an early 2-0 lead. Despite that adversity, though, Winckowski settled in nicely and retired the last 10 batters he faced in order. The 24-year-old needed 62 pitches (41 strikes) to get through five one-run frames.

Boston’s lone run off Tampa Bay on Saturday came in somewhat surprising fashion. With one out in the bottom of the third, Red Sox outfield prospect Gilberto Jimenez belted a 367-foot solo shot off Rays All-Star lefty Shane McClanahan for his first home run of the spring.

Outside of that one big fly, though, a Red Sox lineup that mainly featured prospects minor-leaguers was limited to just five hits off McClanahan and the rest of the Rays pitching staff.

Out of the Red Sox bullpen, Zack Kelly and Kaleb Ort combined for two scoreless frames in the sixth and seventh before Chase Shugart ran into some trouble in the eighth. There, Shugart gave up back-to-back singles to Ronny Simon (who stole second base) and Kyle Manzardo (who drove in Simon from second). He then got the first out of the inning before getting Niko Hulsizer to fly out to right for the second out.

Manzardo, who had moved up to third, attempted to tag up and score, but he was instead gunned down at home plate by 20-year-old right fielder Jhostynxon Garcia. With that run off the board, the Red Sox still found themselves trailing by two going into the ninth.

Blaze Jordan brought the tying run to the plate by reaching base on an infield single. But Max Ferguson struck out swinging on three straight cutters from Rays reliever Kevin Kelly to put the finishing touches on a 3-1 defeat.

With a win over the Orioles and a loss to the Rays, the Red Sox are now 11-7-4 in Grapefruit League play with 10 more exhibition games remaining before Opening Day on March 30.

Next up: Pivetta takes on former team

The Red Sox will travel to Clearwater to take on the reigning National League champion Phillies on Sunday afternoon. Former Phillies hurler Nick Pivetta will get the start for Boston while fellow righty Luis Ortiz will do the same for Philadelphia.

First pitch from BayCare Ballpark is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. eastern time on NESN+.

(Picture of Kutter Crawford: Megan Briggs/Getty Images)

Ryan Fitzgerald caps off comeback with walk-off single as Red Sox top Rays, 7-6, for first Grapefruit League win

The Red Sox opened the home portion of their Grapefruit League schedule on Sunday afternoon by walking off the Rays in thrilling fashion at JetBlue Park. Boston defeated Tampa Bay by a final score of 7-6 to notch its first official win of the spring.

Josh Winckowski got the start for the Sox. The right-hander allowed one hit and one walk to go along with three strikeouts over two scoreless innings of work. He retired the side in order in the first before running into some trouble in the second by issuing a one-out walk and giving up a two-out double to Tristan Gray.

With two runners in scoring position, Winckowski kept the Rays off the scoreboard by fanning Greg Jones for his third and final punchout of the day. Following a Tampa Bay pitching change that saw Braden Bristo take over for Taj Bradley, Boston was able to plate the game’s first run in the latter half of the second.

Masataka Yoshida led off the frame by lacing a double to deep right field for his first hit of the spring. He then promptly scored from second base on an RBI single off the bat of Alex Verdugo that deflected off the faux Green Monster in left field.

Taking a 1-0 lead into the top of the third, left-hander Chris Murphy faced the minimum in his lone inning of work by hitting a batter with one out and inducing an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play. Bryan Mata took over for Murphy and maneuvered his way around a two-out walk in an otherwise clean fourth inning. Brandon Walter, too, had little trouble in the fifth, as the intriguing lefty struck a pair in a perfect frame.

In the sixth, Rio Gomez served up a game-tying solo shot to Luke Raley. But the Red Sox quickly responded in their half of the inning. Ryan Fitzgerald, Nick Sogard, and Narciso Crook all drew walks to fill the bases with two outs. The Rays then brought in right-hander Jaime Schultz to face Matthew Lugo, but that move did not pan out as Lugo blooped a bases-clearing double that evaded second baseman Osleivis Basabe and right fielder Ruben Cardenas in shallow right field.

As a result, all three of Fitzgerald, Sogard, and Crook scored, and the Red Sox suddenly found themselves up by three runs. That lead would not last long, however, as Skylar Arias was tagged for one run on two walks in the seventh. In the eighth, Jacob Webb issued three consecutive one-out walks before yielding a go-ahead grand slam to Basabe that gave the Rays a 6-4 advantage.

After Luis Guerrero put the flames out in the top of the eighth, the Red Sox again responded in the bottom half. With two outs and runners at the corners, Lugo came through once more by ripping a two-run triple off Hector Perez that nearly left the yard in the right field corner.

Lugo’s second run-producing hit of the day pulled the Red Sox even with the Rays at six runs a piece. Ryan Zeferjahn kept things that way by retiring the side in order in the top of the ninth. In the bottom half, Stephen Scott and Enmanuel Valdez each took ball four to lead off the inning. Fitzgerald then ended it by scoring Scott on a walk-off single through the left side of the infield.

Fitzgerald, who went 1-for-2 with a walk on Sunday, is now batting .290/.405/.774 with four home runs and 14 RBIs in 21 career Grapefruit League games dating back to the spring of 2019.

Other notable numbers:

Sunday’s contest took two hours and 39 minutes to complete. Justin Turner and Adam Duvall each went hitless and their respective Red Sox debuts while Verdugo went 2-for-2 with one run batted in.

Lugo, who is the youngest player on Boston’s current spring training roster, went 2-for-3 with a three-run double and two-run triple en route to recording a game-high five RBIs.

Next up: The race for the 2023 Chairman’s Cup begins

With their first Grapefruit League victory of the year in tow, the Red Sox will next host the Twins in the opening game of the 2023 Chairman’s Cup on Monday.

Kutter Crawford will get the start for Boston in the opener of this five-game series while fellow right-hander Pablo Lopez will do the same for Minnesota.

First pitch from JetBlue Park is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Ryan Fitzgerald: Elsa/Getty Images)

Red Sox activate Eric Hosmer, place Rob Refsnyder on injured list in series of roster moves

Before opening a three-game series against the Rays at Fenway Park on Monday, the Red Sox made a series of roster moves.

First off, left-hander Darwinzon Hernandez was recalled from Triple-A Worcester and first baseman Eric Hosmer was reinstated from the 10-day injured list. Secondly, right-hander Josh Winckowski was optioned following Sunday’s loss to the Blue Jays while outfielder Rob Refsnyder was placed on the 10-day injured list due to low back spasms, the club announced.

Hernandez returns to Boston for his third big-league stint of the season. The 25-year-old southpaw has appeared in just seven games for the Sox and has allowed 17 runs (16 earned) on 14 hits, eight walks, and nine strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings of relief. That is good for an ERA of 21.60 and a FIP of 12.71.

With Hernandez back in the fold, he will join Matt Strahm as lefties the Red Sox will have available out of the bullpen for their final three games of the season.

Hosmer, meanwhile, returns after originally being placed on the injured list with low back inflammation on August 21. Although he has missed each of the Red Sox’ last 38 games, the 32-year-old was not able to go out on a rehab assignment since the minor-league season is already over. He instead spent his weekend hitting off a high-tech pitching simulator at Fenway Park.

“We’ve got this machine down there, it’s like a simulator or whatever,” manager Alex Cora said on Sunday. “What comes out is pretty similar to the stuff [of MLB pitchers]. You put, for example, Gerrit Cole, and the machine actually calibers the stuff based on his last start. So he’s been facing some good big-league pitching the past few days.”

The Red Sox acquired Hosmer and minor-leaguers Corey Rosier and Max Ferguson from the Padres at the trade deadline in exchange for pitching prospect Jay Groome. Hosmer, who turns 33 later this month and is under team control for three more years, has been limited to just 12 games since going from San Diego to Boston.

In those 12 games, the left-handed hitter has batted .225/.311/.300 with three doubles, four RBIs, six runs scored, four walks, and nine strikeouts across 45 trips to the plate.

Winckowski, like Hernandez, was a member of the Sox’ taxi squad for their last series in Toronto. The 24-year-old righty was added to the active roster on Saturday to provide Boston with some length out of the bullpen. He made the first relief appearance of his big-league career at Rogers Centre and yielded three runs over three innings of work in 10-o loss to the Jays.

On the 2022 season as a whole, Winckowski — who debuted back in May — posted a 5.89 ERA and 4.95 FIP to go along with 44 strikeouts to 27 walks over 15 appearances (14 starts) spanning 70 1/3 innings pitched.

Refsnyder being placed on the injured list at this stage means that his season is over. The 31-year-old journeyman originally signed a minor-league deal with the Red Sox last December. He first joined the big-league club as a COVID-related substitute in April before having his contract selected on a full-time basis in June.

When healthy, Refsnyder proved to be a key contributor off the bench who could play all three outfield positions and do his fair share of damage off left-handed pitching. All told, the right-handed hitter slashed .307/.384/.497 with 11 doubles, six home runs, 21 RBIs, 25 runs scored, one stolen base, 15 walks, and 46 strikeouts over 57 games (177 plate appearances) in his first season with the Sox.

Following Monday’s flurry of moves, the Red Sox now have 14 pitchers and 14 position players on their 28-man roster.

(Picture of Eric Hosmer: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)