6 Red Sox players, including Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers, selected as finalists for 2021 All-MLB team

Six different Red Sox players were selected as nominees to make Major League Baseball’s 2021 All-MLB team on Wednesday night.

Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, Enrique Hernandez, J.D. Martinez, Kyle Schwarber, and Garrett Whitlock represent six of the 103 players with the opportunity to make the league’s third annual All-MLB team.

Of those on the Sox who made the cut, Bogaerts is one of 10 shortstops, Devers is one of seven third baseman, Hernandez and Schwarber are two of 18 outfielders, Martinez is one of five designated hitters, and Whitlock is one of 16 relievers.

With six nominees, the Red Sox have the fourth-highest total in the American League behind only the White Sox (nine finalists), Astros (seven finalists), and Blue Jays (seven finalists).

First introduced in 2019, the purpose of the All-MLB team is to recognize the best players at each position across both the American and National League while also splitting them into a First and Second Team.

Since its inception two years ago, only two Red Sox players have received All-MLB honors, as both Bogaerts and former Boston outfielder Mookie Betts were named to the inaugural first and second teams at the conclusion of the 2019 campaign.

After not having a single player make it last year, the Sox will be well represented this time around. Bogaerts has a strong chance to make his second All-MLB team, while his five teammates (including Schwarber) will be going for their first All-MLB nods, respectively.

Voting for the All-MLB team runs through 5 p.m. eastern time on November 19. Fan voting, which can be done by following this link, accounts for 50% of the vote. The other 50% comes from a panel of experts.

The field of players who were announced as finalists on Wednesday will be whittled down to 32 — or two teams consisting of 16 players each — by the time voting ends next Friday.

Winners will then be announced on MLB Network on the night of Tuesday, Nov. 23. This was previously done during the Winter Meetings, which typically take place in December, but the impending work stoppage must have forced a change of plans.

(Picture of Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox slugger Kyle Schwarber becomes free agent after declining $11.5 million mutual option for 2022 season

Kyle Schwarber has officially become a free agent after declining his $11.5 million mutual option for 2022, the Associated Press reported earlier Friday morning.

Schwarber, 28, had until Sunday to decide on accepting his end of the mutual option that was part of the one-year, $10 million deal he signed with the Nationals back in January.

It was expected that Schwarber would decline it and instead test the free agency waters based off the strong 2021 season he put together between the Nationals and Red Sox.

After getting traded from Washington to Boston in exchange for pitching prospect Aldo Ramirez in late July, Schwarber later made his Red Sox debut on August 13, as he had previously been on the injured list due to a right hamstring strain.

Upon being inserted into manager Alex Cora’s lineup, Schwarber made his impact felt right away and quickly became a fan favorite in Boston as a result of doing so. In 41 games for the Sox, the left-handed hitter slashed an impressive .291/.435/.522 with 10 doubles, seven home runs, 18 RBI, 34 runs scored, 33 walks, and 39 strikeouts across 168 plate appearances.

Defensively, Schwarber appeared in 15 games in left field and an additional 10 at first base, a position he was learning on the fly so that the Red Sox could get his bat into the lineup regularly without altering their regular outfield picture too much.

In the postseason, the 6-foot, 299 pound slugger batted .205/.286/.432 to go along with one double, three homers, six RBI, eight runs scored, one stolen base, five walks, and 11 strikeouts over 11 games (49 plate appearances) spanning the American League Wild Card Game against the Yankees, the American League Division Series against the Rays, and the American League Championship Series against the Astros.

Because the Red Sox acquired Schwarber, who does not turn 29 until March, midseason, they cannot extend him an $18.4 million qualifying offer. They can, however, make an attempt to bring him back for the 2022 season and beyond.

When the Red Sox were eliminated by the Astros in Game 6 of the ALCS last month, Schwarber did indicate that he would be open to remaining in Boston if the opportunity presented itself.

“This is definitely a clubhouse that I could see myself wanting to stay in,” Schwarber told reporters (including MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith. “These guys are amazing. I said this, it’s two World Series teams going at it. This is a World Series clubhouse, and I would love to hopefully see if that opportunity comes back.”

(Picture of Kyle Schwarber: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

The offseason is here, which means it’s decision time for the Red Sox

The Braves have won their second World Series title since moving to Atlanta in 1966, as they put the finishing touches on their six-game series victory over the Astros in Houston on Tuesday night to cap off another exciting Fall Classic.

With the Braves officially putting an end to the World Series on Tuesday, the Major League Baseball offseason is truly ready to get rolling. That applies to the Red Sox, as well as the 31 other clubs they are competing with.

For the next five days, the Red Sox will have the opportunity to exclusively negotiate with their five definite free-agents to be in right-handers Adam Ottavino and Hansel Robles, left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, infielder Travis Shaw, and infielder/outfielder Danny Santana.

All five of those players will file for free agency on Wednesday, but won’t officially hit the open market until Sunday, or five days after the conclusion of the World Series.

While that group of five will all become free-agents later this week, there is a chance more could be added to that list as Wednesday marks the beginning of another five-day window in which teams have to decide on club options and players have to decide on player options.

In regards to how this affects the Sox, right-hander Garrett Richards ($10 million), left-hander Martin Perez ($6 million with a $500,000 buyout), and catcher Christian Vazquez ($7 million) all have team options that chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. will either have picked up or declined.

On the other side of the scale, veteran slugger J.D. Martinez has the ability to opt out of the final season of the five-year, $110 deal he signed with Boston in February 2018. The 34-year-old would be leaving $19.35 million on the table for 2022 if he were to opt for free agency this winter instead.

Kyle Schwarber, meanwhile, has an $11.5 mutual option for 2022 attached to the one-year, $10 million contract he signed with the Nationals in January. This means the Red Sox and Schwarber would both have to be on the same page in order to have that mutual option picked up, which seems unlikely based off the kind of season the 28-year-old first baseman/left fielder just put together.

To go along with the five-day window to decide on options and whatnot, the Red Sox will also have the next five days to determine if they will be handing out a qualifying offer to any impending free-agent who qualifies for one.

The qualifying offer, which is calculated yearly, by averaging the salaries of the 125 highest-paid players in baseball, will be worth $18.4 million this season.

Of the handful of Red Sox players who will/could be headed towards free agency, it is worth mentioning that someone like Schwarber is ineligible to receive one since he was traded in the middle of the season. Martinez, on the other hand, could be offered one if he were to opt out of the final year of his deal.

Rodriguez, who turns 29 in April, is a more interesting case when considering the rollercoaster of a 2021 season he had. Still, any player who does receive a qualifying offer has the choice to accept, and thus return to their club on a one-year deal, or reject, and therefore become a free-agent.

That being said, the Red Sox would receive draft compensation from whatever team signed a player they had previously and unsuccessfully extended a qualifying offer towards.

If the Red Sox were to extend a qualifying offer towards any eligible player, said player would have 10 days from the time they received the qualifying offer to decide if they want to accept or reject it.

With that, the offseason is here, and while there is plenty more to come for Bloom and the Red Sox, this means it is yet again time to make some key decisions.

(Picture of Chaim Bloom and Alex Cora: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox)

Kyle Schwarber’s second-inning grand slam propels Red Sox to 12-3 victory over Astros in Game 3 of ALCS; Eduardo Rodriguez strikes out 7 over 6 solid innings

Have a happy birthday, Alex Cora.

The Red Sox celebrated their manager’s 46th birthday by taking a two-games-to-one lead over the Astros in the American League Championship Series on Monday night.

Boston crushed Houston by a final score of 12-3 in Game 3 of the ALCS at Fenway Park to kick off the week, meaning they are now just two wins away from heading to their first World Series since 2018.

A travel day on Sunday could not stymie a red-hot Sox lineup, as they once again knocked out an Astros starter early while matched up against right-hander Jose Urquidy.

After going down in order to Urquidy in their half of the first inning, Alex Verdugo proved to be the catalyst for an explosive second inning by drawing a hard-fought, 11-pitch walk with one out.

J.D. Martinez advanced Verdugo up to third and put a pair of runners at scoring position with a line-drive double to center field, then Hunter Renfroe drew another walk off Urquidy to fill the bases for Christian Vazquez.

Vazquez got his productive night at the plate started by slapping an RBI single to the opposite field that plated Verdugo and re-loaded the bases for Christian Arroyo, who nearly grounded into an inning-ending double play.

Instead, Astros second baseman Jose Altuve once again mishandled another groundball hit in his direction, which allowed Arroyo to reach base safely and Martinez to cross home plate uncontested.

With the bases still full of Red Sox, Kyle Schwarber put the finishing touches on his side’s second-inning outburst by first getting ahead in a 3-0 count against Urquidy. He then took the fourth pitch he saw, a 93 mph heater on the outer half of the plate, and deposited it 430 feet into the night and into the right field seats.

Schwarber’s grand slam, which left his bat at 114 mph, gave the Sox a commanding 6-0 lead. It also made history since it was the third grand slam Boston has hit in this series alone, matching their total from the 162-game regular season.

While Boston’s six-run surge in the second inning forced Astros manager Dusty Baker to turn to his bullpen earlier than expected yet again, the Red Sox offense did not stop there, as they got to Houston reliever Yimi Garcia in their half of the third as well.

There, with one out and Renfroe at third base after reaching on a walk, stealing second, and moving up to third on a throwing error, Vazquez took advantage of the Astros’ infield positioning by blooping a 67.1 mph single to shallow left field.

Vazquez’s second run-scoring base knock of the evening made it a 7-0 contest in favor of Boston, though their lead only grew when Arroyo promptly uncorked a two-run home run 399 feet over the Green Monster off a first-pitch slider to give his side a 9-0 advantage.

To that point in the night, Eduardo Rodriguez had held the Astros in check, though he did eventually run into some trouble in the middle innings.

Rodriguez, making his third start of the postseason for the Sox, came out firing, hovering around 94-96 mph with his four-seam fastball while striking out the side in the second in the process of retiring nine of the first 10 batters he faced.

The left-hander’s fortunes momentarily ran out in the top half of the fourth, however, and it began when he yielded a leadoff single to Michael Brantley.

A one-out single off the bat of Yordan Alvarez put runners at the corners for the dangerous Carlos Correa, who popped out to short to bring Rodriguez within one out of getting out of the jam.

Kyle Tucker prevented that from happening, though, as he took Rodriguez deep on a three-run blast hit 413 feet to right field that scored Brantley, Alvarez, and himself to cut the Astros’ deficit down to six runs at 9-3.

Despite that miscue, Rodriguez did manage to limit the damage. He got through the rest of the fourth unscathed before sitting down each of the final six hitters he faced in order. Correa was his final victim, as he got the star shortstop to ground out to second for the last out of the sixth.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 97 (65 pitches), the 28-year-old hurler wound up allowing three runs — all of which were earned — on five hits and zero walks to go along with seven strikeouts over six quality frames of work.

Moments after Rodriguez’s evening came to a close, Martinez provided some two-out insurance in the bottom of the sixth. Following a Rafael Devers leadoff walk, the veteran slugger greeted newly-inserted Astros reliever Phil Maton by clubbing another two-run shot 395 feet over the Monster.

Martinez’s third homer of the postseason, which had an exit velocity of 106 mph, put the Red Sox up over the Astros, 11-3. It subsequently set the stage for the Boston bullpen to take over for Rodriguez as well.

Hansel Robles, who got that first call from Cora out of the ‘pen, maneuvered his way around a leadoff walk to face the minimum of three batters with the help of a double play in a clean seventh inning.

From there, Martin Perez did the exact same thing by inducing another twin killing in the top of the eighth before Devers made it a 12-3 game by tattooing a 372-foot solo into the Monster seats off Ryne Stanek in the bottom half.

That sequence paved the way for Hirokazu Sawamura to be dispatched in the ninth, and he slammed the door on the Astros with the help of a sliding, game-ending catch from Renfroe to secure a 12-3 victory for the Sox.

With the win, the Red Sox find themselves up 2-1 in this best-of-seven ALCS with the Astros and inch ever closer to punching their ticket to the Fall Classic.

Next up: Pivetta likely for Game 4

The Red Sox have yet to officially name a starter for Game 4 on Tuesday, though it seems likely that responsibility will fall to right-hander Nick Pivetta, who was available out of the bullpen on Monday but was not used.

Likewise, the Astros also have not named a starter for Tuesday’s contest. Fellow righty Zack Greinke could wind up getting the start for Houston opposite Pivetta.

Regardless, first pitch from Fenway Park on Tuesday night is scheduled for 8:08 p.m. eastern time on FS1.

(Picture of Kyle Schwarber: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Kyle Schwarber leading off for Red Sox in Game 2 of ALCS vs. Astros

After falling to the Astros, 5-4, in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series on Friday, the Red Sox will look to bounce back and even this best-of-seven series in Game 2 at Minute Maid Park on Saturday afternoon.

With rookie right-hander Luis Garcia getting the start for the Astros, Sox manager Alex Cora has gone with a starting lineup similar to the one used Friday night, though some alterations have been made.

Kyle Schwarber, a left-handed hitter, will bat leadoff and get the start at first base. He will be followed by Enrique Hernandez, who homered twice in Game 1 and will be starting in center field once more in Game 2 of the ALCS.

Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, and Alex Verdugo make up the 3-4-5 portion of Boston’s batting order, while J.D. Martinez will slide down to the six-hole, where he is slashing .467/.467/.733 so far this postseason.

Those four will be followed by the likes of Hunter Renfroe, Kevin Plawecki, and Christian Arroyo.

Plawecki, of course, will be catching Red Sox right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, who will be working on five days rest after starting Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the Rays last Sunday.

Including that outing, Eovaldi has posted a 2.61 ERA and 2.88 FIP to go along with 16 strikeouts to just one walk over two starts spanning 10 1/3 total innings of work so far this postseason.

In his lone appearance against the Astros this year, the Houston-area native allowed five runs — all of which were earned — on 11 hits, three walks, and five strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings at Fenway Park back on June 9.

If the Red Sox want to head back home to Boston having split the first two games of this ALCS, they will likely need Eovaldi to step up and provide some length.

That being said, first pitch from Minute Maid Park on Saturday is scheduled for 4:20 p.m. eastern time on FOX and FS1.

(Picture of Kyle Schwarber: Elsa/Getty Images)

Red Sox rolling with Eduardo Rodriguez for Game 4 of ALDS vs. Rays

The Red Sox have an opportunity to advance to the American League Championship Series for the first time in three years on Monday night.

After walking off the Rays in dramatic fashion in a 13-inning thriller on Sunday, the Sox are now just one more victory away from taking this best-of-five American League Division Series.

With a two-games-to-one lead in hand, Boston will turn to Eduardo Rodriguez to try to put the finishing touches on this series in front of what is sure to be a packed house at Fenway Park to cap off a memorable Marathon Monday in the city.

Rodriguez struggled in his last time out, as the left-hander surrendered two runs (both earned) on two hits, two walks, and one strikeout over just 1 2/3 innings of work Thursday’s 5-0 loss to Tampa Bay in Game 1 at Tropicana Field.

Opposing Rodriguez will be a familiar foe in Rays right-hander Collin McHugh, who — like his former teammate — took the loss in Game 2 by allowing three runs over 1 2/3 innings of relief in what would go down as a 14-6 win for the Red Sox on Friday.

In facing another righty on the mound to start things out on Monday, Sox manager Alex Cora has rolled out a nearly-identical lineup to the one he put out for Game 3.

Kyle Schwarber will once again lead off and start at first base while Enrique Hernandez will bat second and start in center field. Rafael Devers will bat third and start at third baset, leaving All-Star shortstop Xander Bogaerts to assume the role as cleanup hitter.

Left fielder Alex Verdugo and designated hitter J.D. Martinez make up the 5-6 portion of Boston’s lineup, while right fielder Hunter Renfroe, catcher Christian Vazquez, and second baseman Christian Arroyo round things out.

Vazquez, who came off the bench to replace Kevin Plawecki in the sixth inning of Game 3 on Sunday, went 1-for-3 with the biggest hit of the night: a two-run, walk-off home run in the bottom of the 13th that sealed a 6-4 win for the Sox.

With that being said, first pitch for Game 4 is scheduled for 7:07 p.m. eastern time on FS1. The Red Sox will not be wearing their yellow City Connect uniforms and will instead go with their alternate red jerseys.

(Picture of Eduardo Rodriguez: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Kyle Schwarber on tipping cap to Fenway Park crowd: ‘You’ve got to be able to make fun of yourself’

Well before Christian Vazquez walked it off for the Red Sox in thrilling fashion on Sunday night, Kyle Schwarber had quite the memorable sequence in Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the Rays at Fenway Park.

He later reminded everyone about the kind of endearing personality he possesses that has quickly made him a fan favorite in Boston.

“You’ve got to be able to make fun of yourself every once in a while and loosen the situation up,” Schwarber said following Boston’s 6-4 win over Tampa Bay in 13 innings.

Going back to the third inning Sunday, with the Rays in front by a score of 2-1, Sox starter Nathan Eovaldi got leadoff man Brandon Lowe to dribble a softly-hit groundball in the direction of Schwarber at first base.

Schwarber, in turn, fielded the ball cleanly, but overthrew Eovaldi on his underhand flip back to the first-base bag, which allowed Lowe to reach base safely.

An inning later, after Boston had taken a 3-2 lead, Schwarber found himself in a similar position when Ji-Man Choi led off the top half of the fourth by hitting another groundball towards him.

This time, however, the relatively inexperienced first baseman was able to hit Eovlaid in stride and successfully make an accurate, underhand flip to get Choi out at first base.

Upon recording what would normally be regarded as a routine out, Schwarber broke out into a celebration in which he pointed to the sky with both hands and pumped his right fist before tipping his cap to the Fenway faithful.

“That was awesome,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “That’s who they are. That’s what we do. Of course we wanted to make the first play, and after that he makes the play, and everyone was excited because he did it. He did what he did, and I think it was great. Sometimes we take this game too seriously, and you can actually not enjoy it. … Although we take it seriously, we also have fun with it.”

Leading up to Sunday’s contest, Schwarber had made just nine regular season starts and postseason start at first base after the Red Sox acquired him in a trade with the Nationals in late July.

The 28-year-old primarily played left field in his time with the Nationals and acknowledged that he still has room to improve at first base — a position he is learning on the fly, though he did show some gratitude towards Eovaldi for helping him out.

“Obviously being new over there at first base, you make the error, and Nate picks you up,” Schwarber said. “Unbelievable job by Nate. You go out there and make the good, old routine play and loosen it up a little bit.”

As Cora alluded to, Schwarber is someone who can have fun doing what he does while also understanding the importance of the moment, as he went 3-for-5 with a home run, one RBI, and two runs scored as part of Sunday’s win that gave the Sox a two-games-to-one edge in this best-of-five ALDS.

“You’ve got to be able to make fun of yourself,” said Schwarber. “It was a good time. I think I got a laugh out of pretty much almost everyone. It’s a game. Like you’ve got to be able to laugh at yourself.”

(Picture of Kyle Schwarber: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Christian Vázquez walks it off for Red Sox in 6-4 win in 13 innings over Rays in Game 3 of ALDS

With both teams presented with the opportunity to go up a game on their opposition, the Red Sox and Rays partook in an instant October classic at Fenway Park in Game 3 of the American League Division Series on Sunday that spanned more than five hours.

In the process of making some more postseason history, Boston held on for a 6-4 walk-off victory in 13 innings over Tampa Bay on Sunday night. They now lead this best-of-five ALDS two-games-to-one.

Nathan Eovaldi, making his second October start for the Sox after dazzling in last Tuesday’s Wild Card Game, put together yet another strong outing to add to his impressive postseason resume.

Over five solid innings of work, the veteran right-hander allowed just two runs — both of which were earned — on three hits and one walk to go along with eight strikeouts on the night.

Both runs Eovaldi surrendered to his former team came in the top half of the first, as he yielded a one-out single to Wander Franco before serving up a two-run home run to Austin Meadows on a first-pitch fastball.

While Eovaldi’s miscue put his side in an immediate 2-0 hole, a revamped Red Sox lineup was able to back their starter up.

Matched up against Rays right-hander Drew Rasmussen to begin things on Sunday, Kyle Schwarber instantly cut that two-run deficit in half. The left-handed hitter greeted Rasmussen in the bottom of the first by crushing a leadoff home run 390 feet over the Green Monster.

Schwarber’s second homer of the postseason made it a 2-1 game in favor of Tampa Bay, though the Boston bats struck once more two innings later.

On the heels of back-to-back singles from Christian Arroyo and Kyle Schwarber to lead off the latter half of the third, Enrique Hernandez stayed hot by lifting a game-tying, RBI single that brought in Arroyo.

Following a pitching change that saw left-hander Josh Fleming take over for Rasmussen, Rafael Devers broke the tie by plating Hernandez on a run-scoring single that left his bat at 104.9 mph and gave the Red Sox their first lead of the night at 3-2.

Eovaldi, meanwhile, was in the midst of a dominat stretch at the time Devers made it a 3-2 contest. After giving up the homer to Meadows, the righty settled in by retiring 14 of the next 17 batters he faced. His day came to an end as soon as he recorded the final out of the fifth, at which point he had thrown 85 pitches.

Of those 85 pitches (58 strikes) thrown by the 31-year-old hurler, 33 were four-seam fastballs, 23 were splitters, 19 were curveballs, six were sliders, and four were cutters. He topped out at 99.3 mph and averaged 96.9 mph with his heater.

After Hernandez tacked on additional run to his side’s lead and made it a 4-2 game by clubbing a 424-foot solo blast over the Monster off newly-inserted reliever Pete Fairbanks to lead off the bottom of the fifth, Josh Taylor got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen from manager Alex Cora to begin the sixth inning.

Taylor issued a single to Nelson Cruz in between getting the first two outs of the frame before making way for Ryan Brasier, who retired the dangerous Randy Arozarena to end the inning while also getting the first two outs of the seventh.

Austin Davis was then dispatched and ran into some trouble before getting through the seventh unscathed when he got Brandon Lowe to fly out to center field.

Heading into the eighth inning with a 4-2 advantage still in tact, Hansel Robles was next up out of the Boston bullpen. Robles, who last yielded a run in late August, was quite simply unable to hold the Rays down for long.

Wander Franco led the top of the eighth off by taking Robles 364 feet deep into the Monster seats to trim the Sox’ lead down to one run at 4-3. A double from Meadows and groundout from Cruz put the potential tying run at third base in the form of pinch-running Manuel Margot.

Robles did manage to keep Margot at third momentarily by punching out Yandy Diaz on a foul tip for the second out of the inning, but Arozarena — as he has had the tendency to do — did not let Robles escape easily.

On an 0-1, 92 mph slider on the outer half of the plate, Arozarena added on to his October legend by lacing a line-drive double to left-center field past an outstretched Hernandez that allowed Margot to easily score from third to knot things up at four runs apiece.

Robles, who was charged with the blown save, was immediately removed from the game due to a stomach illness — as he left the field with head trainer Brad Pearson — and was subsequently replaced by Garrett Whitlock.

Whitlock, in turn, stranded the runner he inherited by intentionally walking Kevin Kiermaier before striking out Mike Zunino to retire the side. The right-handed rookie also sat down all three batters he faced in the top of the ninth to hold the Rays at four runs.

The Red Sox, however, could not take advantage of this in their half of the ninth, meaning this contest headed into extra innings with a score of 4-4.

Nick Pivetta, in his first relief appearance since Game 1 of this series, gave up a single to the speedy Margot to lead off the top of the 10th. After he got both Cruz to Cruz to fly out, though, Christian Vazquez threw out Margot as he attempted to steal second base while Arozarena was at the plate.

Arroyo was able to keep his tag on Margot’s leg as he slid over the bag, resulting in a confirmed third out upon a brief replay review.

In the bottom of the 10th, with former Yankees closer David Robertson on the mound for Tampa Bay, Verdugo reached base via a one-out single to left field.

J.D. Martinez followed by barreling a 375-foot fly ball to deep center field, but it was one that was caught on the warning track by an awaiting Kiermaier. Hunter Renfroe then popped out to first base for the final out.

Pivetta, called upon again for the 11th, got himself in and out of trouble after issuing a leadoff walk to Arozarena. The righty allowed the speedy outfielder to advance to second on a stolen base that came after a strikeout, but followed by fanning both Zunino and Jordan Luplow to escape a potential jam.

That sequence paved the way for the Sox to finally break through in their half of the 11th, but they could not muster anything even after Arroyo ripped a one-out double down the left field line off of Robertson to put the winning run in scoring position.

Bobby Dalbec, who previously pinch-ran for Schwarber, whiffed on three straight strikes before Hernandez grounded out to Franco at shortstop to extinguish the threat.

In the 12th, Pivetta continued to impress, as the righty sat down the lone three batters he faced in the inning. With the chance to pick Pivetta up in the bottom half of the frame, though, the trio of Devers, Bogaerts and Verdugo saw a combined six pitches from Luis Patino in yet another 1-2-3 inning.

Back out once more for the 13th, Pivetta endured some late-game drama. With two outs and a runner at first, Kiermaier crushed a 381-foot flyball to right field that nearly left the yard. It instead bounced off the warning track and deflected off Renfroe before caroming into the Red Sox bullpen.

As a result, Kiermaier was rewarded with a ground-rule double, though he and the Rays thought it should have been ruled a triple that would have scored the go-ahead run.

Tampa Bay challenged the call and it was upheld, meaning Kiermaier had to stay at second base while the potential go-ahead run in Diaz remained in third.

Having yet to allow a run, Pivetta followed by fanning Zunino on four pitches to send this one to the bottom of the 13th still deadlocked at four runs each.

At long last, the Red Sox finally responded to Pivetta’s efforts while matched up against Patino.

Martinez flew out and Renfroe drew a six-pitch walk to set the stage for Vazquez, who originally replaced Kevin Plawecki back in the sixth inning.

On the very first pitch he saw from Patino, a 96 mph heater down the heart of the plate, Vazquez absolutely unloaded on it and sent it 394 feet into the first row of Green Monster seats to walk it off for the Red Sox.

With Vazquez’s walk-off two-home run to seal a 6-4 victory, the Red Sox are now just one win away from eliminating the Rays from playoff contention and advancing to the American League Championship Series.

All told, Pivetta tossed four innings of scoreless baseball in which he scattered three hits, struck out seven and walked one batter to pick up the winning decision on Sunday.

Next up: Rodriguez likely for Marathon Monday

Neither the Red Sox or Rays have yet to officially name a starter for Game 4 of this series on Monday, though Cora told reporters Sunday night that the responsibility would likely fall to left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez.

Monday will also mark the first running of the Boston Marathon since April 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so the Sox will have the chance to cap off a special day in the city by to closing out this series with their third straight win.

That being said, first pitch from Fenway Park Monday night is scheduled for 7:07 p.m. eastern time on FS1.

(Picture of Christian Vazquez: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox unveil lineup for Wild Card Game vs. Yankees: Kyle Schwarber leads off while Bobby Dalbec starts at first base

For the first time since its inception in 2012, the Red Sox are hosting the American League Wild Card Game against the Yankees at Fenway Park on Tuesday night.

It took until the final day of the regular season on Sunday, but the Sox finished ahead of the Yankees in the Wild Card standings despite both clubs having identical records (92-70) on account of winning the season series against their division rivals, 10-9.

Because of this, the 2021 installment of the American League Wild Card Game will be taking place in Boston as opposed to New York, meaning the Red Sox will have home-field advantage.

With ace right-hander Gerrit Cole starting for the Yankees, the left-handed hitting Kyle Schwarber will serve as the Sox manager Alex Cora’s leadoff leadoff hitter Tuesday night. He will be doing so while serving as the club’s designated hitter, as J.D. Martinez was left off Boston’s Wild Card roster due to a left ankle sprain.

Enrique Hernandez will start in center field and bat behind Schwarber, marking the first time all year the 30-year-old has started a game as the Sox’ No. 2 hitter after primarily batting leadoff throughout the regular season.

On account of Martinez’s absence from the roster, it will be third baseman Rafael Devers, shortstop Xander Bogaerts, and left fielder Alex Verdugo comprising the Nos. 3, 4, and 5 spots.

Hunter Renfroe rounds out the outfield and the middle third of Boston’s lineup, as the strong-armed 29-year-old gets the start in right field while batting sixth behind Verdugo and ahead of Kevin Plawecki.

Plawecki will be catching right-hander Nathan Eovaldi to begin things on Tuesday. Over the course of the regular season, Eovaldi posted a 3.28 ERA and .644 OPS against in 17 starts (96 innings pitched) with Plawecki behind the plate as opposed to a 4.77 ERA and .766 OPS against in 13 starts (66 innings pitched) with Christian Vazquez doing the same.

After Plawecki, Bobby Dalbec will be getting the start at first base and batting eighth, while Christian Arroyo will be getting the start at second base and batting ninth.

Of these nine hitters, Bogaerts, Devers, Hernandez, Schwarber, Shaw, and Verdugo have all homered off Cole at least one time in either the regular or postseason.

Hernandez specifically is 5-for-11 (.455) in his career against Cole, as he took the Yankees ace deep back in June.

Additionally, the Red Sox will have the likes of Jonathan Arauz, Jarren Duran, Travis Shaw, and Connor Wong available off the bench if needed.

First pitch from Fenway Park Tuesday night is scheduled for 8:08 p.m. eastern time on ESPN.

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

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)