J.D. Martinez comes through with game-winning single as Red Sox come from behind to defeat Royals, 2-1

The Red Sox battled back for a series-opening win over the Royals on Friday night. Boston defeated Kansas City by a final score of 2-1 to improve to 70-74 on the season.

Michael Wacha, making his 20th start of the year for the Sox, pitched well yet again. The veteran right-hander allowed just one run on seven hits and zero walks to go along with four strikeouts over seven strong innings of work.

That lone Royals run came in the top half of the sixth. After giving up a leadoff triple to M.J. Melendez that got over the head of Enrique Hernandez in center field, Wacha yielded a one-out, opposite field RBI single to Salvador Perez that pushed across the first run of the contest.

Wacha then got Vinnie Pasquantino to ground into an inning-ending 6-5-3 double play. Michael Taylor led off the seventh inning with a single, but Wacha retired the next three batters he faced to end his night on a solid note. The 31-year-old hurler finished with 88 pitches (65 strikes) and induced 10 swings-and-misses. He did not factor into Friday’s decision, though he did lower his ERA to 2.61.

In relief of Wacha, Garrett Whitlock received the first call out of the Boston bullpen from manager Alex Cora. The righty worked his way around a two-out single in an otherwise clean inning of work.

To that point in the contest, a Trevor Story-less Red Sox lineup had been held in check by the Royals pitching staff despite having their fair share of scoring opportunities.

In the fifth inning, for instance, Alex Verdugo and Triston Casas each drew a walk off Kansas City starter Jonathan Heasley while Christian Arroyo reached on a groundball single to fill the bases for Hernandez, who grounded into 6-4-3 double play to extinguish the threat.

Two innings later, J.D. Martinez and Casas drew a pair of two-out walks, bringing Arroyo to the plate to face off against Royals reliever Amir Garrett. With the potential tying run at second base, Arroyo fanned on four pitches to send things along to the eighth.

Following Whitlock’s scoreless frame, the Sox finally broke through in the latter half of the eighth. Hernandez led off by drawing a five-pitch walk off Dylan Coleman. Abraham Almonte, who was pinch-hitting for Kevin Plawecki, drew a free pass of his own to put runners at first and second.

After Tommy Pham popped out, Rafael Devers drew yet another walk off Scott Barlow to fill the bases. Xander Bogaerts struck out swinging, but Verdugo delivered by taking ball four to drive in the tying run (Hernandez) from third.

On the very next pitch from Barlow, Martinez dealt the finishing blow by ripping a game-winning RBI single through the left side of the infield to plate Almonte and give the Red Sox their first lead of the night at 2-1.

Taking a one-run lead into the ninth, Boston turned to Matt Strahm to close it out. The lefty issued a two-out walk to Michael Massey to put the tying run on base, but followed that up by getting Hunter Dozier to fly out to Hernandez in center.

Strahm picked up his fourth save of the season as the Red Sox put an end to their two-game losing streak. Whitlock earned the winning decision.

Next up: Hill vs. Singer

The Red Sox will go for a series win over the Royals on Saturday afternoon. Veteran left-hander Rich Hill is expected to start for Boston while right-hander Brady Singer is in line to do the same for Kansas City.

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

(Picture of J.D. Martinez: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Rich Hill strikes out 7 over 5 scoreless innings as Red Sox take series from Orioles with 1-0 win

After breaking out for a season-high 17 runs on a season-high 21 hits on Saturday, the Red Sox needed just one run on four hits to secure a 1-0 series-clinching victory over the Orioles at Camden Yards on Sunday.

A 72-minute rain delay did not affect Rich Hill, who made his 22nd start of the year for Boston and scattered two hits, three walks, and one hit batsman to go along with seven strikeouts over five scoreless innings of work.

Hill retired the first five batters he faced before giving up a two-out single to Austin Hays in the bottom of the second. The veteran left-hander then worked his way around having runners on the corners with two outs in the third by getting Ryan Mountcastle to fly out to left field.

After stranding another base runner in the fourth, Hill plunked Rougned Odor and walked Robinson Chirinos to begin the fifth. But he did not falter as he got Ryan McKenna to pop out into foul territory before fanning Anthony Santander and Mountcastle back-to-back to end his day on a positive note.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 77 (45 strikes), Hill ultimately picked up his seventh winning decision of the season while lowering his ERA to 4.56. The 42-year-old hurler has now allowed two or fewer runs to score in three of his last five starts.

It may have helped that the Red Sox had jumped out to an early 1-0 lead before Hill even took the mound on Sunday. Matched up against Baltimore right-hander Kyle Bradish, Tommy Pham led off the game with a line-drive single. He then stole second base, moved up to third on an Alex Verdugo groundout, and scored on a 348-foot sacrifice fly of Xander Bogaerts.

That one run turned out to be all Boston needed, as it recorded just one hit from the second and eighth innings before Verdugo and Bogaerts each singled in the ninth.

While the Sox lineup was unable to provide any sort of insurance, the bullpen held it down in relief of Hill. John Schreiber yielded just one single in a scoreless sixth inning, Matt Strahm put a runner at second with no outs before retiring the next three Orioles he faced in the seventh, Garrett Whitlock worked his way around a two-out walk in an otherwise clean eighth, and Matt Barnes struck out two while retiring the side in order in the ninth.

Barnes notched his fifth save of the season as the Red Sox improved to 7-8 against the O’s and to 69-72 on the 2022 campaign as a whole. With only 21 regular season games remaining, they still trail the Blue Jays by 10 games for the third and final American League Wild Card spot.

Story day-to-day with left heel pain

Trevor Story left the game in the middle of the seventh inning after grounding into a 6-4-3 double play. He was later diagnosed with left heel pain and is considered day-to-day. Christian Arroyo took over for Story at second base and drew a walk in his only plate appearance.

Next up: Back to Boston

The Red Sox will an enjoy an off day on Monday before opening a quick two game series against the Yankees at Fenway Park on Tuesday. Right-hander Nick Pivetta is slated to start the opener for Boston. New York has yet to name a starter.

Regardless, first pitch on Tuesday night is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN and TBS.

(Picture of Rich Hill: Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

Brayan Bello runs out of gas in fifth inning as Red Sox drop opener to Twins, 4-2

The Red Sox opened a three-game series against the Twins on Monday by losing their second straight game. Boston fell to Minnesota by a final score of 4-2 at Target Field to drop to 62-67 on the season.

Matched up against Dylan Bunday to begin things on Monday, the Sox got on the board first in their half of the third inning. Tommy Pham reached base via a one-out single and promptly scored all the way from first on an Alex Verdugo RBI double that traveled 341 feet to left field.

Verdugo moved up to third on a Xander Bogaerts single and had the chance to tag up when Rafael Devers lined out to Max Kepler in right field. But he remained at third base and was stranded there after J.D. Martinez struck out swinging.

An inning later, Trevor Story drew a leadoff walk off Bundy and quickly went from first to third on a Franchy Cordero single that had an exit velocity of 112.7 mph. Cordero, like Story, moved up to third on another one-out double from Reese McGuire. But Pham grounded out Verdugo punched out, meaning the Sox would have to settle for one run yet again.

That would prove to be costly for Brayan Bello, who was making his fifth start and seventh overall appearance of the season for Boston. The rookie right-hander pitched well out of the gate, tossing three consecutive scoreless frames before running into some trouble in the latter half of the fourth.

Bello put himself in a tough spot when he allowed each of the first three batters he faced in the inning to reach base. He then gave up a sacrifice fly to Jake Cave, but managed to limit the damage in the fourth to just the one run despite throwing 29 pitches.

The same cannot be said about the fifth inning. After the Sox left runners on the corners in the top half, Bello issued back-to-back walks to begin the bottom half. That prompted Red Sox manager Alex Cora to give Bello the hook in favor of Matt Strahm.

Strahm, in turn, got Kepler to ground out to McGuire before yielding a bases-filling walk to Jose Miranda and striking out the pinch-hitting Kyle Garlick on six pitches. With the right-handed hitting Gio Urshela due to hit next for Minnesota, Cora swapped Strahm for John Schreiber.

Urshela won the righty-on-righty battle, as he connected on a 3-2, 83.1 mph slider from Schreiber and roped a bases-clearing, three-run double to the right field corner. That gave the Twins their first lead of the night at 4-2 and that is where the score would stay.

Bello was charged with three of those runs while Strahm was tagged for one. For Bello, the 23-year-old wound up allowing three earned runs on five hits, three walks, and two strikeouts over four-plus innings of work. He threw 84 pitches (51 strikes) in the process of raising his ERA on the season to 7.27. The Red Sox have yet to win a game he has pitched in.

Following that disastrous fifth inning, the Twins bullpen took over by limiting Red Sox hitters to one hit — a single — over the final 4 1/3 frames of Monday’s loss.

On the flip side, the two relievers Boston called up to take the place of Austin Davis and Hirokazu Sawamura pitched relatively well. Zack Kelly and Kaleb Ort have grown accustomed to following one another out of the bullpen in Worcester. On Monday, they got to experience that for the first time at the major-league level.

Kelly, making his big-league debut, needed just 18 pitches (10 strikes) to face the minimum in a scoreless sixth inning. The 27-year-old struck out the first two batters he faced before giving up a two-out single to Luis Arraez. But that was quicky negated after Arraez was gunned down at second base by McGuire.

Ort, meanwhile, scattered two walks and two strikeouts over two scoreless innings of work to keep the deficit at two runs. It proved to be for naught, though, as Twins closer Jorge Lopez made quick work of the Sox in the ninth to end it.

All told, the Red Sox went 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position and left nine runners on base as a team. At 62-67, they now sit eight games back of the Blue Jays for the third and final American League Wild Card spot.

Next up: Crawford vs. Archer

The Red Sox will look to bounce back against the Twins on Tuesday night. Kutter Crawford is expected to start for Boston while fellow right-hander Chris Archer is slated to do the same for Minnesota.

First pitch from Target Field is scheduled for 7:40 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Brayan Bello: David Berding/Getty Images)

Red Sox squander plethora of scoring opportunities, fall to Blue Jays, 6-5, in 10 innings

The Red Sox were unable to avoid a three-game sweep at the hands of the Blue Jays on Thursday night. Boston fell to Toronto by a final score of 6-5 in 10 innings at Fenway Park to drop to 60-65 on the season.

Kutter Crawford, making his 11th start of the year for the Sox, allowed four earned runs on 10 hits and two walks to go along with five strikeouts over 4 2/3 innings of work.

Two of those four runs came right away in the first inning. After giving up a one-out single to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and a two-out walk to Teoscar Hernandez, Crawford surrendered a scalding, 104.7 mph two-run double to Bo Bichette that gave the Jays an early 2-0 lead.

The Red Sox responded with two runs of their own in their half of the second. With Kevin Gausman on the mound for Toronto, Xander Bogaerts and Christian Arroyo led off with back-to-back singles. After Arroyo stole second base and Rob Refsnyder struck out, Reese McGuire got his productive night at the plate started with an RBI single that scored Bogaerts. Bobby Dalbec followed with a single of his own to drive in Arroyo and knot things up at two runs apiece.

In the third, Tommy Pham led off with a single and immediately went from first to home on a 106.7 mph RBI double off the bat of Rafael Devers. That gave the Red Sox their first lead of the night at 3-2, though it did not last long.

Crawford got the first two outs of the fourth inning with the help of a double play. The rookie right-hander then loaded the bases on two singles and a walk, which brought Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to the plate in a prime spot. Guerrero Jr. proceeded to lift a pop fly into foul territory that could have ended the inning. But Dalbec, the first baseman, failed to make the tough catch, which further prolonged the inning.

Guerrero Jr. took full advantage of Dalbec’s blunder, as the young slugger promptly roped a two-run single to right field to put the Blue Jays back up by a run at 4-3. Again, the Sox responded in the latter half of the fourth. Following a pair of singles from Refsnyder and McGuire that put runners on the corners with no outs, Dalbec drove in Refsnyder on a game-tying sacrifice fly.

Crawford came back out for the fifth and recorded the first two outs of the inning via strikeout. He then gave up a two-out double to Matt Chapman, which prompted Red Sox manager Alex Cora to hand things over to his bullpen. Crawford finished with a final pitch count of 85 (53 strikes). The 26-year-old hurler induced 11 swings-and-misses while averaging 94.6 mph with his four-seam fastball. His ERA on the season now sits at 5.30.

Matt Strahm was first used in relief of Crawford and officially closed the book on the righty’s night by punching out Raimel Tapia. The lefty then came back out for the sixth and served up a 388-foot solo shot to Danny Jansen that travelled over the Green Monster and put the Blue Jays back up, 5-4.

The Red Sox responded in their half of the sixth. After reaching base and taking second on a two-out throwing error, Dalbec moved up to third on a wild pitch from Blue Jays reliever Trevor Richards. Jarren Duran then plated him from third on an RBI double over the head of Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in left field.

Duran, however, was stranded at second base, which proved to be the ongoing theme for Boston on Thursday. After Jeurys Familia, who recorded the final two outs of the sixth, struck out the side in the top of the seventh, the Sox had two runners in scoring position with two outs in the bottom half. Franchy Cordero was deployed to pinch-hit for Refsnyder, but he fell victim to Anthony Bass to extinguish the threat and keep things knotted up at 5-5.

Following a scoreless top half of the eighth from Hirokazu Sawamura, McGuire led off the bottom half with his first career triple, which was misplayed by Hernandez in right field. Enrique Hernandez, who came on to run for McGuire, was then stranded at third base, as Adam Cimber punched out Dalbec and Pham and Tim Mayza got Devers got Devers to ground out to first.

More frustration arose in the ninth. After getting another scoreless frame from Matt Barnes, J.D. Martinez led the inning off with a hard-hit single off Blue Jays closer Jordan Romano. Alex Verdugo took over for Martinez and went from first to third on a sharply-hit double from Bogaerts.

With no outs and runners at second and third, the Red Sox were just one hit away from winning this. Toronto elected to intentionally walk Arroyo, which filled the bases for Cordero. Romero, like Bass, fanned Cordero, bringing Hernandez to the plate for the first time. Hernandez proceeded to ground into a back-breaking inning-ending 5-3 double play, sending this one into extras.

John Schreiber allowed the automatic runner at second base — in this case, Cavan Biggio — to advance to third on a Jansen groundout. He then got Springer to hit a soft groundball in the direction of Bogaerts. Bogaerts fielded the ball cleanly, but made an off-balance throw to Kevin Plawecki at home plate.

Biggio beat Plawecki’s tag to give the Blue Jays a 6-5 lead. Romano then picked up where he left off by retiring Dalbec, Duran, and Plawecki, in the bottom half of the 10th to send the Red Sox home losers. All told, they went 3-for-20 with runners in scoring position while leaving 12 runners on base as a team.

With the loss, Boston has extended its losing streak to four straight. It is now 3-13 against Toronto this season and 16-35 against divisional opponents.

Next up: Wacha vs. Chargois

Speaking of divisional opponents, the Red Sox will now welcome the Rays into town for a three-game weekend series. Veteran right-hander Michael Wacha is slated to start for Boston while fellow righty J.T. Chargois is expected to serve as an opener for Tampa Bay.

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

(Picture of Kevin Plawecki: Kathryn Riley/Getty Images)

Red Sox activate Matt Strahm from injured list, option Josh Winckowski to Triple-A Worcester

The Red Sox have activated left-handed reliever Matt Strahm from the 15-day injured list ahead of Friday’s series opener against the Orioles in Baltimore.

In order to clear a spot for Strahm on the 26-man roster, rookie right-hander Josh Winckowski was optioned to Triple-A Worcester following Thursday’s 8-2 loss to the Pirates, as was first reported by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo.

Strahm, who joined the team in Pittsburgh on Thursday, had been on the injured list with a left wrist contusion since July 13. The previous night, the 30-year-old southpaw was hit in the wrist by a 98 mph line drive off the bat of Rays shortstop Taylor Walls.

Although X-rays came back negative, Strahm was unable to resume throwing again until earlier this month. He was then sent out on a brief rehab assignment this past Tuesday and needed just 14 pitches (9 strikes) to toss a scoreless sixth inning for the WooSox at Polar Park.

In 33 relief appearances for Boston this season, Strahm has posted a 3.58 ERA and 2.61 FIP to go along with 32 strikeouts to seven walks over 27 2/3 innings of work. The Red Sox signed the 6-foot-2, 190-pound hurler to a one-year, $3 million deal back in March.

Winckowski, meanwhile, made his 12th start of the season on Thursday night after Nathan Eovaldi was scratched due to trap soreness. The 24-year-old righty allowed six earned runs on seven hits, one walk, and two strikeouts over five innings. He served up a pair of two-run home runs to Pirates outfielder Bryan Reynolds in the process of getting charged with his sixth losing decision of the year.

Thursday’s poor outing continues a recent trend for Winckowski, who now owns a 6.46 ERA across his last five starts (23 2/3 innings) since returning from a bout with COVID-19 on July 26.

Called up for the first time in late May, Winckowski produced a 4.38 ERA and 4.26 FIP with 26 strikeouts to 14 walks over seven starts and 37 innings pitched to begin his big-league career. He was one of five players the Red Sox acquired from the Mets and Royals in the trade that sent Andrew Benintendi to Kansas City last February.

Currently regarded by Baseball America as as the fifth-ranked pitching prospect in Boston’s farm system, Winckowski has pitched to a 3.37 ERA (2.71 FIP) in nine starts with the WooSox this season.

As noted by Cotillo, Winckowski is a leading candidate to re-join the Red Sox when rosters expand from 26 to 28 players on September 1. In the meantime, he will serve as top-level rotation depth in Worcester and could be called upon again soon if Eovaldi (who is now scheduled to start on Tuesday) winds up going on the injured list.

(Picture of Josh Winckowski: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Matt Strahm likely to be activated from injured list for Friday’s series opener against Orioles, Alex Cora says

UPDATE: Strahm told The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier he expected to be activated before Friday’s series opener against the Orioles in Baltimore. A corresponding roster move will need to be made.

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There is a “good chance” Red Sox reliever Matt Strahm returns from the injured list and joins the team in Pittsburgh on Thursday, manager Alex Cora told reporters (including The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham) prior to Wednesday’s game against the Pirates.

Strahm has been sidelined since July 12. That night, the left-hander took a 98 mph line drive off his throwing hand from Taylor Walls in the sixth inning of a 3-2 loss to the Rays at Tropicana Field. He was immediately removed from the game and was later diagnosed with a left wrist contusion, though x-rays did come back negative.

Three days later, Strahm was placed on the 15-day injured list (retroactive to July 13) with said contusion. The 30-year-old southpaw began throwing again earlier this month and was sent out on a brief rehab assignment with Triple-A Worcester on Tuesday night.

In what will likely be his lone appearance for the WooSox, Strahm struck out one of the three batters he faced in a scoreless sixth inning against the Rochester Red Wings at Polar Park. He needed just 14 pitches (9 strikes) to get through the perfect frame and was hovering around 94-95 mph with his fastball, per Cora.

Signed to a one-year, $3 million deal back in March, Strahm has posted a 3.58 ERA and 2.61 FIP to go along with 32 strikeouts to seven walks over 33 relief appearances spanning 27 2/3 innings of work for Boston.

Strahm’s return would be a welcomed one for the Red Sox. As things stand currently, Austin Davis is the only active lefty in Boston’s bullpen. Davis owns an ERA of 13.15 in his last 15 outings dating back to July 8.

(Picture of Matt Strahm: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

X-rays on Red Sox’ Trevor Story, Matt Strahm both come back negative

The Red Sox received encouraging news on second baseman Trevor Story and left-hander Matt Strahm on Wednesday afternoon. Per MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, X-rays on Story’s right hand and Strahm’s left wrist both came back negative.

Both Story and Strahm were forced to leave Tuesday’s 3-2 loss to the Rays early due to injury. In the top of the fifth inning, Story was struck in the right hand by an 89 mph sinker from Corey Kluber as he attempted to swing at the pitch.

Rather than make contact with the bat, though, the ball hit the top of Story’s right hand. The 29-year-old was in visible pain as he walked down the third base line and received a visit from Red Sox manager Alex Cora and a team trainer. A few minutes later, Story came out of the game and was pinch-hit for/replaced at second base by Jeter Downs.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, Strahm was struck by a 98 mph line drive off the bat of Taylor Walls. The comebacker deflected off Strahm, who threw the ball away as he attempted to get Walls out at first base before keeling over in pain. Like Story, Strahm was visited by Cora and a team trainer before exiting the game and being relieved by Kaleb Ort.

Story was later diagnosed with a right hand contusion while Strahm was diagnosed with a left wrist contusion. The two spent part of their Tuesday night at a local hospital to get X-rays taken.

According to Cotillo, it is unclear at this point if Story and/or Strahm will require a trip to the injured list. The Red Sox are waiting to see how both players feel upon arriving at Tropicana Field on Wednesday before making any IL-related decisions.

The Red Sox, as noted by Cotillo, already have 11 players on the injured list. And although right-handers Garrett Whitlock and Nathan Eovaldi are expected to be activated this weekend, losing Story and Strahm would be a blow to a team that has struggled so far in the month of July.

(Picture of Trevor Story: Mike Carlson/Getty Images)

Reeling Red Sox lose Trevor Story, Matt Strahm to injury in process of falling to Rays, 3-2; Chris Sale tosses 5 scoreless innings in season debut

Well, that was ugly.

Despite getting a strong start from Chris Sale and taking a two-run lead into the sixth inning, the Red Sox fell to the Rays by a final score of 3-2 at Tropicana Field on Tuesday night.

Sale, making his season debut, scattered just three hits and one walk to go along with five strikeouts over five scoreless frames. The veteran left-hander retired six of the first seven batters he faced before running into some trouble in the third, as he gave up a leadoff single to Yu Chang and one-out walk to Yandy Diaz. But he got out of that jam by sitting down Harold Ramirez and then punching out Christian Bethancourt.

Isaac Parades led off the bottom of the fourth with a hard-hit double and advanced to third on a Randy Arozarena groundout, but Sale stranded him there before ending his night with a 1-2-3 fifth inning. The 33-year-old southpaw threw 78 pitches (53 strikes) and induced a total of four swings-and-misses while averaging 95.1 mph with his four-seam fastball.

By the time he had recorded the final out of the fifth inning, Sale was in line for the win. That being the case because the Red Sox lineup had just gotten to Rays starter Corey Kluber for two runs in their half of the fifth.

After Alex Verdugo broke up Kluber’s no-hit bid with a one-out double, Trevor Story was hit in the right hand while swinging at a 3-1, 89 mph sinker that was ruled a foul ball. Story would have to leave the game and was later diagnosed with a right hand contusion. He was pinch-hit for by Jeter Downs, who moved Verdugo up to third base on a softly-hit single to left field.

Franchy Cordero then laid down a successful sacrifice bunt down the first base line that brought in Verdugo from third to give the Red Sox a 1-0 lead. Bobby Dalbec followed by plating Downs on an RBI triple to double his side’s advantage.

The sixth inning is where things began to spiral for Boston. Ryan Brasier took over for Sale out of the Red Sox bullpen and put runners at first and second in the process of recording the first two outs of the frame. Alex Cora then turned to Matt Strahm, who almost immediately gave up an RBI single to the pinch-hitting Francisco Mejia.

Mejia’s single put runners at first and second for Taylor Walls, who ripped a 98 mph comebacker off Strahm’s left wrist. Strahm lost his glove but attempted to get Walls out at first base to end the inning. He instead threw the ball away, which allowed Parades to score the game-tying run.

Cordero, meanwhile, retrieved Strahm’s errant toss and attempted to throw home to Christian Vazquez. That caught Vazquez off-guard, as he tried to block the ball with his chest protector before it rolled away, giving Mejia the opportunity to score from third to give Tampa Bay their first lead of the contest.

Both Strahm and Cordero were charged with throwing errors on the play, and Strahm had to be removed with what the team later diagnosed as a left wrist contusion. He was replaced by Kaleb Ort, who recorded the final out of the sixth.

Boston’s lack of fundamentals continued to haunt in the top of the seventh. Verdugo and Downs greeted new Rays reliever Jalen Beeks with back-to-back hits to put runners on the corners with no outs. But Verdugo, representing the tying run, was picked off by Mejia at third base for the first out of the inning. Beeks proceeded to escape the seventh unscathed before facing the minimum in a scoreless eighth.

With John Schreiber and Hirokazu Sawamura keeping the Rays off the scoreboard, the Red Sox found themselves still trailing by one run heading into their half of the ninth.

Matched up against left-handed reliever Brooks Raley, Downs drew a two-out walk but that was immediately negated when Cordero fanned on three pitches to end the game.

With the loss, the Red Sox fall to 47-41 on the season and 11-22 against divisional opponents. They are 4-8 in the month of July.

Next up: Winckowski vs. McClanahan

The Red Sox will send rookie right-hander Josh Winckowski to the mound on Wednesday as they look to avoid dropping another series an American League East rival. The Rays will counter with their ace in left-hander Shane McClanahan.

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

(Picture of Chris Sale: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Alex Verdugo comes through with 2 clutch hits to help Red Sox avoid getting swept by Blue Jays in 6-5 win

The Red Sox nearly blew another late lead against the Blue Jays on Wednesday night, but instead held on for a drama-filled, 6-5 win in 10 innings to avoid a three-game sweep at the hands of their division rivals.

Nick Pivetta, making his 16th start of the season for Boston, allowed two runs on five hits, three walks, and one hit batsman to go along with five strikeouts over six-plus innings of work.

The Canadian-born right-hander ran into some early trouble when he issued a leadoff walk to Alejandro Kirk to begin things in the bottom of the second. Kirk moved up to second and later scored from there on an RBI single from former Red Sox prospect Santiago Espinal to give the Blue Jays a 1-0 lead.

The Sox quickly responded, however, as Franchy Cordero led off the third with a bunt single off Jays starter Alek Manoah. Cordero proceeded to steal second and advance to third on a throwing error before scoring his side’s first run on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Rob Refsnyder.

Pivetta, meanwhile, kept Toronto off the board in the latter half of the third despite putting himself in a jam. The righty gave up a one-out single to Bo Bichette and plunked Kirk in the elbow with a 94 mph fastball. It was not intentional but the Blue Jays dugout, particularly Vladimir Guerrero Jr. still took exception.

After Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo left his dugout to chat with home plate umpire D.J. Reyburn, Guerrero Jr. took to the field as he was jawing back and forth with Pivetta. While there was no exchange of fists, both benches and bullpens cleared to momentarily delay the game.

Once the dust had settled from that skirmish, Pivetta walked the very next batter he faced to fill the bases. That prompted a mound visit from pitching coach Dave Bush, and it paid dividends as Pivetta fanned Raimel Tapia on four pitches to retire the side.

On the heels of a 1-2-3 fourth inning, Pivetta encountered more leadoff trouble in the fifth when he served up a go-ahead, 413-foot solo shot to George Springer.

Again, though, Toronto’s newfound lead did not last long. With two outs in the sixth, Xander Bogaerts reached base via an infield single. A red-hot Alex Verdugo followed by getting ahead in the count against Manoah at 2-0 and then crushing 95 mph heater 399 feet to right field to put Boston ahead for the first time.

Verdugo’s sixth home run of the season left his bat at 107 mph and gave the Sox a 3-2 lead. Pivetta took that lead into the seventh before issuing a leadoff walk to Cavan Biggio, who proved to be the final Blue Jay he would face.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 109 (72 strikes), Pivetta got eight of his 15 swings-and-misses with his four-seamer, a pitch he threw 56 times and topped out at 95.8 mph with. The 29-year-old did not factor into Wednesday’s decision, though he did lower his ERA on the season to 3.23.

In relief of Pivetta, John Schreiber got the first call out of the Boston bullpen and immediately negated the runner he inherited by getting Springer to ground into a force out at second base. Schreiber then stranded Springer by retiring Bichette and Guerrero Jr. back-to-back.

Still up 3-2 going into the eighth, the Red Sox next turned to Ryan Brasier, who surrendered back-to-back one-out doubles to Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Tapia. Tapia drove in the pinch-running Bradley Zimmer with his two-base hit to knot things up at three runs apiece.

After Jordan Romano and Matt Strahm each traded zeroes in the ninth, Jackie Bradley Jr. took second base to begin the 10th inning. Matched up against veteran reliever David Phelps now, Refsnyder and Rafael Devers drew back-to-back walks to fill the bases with no outs for J.D. Martinez.

Martinez, in turn, took a 91 mph cutter off the back, which allowed Bradley Jr. to score from third and keep the bases loaded for Bogaerts, who proceeded to ground into a 3-2-3 double play off newly-inserted reliever Tim Mayza.

Faced with the possibility of only scoring one run in the 10th, Verdugo came through with what would prove to be some much-needed insurance as he ripped a two-run double that split the gap in left field and scored both Devers and Martinez easily.

Verdugo’s second clutch hit of the night gave the Red Sox a rather sizable 6-3 lead going into the bottom half of the 10th. Still without unvaccinated closer Tanner Houck, manager Alex Cora rode with Strahm for a second straight inning.

As was the case with Tyler Danish on Tuesday, that decision nearly proved to be a disastrous one for the Red Sox. After quickly getting the first two outs of the 10th, Strahm yielded three straight hits to Matt Chapman, Espinal, and Biggio.

Espinal and Biggio — who doubled — both drove in a run with their hits to cut the Sox’ lead down to one at 6-5. Biggio represented the possible tying run at second base.

Strahm was now tasked with facing a dangerous hitter in Springer. The lefty was likely gassed given his workload, but he held on by getting Springer to pop out to Trevor Story to end the game.

So, on a season-high 41 pitches (30 strikes), Strahm prevented the Red Sox from getting swept while earning his third winning decision of the year.

With the win, Boston improves to 43-33 on the season and leaves Toronto a half-game ahead of the Blue Jays in the American League Wild Card standings.

Next up: Heading to Wrigley

The Red Sox will enjoy an off day on Thursday as they arrive in Chicago ahead of a three-game weekend series against the Cubs. This will mark the Sox’ first trip to Wrigley Field in 10 years.

In Friday afternoon’s series opener, veteran left-hander Rich Hill will get the start for Boston. Chicago has yet to officially name a starter.

Regardless of that, first pitch from the Friendly Confines on Friday is scheduled for 2:20 p.m. eastern time on NESN and MLB Network.

(Picture of Alex Verdugo: Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

Red Sox activate Matt Strahm from COVID-19 related injured list, place Matt Barnes on 15-day injured list due to right shoulder inflammation

Before wrapping up their two-game interleague series against the Cincinnati Reds at Fenway Park on Wednesday, the Red Sox activated left-hander Matt Strahm from the COVID-19 related injured list.

In order to make room for Strahm on the active roster, right-hander Matt Barnes was placed on the 15-day injured list due to right shoulder inflammation, the team announced.

Strahm’s stay on the COVID-related IL lasted all of 48 hours after he was placed on it before Monday night’s 10-0 loss to the Orioles. The 30-year-old southpaw has been one of Alex Cora’s most trusted relievers this season, posting a 3.68 ERA and 1.77 FIP with 16 strikeouts to just three walks over 18 appearances spanning 14 2/3 innings of work.

Barnes, meanwhile, is in the midst of his worst season as a big-leaguer. The 31-year-old has posted a dismal 7.94 ERA and 5.32 FIP with 14 strikeouts to 12 walks across 20 outings and 17 innings pitched in 2022.

That Barnes has struggled as much as he has this year can be attributed to the difficulties he also endured during the second half of last season. Since signing a two-year, $18.75 million extension with the Sox in July, the former first-round draft pick has pitched to a 7.01 ERA and 5.49 FIP over his last 34 2/3 innings.

Since Barnes’ stint on the injured list is retroactive to May 31, the hard-throwing righty would be eligible to return to action as soon as June 15, when the Red Sox host the Oakland Athletics in Boston.

On the flip side of that, though, the Sox could elect to send Barnes out on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Worcester to have him work on things there with WooSox pitching coach Paul Abbott. As noted by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, any rehab assignment can last up to 30 days, ” so the Red Sox can keep Barnes off their roster for a significant amount of time if they so choose.”

Following Wednesday’s transaction, the Red Sox now have Strahm, Ryan Brasier, Tyler Danish, Austin Davis, Jake Diekman, Tanner Houck, Hirokazu Sawamura, John Schreiber, and Phillips Valdez in their active bullpen.

Hansel Robles, who was placed on the 15-day injured list because of back spasms on Saturday, could be activated during Boston’s upcoming west coast road trip, Cora told reporters (including Cotillo) on Tuesday.

(Picture of Matt Strahm: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)