Nathan Eovaldi Fans Four Over Three Scoreless Innings, Rafael Devers Crushes Two-Run Homer as Red Sox Get Back in Win Column Against Braves

After dropping their last three, the Red Sox got back in the win column and improved to 4-5-1 in Grapefruit League play on Sunday following a 4-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves at JetBlue Park.

Making his second start of the spring for Boston was Nathan Eovaldi, who impressed in his 2020 debut by striking out four Twins over two scoreless innings last Monday.

Working three innings this time around, the right-hander impressed yet again, as he kept the Braves off the scoreboard while allowing just one hit, an infield single, and zero walks to go along with another four strikeouts on the afternoon, three of which came in consecutive order in the top half of the second.

Out of the 40 pitches Eovaldi threw Sunday, 28 went for strikes. And even though the Red Sox are opting to not use a radar gun at JetBlue Park this spring, it’s safe to say the 30-year-old had his fastball working in his favor in this one.

With two spring starts down and four to go, Eovaldi’s next outing should come next weekend against either the Braves, Phillies, or Blue Jays.

In relief of Eovaldi, Brandon Workman came on for his first appearance of the spring to begin the fourth, and he looked like he was in mid-season form with two strikeouts and four straight swings and misses to close a perfect inning out.

From there, top pitching prospect Tanner Houck followed suit by fanning three and walking one over three two-hit innings, making way for Marcus Walden, also making his spring debut, to begin the eighth.

Walden got his first Grapefruit League appearance off to a strong start by retiring the side in order in the eighth, but the ninth was a different story, as the 31-year-old allowed the first two hitters he faced to reach via a leadoff walk and HBP before recording the first two outs and yielding an RBI single to Braden Shewmake to end the shutout and make it a 4-1 game.

Another plunked batter filled the bases for Shea Langeliers, who drove in his side’s second run and subsequently ended Walden’s day by drawing a bases-loaded walk.

So, with the bases still full in what was suddenly just a two-run game, in came left-hander Emmanuel De Jesus looking to close things out. And the 23-year-old did just that, as he got Ryan Casteel to fly out to right for the third and final out, thus ending this one with a final score of 4-2.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox starting lineup that featured regulars like Michael Chavis, Rafael Devers, J.D. Martinez, Mitch Moreland, and Christian Vazquez to begin things on Sunday was matched up against Braves right-hander Mike Foltynewicz.

The Boston bats didn’t waste any time against the Braves hurler, as Chavis led off the first with a walk to bring up Devers, who unloaded on the fifth pitch he saw from Foltynewicz and crushed deep to dead center for his first home run of the spring in just his third plate appearance. A two-run shot put Boston up by two runs early.

An inning later, it was the bottom of the lineup getting things done against Foltynewicz, with Rusney Castillo and top prospect Jeter Downs putting runners at first and second with back-to-back one-out singles and Nick Longhi driving in Castillo from second on a line-drive RBI double to shallow right field. 3-0.

Fast forward all the way to the eighth, and a bases-loaded walk with one out drawn by Chad De La Guerra off of Braves reliever Huascar Ynoa brought in Brett Netzer from third to make it a 4-0 contest. And after Atlanta rallied with a pair of runs of their own in the ninth, 4-2 would go on to be Sunday’s final score.

Some observations from this win:

Mitch Moreland was pulled from this one in the middle of the first inning due to right hamstring tightness. Michael Chavis, meanwhile, only got one at-bat and was pulled after the first inning because he will be part of the group traveling to Lakeland for Monday’s game against the Detroit Tigers.

Rafael Devers in his second spring start: 1-for-2 with that two-run homer and two strikeouts.

Jonathan Lucroy off the bench: 0-for-1. Kevin Plawecki did not play.

Next up for the Red Sox, as I already mentioned, they’ll head to Lakeland to take on the Tigers Monday afternoon.

Right-hander Ryan Weber will get the start for Boston, while left-hander Daniel Norris will do the same for Detroit. Matt Barnes is also expected to make his spring debut for the Sox.

Weber is one of several candidates vying for a spot in Boston’s starting rotation to begin the 2020 season. The 29-year-old struck out one and scattered two hits over two scoreless innings in his last time out against the Orioles this past Tuesday.

First pitch Monday is scheduled for 1:05 PM EST. This game will not be televised.

 

RECAP: Brandon Phillips Comes up Clutch with Go-Ahead Ninth Inning Home Run as #RedSox Finish off Sweep of Braves.

After taking the first two games of this interleague series against the Atlanta Braves over these last two days, the Red Sox looked to head into an off day with a three-game sweep to end their road trip on a positive note.

Making his seventh start of the season on Wednesday was Hector Velazquez, who entered the afternoon with a lifetime 3.38 ERA in two career relief appearances against Atlanta, both of which have come in 2018.

Tossing four full innings, the right-hander yielded just two runs on five hits and three walks to go along with two strikeouts on the day.

For as lousy as a start Velazquez got off to with the Braves tacking on two runs on a Ronald Acuna leadoff home run and Nick Markakis RBI single before a single out was recorded in the bottom half of the first, it was nice to see him settle down a bit.

After that disastrous first frame, the 29-year old buckled down and did not surrender a single hit to the final 12 Braves he faced in this one, as he worked his way around three walks along the way to a decent outing.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 57 (37 strikes), the Mexico native turned to his slider 33% of the time on Wednesday while topping out at 92.2 MPH with his four-seam fastball, a pitch he only threw seven times, in the fourth inning.

Although his ERA did rise from 3.24 up to 3.30 following this afternoon’s performance, Velazquez will look to build on a solid start to September in his next time out, which should come against the Toronto Blue Jays sometime next week if it’s in a starting capacity. If not, I would not be surprised to see him come out of the bullpen during this upcoming weekend series against the Houston Astros.

In relief of Velazquez, the Red Sox bullpen was responsible for the final five innings of Wednesday afternoon’s contest, and they did not really have an easy go of it.

Drew Pomeranz, who entered the day with a 2.93 ERA since moving to the bullpen earlier last month, was first out of the ‘pen to relieve Velazquez in the bottom of the fifth.

The southpaw came into the game with the score at 2-1 in favor of the Braves. By the time he departed, that one-run lead had inflated all the way up to five after Pomeranz could only record one out on a force out while technically allowing all six hitters he faced to reach base.

That was certainly not great, and the situation got even worse when William Cuevas, who came in for Pomeranz, allowed an inherited runner to score from third on a Tyler Flowers single to make it a 7-1 game.

From that point on, both Cuevas and Bobby Poyner held the Braves scoreless in a combined 2.2 innings of work before Brandon Workman made an appearance to start the eighth.

Just moments after his team rallied from a six-run deficit to even things up at seven runs a piece, Workman allowed the then go-ahead run to score on a two out, pinch hit solo home run from Freddie Freeman.

However demoralizing it was at the time, the Red Sox still made another successful comeback effort, and Workman ended up getting credited with the winning decision, his fourth of the year.

Finally, to wrap this thing up, Craig Kimbrel came in for the save opportunity against his former club with a fresh one-run lead to protect.

Despite a two out walk, the flame throwing closer rebounded by striking out the next and final batter he faced to secure both his 38th save and the team’s 97th win of the season.

On the other side of things, a Red Sox lineup absent of Mookie Betts, JD Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, and Ian Kinsler to begin things was matched up against Braves right-hander Mike Foltynewicz, who entered Wednesday with the fourth lowest ERA (2.80) among qualified starters in the National League.

Foltynewicz, 26, had already faced Boston once before this season, and he dominated with seven innings of one run ball back on May 27th in a 7-1 win for Atlanta.

Similar to that outing more than three months ago, the Braves hurler was at the top of his game again, as he allowed another lone run in another six quality innings of work.

That one run, though, was scored by none other than Brandon Phillips, who in his first game in a Red Sox uniform, had himself quite the day, and it all started with this wild sequence at third to plate Boston’s first run of the contest in the second inning.

Fast forward all the way to the top of the eighth now, with Foltynewicz out and RHP Dan Winkler in for the Braves, it was surprisingly Christian Vazquez who got a huge rally started with a leadoff single.

Three batters and two additional singles later, Blake Swihart trimmed the Red Sox’s deficit down to four runs with a two RBI double lined to center field.

Following a pitching change that saw left-hander Jonny Venters take over for Winkler, Andrew Benintendi picked up right where Swihart left off by lacing another RBI knock to score Jackie Bradley Jr. from third and make it a three-run game.

Steve Pearce, pinch-hitting for Mitch Moreland, made it a two-run game with a sacrifice fly to left field that was deep enough to drive in Swihart from third.

After Brandon Phillips reached first on a throwing error that also allowed Benintendi to advance to third, the Braves turned to their bullpen once again and out came former Oriole Brad Brach to try and get out of a sticky situation.

Greeted first by pinch-hitter Ian Kinsler, Brach could not sneak a 1-0 94 MPH fastball by Kinsler, as the Red Sox second baseman came through with the clutchest hit of the inning, a bases clearing two RBI double to pull his team even.

That would do it for the scoring in the eighth, and after the Braves jumped out to a brand new one-run lead in their half of the inning, it would all come down to the just called up Phillips in the ninth.

Down to their final out with Andrew Benintendi at first and closer AJ Minter on the mound for Atlanta, Phillips smacked the first pitch he saw, a 95 MPH fastball down the middle of the plate, and sent it 432 feet to left field. No doubt about it.

Phillips’ first big league homer since September 26th proved to be the most important hit of the afternoon, as it put the Red Sox up 9-8, which would go on to be your final score in this thrilling series finale.

Some notes from this 9-8 win:

From @SoxNotes: Brandon Phillips is the first player in Red Sox history to hit a go-ahead HR in the 9th inning or later in his debut with the team (source: ).

From @KNegandhiESPN: MLB teams were 487-0 when leading by 6 runs entering the 8th inning this season.. That streak came to an end as the erase a 7-1 deficit to beat the , 9-8.

Since August 26th, Ian Kinsler is slashing .361/.395/.528 with one home run and eight RBI in his last 10 games.

Finishing a seven-game road trip with a solid 5-2 record, the Red Sox will head into a much deserved off day on Thursday with 97 wins already under their belt.

Following the off day, the team will welcome the defending World Series Champion Houston Astros into town for a three-game weekend series at Fenway Park.

The pitching matchups for that series go as follows:

9/7. RHP Gerrit Cole (13-5, 2.86 ERA) vs. LHP David Price (14-6, 3.60 ERA)

9/8. RHP Charlie Morton (13-3, 3.14 ERA) vs. LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (12-3, 3.34 ERA)

9/9. RHP Dallas Keuchel (11-10, 3.46 ERA) vs. RHP Rick Porcello (16-7, 4.20 ERA)

For Price, Friday’s start will be the first in-game action he has seen since taking a line drive comebacker off his left wrist in his last outing against the Miami Marlins on August 29th, where he had to leave after only pitching three innings.

First pitch of the series opener against the ‘Stros is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET on Friday.

 

RECAP: Chris Sale Surrenders Six Runs as #RedSox Drop Finale to Braves.

Going into this afternoon’s game with the series against the Atlanta Braves already in hand, the Red Sox were looking for their third straight win and their fifth win in six days. Unfortunately, they ran into a good pitcher in Mike Foltynewicz for the Braves.

Chris Sale’s 12th start of the season was certainly not a memorable one. In his only other start against the Braves in his career. when he was with the White Sox, Sale gave up eight earned runs on 10 hits in five innings. Today’s performance certainly resembled that, as the lefty surrendered six earned runs on five hits and three walks in 4.1 innings pitched. Whatever it is about the Atlanta Braves, for some reason they appear to have an edge on an elite pitcher like Chris Sale.

Things got awry for Sale beginning in the second inning. Having pitched a clean first, Braves outfielder Nick Markakis got the ball rolling by drawing a leadoff walk. After Kurt Suzuki singled and Ender Inciarte popped out to third, Sale’s former teammate and catcher in Chicago, Tyler Flowers, launched a three-run shot into the Green Monster seats. That put the Braves up by three early, and they would not have to look back.

Fast forward to the top of the fifth, and another leadoff walk ended up biting Sale. Shortstop Dansby Swanson is the one who drew it this time, and he was able to score a few minutes later when Charlie Culberson ripped a single past Jackie Bradley Jr. in right field. After giving up his third walk of the day to Ronald Acuna Jr, Freddie Freeman, one of the better all around hitters in the National League, drove in both Culberson and Acuna by blasting a two-run double over everyone’s heads in left center field. Another three runs on the board for Atlanta in the inning, and that would be the end of things for Chris Sale on Sunday.

Since he finished with a pitch count of only 91 (59 strikes), perhaps this could be used to the Red Sox advantage when they head to Houston later next week for a four-game weekend series against the Astros. The team has yet to announce the starting pitcher for the Friday game, but if I had to guess, I would say it will be Sale. With the low pitch count from today in mind, I think it would make sense if Alex Cora let Sale go a little deeper into his next start, if he is pitching effectively, of course. When you consider that Drew Pomeranz is pitching on Thursday, and how much the bullpen has had to been used in his starts, the Red Sox could need Sale to get into the seventh or eighth inning before turning to the bullpen in a close game. I know I’m looking to far ahead, but I just thought I would throw it out there.

Anyway, with Sale departing earlier than usual, Brian Johnson received the first call put of the Red Sox bullpen in the fifth. Another lefty, Johnson had himself a decent day in an extended relief role. The Florida native strung together 2.2 scoreless innings while allowing one hit and one walk from the fifth until the end of the top half of the seventh. After a shaky start to his season, Johnson has now gone eight innings in five innings without giving up a single run.

Speaking of extended relief, once Johnson retired the side in the seventh, Hector Velazquez came on in a bit of a mop-up role with the Red Sox trailing by five runs at the point. The native of Mexico was not as effective as he has been of late, as he surrendered one run in the ninth while allowing a total of four Braves to reach base. Not that it mattered, since the Red Sox lineup could barely do anything today.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox were without Mookie Betts and JD Martinez in this one. Martinez because of a scheduled day off, but Betts, who was originally in today’s lineup, was scratched due to “left side tightness.”

Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz, who had pitched against the Red Sox before this season, but not started, came out dealing today. For the first five innings, the best the Red Sox could do is draw three walks against the righty from Illinois. It was not until the sixth when Andrew Benintendi lined a one out double off the wall in left field for his teams first hit of the contest.

One batter later, with Xander Bogaerts at the dish, Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies made a dazzling play with his glove to rob Bogaerts of a hit for the second out of the inning.

Luckily though, Benintendi was not stranded at second base, as Mitch Moreland drove him in by ripping a triple down the first base line, his second three bagger of the season.

That RBI triple prevented the shutout, and it was the only run of the day for the Red Sox. With the two biggest threats out of the lineup, offensive performances like today can be frustrating.

Some notes from this one:

Since Hanley Ramirez was DFA’d this past Friday, Mitch Moreland has hit one home run, two triples, one double, and driven in four in three games.

Ronald Acuna Jr. had to leave today’s game with knee and lower back pain in the seventh inning after an awkward occurrence as he was running out an infield single. I won’t post the video, but I sincerely hope he is okay and has a speedy recovery. Never want to see anything like that happen to an athlete, never mind a 20-year-old rookie.


On a more uplifting note, the Red Sox will welcome the Toronto Blue Jays into town for a three game series that begins tomorrow. The Blue Jays had a decent start to their season, but are just 3-7 in their last 10 games. David Price will get the ball for Boston, while it will be righty Aaron Sanchez going for Toronto. Another 1:05 start time, should be a good way to spend some of Memorial Day.