Former Red Sox infielder Michael Chavis agrees to minor-league deal with Nationals

Former Red Sox infielder Michael Chavis has agreed to terms on a minor-league contract with the Nationals, according to Andrew Golden of The Washington Post.

Chavis, 27, will earn $1 million if he makes Washington’s big-league roster and will have the chance to earn an additional $500,000 in incentives, per Golden. If he is not in the majors by June 1, Chavis can exercise an opt-out clause that would allow him to become a free agent again.

A former first-round draft pick of the Red Sox out of Sprayberry High School (Marietta, Ga.) in 2014, Chavis established himself as one of the top prospects in Boston’s farm system before debuting for the club in April 2019. He batted .254/.322/.444 with 18 home runs and 58 RBIs over 95 games (382 plate appearances) as a rookie but has been unable to replicate that same sort of power production since then.

After striking out in more than 31 percent of his plate appearances during the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign, Chavis failed to make Boston’s Opening Day roster out of spring training in 2021 and instead began the year at the club’s alternate training site. He was called up for the first time in early April and slashed just .190/.207/.342 with two home runs and six RBIs across 31 games before being dealt to the Pirates in exchange for left-handed reliever Austin Davis ahead of the 2021 trade deadline and reuniting with former Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington.

Chavis did not make his Pirates debut until late August and was limited to just 12 games due to a right elbow strain that kept him sidelined for nearly month. In those 12 games, however, the right-handed hitter went 15-for-42 (.357) at the plate with three doubles, one home run, and five runs driven in.

While he impressed in that brief sample size, Chavis’ first full season in Pittsburgh did not go according to plan. In a career-high 129 games played last year, Chavis produced a .229/.265/.389 slash line to go along with 16 doubles, three triples, 14 homers, 49 RBIs, 39 runs scored, one stolen base, 19 walks, and 126 strikeouts over 426 plate appearances. He was designated for assignment at the end of September and elected free agency after clearing waivers.

Chavis, who does not turn 28 until next August, is now with his fourth professional organization. The 5-foot-10, 190-pounder has one minor-league option year remaining and has past experience at every defensive position besides pitcher, catcher, shortstop, and center field.

For his major-league career, Chavis is a lifetime .229/.265/.389 hitter with 40 home runs and 137 RBIs in 309 total games between the Red Sox and Pirates. In parts of three minor-league seasons at the Triple-A level, Chavis has hit .268/.336/.553 with 23 home runs and 55 RBIs over 78 games from 2018-2019 and 2021.

Chavis becomes the latest former Red Sox prospect to join the Nationals organization in some capacity this offseason. Last month, right-hander Thad Ward was taken by Washington in the major-league phase of the Rule 5 Draft while fellow infielder Jeter Downs was claimed off waivers after being designated for assignment by Boston on December 15.

(Picture of Michael Chavis: Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

Red Sox lose Jeter Downs on waivers to Nationals

The Red Sox have lost infielder Jeter Downs on waivers to the Nationals, the club announced earlier Thursday afternoon.

Downs, 24, was designated for assignment last week after the Red Sox needed to clear a spot on their 40-man roster for the addition of Japanese outfielder Masataka Yoshida.

Boston originally acquired Downs — as well as outfielder Alex Verdugo and catcher Connor Wong — from the Dodgers in the February 2020 trade that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to Los Angeles. The native Colombian came into the Red Sox organization as one of its top prospects and a top-100 prospect in all of baseball, but he has since seen his stock fall significantly.

After the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the cancellation of the 2020 minor-league season, Downs did not make his organizational debut until last spring with Triple-A Worcester. The right-handed hitter struggled to the tune of a .191/272/.333 slash line to go along with 14 home runs, 39 RBIs, and 18 stolen bases over 99 games (405 plate appearances) with the WooSox in 2021. He then showed some signs of promise in the Arizona Fall League and was subsequently added to Boston’s 40-man roster last November.

Downs returned to Worcester this past season and batted .197/.316/.412 with 16 home runs and 33 RBIs, and 18 stolen bases across 81 games (335 plate appearances). He made his major-league debut in June, but he went just 6-for-39 (.154) at the plate with one double and one home run while punching out in 51.2% of his plate appearances. Downs was sent back down to the WooSox in late July and then suffered a season-ending left ankle sprain on August 18.

The Red Sox, for their part, remained intrigued by Downs’ speed and power and were encouraged by the defensive improvements he has made since being traded. At the same time, though, his high swing-and-miss rates were certainly concerning and were part of the reason why the club ultimately elected to cut him loose.

“This was a tough one,” chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said of the decision to designate Downs last week. “The fact that he was in a position where we considered him and chose him to be designated, I think just speaks to some of the struggles we’ve had getting him on track. I still think there’s a lot of physical ability there but we haven’t been able to unlock it consistently. Certainly know he’s still young and there’s no reason to write him off but he has obviously had some struggles.”

In being claimed by the Nationals, Downs will now be joining his fourth pro organization. He was first drafted by the Reds in 2017 and was then traded to the Dodgers in 2018 before being dealt to the Red Sox in early 2020. Downs does have two minor-league options remaining, so he could be shuttled between Washington and its Triple-A affiliate in 2023.

(Picture of Jeter Downs: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox lose pitching prospects Thad Ward, A.J. Politi, and Noah Song in Rule 5 Draft

The Red Sox lost three intriguing pitching prospects in the major-league phase of the 2022 Rule 5 Draft on Wednesday.

With the first overall pick, the Nationals took right-hander Thad Ward. Moments later, the Orioles took reliever A.J. Politi at No. 17. Then, in a somewhat shocking twist, the Phillies nabbed fellow righty Noah Song with the 20th overall selection.

Ward, who turns 26 next month, had been regarded by MLB Pipeline as the No. 15 prospect in Boston’s farm system. The Red Sox originally selected the 6-foot-3, 192-pound hurler in the fifth round of the 2018 amateur draft out of the University of Central Florida.

Equipped with a two-seam fastball, slider, and changeup, Ward got his professional career off to an impressive start before undergoing Tommy John surgery last June. He returned to the mound this summer and posted a 2.28 ERA in 13 starts (51 1/3 innings) with four different affiliates. That includes a 2.43 ERA in seven starts (33 1/3 innings) for Double-A Portland.

In an effort to get him more work, the Red Sox sent Ward to pitch in the Arizona Fall League. There, the righty forged a 2.84 ERA with 15 strikeouts to six walks in four appearances (three starts) spanning 12 2/3 innings of work for the Scottsdale Scorpions. His workload was limited due to a left oblique strain.

Despite the flashes of potential he showed this season, the Red Sox elected not to add Ward to their 40-man roster ahead of last month’s Rule 5 deadline. They instead added five minor-leaguers — including Wilyer Abreu and David Hamilton — knowing full well that Ward could be scooped up by another club.

The same, in a sense, can be said for Politi, who winds up going to a division rival. The 26-year-old pitched to a 2.60 ERA in 50 appearances (two starts) between Portland and Triple-A Worcester this season. That includes a 2.41 ERA with 63 strikeouts to 19 walks in 38 outings (two starts) spanning 56 innings for the WooSox.

Boston originally selected Politi in the 15th round of the 2018 draft out of Seton Hall University. He was a candidate to be called up by the big-league club at the end of the season and was ranked by SoxProspects.com as the No. 42 prospect in the organization.

Song is a bit of a different story. The former fourth-round draft pick last pitched professionally in 2019 and was viewed as one of the top pitching prospects in the organization before his commitment to the Navy forced him to step away from the game.

Earlier this spring, Song completed his Naval flight training and applied for a waiver that would allow him to continue his baseball career while still serving in the reserves. The Red Sox kept him on the military reserve list during that time and the Phillies will do the same, meaning he will not occupy a spot on their 40-man roster.

Phillies president of baseball operations was running the Red Sox when Song was drafted in 2019. It seems like he was excited by the opportunity to bring tha talented pitcher to Philadelphia.

“We made sure to double-check that he was available to be drafted, which he was,” Dombrowski told reporters (including MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo). “I knew him at the time (of the 2019 draft). We loved him. We thought he was a No. 1 Draft choice; we thought he might be the best starting pitcher in the country. We took a gamble at that point because we thought maybe he wouldn’t have to serve, but he ended up having to do that.

“Being available like this, we really had nothing to lose,” he added. “We like his talent a lot. We get to put him on the military list right off the bat, so he’s not on our 40-man roster. We figured we’d take a chance and just see what ends up happening.”

Ward and Politi will be subject to normal Rule 5 stipulations next year. In other words, the Nationals and Orioles paid $100,000 for each pitcher and must keep them on their 26-man roster for the entirety of the 2023 season. If that is not possible, Ward and Politi would have to be offered back to the Red Sox for $50,000.

Song, on the other hand, is not subject to these requirements until he is activated from the military reserve list and resumes his baseball career. The Phillies, like the Red Sox before them, are not sure if or when that will happen.

“This is a long shot by all means, but it’s worth taking a shot, we thought,” said Dombrowski. I don’t know if anybody knows exactly when he’ll be released from his service. But for the cost of the Draft, we thought it was worth taking him.”

In total, the Red Sox tied the Dodgers for the most players taken in this year’s Rule 5 Draft. While that may not be a positive as far as organizational depth is concerned, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom believes it shows that Boston has more talent in its farm system than years prior.

“I’d rather not lose players but I do think it’s a testament to where our system is going,” Bloom said, via MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo. “Obviously, you want to be able to make moves to get in front of these situations and you aren’t going to be able to do it with everybody. It’s something we worked on knowing there was some risk of losing some guys.”

(Picture of Thad Ward: Jill Weisleder/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Former Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo signs minor-league deal with Nationals

Former Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo is returning to the United States, as he has signed a minor-league contract with the Washington Nationals, per the team’s transaction log. It does not appear as though the deal includes an invite to major-league spring training.

Castillo, 34, spent the 2021 season in Japan after signing a one-year, $650,000 contract with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of Nippon Professional Baseball last January.

In 33 games with the Golden Eagles, the right-handed hitter batted .225/.282/.276 with one double, one home run, three RBIs, four runs scored, four walks, and 17 strikeouts over 76 plate appearances. He also appeared in 17 games with Rakuten’s farm team of Japan’s Eastern League.

More recently, Castillo suited up for Naranjeros de Hermosillo of the Mexican Pacific Winter League this off-season and posted an OPS of .727 in 13 games (60 plate appearances) with the club.

A native of Ciego de Avila, Cuba, Castillo famously signed with the Red Sox as a highly-coveted international free agent in August 2014. Touted as one of the top players available at the time, Castillo — then 27 years old — inked a lucrative seven-year, $72.5 million deal with Boston.

That blockbuster contract proved to not work out for both player and team. Castillo debuted for the Sox in late September of the 2014 season and showed promise by slashing .333/.400/.528 with two homers and six RBIs over the course of a brief 10-game sample.

The following year, Castillo was recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket for the first time in late May. He was sent back down in June, but spent the rest of the season in the majors after getting called up again in late July, though he did so while struggling to the tune of a .647 OPS.

Less than halfway into the 2016 campaign, Castillo was outrighted off Boston’s 40-man roster on June 20 after clearing waivers. He made his first Opening Day roster and appeared in just nine games with the Sox that season. It goes without saying that the decision to take him off the 40-man roster was an impactful one.

That being the case because Castillo played out the rest of his contract in the minor-leagues as a result of Major League Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement at that time. Since he was not on the 40-man roster, Castillo’s salary did not count against the Red Sox’ luxury tax threshold. Were he to be added to the 40-man again, the remainder of his contract would then count against the threshold.

Financially speaking, having Castillo on the 40-man roster was not in the Sox’ best interest. And despite providing solid production for the PawSox and receiving regular invites to big-league camp in the spring, Castillo became a free agent at the conclusion of the 2020 season after going more than four years without an MLB plate appearance.

All told, Castillo hit an underwhelming .262/.301/.379 to go along with 12 doubles, two triples, seven home runs, 35 RBIs, 45 runs scored, seven stolen bases, 16 walks, and 63 strikeouts across 99 games (337 plate appearances) in his three seasons with the Red Sox.

Now, Castillo will look to find his footing in the United States once more. The 5-foot-9, 205 pounder turns 35 in July and could provide the Nationals with some intriguing veteran outfield depth in the upper-minors for the 2022 season.

(Picture of Rusney Castillo: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Alex Cora on Kyle Schwarber as slugger nears return from injury: ‘Don’t bet against him’

After an encouraging workout at Fenway Park on Wednesday, first baseman/outfielder Kyle Schwarber appears to be on the verge of beginning a rehab assignment, according to Red Sox manager Alex Cora.

Schwarber, who the Sox acquired from the Nationals in exchange for pitching prospect Aldo Ramirez in late July, has been on the injured list because of a right hamstring strain since July 3.

This past weekend in Toronto, the 28-year-old slugger suffered a minor setback in his recovery on account of some left groin tightness, but it was one that did not throw off his timetable by that much, if at all.

Because of that, Schwarber could very well start a rehab assignment with Triple-A Worcester on Thursday. Per MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, he is eve expected to be in the WooSox’ starting lineup for their matchup against the Syracuse Mets at Polar Park.

That being said, it is unclear at the moment how long Schwarber’s rehab assignment with the WooSox will last. As noted by Cotillo, the left-handed power hitter has been held out of action since July 2 and is also learning to play first base — a relatively new position for him — on the fly.

“If it’s up to him, he’ll probably say hi to the guys and come back and perform,” Cora told reporters Wednesday (including Cotillo). “I think we’ve done everything possible to get him to a spot that, offensively, he feels right. Indoor, outdoor, with everything. Velocity, spin, everything.”

At the time he sustained that right hamstring strain last month, Schwarber was in the midst of a career year for the Nationals and was named to his first career All-Star team as a result.

Over 72 games with Washington, the 6-foot, 229 pounder slashed .253/.340/.570 to go along with nine doubles, 25 home runs, 53 RBI, and 42 runs scored across 303 trips to the plate, primarily as a left fielder.

In the month of June alone, Schwarber went on an absolute tear in regards to hitting the ball out of the ballpark, as he clubbed 16 of his 25 homers — 12 of which came in a 10-game span from June 19 through June 29.

On top of the production he can provide from the left side of the plate, Schwarber is no stranger to adversity, either.

Going back to the 2016 season, the former Cubs fan favorite tore the ACL and LCL in his left knee in early April, but returned just in time for that October’s World Series, where he posted a .971 OPS en route to Chicago’s historic triumph over the Cleveland Indians in seven games.

This feat is something Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom has alluded to in the time since Boston acquired Schwarber, and it’s also something Cora pointed to on Wednesday.

“You guys saw what happened when they won the World Series (in 2016),” Cora said. “How quick he came back and how good he was when he did what he did when the Cubs won the World Series. Don’t bet against him. He feels great, he moves well and we’ll go from there.”

(Picture of Kyle Schwarber: Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

Red Sox acquire Kyle Schwarber from Nationals in exchange for pitching prospect Aldo Ramirez

The Red Sox have acquired left fielder Kyle Schwarber from the Washington Nationals, in exchange for pitching prospect Aldo Ramirez the club announced Thursday night.

In order create room on their 40-man roster for the addition of Schwarber, the Red Sox designated reliever Brandon Workman for assignment.

Schwarber, 28, has been on the 10-day injured list with a right hamstring strain since July 3 after suffering the injury while rounding first base in a game against the Dodgers on July 2.

Prior to being placed on the IL, the left-handed hitter was in the midst of perhaps his best season in the big-leagues after earning his first All-Star team selection earlier this month.

Over 72 games with the Nationals to begin the 2021 campaign, Schwarber slashed a solid .253/.340/.570 (138 wRC+) to go along with nine doubles, 25 home runs, 53 RBI, 42 runs scored, one stolen base, 31 walks, and 88 strikeouts in 303 total trips to the plate. He hit 16 homers in 27 games in the month of June alone.

A former first-round pick of the Cubs back in 2014 out of Indiana University, the Ohio native spent the first seven years of his professional career and six years of his major-league career with Chicago before hitting free agency and signing a one-year, $10 million deal with the Nats back in Janurary.

Known for his slugging abilities (146 career homers), Schwarber — listed at a stout 6-foot-2 and 229 pounds — will look to provide a Red Sox offense that has stumbled a bit since the All-Star break with a power-hitting boost from the left side of the plate.

Drafted as a catcher out of Indiana, Schwarber has not appeared in a game behind the plate since 2019, and he only did that one time. Over the last two seasons between Chicago and Washington, all of his playing time has come at either left field or designated hitter.

That said, it seems as though the Red Sox could try Schwarber out at first base — a position he played one time in 2017 — if the occasion arises.

According to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, “the Red Sox are open to see how he can handle the position. He’s also expected to see playing time in the outfield and at designated hitter.”

Ramirez, meanwhile, goes to the Nationals in return for Schwarber.

Originally acquired by the Red Sox from Aguascalientes of the Mexican League for $550,000 in April 2018, Ramirez was regarded by Baseball America as the No. 25 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking 11th among pitchers in the organization.

The 20-year-old right-hander opened the 2021 minor-league season with Low-A Salem and posted a 2.03 ERA and 3.04 FIP to go along with 32 strikeouts and eight walks over eight starts spanning 31 innings of work, though he has not pitched in a game in well over a month after being placed on the injured list due to elbow tendinitis on June 27.

For the Red Sox, parting ways with a prospect of Ramirez’s caliber for an injured player such as Schwarber certainly comes with its risks.

With that being said, however, Schwarber — who is owed approximately $2.33 million for the remainder of this season and has an $11.5 million mutual option (or $3 million buyout) for 2022 — does come with a potential extra year of team control.

According to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, Schwarber is expected to return from his hamstring strain within the next few weeks.

Cotillo also notes that the Red Sox will place Schwarber on the 10-day injured list ahead of Friday’s series opener against the Rays and likely activate reliever Hirokazu Sawamura in his place.

(Picture of Kyle Schwarber: Will Newton/Getty Images)

Nick Pivetta Shows Promise, Offers Hope in Red Sox Debut

It had been well over a year, or 434 days to be more exact, since Nick Pivetta started a major-league game. In that July 17, 2019 contest against the Dodgers, the then-Phillies right-hander surrendered one earned run on no hits and four walks in just 2 1/3 innings of work, but was promptly demoted to the Philadelphia bullpen from that point forward.

Fast forward to Tuesday night and Pivetta, now a member of the Red Sox, got the chance to start in the majors once again against the Orioles at Fenway Park. The 27-year-old took full advantage of this opportunity, as he held Baltimore to one run on four hits and three walks to go along with eight punchouts over five strong innings of work.

That effort eventually netted Pivetta his first win of the year, and the native of British Columbia seemed quite pleased with the way things went in his Red Sox debut when speaking with reporters via Zoom postgame.

“Honestly, I’m just really grateful for this opportunity. It’s been over a year since I’ve been able to start in the big-leagues,” Pivetta said. “To be able to go out there, put up five pretty good innings, I was very elated.”

As elated as Pivetta may have been by the time his outing came to an end, how his evening began was rather shaky with three of the first five Orioles he faced reaching base on two walks and a single, resulting in that lone run crossing the plate on a D.J. Stewart RBI base knock.

With two outs in the top half of the first and runners on first and second, Pivetta found himself in a predicament where his goal was to limit the damage. He did just that by fanning Pedro Severino on four pitches, with the last strike coming on a nasty, swing-inducing 87 mph slider at the bottom of the zone. That proved to be a significant confidence booster for the righty.

“I would have liked to limit that damage a little bit more with some better fastball command,” said Pivetta. “But, getting out of that and moving into [cruise control] after that, getting my legs underneath me, get my confidence back, just relax and have some fun out there. I think that’s the biggest thing. When you get that first inning out of the way, you kind of just move into it and just go out there and compete.”

By the time he had recorded the final out of the fifth, Pivetta’s pitch count had reached 96. Out of those 96 pitches, the former Nationals prospect relied on his fastball 51% of the time, his slider 23% of the time, his curveball 21 % of the time, and his changeup 5% of the time. Relying on a healthy mix of these four pitches is something Pivetta worked to improve upon while in Pawtucket.

“Getting back as a starter, building back up, getting better command with all four of my pitches,” Pivetta continued. “That’s the pitcher that I am. You can’t go out there with two pitches, so being able to have a solid mix of four pitches, which I showcased tonight pretty well, that’s what we’ve been working on and it paid off tonight.”

Speaking of showcasing himself, Pivetta will get the starting nod in the Red Sox’ season finale against the Braves in Atlanta this coming Sunday. Two starts is obviously a small sample size, but that is no reason to believe that the 6-foot-5 hurler won’t be giving it everything he’s got as he heads towards the offseason.

“I think it’s huge,” he said. “I’m given two opportunities to showcase myself and do the best I possibly can. I’m looking forward to every opportunity I have and just moving on from that.”

Pivetta has made seven prior starts against the Braves at Truist Park. In those outings, he owns a lifetime 4.10 ERA and .731 OPS against over 37 1/3 total innings pitched. Sunday’s start in Atlanta will of course be Pivetta’s first outside of the Phillies organization.

Alex Verdugo Picks up League-Leading Seventh Outfield Assist as Part of Red Sox’ 5-3 Win Over Nationals; Ron Roenicke Says ‘You’re Not Going To See Too Many Plays Better Than That’

Alex Verdugo picked up his major-league leading seventh outfield assist on Saturday and in doing so prevented the Nationals from scoring what would have been their fourth run of the night.

On the play, the 24-year-old fielded a two-out single off the bat of Trea Turner. With his momentum carrying him towards the left-center field gap, Verdugo gathered the ball while simultaneously inching closer to home plate.

“You got Turner at the plate swinging a hot bat,” Verdugo said. “Just through the whole game I was watching his swings and he was kind of on everything. For me, I was ready for him to put the ball in play. It just felt like whatever you throw him, he’s going to hit a line drive.”

Upon transferring the fielded baseball from his glove hand to his throwing hand, Verdugo cocked back while still on the run and unleashed a laser back towards the infield.

“I had a good jump on it, a line drive right over the shortstop’s head,” he added. “I got to it quick enough to feel like I was able to throw across my body and it was just a good throw.”

On just one hop, the outfielder’s bullet of a throw reached Christian Vazquez, who had more than enough time to nab Kurt Suzuki, who was trying to score all the way from second base.

Once that final out of the top of the fifth inning was recorded, Verdugo flexed a little bit as he darted back towards the Red Sox dugout after orchestrating what would turn out to be a pivotal play in Saturday’s 5-3 win for Boston.

“I keep my throws low and a lot of times [Xander Bogaerts and Jose Peraza] are doing the hard part,” Verdugo continued. “They got to cut it and get me a couple outfield assists. But, there’s a few where I have to throw it all the way there myself. The main thing for me is to try to keep my throws low, to try to blow up the cutoff man and throw it right through his chest. Sometimes they cut it, sometimes it goes through and we get them.”

One factor that aided the Arizona native in racking up yet another outfield assist is the fact that he throws with his left hand. It certainly doesn’t hurt that he was a legitimate pitching prospect coming out of high school, either.

“For me, it just helped that I’m a lefty, too,” said Verdugo. “With that specific play, it was my glove side, so all I had to do was backhand it and I had to make sure I worked one shuffle forward toward the plate… I had a good understanding of where I was on the field. From there, it was just stop my momentum, try to make a shuffle, and get rid of it as quick as I can.”

When asked about this specific play during his postgame media availability Saturday, Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke seemed rightfully impressed with the arm strength Verdugo displayed while gunning down Suzuki earlier in the night.

“That’s as good a play as you can make,” Roenicke said. “To go over that far and get that ball like he did and still be under enough control to get something on it and one-hop it home. You’re not going to see too many plays better than that.”

With his league-leading seventh outfield assist, Verdugo now has more OF assists than 27 MLB teams so far this season. Pretty impressive.

Red Sox Relievers Combine To Toss 6 2/3 Scoreless Innings en Route To 5-3 Victory Over Nationals

The Red Sox bounced back from an ugly 10-2 loss on Friday and were carried by their bullpen en route to a 5-3 victory over the defending World Series champion Nationals on Saturday.

Chris Mazza made his second start and third overall appearance of the season for Boston in this one, as he was recalled from Pawtucket on Saturday in a roster move that saw Nathan Eovaldi placed on the injured list.

Working 2 1/3 innings while facing the Nationals for the first time in his career, the right-hander yielded three runs, all of which were earned, on six hits and two walks to go along with three strikeouts on the night.

All three of those Washington tallies came in the top half of the third, when after retiring six of the first nine hitters he faced, Mazza struggled to record a single out and instead allowed three runs to cross the plate on four hits and a walk before fanning Kurt Suzuki on five pitches, which actually marked the end of his outing.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 75 (46 strikes), the 30-year-old hurler turned to his slider and cutter a combined 70% of the time he was on the mound Saturday, inducing 10 swings-and-misses with the two pitches. He also topped out at 94 mph with his four-seam fastball, a pitch he threw 11 times.

Hit with the no-decision due to the length of this outing, Mazza could be a candidate to get another start next time through the rotation, which would likely come against the Blue Jays late next week. We will have to wait and see on that.

In relief of Mazza, left-hander Darwinzon Hernandez was dispatched with runners on first and second and two outs to get in the top of the third, and he got those outs while dancing around a bases-loaded jam in between two swinging strikeouts.

From there, Phillips Valdez stranded two runners and punched out the side in a scoreless fourth inning, and he also put two more runners on and recorded two more outs in the fifth before Austin Brice came on and ended the frame with the help of Alex Verdugo’s seventh outfield assist of the season.

Brice got the call for the start of the sixth as well and kept the Nationals off the board while leaving another two base runners stranded.

Josh Osich, Ryan Brasier, and Matt Barnes followed suit by combining to toss three shutout frames the rest of the way, with Barnes picking up his third save of the year courtesy of a seven-pitch groundout off the bat of Eric Thames to close out the ninth.

All in all, Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke used six different relievers on Saturday — Hernandez, Valdez, Brice, Osich, Brasier, and Barnes — and the six combined to twirl 6 2/3 shutout innings out of the bullpen. Not too shabby.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against another veteran right-hander for the Nationals in Anibal Sanchez. This time around, though, the Boston bats had an easier time of getting runs on the board, and it started right from the jump in the bottom of the first.

There, an Alex Verdugo leadoff single and one-out double from J.D. Martinez put runners in scoring position for Xander Bogaerts, who took full advantage of that opportunity by swinging away at the first pitch he saw from Sanchez, an 89 mph four-seamer above the strike zone, and crushing a 440-foot three-run home run to left-center field.

Bogaerts’ seventh big fly of the season, which had an exit velocity of 106.3 mph off the bat, gave his side an early three-run advantage.

An inning later, the bottom of the lineup got it done this time, as Kevin Pillar led the second off with a hard-hit triple and came into score moments later on a Jackie Bradley Jr. RBI groundout. 4-0.

Fast forward to the fourth, after the Nationals had stormed back to make things interesting at 4-3, Pillar struck once more, collecting his second extra-base hit of the night off an 0-1, 89 mph fastball from Sanchez at the top of the zone. It just so happens that this extra-base knock was hit 435 feet over the Monster and was good for Pillar’s fourth big fly of 2020.

That solo blast gave the Red Sox a two-run edge at 5-3, which would go on to be Saturday’s final score.

Some notes and observations from this victory:

From The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier:

Next up for the Red Sox, it’s the finale of this three-game weekend series against the Nationals on Sunday afternoon.

Right-hander Zack Godley will get the starting nod for Boston, while fellow righty Austin Voth will do the same for Washington.

Under normal circumstances, Godley’s rotation spot may be in jeopardy here seeing how the 30-year-old owns an ERA of 11.17 over his last three starts going back to August 12. However, Godley may be safe regardless of how he performs on Sunday since the Red Sox do not have a great deal of starting pitching options at the moment.

In nine career outings (five starts) against the Nationals, the South Carolina native has posted a lifetime 5.53 ERA and .884 OPS against over 40 2/3 total innings pitched.

Voth, meanwhile, is coming off a start in which he surrendered six runs in less than four innings of work at home against the Marlins on August 24.

The 28-year-old has never faced the Red Sox before in his career, but he does own a lifetime 3.52 ERA in six prior interleague outings that span 30 2/3 innings of work.

First pitch Sunday is scheduled for 1:35 p.m. eastern time on NESN and WEEI. Red Sox going for the series win to close out the weekend.

Nationals Sign Former Red Sox Utilityman Brock Holt To One-Year Deal

The Nationals have signed former Red Sox utilityman Brock Holt to a one-year deal, the club announced Saturday.

Holt, who turned 32 in June, was designated for assignment and subsequently released by the Brewers on August 26, just over six months after signing a one-year, $3.25 million contract with Milwaukee at the onset of spring training in February.

With the Brewers, Holt suffered a sprained ankle after stepping on a baseball right before Opening Day and got his 2020 season off to a slow start. In 16 games, the Texas native accrued just three hits in 30 plate appearances (.100) with one run scored, one RBI, and four walks prior to getting designated.

Even while Holt was on the open market for a few days, it never seemed like the Red Sox were too interested in a reunion with the 2015 All-Star seeing how the likes of Jose Peraza, Michael Chavis, Jonathan Arauz, and Tzu-Wei Lin are already on Boston’s active roster and can all play multiple positions.

As it turns out though, Holt, who will wear No. 27 for the Nationals, has already been added to Washington’s 28-man squad, meaning he could very well see some playing time against the Sox at Fenway Park before weekend’s end.

According to Nats manager Dave Martinez, Holt will get a chance to “play everywhere” with his new club, so there’s that.