Red Sox blow late lead in process of falling to Astros, 9-2, in Game 4 of ALCS

The Red Sox were just a few innings away from potentially jumping out to a commanding three-games-to-one-lead over the Astros in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series on Tuesday night … until they weren’t.

After holding on to a 2-1 lead for most of the night, Boston saw things unravel in the eighth inning of what would later go down as a 9-2 loss to Houston at Fenway Park, which means this best-of-seven ALCS is now tied at two games apiece.

Nick Pivetta, making his first start and third overall appearance of the postseason for the Sox, was solid in his championship series debut. The right-hander limited the Astros to just one run while scattering two hits and two walks to go along with three strikeouts over five impressive innings of work.

The lone run Pivetta surrendered to Houston came right away in the top half of the first, when he served up a two-out solo shot over the Green Monster to Alex Bregman that gave the Astros an early 1-0 lead.

Despite that miscue, the Red Sox lineup picked up their starter right away in the bottom half of the frame.

Matched up against Astros veteran right-hander Zack Greinke to begin things on Tuesday, Rafael Devers drew a five-pitch walk with two outs to set the stage for Xander Bogaerts.

After not collecting an RBI in Monday’s 12-3 thumping of Houston, Bogaerts unloaded on a 1-0, 84 mph slider from Greinke and deposited 413 feet into the Boston night and onto Lansdowne Street.

Bogaerts’ third homer of the postseason — a sizzling two-run blast that left his bat at 107.9 mph — allowed the Sox to snatch their first lead of the evening at 2-1.

Given that fresh one-run advantage to work with, Pivetta took full advantage by stringing together four scoreless frames. He had to escape a bit of a jam he created for himself in the second, but followed by sitting down nine of the final 10 batters he faced leading into the middle of the fifth.

Even after the Astros lineup flipped over for a third time in that fifth inning, Pivetta responded by getting the dangerous Jose Altuve to ground out to third base to retire the side and end his night on a positive note.

Finishing with a final pitch count of just of 65 (36 strikes), the 28-year-old hurler topped out at 96.5 mph with his four-seam fastball — a pitch he turned to 38 times to complement both his slider and knuckle curveball.

In relief of Pivetta, left-hander Josh Taylor got the first call from Red Sox manager Alex Cora out of the Boston bullpen, and he recorded the first two outs of the sixth before yielding a two-out single to Yordan Alvarez.

Adam Ottavino then came on for Taylor to finish the inning, and the veteran reliever did just that by emphatically punching out Carlos Correa on a 96 mph sinker on the outer half of the plate.

From there, Garrett Whitlock put up a zero in the seventh, but ran into some trouble an inning later.

To that point in the contest, the Boston bats had been held in check by Houston pitching. Despite knocking Greinke out after just 1 1/3 innings, the Sox were stymied by the Astros bullpen, though they certainly had their fair share of scoring opportunities.

In the bottom of the second, for instance, the Red Sox had runners at first and second with one out, but neither Enrique Hernandez or Devers were able to come through and instead went down quietly.

Two innings later, Chritian Arroyo ripped a one-out triple off Cristian Javier, but was stranded there after both Kyle Schwarber and Hernandez were retired by the Astros reliever.

With one out in the bottom of the fifth, Bogaerts laced a 106.9 mph double off Javier. He, too, was left there when Alex Verdugo and J.D. Martinez were sat down on a fly out and swinging strikeout, respectively.

Fast forward to the top half of the eighth, and the Astros promptly capitalized on the fact that the Red Sox had gone 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position while leaving eight runners on base as a team up until then.

That being the case because on the very first pitch he saw from Whitlock, Altuve led off the eighth by crushing a game-tying solo home run 400 feet off the National Car Rental sign hovering above the Green Monster.

Altuve’s late-game heroics knotted things up at two runs apiece, and it also paved the way for Nathan Eovaldi to attempt to keep it that way in the ninth.

Having just started Game 2 of this series on Saturday, Eovaldi immediately gave up a leadoff double to Correa that was just out of the reach of Hunter Renfroe in right field. He then struck out Kyle Tucker and intentionally walked Yuli Gurriel to face the pinch-hitting Aledmys Diaz.

Diaz, in turn, fanned on five pitches, bringing Eovaldi to within one out of escaping a sticky situation. Jason Castro, however, had different plans.

Moments after it appeared as though Eovaldi had punched out Castro on a 1-2, 80 mph curveball on the inner half of the plate that was instead called a ball by home plate umpire Laz Diaz, the Astros backstop responded by drilling a go-ahead, run-scoring single through the right side of the infield.

Castro plated Correa on his clutch hit to make it a 3-2 game in favor of Houston, but the Astros were not done there. Not with Altuve drawing a walk that prompted Cora to go get Eovaldi.

With two outs and the bases full of Astros, Michael Brantley greeted the newly-inserted Martin Perez by drilling a three-run, bases-clearing double to the gap in right-center field that increased his side’s advantage to four runs at 6-2.

Perez’s struggles did not end there, as the lefty surrendered three more runs on three more hits before the top of the ninth inning mercifully came to a close with the Astros up, 9-2.

In total, Eovaldi was charged for four runs — all of which were earned — on two hits, two walks, and two strikeouts in 2/3 of an inning. He is slated to start Game 6 of this series in Houston on Friday.

Perez, on the other hand, was charged with three runs (two earned) in a third of an inning.

The Sox somewhat threatened in their half of the ninth, but ultimately went down quietly against Astros closer Ryan Pressly to secure a heart-breaking 9-2 defeat in which they went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left 11 runners on base as a team.

With the loss, the Red Sox have given home-field advantage back to the Astros, as they ensure that they will be heading back to Houston later this week since this ALCS is now tied up at 2-2 and will at least be six games in length.

Next up: Sale vs. Valdez to start off Game 5

The Red Sox will turn to left-hander Chris Sale to start Game 5 at Fenway Park on Wednesday evening, while the Astros will roll with fellow southpaw Framber Valdez.

First pitch from Fenway Park on Wednesday is scheduled for 5:08 p.m. eastern time on FS1.

(Picture of Nathan Eovaldi: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Chris Sale likely to start Game 5 of ALCS for Red Sox, but left-hander will be available out of bullpen for Game 4 vs. Astros

The Red Sox will have Chris Sale available out of their bullpen for Game 4 of the American League Championship Series on Tuesday night, though the club is hoping they will be able to stay away from him.

When speaking with reporters (including The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier) at Fenway Park ahead of Game 4, Sox manager Alex Cora said that Sale is penciled in to start Game 5, but the veteran left-hander could pitch in relief of Nick Pivetta on Tuesday if the situation arises.

As noted by Speier, Cora and Co. would prefer to avoid using Sale out of the ‘pen in order to preserve him for what would be his third start of the postseason on Wednesday. If they were forced to use the lefty, though, Cora did indicate that the Red Sox would be able to make the necessary adjustments to their starting rotation.

Through his first two outings of these playoffs, Sale has allowed a total of six earned runs on nine hits, two walks, and one hit batsman to go along with four strikeouts over just 3 2/3 innings of work. That’s good for an ERA of 14.73 and FIP of 6.99.

The 32-year-old is coming off a start against the Astros in Game 1 of the ALCS in which he surrendered one run on five hits, one walk, one HBP and two strikeouts in 2 2/3 innings pitched at Minute Maid Park on October 15.

If Sale were to toss an inning of relief on Tuesday night, he would be working on three days rest and would subsequently not be available to start on Wednesday. Assuming he is not used, the seven-time All-Star would then be pitching on seven days rest come Wednesday night.

Per’s Ian Browne, Cora likened this situation with Sale to what Boston went through with Pivetta on Monday. Pivetta, like Sale, had been available to work out of the bullpen in Game 3, but his services were not needed since the Sox bested the Astros in a 12-3 blowout win.

Following Monday’s victory, Cora officially named Pivetta as his Game 4 starter. The same sort of thing will likely happen on Tuesday night — with Sale getting tabbed to start Game 5 — so long as the southpaw does not make a relief appearance between now and then.

(Picture of Chris Sale: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Rafael Devers crushes 2 homers as Red Sox come back to clinch Wild Card berth with 7-5 win over Nationals

It was no simple task, but the Red Sox secured a spot in the American League Wild Card Game by finishing off a three-game weekend sweep of the Nationals on Sunday.

Boston held on to top Washington by a final score of 7-5 at Nationals Park, which ensures that they will not have to play in a tiebreaker on Monday.

Chris Sale, making his ninth and final start of the regular season for the Sox, was unable provide length in his first-ever appearance against the Nationals.

After getting off to a solid start in which he struck out the side in the bottom of the first, the veteran left-hander ran into some trouble in the second when he gave up a leadoff double to Josh Bell. Jordy Mercer followed by ripping another double off Sale that brought in Bell and gave Washington their first lead of the day at 1-0.

The Nationals doubled their advantage an inning later, as Sale loaded the bases with one out on a walk and a pair of singles before issuing another free pass to Ryan Zimmerman that plated Lane Thomas from third to make it a 2-0 contest.

Despite throwing just 62 pitches (37 strikes), Sale’s afternoon came to a close right then and there, with Red Sox manager Alex Cora forced to turn to his bullpen far earlier than expected.

Hirokazu Sawamura was the one who got the first call from Cora out of the Boston bullpen, and despite inheriting a mess, he officially closed the book on Sale’s outing by getting Mercer to ground into a huge inning-ending, 6-4-3 double play.

To that point, the Red Sox lineup had been stymied by Nationals starter Joan Adon, managing all of one hit off the right-hander making his first career big-league start on Sunday.

Rafael Devers changed that quickly, though, as he led off the fourth inning by clubbing a 432-foot solo blast to deep center field off a 1-2, 95 mph sinker on the outer half of the plate from Adon.

Devers’ 37th home run of the season cut Boston’s deficit in half at 2-1, but that was all they got in the fourth after J.D. Martinez struck out, Alex Verdugo unsuccessfully tried to turn a one-out single into a one-out double, and Hunter Renfroe fanned on three straight pitches.

Sawamura continued to keep the Nationals off the board in the bottom of the fourth, presenting the Sox with the opportunity to get something going in the top of the fifth after the pinch-hitting Christian Arroyo and Enrique Hernandez reached base with one out on a walk and base hit.

A wild pitch from Adon allowed both runners to advance into scoring position, but Boston could not capitalize — as Kyle Schwarber and a struggling Bogaerts rolled over back-to-back groundouts to extinguish the threat.

Perhaps taking advantage of the Sox’ inability to score, the Nats jumped on the newly-inserted Garrett Richards in their half of the fifth. Richards yielded a leadoff double to Alcides Escobar and intentionally put the dangerous Juan Soto on base.

A passed ball from Richards moved Escobar and Soto up to second base for Bell, who drew a five-pitch walk himself to fill the bases once again. Richards recorded the first out of the inning, but allowed Escobar to score from third on an RBI groundout off the bat of Mercer before serving up a two-run double down the right field line to Alex Avila.

Avila, playing in his final major-league game on Sunday, put Washington up 5-1, though is counterpart in Christian Vazquez got one of those runs back in the sixth when he drove in Jose Iglesias on an RBI single off Nationals reliever Patrick Murphy — thus making it a 5-2 ballgame.

Iglesias came into the game as a pinch-hitter for Martinez, who suffered a left ankle sprain after tripping on the second-base bag while running out to right field in the middle of the fifth inning. He was replaced in right field by Renfroe, while Iglesias took over at second base and Hernandez shifted to center field.

Following all that defensive shifting, Martin Perez took over for Richards in the bottom of the sixth inning. The left-hander maneuvered his way around a two-out walk in an otherwise clean frame of work.

A half-inning later, the Boston bats continued to chip away at the deficit in front of them while matched up against Erick Fedde.

Schwarber ignited the rally with a one-out single that was followed by another base hit courtesy of Bogaerts. Devers then plated Schwarber from second on an RBI single to trim Washington’s lead down to two runs. He also moved Bogaerts up to third base.

Iglesias may have popped out to foul territory for the second out of the seventh, but Verdugo did not let a prime scoring opportunity go to waste.

Making up for his earlier base-running gaffe, Verdugo laced a game-tying, two-run double to the gap in right-center field, driving in Bogaerts from third and Devers all the way from first.

Verdugo’s clutch double knotted things up at five runs apiece, and Garrett Whitlock — who was activated from the injured list on Sunday after a two-week absence — kept it that way going into the eighth by fanning two in a scoreless bottom half of the seventh.

Bobby Dalbec pinch-hit for Whitlock in the top half of the eighth, which paved the way for Eduardo Rodriguez to take over for the right-hander. Rodriguez, who threw 93 pitches in his start on Friday, needed all of eight pitches — six of which were strikes — to retire the Nats in order in the latter half of the eighth.

Potentially down to their final three outs in the ninth, Schwarber led off against Kyle Finnegan by reaching base on a fielding error committed by Mercer, which would prove to be costly for Washington.

That being the case because after Bogaerts struck out, Devers came through with the hit of the night — if not the season.

On a 2-1, 87 mph splitter on the outer half of the plate from Finnegan, Devers obliterated his second home run of the day, with this one leaving his bat at a scorching 113.4 mph and traveling a whopping 447 feet over the center-field wall.

By going yard for the 38th time this season, the 24-year-old slugger not only came through for the Sox yet again, but he also gave them their first lead of the day at 7-5.

Nick Pivetta, who made his most-recent start on Thursday, was called upon to end things in the bottom of the ninth. The right-hander did just that by slamming the door on the Nationals to preserve the 7-5 victory for the Sox and notch his second career big-league save.

With the win, the Red Sox finish the regular season with a record of 92-70. They also punched their ticket to the postseason, as they will be hosting the Yankees, who defeated the Rays on Sunday, in the American League Wild Card Game at Fenway Park on Tuesday.

Boston will turn to right-hander Nathan Eovaldi for that all-important contest, while New York will roll with fellow righty Gerrit Cole.

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

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

Red Sox go down quietly to Orioles, 6-2, resulting in brutal series loss

The Red Sox closed out their month of September — and the American League portion of their regular season schedule — by dropping a crucial series to the last-place Orioles at Camden Yards on Thursday.

Boston fell to Baltimore, 6-2, marking their fifth loss in their last six games and one that will have plenty of Wild Card implications.

Matched up against O’s starter Alexander Wells to begin things on Thursday, the Sox received an early boost from leadoff man Enrique Hernandez, who took the very first pitch he saw in the top half of the first inning — an 84 mph fastball at the top of the zone — and belted it 409 feet over the wall in left-center field.

Hernandez’s 19th home run of the season, and sixth of the leadoff variety, left his bat at 107.1 mph. It also gave Boston an immediate 1-0 lead for Nick Pivetta.

Pivetta, making his 30th start of the season for the Red Sox, came out strong on Thursday, retiring each of the first six Orioles batters he faced (four via the strikeout) in order before running into some trouble in the bottom of the third.

There, the right-hander’s difficulties began when he issued a leadoff walk to Tyler Nevin and promptly spiked a wild pitch while Pat Valaika was at the plate that allowed Nevin to advance up to second base.

Valaika moved Nevin up to third on a hard-hit single and advanced into scoring position himself on another wild pitch from Pivetta that put two runners in scoring position with no outs.

While he did manage to get the first two outs of the inning on a pair of punch outs, Pivetta was unable to get through the third unscathed — as he served up a towering three-run blast to Ryan Mountcastle on a first-pitch, 95 mph heater that saw his side’s 1-0 lead turn into a 3-1 deficit.

After recording the final out of the third and tossing a scoreless fourth inning, Pivetta’s night ultimately came to an end when he yielded a leadoff double to Valaika and got the first two outs of the fifth.

At that point, Red Sox manager Alex Cora opted to intentionally put the dangerous Mountcastle on base, which resulted in him giving Pivetta the hook in favor of Ryan Brasier.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 87 (52 strikes), the 28-year-old hurler wound up allowing a total of three runs (all earned) on four hits and two walks to go along with eight strikeouts over 4 2/3 innings of work.. He was later dealt his eighth losing decision of the season in the process of raising his ERA on the year to 4.56.

In relief of Pivetta, Brasier officially closed the book on the starter’s night by getting Austin Hays to ground into an inning-ending force out at second base.

Garrett Richards took over for Brasier in the sixth, and he gave up a pair of singles to put runners at first and second with one out and spiked a wild pitch that advanced those runners at second and third before giving up a two-run double to Nevin that put the O’s up, 5-1.

Nevin moved up to second base on his single courtesy of a throwing error from Alex Verdugo, and — after being pinch-ran for by Ryan McKenna — advanced to third on yet another wild pitch from Richards.

Baltimore took advantage of Richards’ lack of command when Valaika plated McKenna from third on a sacrifice fly to center field that increased their lead to five runs at 6-1.

Boston was able to get one of those runs back in the top half of the seventh, though they certainly could have gotten more.

J.D. Martinez led things off against newly-inserted Orioles reliever Joey Krehbiel by lacing a line-drive double off the glove of center fielder Cedric Mullins. He, as well as Hunter Renfroe, advanced an additional 90 feet when Verdugo grounded out softly to first base.

With Travis Shaw at the plate pinch-hitting for Kevin Plawecki, Martinez scored from third when one of Krehbiel’s pitches eluded Pedro Severino behind the dish. That made it a 6-2 game.

Renfroe also moved up to third base on Krehbiel’s wild pitch, but went no further than there with Shaw fanning on a foul tip and Jose Iglesias lining out to Mountcastle at first.

After Adam Ottavino worked a scoreless bottom of the seventh with some help from Christian Vazquez — who took over catching duties for Plawecki and promptly threw out his 18th base runner of the season to end the inning, the Sox again had a chance to mount a rally of sorts in the eighth.

Kyle Schwarber drew a one-out walk off Dillon Tate, but a slumping Xander Bogaerts followed by grounding into an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play.

Matt Barnes maneuvered his way around a one-out single in an otherwise clean bottom of the eighth to keep the deficit at four, though Boston was not able to reward him for his efforts.

That being the case because the likes of Rafael Devers, Martinez, Renfroe, and Verdugo went down quietly to wrap up a 6-2 defeat as well as one of the more disappointing series of the year to date.

With the loss, not only do the Red Sox fall to 89-70 on the season, but they also drop to two games back of the Yankees for the top American League Wild Card spot and into a virtual tie with the Mariners for the second and final spot.

The Yankees defeated the Blue Jays on Thursday, while the Mariners had the day off.

Next up: On to D.C.

The Red Sox will make the short trek from Baltimore to the nation’s capital to take on the 65-94 Nationals in their final series of the regular season.

With plenty on the line in regards to postseason hopes and aspirations, left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will get the ball for Boston on Friday opposite fellow southpaw Josh Rogers for Washington.

First pitch from Nationals Park Friday is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Xander Bogaerts: Rob Carr/Getty Images)

J.D. Martinez homers, drives in 3 runs as Red Sox bounce back with 6-0 victory over Orioles

The Red Sox put their four-game losing streak in the rearview mirror and bounced back with a 6-0 shutout victory over the Orioles at Camden Yards on Wednesday.

J.D. Martinez came into play Wednesday having gone 4-for-20 (.200) at the plate over his last six games, but quickly made up for that while going up against Baltimore starter Zac Lowther.

In his first plate appearance of the night with one out in the top half of the second inning, Martinez took a 2-1, 85 mph changeup down the heart of the plate from Lowther and deposited it a whopping 444 feet off the batter’s eye in deep center field.

Martinez’s 28th home run of the season — a solo shot that left his bat at a scorching 109.6 mph — gave Boston an early 1-0 lead, though the slugger was not done there.

Fast forward all the way to the sixth, with reliever Eric Hanhold now in the game for the O’s, and Martinez took advantage of one crucial mistake from the opposition.

After Rafael Devers led off the inning off Lowther with a broken-bat single, Xander Bogaerts proceeded to greet Hanhold by ripping a groundball in the direction of third baseman Kelvin Gutierrez.

It looked as though the Sox were about to ground into yet another double play, but Bogaerts’ grounder deflected off Gutierrez’s glove and rolled into foul territory, thus allowing both runners to reach base safely.

Rather than coming to the plate with two outs and nobody on, Martinez had no outs and two runners on, and he capitalized on that by plating both Devers and Bogaerts on a two-run double down the left field line.

That sequence put Boston up 3-0 over Baltimore at a point in which Nathan Eovaldi had been dominating.

Eovaldi, making his 32nd start of the season for the Red Sox, was coming off his worst outing of the year in his last time out against the Yankees, but looked much more in command this time around.

Through his first five innings of work, the veteran right-hander retired 15 of the first 18 batters he faced while facing no more than four hitters in a single frame.

After being given a three-run cushion going into the middle of the sixth, Eovaldi did run into a bit of trouble when he issued a leadoff double to Cedric Mullins that was followed by a seven-pitch walk of Ryan Mountcastle.

Despite allowing the tying run to come to the plate with no outs, Eovaldi managed to escape the jam he created by getting Austin Hays to fly out, Trey Mancini to punch out, and Pedro Severino to fly out for the third and final out of the inning that ended his evening on a more positive note.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 90 (62 strikes), the 31-year-old hurler wound up stringing together six scoreless innings while scattering just four hits and one walk to go along with seven strikeouts on the night. He also lowered his ERA on the season down to 3.75 while picking up his 11th win of the year.

In relief of Eovaldi, Ryan Brasier got the first call from Red Sox manager Alex Cora out of the Boston bullpen, and he promptly worked his way around a leadoff walk in an otherwise perfect bottom half of the seventh.

In the eighth, while matched up against former Boston minor-leaguer Konner Wade, back-to-back one-out singles from Bogaerts and Martinez — followed by a two-out walk drawn by the pinch-hitting Travis Shaw — filled the bases for Alex Verdugo.

Verdugo came through in that spot by providing some much-needed insurance, as he slapped a two-run single to the opposite field that brought in Bogaerts and Martinez to make it a 5-0 game in favor of the Sox.

Though Shaw was tagged out between second and third base to end the inning, the Red Sox bullpen took care of things from there.

Hansel Robles tossed a 1-2-3 frame in the bottom half of the eighth, while Hunter Renfroe extended his hitting streak to 10 straight games by clubbing a solo shot off Spenser Watkins with two outs in the top half of the ninth.

Renfroe’s 30th big fly of 2021 gave Boston a commanding six-run advantage, allowing Matt Barnes to preserve a 6-0 shutout victory by slamming the door on Baltimore in the bottom of the ninth.

With the win, not only do the Red Sox snap their four-game skid to improve to 89-69 on the season, they also move back to within a game of the Yankees — who fell to the Blue Jays on Wednesday — for the top American League Wild Card spot.

Next up: Pivetta vs. Wells

The Red Sox will send right-hander Nick Pivetta to the mound as they go for the series victory over the last-place Orioles on Thursday night. The O’s will counter with another left-hander in Alexander Wells.

First pitch Thursday is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. eastern time on NESN and MLB Network.

(Picture of J.D. Martinez: Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Darwinzon Hernandez gives up game-winning grand slam to Giancarlo Stanton as Red Sox squander late lead in 5-3 loss to Yankees

No longer donning their yellow City Connect threads, the Red Sox squandered a late lead and dropped their second straight to the Yankees in dramatic fashion at Fenway Park on Saturday.

Despite a strong performance from Nick Pivetta, Boston fell to New York by a final score of 5-3, marking their second consecutive defeat coming on the heels of a seven-game winning streak.

Pivetta, making his 29th start of the season for the Sox, rebounded from a rather short outing against the Orioles in his last time out by providing more length in Saturday’s contest against another American League East foe.

Over 5 1/3 frames of work, the right-hander surrendered just one run on three hits and zero walks to go along with seven strikeouts on the night.

One of the three hits Pivetta gave up came on a leadoff single off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to begin things in the top of the second, but he kept Stanton at first base by punching out the next three batters he faced.

Pivetta nearly ran into more leadoff trouble in the third when Rougned Odor lifted a 385-foot fly to ball to the deepest part of right field, but it was one that stayed in the park for Hunter Renfroe, as the right fielder took a potential home run away while up against the wall for the first out of the inning.

While the Yankees had a home run taken away from them in their half of the third, the Red Sox made sure the same did not happen to them in their half of the third.

To that point, Yankees starter Nestor Cortes Jr. had held the Sox hitless by retiring each of the first seven batters he faced, but Kevin Plawecki quickly changed things in that regard.

Plawecki, catching Pivetta in place of Christian Vazquez, took the second pitch he saw from Cortes Jr. — a 1-0, 86 mph cutter on the inner half of the plate — and crushed it 408 feet off the leftmost light tower over the Green Monster.

Plawecki’s third homer of the season left his bat at a sizzling 106.9 mph, and it also gave the Red Sox their first lead of the day at 1-0.

Kyle Schwarber doubled that lead in the bottom of the fifth, as he led off against Cortes by drilling a single to right field. Bobby Dalbec, like Odor, nearly clubbed a two-run homer that was instead robbed by Aaron Judge in right field. Schwarber then advanced up to second on a base hit from Plawecki and an infield single from Jose Iglesias that loaded the bases with one out.

With right-handed reliever Michael King deployed to face off against Enrique Hernandez, Schwarber easily scored from third when a wild pitch from King that eluded Sanchez wound up rolling all the way towards the visitor’s dugout.

Though Schwarber was the only one to score in the inning, Pivetta was now given a 2-0 advantage to operate with. Unfortunately for him, he was unable to get through the sixth inning, as he issued back-to-back one-out hits to Gio Urshela and Brett Gardner that put the tying run in scoring position.

That sequence resulted in Pivetta getting the hook from Red Sox manager Alex Cora, with the 28-year-old finishing with a final pitch count of 90 (60 strikes). Of those 90 pitches, 55 were four-seam fastballs — seven of which led to swings-and-misses from Yankees batters.

Cora, in a tough spot, turned to Hansel Robles, who promptly uncorked a wild pitch past Plawecki that allowed Urshela to score from third while Judge was at the plate.

Gardner also moved up an additional 90 feet on the play, but he was gunned down at home plate by Devers when he attempted to score on a soft grounder from Judge, thus keeping the 2-1 lead intact for Boston.

From there, Tanner Houck took over for Robles in the seventh, walked the first two Yankees he faced on eight straight balls, but escaped the jam by inducing a 4-6-3 double play before getting Sanchez to whiff on an 0-2 slider in emphatic fashion for the final out of the inning.

In the eighth, after recording the first two outs, Houck issued another walk to Gardner, who — while representing the tying run — successfully stole second base. The righty then issued another free pass to Judge to put runners at first and second, and that prompted Cora to roll with Darwinzon Hernandez with the left-handed hitting Anthony Rizzo looming for New York.

Hernandez, however, plunked Rizzo to load the bases, meaning he was now tasked with facing the ever-dangerous Stanton, who wasted no time in taking advantage of the opportunity in front of him even after Cora took the time to talk things over with the lefty on the mound beforehand.

On a first-pitch, 94 mph fastball that was grooved down the heart of the plate by Hernandez, Stanton absolutely demolished a 452-foot grand slam well over everything in left field.

Stanton’s go-ahead, bases-clearing grand slam, which had an exit velocity of 114.1 mph, put the Yankees up for the first time all day, as it gave them a commanding 5-2 lead.

Luis Severino took that brand-new three-run advantage and ran with it, tossing two scoreless frames in the seventh and eighth before making way for Aroldis Chapman in the ninth.

Chapman, New York’s closer, got the first out of the inning before serving up a solo shot to Dalbec (his 24th) and plunking Plawecki on the right foot, which brought the tying run to the plate as Vazquez replaced his fellow backstop as the runner at first base.

Iglesias, representing that ever-important tying run, fanned on three straight strikes, leaving things in the hand of Hernandez.

Having gone 0-for-4 with two strikeouts to that point, Hernandez was unable to come through in the clutch — as he worked a full count before ultimately grounding out to seal the 5-3 defeat for the Sox.

With the loss, their second straight coming off a seven-game winning streak, the Red Sox fall to 88-67 on the season. They are now locked in a tie with the Yankees (also 88-67) for the top American League Wild Card spot.

Next up: Rodriguez vs. Montgomery in rubber match

The Red Sox will wrap up the home portion of their regular season schedule by looking to salvage this series against the Yankees on Sunday night.

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will get the ball for Boston in the finale of this three-game set, and he will be opposed by fellow southpaw Jordan Montgomery for New York.

First pitch from Fenway Park on Sunday is scheduled for 7:08 p.m. eastern time on ESPN.

(Picture of Kevin Plawecki: Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Connor Seabold scratched from start for Triple-A Worcester in event Red Sox need length in coming days

Red Sox pitching prospect Connor Seabold was slated to make his 10th start of the season for Triple-A Worcester at Polar Park on Saturday afternoon, but was scratched shortly before the start of the WooSox’ game against the Rochester Red Wings.

While not injury-related, Seabold was replaced on the mound by left-hander Kyle Hart, and Red Sox manager Alex Cora explained why that was the case before Saturday’s contest against the Yankees at Fenway Park.

“Obviously, we used some guys yesterday,” Cora said. “Just in case something happens today, he can give us length [in the coming days]. So, just thinking ahead just in case something happens.”

In Friday night’s 8-3 loss to New York, Boston got just 2 2/3 innings from Nathan Eovaldi, who allowed seven runs (all earned) on seven hits, two walks, and zero strikeouts in what was undoubtedly his worst start of the season to date.

Eovaldi’s short outing resulted in Cora turning to his bullpen earlier than expected, though he was able to squeeze 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball out of Hirokazu Sawamura, Matt Barnes, and Martin Perez.

Still, in the event that either Nick Pivetta (Saturday’s starter) or Eduardo Rodriguez (Sunday’s starter) are unable to provide the Sox with length in their respective starts this weekend, that could force the club to look Seabold’s way.

The 25-year-old right-hander is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 12 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking sixth among pitchers in the organization.

Earlier this month, the Red Sox scratched both Seabold and fellow righty Kutter Crawford from their starts with Worcester while navigating through a COVID-19 outbreak at the big-league level.

Crawford wound up making his first career major-league start for Boston in place of Pivetta on September 5, and Seabold did the very same in Chicago six days later.

Over exactly three innings of work against the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field on Sept. 11, Seabold allowed two earned runs on three hits, two walks, and zero strikeouts on 43 pitches (27 strikes) in what would turn out to be a 9-8 victory for the Red Sox in extra innings.

Per Baseball Savant, the California native threw 27 four-seam fastballs, nine sliders, five changeups, and two curveballs in his big-league debut. He induced two swings-and-misses — one with his fastball and one with his slider.

With Pivetta coming off the COVID-19 related injured list the following day, Seabold was promptly optioned back down to Worcester. He has made one start for the WooSox since then, tossing five scoreless frames to go along with five strikeouts to just one walk against the Syracuse Mets last Saturday.

Taking that point into consideration, the 6-foot-3, 195 pound hurler should be plenty well rested for when his name is called upon next. Whether that comes with Worcester or Boston has yet to be determined.

On that note, though, the WooSox have six games remaining on their schedule while the Red Sox have seven games remaining on their schedule before their respective regular seasons come to a close on Oct. 3.

Seabold, who was originally added to Boston’s 40-man roster last November, would be eligible for the postseason, so there is that to consider as well.

(Picture of Connor Seabold: Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

Nathan Eovaldi gets shelled for 7 runs as Red Sox drop opener of pivotal series to Yankees, 8-3

For the first time in more than five months, the Red Sox lost while wearing their yellow City Connect uniforms in Friday’s series opener against the Yankees at Fenway Park.

Boston was walloped by New York and fell to their division rivals by a final score of 8-3, marking the end of their impressive seven-game winning streak.

Nathan Eovaldi, making his 31st start of the season, was far from sharp while going up against his former team and actually put together one of his worst outings of the year to date.

In just 2 2/3 innings of work, Eovaldi got rocked for seven runs — all of which were earned — on seven hits and two walks to go along with zero strikeouts on the night.

Right from the jump, it was apparent that the veteran right-hander did not have everything going for him on Friday, as evidenced by him striking out none of the 17 batters he faced.

The Yankees got to Eovaldi for three early on, with D.J. LeMahieu and Anthony Rizzo ripping a pair of singles to lead off the top half of the first before Aaron Judge plated LeMahieu on a hard-hit RBI double to left-center field that also put runners at second and third base.

Giancarlo Stanton got his productive night at the plate by bringing in Rizzo on a run-scoring groundout, while Gleyber Torres scored Judge on an RBI single back up the middle that gave New York a 3-0 lead.

After retiring the side in order in the second, Eovaldi ran into more trouble in the third, when he yielded a leadoff double to Rizzo, issued a four-pitch walk to Judge, then served up a booming, 386-foot three-run blast that found its way into the Red Sox bullpen.

Eovaldi allowed another single before recording the first two outs of the third, but a seven-pitch walk of Brett Gardner would unofficially mark the end of his evening as he got the hook from Sox manager Alex Cora.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 59 (37 strikes), the 31-year-old hurler induced a total of three swings-and-misses while seeing his ERA on the season inflate to 3.88.

Hirokazu Sawamura got the first call from Cora out of the Boston bullpen, and he promptly got the first batter he faced, Kyle Higashioka to lift a 63-foot flyball to the right side of the pitcher’s mound that should have gone for the final out of the inning.

It instead went for an RBI infield single, as first baseman Kyle Schwarber failed to catch the ball and Joey Gallo scored all the way from second and Higashioka reached first safely as a result. That blunder officially closed the book on Eovaldi’s night while putting the Yankees up 7-0.

Sawamura got through the rest of the third inning unscathed, though, and he also put up a pair of zeroes in the fourth and fifth to put the finishing touches on his longest outing of the year (2 1/3 innings).

Matt Barnes followed suit by stranding one runner at second base while striking out a pair in a scoreless top half of the sixth, and that set the stage for the Red Sox lineup to finally get something going offensively in the bottom half.

To that point, the Boston bats had been held in check by Yankees starter Gerrit Cole, managing just two hits off the ace right-hander through the first five innings of Friday’s contest.

Their fortunes changed in the sixth, however, and it started when Enrique Hernandez laced a single to right field that was followed by another single from Schwarber to lead things off.

Rafael Devers, coming to the plate with one out, runners at the corners, and a chance to do some damage did just that. The left-handed slugger crushed a 1-0, 89 mph changeup from Cole and sent it 373 feet down the right field line to finally get his side on the board courtesy of the three-run shot.

Devers’ 35th home run of the season trimmed the deficit down to four runs at 7-3, but any momentum the Sox may have garnered was quickly dashed when New York got one of those runs back , as Torres went deep off newly-inserted Boston reliever Martin Perez to lead off the seventh and make it an 8-3 game.

Perez, despite giving up his fair share of hard contact, managed to keep the Yankees lineup at bay from there, but it was not enough to mount a rally on the other side.

Bobby Dalbec, pinch-hitting for Schwarber with two outs in the seventh, punched out to strand a pair of runners in the bottom half of the inning.

Alex Verdugo grounded out to end the eighth inning with a runner on base, while Hunter Renfroe, the pinch-hitting Travis Shaw, and Hernandez went down in the ninth to seal an 8-3 defeat for the Sox.

With the loss, the Red Sox fall to 88-66 on the season as their seven-game winning streak is snapped. They now hold just a one-game lead over the Yankees for the top American League Wild Card spot.

Next up: Pivetta vs. Cortes

The Red Sox will look to bounce back and even up this three-game weekend series on Saturday afternoon by sending right-hander Nick Pivetta to the mound.

The Yankees will counter by turning to left-hander Nestor Cortes, who has yet to start against the Red Sox this season but has seen them twice as a reliever back in June and July.

With the pressure now squarely on the Red Sox, first pitch Saturday is scheduled for 4:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN and MLB Network. It’s safe to assume that Boston will go back to wearing their traditional home uniforms.

(Picture of Nathan Eovaldi: Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Nick Pivetta impresses in first start back from bout with COVID-19, but Red Sox drop series finale to White Sox, 2-1, as Garrett Whitlock gives up walk-off home run

Nick Pivetta dazzled in his return to the mound on Sunday, but it was not enough to lift the Red Sox to a series-clinching victory over the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Boston was limited to just four hits and were walked off on by Chicago, 2-1, marking the third straight one-run game between the two clubs and the Sox’ fifth loss in their last seven games.

Pivetta, making his first start since August 30 after being activated from the COVID-19 related injured list on Sunday, appeared to take advantage of the time he had off by putting together his best outing in more than two months.

Over 5 1/3 strong innings of work, the right-hander allowed just one unearned run on three hits and zero walks to go along with five strikeouts on the afternoon.

While he did deal with some traffic on the base paths early on, Pivetta did at one point retire 11 straight batters leading into the middle of the sixth of what was still a scoreless contest.

Chicago’s No. 8 hitter, Cesar Hernandez, led off the inning by reaching base on an Enrique Hernandez throwing error and promptly advanced into scoring position on a successful sacrifice bunt from Seby Zavala.

Luis Robert did not waste any time in scoring Hernandez from third, as the White Sox leadoff man ripped an RBI single to left field to push across the first run of the day.

That sequence marked the end of the line for Pivetta, who got the hook from Red Sox manager Alex Cora. The 28-year-old hurler finished his outing having thrown 79 pitches (59 strikes) while lowering his ERA on the season to 4.49.

In relief of Pivetta, Adam Ottavino got the first call out of the Boston bullpen, and despite intentionally walking Jose Abreu, he escaped the sixth while stranding the lone runner he inherited.

From there, Darwinzon Hernandez maneuvered his way around a leadoff walk in a scoreless seventh inning before Hansel Robles also walked one in an otherwise clean bottom of the eighth.

To that point, the Red Sox lineup had been held entirety in check by Chicago’s pitching staff, though they did have their opportunities.

After White Sox starter held the Sox to just two singles over five nearly-perfect innings on the hill, Jose Iglesias — who had one of those hits — led off the top of the sixth by drilling a leadoff single off lefty reliever Garrett Crochet.

Representing the potential go-ahead run in an 0-0 game, Iglesias attempted to move up to second when Hernandez lifted a 390-foot fly ball to deep center field, but was instead gunned down at second base by Robert for an 8-4 double play.

The White Sox quickly made the Red Sox pay for that base running blunder with Robert’s go-ahead single off Pivetta, while the Boston bats were unable to get anything else going against Crochet or Jose Ruiz, who recorded the final out of the seventh before tossing a 1-2-3 top of the eighth as well.

Down to their final three outs in the ninth, the Red Sox were matched up against a familiar opponent in former closer Kimbrel, on for the third time in three days going back to Friday night.

Hernandez got the ninth inning started with a bang by lacing a 105.4 mph leadoff double off Kimbrel, and while Kyle Schwarber struck out, both Hunter Renfroe and Rafael Devers drew a pair of walks to load the bases for Alex Verdugo.

Verdugo, as he has done throughout the season, plated Hernandez on a sacrifice fly to left field to bring in the tying run, but Bobby Dalbec punched out on four pitches to get Kimbrel off the hook in what had become a 1-1 game.

Looking to send this one into extras for a second straight day, Garrett Whitlock quickly got the first two outs of the bottom of the ninth by fanning both Eloy Jimenez and Yasmani Grandal.

Whitlock proceeded to get ahead in the count against the next batter he faced in Leury Garcia and was just one more strike away from punching out the side.

On an 0-2, 97.7 mph fastball down the heart of the plate, however, Whitlock served up a 430-foot walk-off home run to Garcia to give the White Sox a 2-1 win while also being hit with his fourth loss of the year.

With the 2-1 defeat, the Red Sox fall to 81-64 on the season and move into a virtual tie with the Blue Jaus for the top American League Wild Card spot.

Next up: On to Seattle

The Red Sox will board a flight from Chicago to Seattle and open up a pivotal three-game series against the Mariners — who are also in the thick of the American League Wild Card race — at T-Mobile Park on Monday night.

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez is slated to get the ball for Boston in the series opener, while rookie right-hander Logan Gilbert is in line to do the same for Seattle.

First pitch Monday is scheduled for 10:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Nick Pivetta: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

J.D. Martinez remains out of Red Sox lineup due to back tightness; Xander Bogaerts gets day off in series finale against White Sox

The Red Sox will once again be without J.D. Martinez as they go for a series win over the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field on Sunday afternoon.

Martinez, who has been dealing with back tightness throughout the weekend, had been scratched from Boston’s lineup each of the last two days before the same thing essentially happened on Sunday.

As was the case on Friday and Saturday, the veteran slugger went through batting practice earlier Sunday morning before being ruled out for the rubber match of this three-game weekend set.

Following Saturday night’s thrilling 9-8 win over the White Sox, Red Sox manager Alex Cora expressed optimism that Martinez would be back at full strength ahead of Monday’s series opener against the Mariners in Seattle, telling reporters (including’s Chris Cotillo) that he rather lose the 34-year-old for three days as opposed to a whole week.

With Martinez out of the lineup, Travis Shaw — the hero of Saturday’s comeback win — will get the start at designated hitter while batting out of the seven-hole.

In addition to being without Martinez, the Sox will also be without shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who will be getting his first day off since returning from the COVID-19 related injured list on Friday.

Veteran infielder Jose Iglesias will start at shortstop in Bogaerts’ place batting ninth behind catcher Kevin Plawecki.

Here is how the rest of the Red Sox will be lining up behind right-hander Nick Pivetta, who was just activated from the COVID-19 related injured list, as they go up against White Sox righty Lance Lynn to close out the weekend.

First pitch Sunday is scheduled for 2:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN and TBS.

(Picture of Xander Bogaerts: Ron Vesely/Getty Images)