Red Sox’ Bobby Dalbec goes 2-for-3 with 2 hard-hit RBI doubles in Tuesday’s win over Twins: ‘Today, he stayed with the plan, he was very disciplined, and you saw the results,’ Alex Cora says

Bobby Dalbec’s first weekend in Baltimore as a big-leaguer did not go great.

After struggling and only playing in four of a possible six games during the Red Sox’ first homestand of the 2021 season, the rookie slugger went 1-for-11 at the plate with one double, one RBI, two walks, and five strikeouts during his first visit to Camden Yards.

On paper, those numbers do not translate to success. But there were instances where Dalbec showed signs that he was perhaps ready to break out of the season-opening slump he has been mired in.

On three separate occasions last weekend, the 25-year-old recorded an exit velocity of over 100 mph on balls he put into play. Granted, only one of those balls – a 110 mph double — went for a hit, but the hard contact was promising nonetheless.

In his first game since the Sox left Baltimore, Dalbec — batting out of the nine-hole — went 2-for-3 with a pair of clutch, run-scoring doubles against the Twins at Target Field on Tuesday.

The first double, which came off Twins starter J.A. Happ in the fifth inning, knotted things up at two runs a piece. It left Dalbec’s bat at 105.6 mph and was laced down the right field line.

The second double, which came off Twins reliever Randy Dobnak in the eighth inning, gave the Sox a 3-2 lead. It left Dalbec’s bat at a searing 111.3 mph and also wound up in the right field corner.

The one time Dalbec did not reach base on Tuesday, he lined out sharply to Twins right fielder Jake Cave in the third inning on a line drive that had an exit velocity of 107.4 mph.

To put it simply, Dalbec has been crushing the ball as of late, and Red Sox manager Alex Cora attributed the right-handed hitter’s recent turnaround to what he was able to accomplish against the Orioles.

“I think the at-bats in Baltimore started everything,” Cora said of Dalbec following his team’s 4-2 victory Tuesday. “He hit the ball hard. Today, he stays on a pitch and he drives it the other way against a tough lefty (Happ).”

In addition to hitting the ball hard, Dalbec did not strike out at all on Tuesday, which is something he had only been able to do once through his first seven starts of the year.

The young corner infielder came into the week having swung and missed at 20% of the pitches he has seen so far this season, which ranks as the sixth-highest mark among qualified American League hitters, per FanGraphs. He only whiffed two times on Tuesday.

“When you control the strike zone, and you can control your aggression in the strike zone, you’re going to see results,” Cora said of Dalbec’s offensive approach. “We trust the player. We trust him. We know that there’s going to be a few days that he might swing-and-miss a lot, but we do believe that he can make adjustments and he can go the other way. That’s the most important thing with him: He drives the ball to right-center. So today, he stayed with the plan, he was very disciplined, and you saw the results.”

For Dalbec, the fact that he went to the opposite field three times on Tuesday did not come as much of a surprise. After all, it’s not uncommon to see hitters use the opposite field when they are looking to break out of a slump.

“I think it always ends up working out that way, whether I’m trying to or not,” Dalbec responded when asked about the approach he takes when he is struggling at the plate. “I would say using center, right-center, and right field is kind of a good spot for me to get back in line. I felt like I did that in Baltimore… If I’m thinking that way and react, that’s the way it goes sometimes for me.”

Following Tuesday’s showing, Dalbec is now slashing .179/.258/.286 through his first eight games of the 2021 campaign

Slow starts to a season are something Dalbec has grown accustom to since being drafted by the Sox out of the University of Arizona in 2016, but after showing what he is capable of doing against big-league pitching last year (eight home runs in 80 at-bats), the former second-round pick is hopeful he is about to get back on track.

“I’ve always kind of been a slow starter. Hate to say it, but that’s just kind of the way it is,” said Dalbec. “Obviously, I’d like to work that out in the future. But once I get more comfortable and settled at the beginning of the season, I start to get in a good spot. So hopefully this continues right now.”

(Picture of Bobby Dalbec: Jesse Johnson/USA Today)

Red Sox’ J.D. Martinez hits 3 home runs against Orioles: ‘Right now, he’s locked in and I’m glad he’s swinging the bat the way he is,’ Alex Cora says

J.D. Martinez woke up in Baltimore on Sunday morning without knowing if he would be in the Red Sox lineup later that afternoon.

After coming down with cold-like symptoms on Saturday, Martinez was placed in Major League Baseball’s COVID-19 protocol, which forced him to miss that night’s contest against the Orioles.

The 33-year-old took a rapid and PCR test on Saturday and tested negative for COVID both times, which ultimately cleared him to return to action on Sunday.

Still, for Martinez, who is asthmatic and as a result is vulnerable to high pollen counts, the last two days or so have been frustrating to say the least.

“It’s human nature. You’re going to feel a little thing here and there,” Martinez said during his postgame media availability Sunday. “It’s kind of the world we’re living in right now where every little thing everyone thinks is COVID. So it was frustrating, obviously, not being able to play yesterday. But I know we did everything we could to have me back today.”

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, “pollen is a common allergen that can cause allergic asthma.”

On Saturday, the pollen count in Baltimore was 9.7, which is regarded as a high count. On Sunday, the pollen count fell to 6.6, which is regarded as medium, per Pollen.com.

“With the allergies here, the pollen has been like ridiculously high the last few days,” said Martinez. “It’s like a 10 out of 10, which I think is really messing me up. And my lungs are just always sensitive to sudden changes and stuff just because I have pretty bad asthma. Besides that, I felt OK. Obviously it was still bugging me. Still is. Kind of ready to get on the plane and go somewhere else.”

Despite dealing with allergies, Martinez picked up where he left off on Friday by clubbing three home runs and collecting four RBI as part of a 4-6 effort at the plate while batting out of the three-hole Sunday.

The Red Sox topped the Orioles by a final score of 14-9 to complete the three-game sweep over their division rivals at Camden Yards.

The two times he did not reach base, Martinez struck out, once against Orioles starter Jorge Lopez in the top half of the first and again against O’s reliever Paul Fry in the ninth.

“After that first at-bat, I felt like everything sped up on me,” Martinez explained. “And then I went to the cage and was like, ‘All right, we need to dial this up. We need to get it going. Wake up.’ After that, I felt a lot more in-control and I felt pretty good.”

Martinez was indeed in control from that point forward, as the three home runs he hit off Lopez, Mac Scelorer, and Tyler Wells traveled 372 feet, 382 feet, and 430 feet, respectively.

By the time he came to the plate for his final at-bat of the afternoon, Martinez was gunning to put together his first four-homer game since 2017 and adopted an aggressive approach in order to do so. He wound up striking out on a 3-2 slider from Fry that was well below the strike zone.

“Yeah, pretty much,” responded Martinez when asked if he was swinging at that full-count pitch regardless of its location. “In that moment I was like, ‘I really don’t think he’s going to throw me a strike, but I have to take the chance, just to at least foul it off if it’s a really good pitch. Hopefully he hangs something.”

Fry did not wind up hanging something and Martinez wound up fanning as a result, but the right-handed hitter still managed to extend his extra-base hit streak to nine consecutive games well before doing so.

Through his first eight games of the season now, the three-time All-Star is slashing .472/.500/1.083 with a team-high five homers and 16 RBI over 38 plate appearances.

“He’s locked in. You can tell,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Martinez’s hot start to the 2021 campaign. “He is walking around talking hitting. This is a guy I saw in ‘18 and ‘19, he has an idea of what he wants to do. He doesn’t deviate from his process… He studies himself, he studies the opposition, and he’s in a good place.

“I know he talked about last year and he’s on a mission to prove people wrong, but it was only 60 games,” added Cora. “He was one month away from getting his numbers right. Right now, he’s locked in and I’m glad he’s swinging the bat the way he is.”

For Martinez, though, what he is doing at the plate right now is nothing out of the ordinary from his point of view.

“Honestly, for me, I don’t even notice it. I really try not to,” he said. “You guys know how I am. I repeat the same things over and over to you guys. I think the moment you’re aware of it, you’re no longer in it. So I try to not be aware of it and just focus on the small tasks. Focus on my game plan off certain pitchers and what I’m trying to do. That’s how I kind of control the whole thing.”

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

Alex Verdugo, J.D. Martinez, Rafael Devers combine for 6 homers as Red Sox tee off on Orioles, 14-9, to complete sweep and pick up sixth straight win

In the span of a week, the Red Sox of have gone from getting swept by the Orioles in their ballpark to sweeping the Orioles in their own ballpark.

Following a 14-7 victory over Baltimore at Camden Yards on Sunday, Boston extended its winning streak to six consecutive games after sweeping the first leg of their seven-game road trip.

J.D. Martinez leads the way with three homers

After being held out of action on Saturday while in Major League Baseball’s COVID-19 protocol, J.D. Martinez made his return to the Red Sox lineup felt upon getting reinstated from the COVID-related injured list on Sunday.

The 33-year-old slugger went 4-for-6 with three home runs, four runs driven in, and four runs scored batting out of the three-hole.

The three homers, which came off Orioles starter Jorge Lopez and relievers Mac Sceroler and Taylor Wells, traveled 372 feet, 382 feet, and 430 feet, respectively.

Martinez’s first multi-homer game of the year and his first three-homer game as a member of the Red Sox brought the right-handed hitter’s season home run total up to five.

Devers homers twice, Verdugo once

While Martinez led the way for the Sox in the power department on Sunday, the three-time All-Star was not alone in regards to taking the ball out of the park.

That being the case because a pair of left-handed hitters — Rafael Devers and Alex Verdugo — combined to go deep three times off O’s pitching to close out the weekend.

Devers, who came into the day having homered in each of his team’s first two games of the weekend, extended that personal streak to three games by clubbing a 424-foot two-run shot off Sceroler in the fifth.

The 24-year-old also crushed a solo homer 439 feet to deep center field off Orioles right-hander in the eighth to up his season total to four.

Verdugo, meanwhile, actually got the Sox on the board first when after Franchy Cordero and Enrique Hernandez led off the third with a pair of singles, the 24-year-old outfielder got revenge on Lopez after getting plunked in the leg in his first trip to the plate.

He got his revenge on Lopez by depositing a 400-foot three-run blast to the opposite field.

Verdugo’s first big fly of the 2021 campaign gave the Red Sox a 3-0 lead. Martinez would follow with his first of three homers on the day, and Boston would not have to look back from there.

Pivetta remains unbeaten

Nick Pivetta has yet to lose a start as a member of the Red Sox. That trend continued on Sunday when the 28-year-old allowed four earned runs on seven hits, three walks, and seven strikeouts over six innings of work.

To say things went smoothly for Pivetta in this one would be a stretch, but the right-hander was able to limit the damage by putting his body on the line and tagging Freddy Galvis out at home for the final out of the third inning.

From there, Pivetta seemed to be on his way to putting six innings of one-run ball but a former Phillies teammate of his had different plans.

With one out and runners on the corners in the sixth, Maikel Franco took Pivetta deep to left for a three-run shot.

That presumably left a sour taste in Pivetta’s mouth, but the 6-foot-5 hurler was able to finish the inning and later picked up his second winning decision of the season. His next start should come against the White Sox back at Fenway Park on Friday.

Bullpen bends, but does not break

In relief of Pivetta, Austin Brice walked the first two hitters he faced in the seventh before serving up a three-run blast to Trey Mancini.

Hirokazu Sawamura had to come on to finish the seventh, and the righty worked his way around a two-out walk over a scoreless frame of relief in the eighth as well.

Phillips Valdez wrapped things up, though he gave up two runs needed 36 pitches (21 strikes) to do so and preserve the 14-19 victory for his side.

Next up: Perez vs. Happ

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll head to Minnesota to begin a four-game series against the dangerous Twins.

Monday’s series opener will include a starting pitching matchup that features two veteran left-handers, with Martin Perez getting the ball for Boston and J.A. Happ doing the same for Minnesota.

First pitch Monday is scheduled for 2:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN. Red Sox will be going for their seventh straight win.

(Picture of Alex Verdugo, Franchy Cordero, and Enrique Hernandez: Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Garrett Richards tosses 5 solid innings after rocky start; Rafael Devers homers again; Matt Andriese picks up save as Red Sox battle back to defeat Orioles, 6-4, in 10 innings for fifth straight win

An off-day on Friday could not halt the Red Sox’ momentum on Saturday, as the club battled back, won its fifth consecutive game, and won its second straight series with a 6-4 victory over the Orioles in 10 innings at Camden Yards.

Richards stumbles out of the gates, but turns in solid performance

After getting rocked for six runs over just two innings against the O’s in his Red Sox debut last Sunday, Garrett Richards did not get off to the best of starts in his second outing of the season on Saturday

Gifted a two-run lead before he even took the mound, the veteran right-hander served up a pair of solo homers to the very second and third hitters he faced in Trey Mancini and Anthony Santander.

At that point, it appeared as though Richards was in for a rather long — or short — evening. To his credit, though, he managed to turn things around for the better by retiring 14 of the next 18 hitters he faced in order to get through five innings.

Over those five solid frames, the 32-year-old hurler surrendered all of two earned runs on three hits and three walks to go along with four strikeouts on the night.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 79 (47 strikes), Richards relied on his four-seam fastball 49% of the time he was on the mound Saturday, inducing eight swings-and-misses while topping out at 95.6 mph with the pitch.

Unable to pick up the winning decision despite the decent performance, Richards’ next start should come against the Twins in Minnesota on Thursday.

Ottavino gives up late lead

In relief of Richards, Darwinzon Hernandez got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen. The left-hander danced his way around some trouble in a scoreless bottom half of the sixth and recorded the first out of the seventh before yielding a hard-hit double to the speedy Cedric Mullins.

That led to Hernandez getting the hook in favor of Adam Ottavino, who managed to escape the jam by getting two quick outs.

The eighth inning, however, was a different story for Adam Ottavino, as the veteran reliever saw his side’s 3-2 lead turn into a 4-3 deficit after surrendering two runs on three hits in the frame. Josh Taylor had to come on to get the final two outs.

Dalbec, Barnes send things to extras

After falling behind by a run in the eighth, the Sox did not waste any time getting back into things in the top half of the ninth.

One-out singles from Marwin Gonzalez and the pinch-hitting Franchy Cordero off O’s reliever Cesar Valdez put runners at the corners for a struggling Bobby Dalbec.

Dalbec was unable to come through with a go-ahead hit or clutch sacrifice fly, but he was able to drive in the tying run from third by doing the next best thing: grounding into a force out at second and beating out a double play.

The fact that a hustling Dalbec beat Freddy Galvis’ throw and reached first base safely meant that Gonzalez scored from third, which tied things up at three runs a piece.

That resulted in Matt Barnes coming on for the bottom half of the ninth, and the flame-throwing right-hander continued his dominating, season-opening run by striking out a pair in yet another perfect inning of relief to send this one to extras.

Chavis, Vazquez, and Andriese seal the come-from-behind victory

Michael Chavis probably did not anticipate playing a key role for the Red Sox in their game against the Orioles when he woke up on Saturday morning, but with J.D. Martinez being placed on the COVID-19 related injured list (cold symptoms), the 25-year-old infielder was called into action from the team’s taxi squad.

Pinch-running in place of Kevin Plawecki and placed at second base to start things out in the 10th, Chavis advanced to third on a sacrifice fly then came into score on a wild pitch from Orioles righty Dillon Tate.

Walks drawn by Alex Verdugo and Xander Bogaerts put runners at first and second for a red-hot Christian Vazquez, who proceeded to greet new Baltimore reliever Wade LeBlanc by ripping an RBI single to left field.

Vazquez’s fifth RBI put the Sox up by two at 6-4 going into the bottom of the 10th, which allowed Matt Andriese — yes, Matt Andriese — to pick up the first save of the season for any Boston reliever by tossing a scoreless inning.

Devers has rollercoaster of a game

Rafael Devers stayed hot on Saturday by mashing another home run as part of a 2-for-5 showing at the plate, but he did not necessarily get his night off on the right foot.

After plating Verdugo on an RBI single off O’s starter Bruce Zimmermann with two outs in the first, the 24-year-old wound up getting caught in a rundown between first and second with Gonzalez at the plate, though Bogaerts was able to score from third as a result of said rundown.

An inning and a half later, Devers had the opportunity to bail out Richards and record the final out of the second when Galvis struck out swinging and Rio Ruiz took off for second base.

On a nice and hard pickoff attempt from Plawecki behind the plate, Devers — playing in the shift — had the chance to tag out Ruiz at second for a strike ’em out-throw ’em out double play, but instead fielded the throw well in front of the bag and started jogging towards the visitor’s dugout.

The reason being, Devers thought there were already two outs in the inning and Galvis striking out marked the end of the frame.

That lapse in judgement did not come back to bite Devers or the Sox, but it was still a bit unusual to see nonetheless.

For as poorly as Devers may have played early on Saturday, he certainly made up for it in the later innings.

As previously mentioned, the left-handed slugger clubbed his second big fly of the season in the sixth to give his side a 3-2 lead.

He also made a clutch defensive play, when with two outs and the bases loaded in the eighth, Devers fielded a groundball off the bat of Mancini on one hop and got the out at first to preserve a 4-3 lead for his side.

Next up: Pivetta vs. Lopez

Next up, the Red Sox will look to enact their revenge on the Orioles by completing the three-game sweep over their division rivals on Sunday afternoon.

Right-hander Nick Pivetta will be getting the ball for Boston, and he will be matched up against fellow righty Jorge Lopez for Baltimore.

First pitch Sunday is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. eastern time on NESN. Red Sox going for their sixth straight win.

(Picture of Red Sox: Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Garrett Whitlock impresses with 2 scoreless innings in second appearance of season; ‘We needed him, and he did an outstanding job,’ Alex Cora says

Garrett Whitlock’s major-league debut came in an otherwise forgettable game for the Red Sox.

In their series finale against the Orioles this past Sunday at Fenway Park, the Sox found themselves down by 10 runs before the midway point of the third inning.

Whitlock, having come over from the Yankees as a Rule 5 Draft pick in December, came on in relief of left-hander Josh Taylor with two outs in the top half of the third.

From that point forward, the right-hander did not look back as he retired 10 of the 13 hitters he faced over 3 1/3 scoreless innings of work.

Four days later, Whitlock was called on again to pitch against the Orioles, though he was doing so in Baltimore in a game that was much more competitive.

After the Sox lineup tacked on two runs in their half of the sixth to retake the lead over the O’s at 4-3, Whitlock came on in relief of Thursday’s starter, Eduardo Rodriguez, in the bottom half of the frame.

Although he was pitching in a closer game in his second outing of the season, the 24-year-old did not miss a beat in the process of sitting down all six hitters he faced in order over two perfect, scoreless innings of relief.

He needed just 20 pitches (15 strikes) to get through those two innings. 11 of those pitches were changeups, eight were sinkers, and one was a four-seam fastball that registered at 95.3 mph.

“You see it and it’s like, ‘Wow, he belongs,'” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Whitlock’s performance on Thursday. “The tempo. The conviction. Most of the time, Rule 5 guys don’t shake off your catcher, right? But he knows what he wants to do, and he does. He shakes him off and he goes to the pitch he feels is right in that situation. He’s been great for us.”

A former 18th-round draft selection of the Yankees out of the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 2017, Whitlock had compiled 42 appearances (38 starts) across four minor-league levels before undergoing Tommy John surgery in July 2019.

His recovery from that procedure coincided with the 2020 minor-league season being cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, so before this past Sunday he hadn’t pitched in a competitive game in nearly two years.

“We still have to be careful,” Cora said in regards to Whitlock. “This is not what he’s used to. But, we do believe his stuff will play. This is the second time [the Orioles] have seen him and you saw the swings, so we’re comfortable with him. That was a situation where we were down, we get the lead, he was hot, so why not, you know? We needed him, and he did an outstanding job.”

Christian Vazquez has caught Whitlock in both of his outings thus far. It’s safe to say the veteran backstop has been impressed with what he has seen from the rookie hurler in those two appearances.

“He’s doing good, man. Great kid,” Vazquez said Thursday. “He’s got great stuff. Heavy fastball. Plus changeup. So he’s doing good. I think he’s going to help us big time.”

Whitlock, who turns 25 in June, must remain on the Sox’ major-league roster throughout the season or he would otherwise have to be offered back to New York since he is a Rule 5 pick.

Assuming he remains in Boston for the entirety of the 2021 campaign, the Georgia native would then be under team control through the 2026 season.

This would allow the Red Sox to maintain the services of a young, controllable arm with plenty of potential who could emerge as a legitimate starting rotation option next spring.

(Picture of Garrett Whitlock: Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Matt Barnes continues dominant run to begin season by striking out the side on Thursday; ‘He’s going to be a big part of what we’re trying to accomplish,’ Alex Cora says

Seven games into the 2021 season, Red Sox manager Alex Cora has yet to name a closer for his team. But Matt Barnes is certainly making the case to take over that role given how he has performed out of the gate.

The right-hander made his third appearance of the year during the ninth inning of Thursday’s contest against the Orioles in Baltimore. In a nearly-immaculate effort, he needed all of 11 pitches (10 strikes) to punch out the O’s 5-6-7 hitters in order to lock down a 7-3 victory for his side.

“That was amazing, right? Just throwing all those strikes,” Cora said of Barnes’ effort on Thursday. “Velocity. I do believe this is his best fastball, at least of the last three years. The carry. It’s not only up in the zone. It’s actually through the zone and down. The breaking ball is good.”

Of the 11 pitches Barnes threw against Baltimore, seven were curveballs and four were four-seam fastballs. He sat at 94-96 mph with his four-seamer.

Following Thursday’s outing, the veteran reliever has yet to allow a run or hit while striking out nine and yielding just one walk through four innings of work thus far.

Going into Opening Day, Barnes was mired in a competition with fellow righty Adam Ottavino to determine who Boston’s closer would be.

Both hurlers had solid camps and performed well in Grapefruit League play, but Barnes being forced out of action for three days in late March due to a false positive COVID-19 made it appear as though Ottavino had a solid chance at landing the gig.

Instead, Cora has still yet to name a set closer, though the expectation seems to be that Barnes is the man for the job at the moment.

“We’re very happy with him,” said the Sox skipper. “He has matured a lot. He’s going to be a big part of what we’re trying to accomplish.”

Barnes, who turns 31 in June, is slated to become a free agent for the first time this winter, so him enjoying a career year in 2021 would certainly be well-received.

The UCONN product has been in the Red Sox organization since 2011 and has stated before that he is open to signing a contract extension to remain with the team he began his professional career with.

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

Eduardo Rodríguez fans seven over 5 strong innings in first start since 2019; Rafael Devers and Kiké Hernández collect first homers of season as Red Sox top Orioles, 7-3, for fourth straight win

Eduardo Rodriguez picked up on Thursday where he left off 557 days ago.

The left-hander’s last start of the 2019 season came against the Orioles, and he allowed three runs over seven strong innings in that contest.

After missing the entirety of the 2020 season due to myocarditis, Rodriguez finally made his long-awaited return to a big-league mound on Thursday in Baltimore.

Working against the O’s in their home opener, the recently-turned 28-year-old again held Baltimore to three runs — this time over five innings — while scattering four hits and no walks to go along with seven strikeouts on the afternoon.

All three runs Rodriguez surrendered on Thursday came by way of the home run ball, with Ryan Mountcastle crushing a two-run homer in the first and Pedro Severino clubbing a solo shot off the lefty in the fourth.

From that point on, though, Rodriguez did manage to retire each of the final four hitters he faced in order.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 79 (56 strikes), the Venezuelan hurler sat at 91-95 mph with his four-seam fastball — a pitch he threw 13 times — while also inducing four swings-and-misses with his changeup — a pitch he threw 25 times.

Able to pick up his first winning decision of the year because of his triumphant effort, Rodriguez’s next start should come against the Twins next Wednesday.

Whitlock, Barnes sharp out of the bullpen

In relief of Rodriguez, rookie right-hander Garrett Whitlock got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen. The 24-year-old followed up his impressive big-league debut from last weekend by punching out three of the six Orioles he faced over two perfect frames of work to pick up his first career hold.

Matt Andriese, who helped Whitlock develop his changeup over the course of spring training, maneuvered his way around a leadoff walk and one-out single to toss a scoreless eighth.

Matt Barnes, meanwhile, was on the cusp of an immaculate inning (nine pitches, nine strikes, three strikeouts) in the ninth, but he still struck out the side on 11 pitches anyway to preserve the 7-3 victory for his side.

Devers gets on the board with first homer

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against a familiar foe in Orioles right-hander Matt Harvey, whom they had just seen last weekend.

Following a one-out double from Alex Verdugo, Rafael Devers got the scoring started for the Sox right away by mashing his first home run of the season — a two-run shot — off Harvey to give his side the early 2-0 advantage.

Per Baseball Savant, Devers’ first big fly of 2021 left his bat at 111 mph and traveled approximately 452 feet to deep center field.

Retaking the lead and adding on some insurance

Harvey managed to hold the Boston bats in check after giving up that Devers homer, and him doing that coincided with the Orioles jumping out to a 3-2 lead in the fourth inning.

In the sixth, though, the Orioles starter put the first two hitters he faced — Devers and Christian Vazquez — on base on a pair of singles, and that would lead to his exit from this contest.

Matched up against lefty reliever Paul Fry now, Marwin Gonzalez drew a six-pitch walk, which allowed Christian Arroyo and Franchy Cordero to plate a pair of runs on an RBI groundout and RBI single.

Verdugo sparked more offense in the seventh, as he collected his second double of the afternoon and later scored on a two-base hit off the bat of a red-hot J.D. Martinez — marking the seventh straight game the vaunted slugger has reached base on an extra-base hit out of the gate.

That sequence put the Red Sox up two at 5-3, and Gonzalez added on to that with a run-scoring single of his own to make it a 6-3 contest going into stretch time.

Kiké Hernández comes through with first home run

Devers was not the only member of the Red Sox to notch his first homer of the year on Thursday, as Kiké Hernández did the very same in the top half of the eighth.

On a 2-2, 86 mph slider from Orioles reliever Tyler Wells, the 29-year-old pulled said pitch 372 feet to left field for his first home run in a Sox uniform.

Hernández’s 72nd career homer put the Red Sox up 7-3, which would go on to be Thursday’s final score.

Next up: An off day

Now winners of four straight after starting the season 0-3, the Sox will enjoy an off day on Friday before they look to keep things rolling against the O’s on Saturday.

Right-hander Garrett Richards is slated to get the ball for Boston in that contest, and he will be matched up against rookie left-hander Bruce Zimmermann for Baltimore.

First pitch Saturday is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Rafael Devers: Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Red Sox reinstate Eduardo Rodriguez from injured list ahead of left-hander’s season debut against Orioles

Before opening up a three-game series against the Orioles on Thursday, the Red Sox reinstated left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez from the 10-day injured list.

Rodriguez, who turned 28 on Wednesday, will make his 2021 debut in the first of three against Baltimore after starting the season on the injured list due to left elbow inflammation.

The Venezuelan southpaw originally had been slated to start for Boston on Opening Day, but was scratched from that start on account of dealing with “dead arm” during the late stages of spring training.

That bout with “dead arm” resulted in the Sox placing Rodriguez on the IL last week, but as expected, it was a short stint on the shelf for the lefty.

“He’s good to go,” Red Sox manager Cora said on Wednesday. “Looking forward to him to pitch tomorrow. He really wanted to pitch today because it’s his birthday. Good for him, but no. We’re very happy. He’ll be okay tomorrow. He’ll be ready to go.”

When Rodriguez takes the field at Camden Yards on Thursday afternoon, it will have been approximately 557 days since he last toed a big-league rubber. He missed the entirety of the shortened 2020 campaign after being diagnosed with myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) following a bout with COVID-19 last summer.

“It will mean a lot because of everything I went through last year,” Rodriguez told reporters Wednesday. “I just was happy to have the opportunity to be back in baseball and be back to start tomorrow.”

Rodriguez, who owns a lifetime 2.60 ERA in nine career starts at Camden Yards, will not be capped by a pitch or inning limit on Thursday, though the expectation is that Cora and Co. will take a conservative approach with him given the circumstances.

Regardless of that, it goes without saying that Rodriguez’s highly-anticipated season debut has been a long time coming. He will look to lead the Sox to their fourth consecutive victory on Thursday.

The reason the Red Sox were able to activate Rodriguez on Thursday without making a corresponding roster move is because the club optioned right-hander Tanner Houck to the alternate training site in Worcester on Tuesday night.

(Picture of Eduardo Rodriguez: Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Nathan Eovaldi hurls 7 strong innings, Christian Vazquez crushes another homer as Red Sox complete sweep of Rays with 9-2 win in series finale

The Red Sox had nowhere to go but up after getting swept by the Orioles over the weekend, and up they went in the process of completing a three-game sweep of the Rays with a commanding 9-2 victory over Tampa Bay on Wednesday.

Eovaldi tosses seven solid frames

Nathan Eovaldi led the way in his second start of the season, tossing seven innings of one-run ball while scattering just three hits and three walks to go along with seven strikeouts on the afternoon.

After giving up that one run on an RBI single in the third, the veteran right-hander retired 11 of the final 15 hitters he faced from the fourth inning on.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 91 (60 strikes), Eovaldi relied on his four-seam fastball 38% of the time he was on the mound Wednesday, inducing eight swings-and-misses while topping out at 99 mph with the pitch.

Ultimately picking up his first winning winning decision of the season, the 31-year-old hurler was named the YouTube Player of the Game for his efforts. His next start should come against the Twins in Minnesota next week.

In relief of Eovaldi, left-hander Josh Taylor wrapped things up by allowing one run over the final two innings of Wednesday’s contest to preserve the 9-2 win for his side.

Martinez, Bogaerts, Vazquez lead the way offensively

A Yoshi Tsutsugo RBI single gave the Rays an early 1-0 lead in the third inning, but the Boston bats responded with three runs of their own an inning later.

Xander Bogaerts knotted things up at one by driving in Rafael Devers on a line-drive, run-scoring single to center field off Rays left-hander Ryan Yarbrough, then Christian Vazquez took things into his own hands a few moments later.

Starting at designated hitter after catching all 12 innings on Tuesday, Vazquez crushed his second home run of the season — and second in as many days — off a 2-1, 83 mph cutter from Yarbrough at the top of the strike zone.

Vazquez’s 376-foot blast over the Green Monster gave the Sox a 3-1 advantage.

Aided by a two-run double from a red-hot J.D. Martinez, Bogaerts, Vazquez, Hunter Renfroe, and Christian Vazquez combined to tack on four additional insurance runs in the bottom of the fifth with some help from some sloppy fielding from the Rays.

By the time Arroyo drove in Renfroe on an RBI double to shallow right field, the Red Sox had jumped out to a 9-2 lead, which would be more than enough to secure a 9-2, series-sweeping win on Wednesday.

Next up: First road trip of the season

After salvaging their first homestand of the year to improve to 3-3 through their first six games, the Red Sox will head to Baltimore for the first leg of a two-city, seven-game road trip.

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will be making his first start of the season in Thursday’s opener against the Orioles, and he will be matched up against veteran right-hander Matt Harvey.

First pitch Thursday is scheduled for 3:05 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Nathan Eovaldi: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

By taking series from Rays, Red Sox take step forward

Even after getting swept by the Orioles at Fenway Park to kick off the 2021 season over the weekend, the Red Sox did not waver.

Since falling to Baltimore by a final score 11-3 on Sunday, Boston welcomed the reigning American League champion Tampa Bay Rays into town and routed them 11-2 on Monday.

On Tuesday, the Sox showed resiliency and staged three separate comebacks en route to pulling off a 6-5 walk-off win over the Rays in 12 innings on the back of J.D. Martinez’s game-winning two-run double.

In the span of just a few short days, the Red Sox have gone from getting dismantled by the team that projects to be the worst in their division to taking a three-game series from the defending American League champs.

This is the first time the Sox have won a home series against the Rays since August 2018.

“We did a good job. We didn’t stop playing,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of his team’s come-from-behind victory Tuesday night. “That’s the mark of a good team. We didn’t look great at one point, but we kept fighting and we kept them within distance. The pitching staff did an amazing job. We made some plays.

“We won the series,” he continued. “We won the series against the defending American League champions. It’s a good bounce-back from what happened this weekend and we have the chance to sweep them tomorrow.”

Martinez, who went 2-for-6 at the plate with three RBI on Tuesday, has been one of the catalysts behind the Sox’ recent two-game winning streak.

The 33-year-old slugger raised his OPS on the season to 1.522 following Tuesday’s showing, and he — like Cora — understands that having the chance to sweep a team like the Rays could prove to be quite beneficial in the long-run.

“Tampa Bay’s a really good team, so to take a series from them is big,” Martinez said. “But, we’re not looking at these two games. We need to go back out tomorrow and win tomorrow.”

At 2-3, the Sox still have a ways to go to reach the level of success they believe they can attain this year, but Tuesday’s performance against the Rays has the makings to be a step in the right direction towards achieving those goals.

“It was overall a great game,” Cora said. “And I think the most important thing out of this is that we won the series against the American League defending champions.”

(Picture of J.D. Martinez: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)