Red Sox catching prospect Ronaldo Hernández has been red-hot at the plate for Double-A Portland

After a torrid month of July, Red Sox catching prospect Ronaldo Hernandez got his August off to a solid start for Double-A Portland on Sunday.

Though the Sea Dogs ultimately fell to the New Hampshire Fisher Cats by a final score of 7-6 at Hadlock Field, Hernandez certainly did his part to prevent that from happening.

Starting at designated hitter and batting out of the six-hole, the 23-year-old went 2-for-4 with a two-run home run and two runs scored on the afternoon.

The tw0-run homer, which came off Fisher Cats reliever Graham Spraker, was Hernandez’s 11th big fly of the year and it cut Portland’s deficit down to two runs at 7-5. Tanner Nishikoa followed with a solo shot of his own to make it a one-run game, but New Hampshire was ultimately able to hold and take the series finale in a close contest.

Hernandez’s two-hit outing raised his batting line on the season to a respectable .252/.296/.467 (103 wRC+) to go along with 12 doubles, 11 home runs, 25 RBI, 24 runs scored, eight strikeouts across 59 games (223 plate appearances) on the year.

The Red Sox originally acquired Hernandez — as well as infield prospect Nick Sogard — from the Rays back in February in exchange for relievers Chris Mazza and Jeffrey Springs as well as cash considerations.

Hernandez, who does not turn 24 until November, signed with Tampa Bay for $225,000 as an international free agent out of Colombia during the 2014 signing period.

After five years in the organization, the Rays added Hernandez to their 40-man roster in November 2019 in order to protect him from that winter’s Rule 5 Draft, though he did not play another game in their system after that (but spent time on the club’s taxi squad and postseason player pool) with the 2020 minor-league season being cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since he was a member of Tampa Bay’s 40-man roster at the time of the four-player trade from this past February, Hernandez immediately joined Boston’s 40-man roster and received an invite to major-league spring training as a result.

The right-handed hitting backstop was optioned to the Sox’ alternate training site in early March and later began the 2021 minor-league campaign with Portland.

Through his first several weeks as a member of the Sea Dogs, Hernandez — for the most part struggled — as he hit just .210/.248/.384 (67 wRC+) over 138 trips to the plate from the beginning of May until the end of June.

As soon as the calendar flipped to July, however, Hernandez seemed to turn a corner offensively, and it started with a three-hit performance against the Fisher Cats in Manchester on July 4.

Over the next four weeks, Hernandez simply lit it up at the plate. In five games between the Reading Fightin Phils from July 13-18, he amassed a total of eight hits while boasting an OPS of 1.318 thanks to putting together three multi-hit outings.

By the time the month of July came to a close over the weekend, not only had Hernandez not been traded, but he also posted a stellar .324/.378/.588 slash line (158 wRC+) in addition to clubbing four homers, driving in 13 runs, and scoring 11 of his own over his last 22 games and 68 plate appearances dating back to July 1.

Among Double-A Northeast catchers with at least 50 at-bats over the course of July, Hernandez ranked first in batting average, first in on-base percentage, first in slugging percentage, first in OPS, tied-first in hits (22), second in doubles (6), tied-second in home runs, and second in RBI.

On the other side of the ball, it appears as though Hernandez still has room to develop when it comes to what he does defensively. So far this season, the 6-foot-1, 237 pound backstop has committed six errors while allowing 10 passed balls to elude him while behind the plate. He has also thrown out 13 of 49 (26.5%) runners attempting to steal off him.

Per his Baseball America scouting report, “Hernandez has a plus arm behind the plate and moves well for a big catcher, but his receiving is fringe-average and needs to continue to improve.”

Regarded by Baseball America as the No. 13 prospect in Boston’s farm system — which ranks tops among catchers in the system, Hernandez is currently one of four backstops on the Sox’ 40-man roster alongside veterans like Christian Vazquez and Kevin Plawecki and fellow prospect Connor Wong.

Given his standing on the Red Sox’ 40-man roster, one has to wonder if Hernandez could be in line for a promotion to Triple-A Worcester before season’s end if he continues to produce at a consistent level.

Not only would promoting Hernandez to the WooSox give the Red Sox a chance to evaluate how the young backstop adjusts to a new level of competition and new pitching staff, it would also grant them the opportunity to see if Hernandez is worthy of his 40-man spot, or if it would be better suited for another prospect in need of protection from December’s Rule 5 Draft.

(Picture of Ronaldo Hernandez: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox swept by Rays following 3-2 defeat; Boston extends losing streak to season-high 4 straight games

After Xander Bogaerts essentially described Sunday night’s series finale against the Rays as a must-win, the Red Sox came up short at Tropicana Field and were unable to avoid a three-game series sweep at the hands of their division rivals by a final score of 3-2.

Nick Pivetta, making his 21st start of the season for the Sox, took a perfect game into the third inning after sitting down each of the first eight batters he faced in order.

A two-out walk to the Rays’ No. 9 hitter in the bottom of the third, however, altered the course for Pivetta, as he saw his no-hit bid come to an end moments later by serving up a two-run home run to Brandon Lowe on a 3-2, 85 mph slider that was grooved down the heart of the plate.

Lowe’s blast put Tampa Bay up 2-0, but the Boston bats were able to cut that deficit in half in the top of the fourth. There, when matched up against tough Rays starter Shane McClanahan, ex-Rays outfielder Hunter Renfroe put a charge into his 16th big fly of the year.

Renfroe turned around a 2-2, 97 mph fastball from McClanahan and deposited it 427 feet to deep center field. The solo shot, which had an exit velocity of 104 mph, made it a 2-1 game in favor of the Rays.

The Sox had a chance to do more damage in the inning, with Christian Vazquez ripping a one-out single and Alex Verdugo advancing him into scoring position by drawing a walk, but McClanahan rallied by getting Kevin Plawecki to fly out and Bobby Dalbec to strike out to escape the jam.

Pivetta, meanwhile, got through a scoreless fourth inning unscathed, but ran into more trouble in the fifth when he yielded a leadoff single to rookie phenom Wander Franco.

A wild pitch from the right-hander allowed Franco to move up to second base, and old friend Manuel Margot took full advantage of that miscue by lacing a run-scoring single to right field to bring in Franco and make it a 3-1 contest in favor of his side.

Following that sequence, Pivetta was able to record the first two outs of the fifth, but his night ended then and there when Red Sox manager Alex Cora gave him the hook with the left-handed hitting Lowe due up next for the Rays.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 76 (54 strikes), the 28-year-old hurler wound up surrendering three earned runs on three hits, one walk, and six strikeouts.

In relief of Pivetta, left-hander Josh Taylor was called upon to face Lowe, and he won that particular matchup by getting him to pop out into foul territory to retire the side.

From there, recently-acquired reliever Hansel Robles made his Red Sox debut in the sixth inning, and he maneuvered his way around a leadoff single by inducing a fielder’s choice out and 3-6-3 double play in his lone scoreless frame of work.

The Rays turned to their bullpen starting in the seventh after McClanahan had given them six strong innings, and Verdugo greeted their first reliever of the night — Drew Rasmussen — by lining a scorching 111 mph double down the right field line to lead things off.

Verdugo moved up to third on a Plawecki fly out and scored on a wild pitch while Kiké Hernández, but even after Hernández himself singled and Rafael Devers drew a walk with two outs, a slumping J.D. Martinez was unable to bring in either runner and instead grounded into a force out to leave things at 3-2 in favor of Tampa Bay.

Following two scoreless innings of relief from Garrett Whitlock in which he scattered three total hits thanks to some stellar defense behind him out of the bullpen, the Red Sox were down to their final three outs going into their half of the ninth inning.

With righty reliever Matt Wisler on the mound for the Rays, Plawecki and Jarren Duran (pinch-hitting for Dalbec) grounded out and punched out, respectively. But Hernández provided a spark by reaching base on a two-out single.

The pinch-running Jonathan Arauz took over for Hernández as the base runner at first base, and Devers was able to advance him all the way up to third on another base hit to center field, leaving things in the hands of Martinez.

Very much in need of a hit, Martinez got ahead in the count against Wisler at 3-1, but swung at an outside pitch that likely would have been a ball before putting an 81 mph slider that was down and away in play.

Unfortunately for Martinez, the ball left his bat at just 71 mph and traveled a mere 226 feet before landing in the glove of Margot for the third and final out of the ninth, thus sealing a 3-2 defeat for the Sox.

In the process of getting swept by the Rays on Sunday night, the Red Sox went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position while leaving 10 men on base as a team.

Sunday’s loss also extends Boston’s losing streak to a season-high four consecutive games, dropping them to 63-44 on the year. They now trail Tampa Bay by 1 1/2 games for first place in the American League East after what was undoubtedly a crushing weekend.

That said, the Red Sox will be off on Monday as they prepare to embark upon the next portion of this three-city road trip in Detroit against a surprising 51-57 Tigers team led by Cora’s former colleague in A.J. Hinch.

Boston previously bested Detroit by taking the opening and concluding games of a three-game set at Fenway Park back in early May. The Sox outscored the Tigers, 28-22, in the process of doing so.

This time around, right-hander Garrett Richards will get the ball for Boston in Tuesday’s series opener at Comerica Park. He will be opposed by fellow righty Wily Peralta for Detroit.

First pitch Tuesday is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN. Red Sox will be looking to snap this four-game skid.

(Picture of Alex Verdugo and Hunter Renfroe: Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

Martín Pérez gives up 3 homers as Red Sox fall to Rays, 7-3, in first game after trade deadline

Hours after seeing the trade deadline come and go without acquiring a starting pitcher, the Red Sox were rocked by the Rays by a final score of 7-3 at Tropicana Field on Friday night.

Martin Perez, making his 21st start of the season for the Sox, was shelled for six runs — all of which were earned — on seven hits and one walk to go along with three strikeouts over four innings of work.

The one walk proved to be what did Perez in out of the gate, as he issued a two-out free pass to Austin Meadows before serving up a two-run home run to Yandy Diaz in the first inning, giving Tampa Bay an early 2-0 lead.

More two-out trouble arose for Perez in the bottom half of the third, with the veteran left-hander nearly maneuvering his way around a one-out single to Nelson Cruz, but instead gave up a two-out base hit to Diaz, which was followed by a two-run double off the bat of rookie phenom Wander Franco.

The Boston bats, matched up against Rays starter Josh Fleming, battled back in the fourth, as Xander Bogaerts led things off with a groundball single and came into score his side’s first run of the night following a Hunter Renfroe walk and Christian Vazquez RBI single.

Vazquez, however, was thrown out as second base as he attempted to extend his single into a double, though Bobby Dalbec was able to drive in Renfroe to cut the Sox’ deficit in half at 4-2.

Despite cutting into the Rays’ lead, Perez fell victim to the long ball once more in the bottom of the fourth, as he served up a pair of solo homers to Mike Zunino and Randy Arozarena before recording the final out of the inning in what had become a 6-2 game.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 72 (45 strikes), the 30-year-old southpaw was ultimately hit with his seventh loss of the year while seeing his ERA on the season inflate to 4.56.

Another run-scoring double courtesy of Renfroe off Fleming pulled Boston back to within three runs in their half of the fifth, but Red Sox reliever Yacksel Rios gave that run right back by giving up a one-out triple to Franco that was followed by a wild pitch that allowed Franco to easily score and make it a 7-3 contest in favor of Tampa Bay.

From there, Rios tossed a scoreless sixth inning, Hirokazu Sawamura stranded a pair of runners in the seventh in his return from the injured list, and Josh Taylor twirled a shutout bottom of the eighth to hold the Rays at seven runs.

That said, the Sox offense was not able to get anything going against the Rays bullpen, and 7-3 would go on to be Friday’s final score.

With the loss, their second straight, the Red Sox fall to 63-42 on the season while their lead over the Rays for first place in the American League East decreased to just 1/2 a game.

Some additional notes from Friday night:

Next up: Eovaldi vs. Yarbrough

The Red Sox will turn to right-hander Nathan Eovaldi as they look to halt their two-game losing streak in the middle game of this pivotal three-game weekend series.

The Rays will counter with left-hander Ryan Yarbrough, who has allowed 14 runs (11 earned) over seven innings of work spanning two outings (one start) against the Sox this season.

First pitch Saturday is scheduled for 6:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Martin Perez: Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

Wander Franco, baseball’s top prospect, to be called up by Rays ahead of this week’s series against Red Sox

The top prospect in baseball will most likely be making his major-league debut against the Red Sox this week.

That’s right, the Tampa Bay Rays will be calling up infield prospect Wander Franco ahead of Tuesday’s series opener against the Sox at Tropicana Field, according to the Tampa Bay Times’ Marc Topkin.

Franco, 20, is regarded by Baseball America as the No. 1 prospect in Major League Baseball and has been for the last two seasons.

Originally signing with the Rays out of the Dominican Republic for $3.85 million in the early stages of the 2017 international signing period, the switch-hitting infielder has since emerged as one of the game’s top young talents while being compared to the likes of the Indians’ Jose Ramirez and Blue Jays’ Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

This season alone, Franco has lit it up with Triple-A Durham, slashing .315/.367/.586 with 11 doubles, six triples, seven home runs, 35 RBI, 30 runs scored, 12 walks, 21 strikeouts, and five stolen bases over 39 games played (177 plate appearances).

Listed at 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds, Franco is a natural shortstop, but has also seen time at both second and third base with Durham this year and is likely to move around the infield when he joins the Rays as well.

Per his Baseball America scouting report, Franco “is an exceptionally advanced hitter for his age. The switch-hitter’s compact, level stroke and above-average bat speed from both sides of the plate grant him a controlled aggression most young hitters can’t match. His bat control allows him to make consistent hard contact while rarely striking out. He also has an innate ability to adjust his swing, leaving few holes for pitchers to attack. Franco stings the ball and has plus power potential, but his level swing leads to more line drives and ground balls than fly balls. He has shown in team competitions that he can put on a show in a home run derby. Franco’s body has already filled out. He is an average runner who will have to work to keep his speed with a thick, muscular lower half.

“Defensively, Franco’s soft hands, above-average arm and solid understanding of the game give him a shot to stay at shortstop, where he’s a potentially average defender. The Rays played him at second base and third base at the alternate site [last year] to help prepare for the possibility he could break into the majors at another spot. He has the tools to be an above-average or even plus defender at second or third.”

Assuming Franco, whose father and two older brothers played in the minors while two of his uncles — Erick and Willy Aybar — played in the majors, does make his big-league debut at the Trop this week, this will be the second time in four seasons the Rays have debuted one of their top prospects when going up against the Red Sox.

Back on May 22, 2018, shortstop Willy Adames, then Tampa Bay’s No. 2 overall prospect according to Baseball America, also made his major-league debut when the Sox were in town in St. Petersburg.

Adames, who is still just 25 years old, has since been dealt to the Milwaukee Brewers. That trade took place as recently as last month, with the Rays presumably making the move with the future of Franco in mind.

The Rays themselves have been on a bit of a tailspin of late, as they have dropped six straight to fall a half game back of the Red Sox for first place in the American League East.

Boston and Tampa Bay open up a three-game series in St. Pete on Tuesday night, and the likelihood of such a highly-touted prospect such as Franco making his long-awaited debut just adds more value to what should be a riveting week of baseball for both clubs.

(Picture of Wander Franco: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Nathan Eovaldi puts together ‘amazing’ performance against Rays on Wednesday to finish off three-game sweep; ‘We needed that,’ Alex Cora says

Of the four starts Nathan Eovaldi made for the Red Sox over the course of spring training, his outing against the Rays in Fort Myers was undoubtedly his worst one.

Over four innings of work back on March 19, the veteran right-hander surrendered five earned runs on eight hits, one walk, and five strikeouts.

It may have just been a meaningless Grapefruit League game, but the lessons Eovaldi learned from that performance last month proved to be worthwhile during his second start of the regular season on Wednesday.

Working against the Rays at Fenway Park this time around, the 31-year-old dazzled by yielding just one earned run on three hits and three walks to go along with seven strikeouts on the afternoon. He needed just 91 pitches (60 strikes) to get through those seven frames.

“[Kevin] Plawecki and I had a good game plan going into it,” Eovaldi said when asked about his impressive showing against his former team on Wednesday. “We were able to follow up with everything, try to keep them off balance. In spring training, I learned a lot when they got to me early in the game. So I had to really mix my pitches today, and I was able to do that.”

Of the 91 pitches Eovaldi threw on Wednesday, 35 were four-seam fastballs, 20 were curveballs, 19 were sliders, nine were cutters, and eight were splitters. He induced 17 swings-and-misses from Rays hitters in total.

“I didn’t really have one pitch that wasn’t working,” added Eovaldi. “I was able to use the curveball, the slider — I used that a lot today, the cutter, splitty was good. I was able to locate the fastball. I made some mechanical adjustments the other day and they really helped me out. So I feel really good out there.”

With the Red Sox finishing off a three-game sweep of the Rays on Wednesday, Eovaldi was able to pick up his first winning decision and improve to 1-1 on the young season.

That Eovaldi was able to go seven innings in his second start of the year proved to be crucial for the Sox considering how spent their bullpen was following Tuesday night’s 6-5 win over Tampa Bay that took 12 innings to complete.

“We needed that,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “The fact that he only threw 91 pitches, it was very important. But he went seven. Where we were pitching-wise today, we needed a big performance from him, and he did.”

Eovaldi himself echoes this same sort of sentiment in regards to picking up a depleted pitching staff the day after a lengthy game.

“The way we started the season 0-3 against the Orioles, obviously we’re not happy with that,” Eovaldi said. “But then to come in, last night was a huge game for us. We were able to come back from behind, tie it up in the late innings, ultimately win the game. Both sides of the bullpen, we were down. So we were short on guys.

“For me to be able to come out there today, go a little deeper in the game for us, and then for us to come out on top today, have the sweep — especially against the Rays — it’s a big one for us,” he added. “Big series win.”

Through his first two starts of the year, the Houston-area native has allowed just two earned runs over his first 12 1/3 innings pitched. That’s good for an ERA of 1.46 as well as a 0.89 WHIP.

“He was amazing,” Cora said of Eovaldi. “He’s got two starts already. He’s done an amazing job mixing up pitches, throwing strikes. The fact he only made like 92 [pitches] in the first one, [91 pitches] today. Now he gets one more day in between starts. That’s really good for him.”

Eovaldi is slated to pitch again against the Twins in Minnesota next Tuesday.

(Picture of Nathan Eovaldi: Kathryn Riley/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)

J.D. Martinez comes through with walk-off double as Red Sox top Rays, 6-5, in 12 innings for first series win of season

In the span of four innings, J.D. Martinez went from zero to hero for the Red Sox in their contest against the Rays at Fenway Park on Tuesday night.

After committing a costly baserunning blunder while representing the tying run in the bottom half of the eighth, the 33-year-old slugger had the chance to redeem himself later on well into extra innings.

With two outs and two runners on in a 5-4 game in the 12th, Martinez — matched up against Rays reliever Ryan Thompson — drilled a flyball over the head of an outstretched Randy Arozarena in right field plenty deep enough to plate both Hunter Renfroe and Alex Verdugo to give the Sox their first walk-off victory of the season with a 6-5 win.

Martinez, who finished the day 2-for-6 with three RBI, stays hot and is now slashing .476/.522/1.000 through his first five games of the year.

Martin Perez tosses five-plus solid frames

Well before Tuesday’s late-night drama, Martin Perez made his first start of the new campaign.

Working five-plus innings, the veteran left-hander surrendered three runs — all of which were earned — on five hits, two walks, and one hit batsman to go along with six strikeouts. The second walk he gave up came with no outs in the top half of the sixth, and it marked the end of his outing.

Of the 92 pitches Perez threw on Tuesday, 52 went for strikes. The Venezuelan hurler also mixed in 29 cutters, 21 changeups, 19 sinkers, 15 curveballs, and eight fastballs on his way to picking up the no-decision. His next start should come against the Twins sometime next week.

Matt Barnes dazzles with two perfect innings of relief

After Austin Brice, Hirokazu Sawamura, and Darwinzon Hernandez managed to keep Tampa Bay off the scoreboard through the end of the eighth inning, Matt Barnes was called in for the ninth as he was tasked with holding the Rays at three runs.

Making just his second relief appearance of the year, the flame-throwing righty did exactly that by retiring the side in order in the ninth and then doing the same in the 10th after the Sox had knotted things up.

In total, Barnes struck out four of the six batters he faced and induced six swings-and-misses in the process of doing so.

Tanner Houck, Phillips Valdez close things out

Red Sox manager Alex Cora had said before Tuesday’s game that rookie right-hander Tanner Houck would be available to pitch out of the bullpen against the Rays.

Having just thrown 85 pitches in his start against the Orioles over the weekend, it seemed unlikely that the 24-year-old would be used in this one, but he was after all.

With a runner on second base to start each extra inning, Houck wound up surrendering the go-ahead run to the very first hitter he faced in Willy Adames, who ripped an RBI double down the left field line to give his side a 4-3 edge.

Houck did manage to escape the top half of the 11th without giving anything else up, though fellow righty Phillips Valdez fell victim to the unearned run himself an inning later.

All in all, Sox pitching combined to yield five runs (three earned) on eight hits, five walks, and 13 strikeouts on Tuesday night.

Christian Vazquez comes through in the clutch

Before Martinez’s late-inning heroics, the Boston bats were finding it difficult to score runs just one night after plating 11 in their first win of the season.

Facing off against vaunted Rays right-hander Tyler Glasnow, the only run the Sox managed to bring across over the first seven innings came when Christian Arroyo scored from third on a wild pitch.

Martinez tacked on the first of his three RBI with a run-scoring double in the eighth off Pete Fairbanks in the eighth, then it was Christian Vazquez’s time to shine in the ninth.

Going into his fourth plate appearance of the night without a hit, Vazquez did not waste any time in greeting new Rays reliever Diego Castillo, as he led the bottom of the ninth off by crushing a solo shot 383 feet well over the Green Monster for his first big fly of the season.

That moonshot would pull the Red Sox back even with the Rays at three runs apiece, and it would ultimately set up the Martinez walk-off later on in the 12th.

Franchy Cordero makes leaping grab in left field

One key moment that cannot be lost in the shuffle of Tuesday’s drama was the play Franchy Cordero made to end the top half of the seventh inning.

With one out in the frame and runners on first and second, Rays centerfielder Manuel Margot lifted a flyball to left that was on the cusp of bouncing off the Monster before a leaping Franchy Cordero robbed the former Red Sox prospect of extra-bases.

There was some confusion as to whether Cordero caught the ball or trapped it against the left field wall, and that confusion allowed the outfielder to double off one of the runners — Arozarena — at second base to end the inning.

The Rays disputed the call on the field by challenging it, but it was upheld by replay review.

Next up: Eovaldi vs. Yarbrough

Next up for the Red Sox, it’s the finale of this three-game series on Wednesday afternoon, so it’s certainly a quick turnaround.

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi is slated to get the ball for Boston, and he will be opposed by left-hander Ryan Yarbrough for Tampa Bay.

First pitch Wednesday is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. eastern time on YouTube. Yes, you read that correctly. YouTube.

(Picture of J.D. Martinez: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

J.D. Martinez homers again, Nick Pivetta hurls 5 scoreless innings as Red Sox top Rays, 11-2, for first win of season

Behind five strong innings from Nick Pivetta, the Red Sox snapped their three-game losing streak and secured their first win of the 2021 season following a 7-2 victory over the Rays on Monday.

Pivetta, making his 2021 debut, kept the Rays off the scoreboard while scattering just two hits and four walks to go along with four strikeouts over his five frames of work.

By the time the right-hander recorded his final out of the night to retire the side in the fifth, he had thrown 92 pitches, 52 of which went for strikes.

Of those 92 pitches, Pivetta relied on his four-seam fastball 46% of the time he was on the mound Monday. He topped out at 97.1 mph with his four-seamer and also induced seven swings-and-misses with his slider — a pitch he threw 38 times.

Ultimately picking up his first winning decision of the season later on in this one, the 28-year-old hurler is now 3-0 in three starts with the Sox since being acquired from the Phillies via trade last August. His next start should come against the Orioles in Baltimore on Sunday.

In relief of Pivetta, Matt Andriese managed to keep Tampa Bay off the scoreboard into the sixth and seventh innings but ran into some trouble in the eighth when he filled the bases with just one out.

That predicament led to the veteran righty getting the hook in favor of Darwinzon Hernandez, though the left-hander did not fare much better considering the fact he walked in a pair of inherited runners.

While Hernandez did get the second out of the inning, the Sox still went back to their bullpen and brought in Adam Ottavino, who punched out Mike Brosseau on a nasty, knee-buckling slider to escape the jam.

Phillips Valdez, making his third appearance of the season already, wrapped things up by sitting down the only three hitters faced in the ninth.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox broke out of an offensive slump in tremendous way on Monday night.

Matched up against Rays right-hander Michael Wacha, Franchy Cordero got the scoring started for his side — and gave them their very first lead of the season — with a two-out, run-scoring double off the Green Monster to bring in Christian Vazquez.

Cordero struck again in the fourth, this time following up a Hunter Renfroe run-scoring sacrifice fly by plating Marwin Gonzalez to give Boston a 3-0 edge.

An inning later, Xander Bogaerts managed to drive in J.D. Martinez as well as himself on an RBI double that nearly left the yard.

While it was ruled a double, Bogaerts initially wound up at third on the throw home, then took off for home and scored when an errant throw from Rays catcher Mike Zunino landed in left field. That little-league home run gave the Sox a 5-0 lead.

Kiké Hernández and Alex Verdugo tacked on two additional insurance runs with an RBI double and sacrifice fly in the sixth, then the Boston bats exploded for four runs to blow this one open in the eighth.

Those four runs — all of which were scored off former Red Sox reliever Chris Mazza — came on a Verdugo run-scoring single and three-run, opposite field home run off the bat of Martinez.

Martinez’s second home run of the season traveled 326 feet before clanking off Pesky’s pole in shallow right field. It also gave the Sox a commanding 11-2 lead, which would go on to be Monday’s final score.

Some notes from this victory:

From Red Sox Notes:

Rays outfielder Randy Arozarena made one of the catches of the season in the fourth inning of Monday’s contest and robbed Hunter Renfroe of multiple bases — and multiple RBI — in the process of doing so.

Next up for the Red Sox, it’s the middle game of this three-game set on Tuesday night. Left-hander Martin Perez will be making his first start of the season for Boston, and he will be opposed by right-hander Tyler Glasnow for Tampa Bay.

First pitch Tuesday is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN. Red Sox going for their first series victory of the season.

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

3 positive takeaways from an otherwise disastrous opening weekend for the Red Sox

In case you missed it, the Red Sox got swept by the Orioles over the weekend to kick off the 2021 season, marking the first time since 2012 they have started a season by losing three straight out of the gates.

It’s also the first time since 1948 that they have started the home portion of their schedule with three consecutive losses at Fenway Park.

In the process of getting swept by the O’s these last three days, the Sox never held a lead, went a collective 2-for-18 with runners in scoring position, and were outscored 18-5 over 27 total innings.

To put it simply, Boston’s 2021 campaign is off to a rather disastrous start, but it is still early, meaning there is time to turn things around.

Taking that optimistic outlook into consideration, there were still some positives the Red Sox can take away from their first series of the year. Here are three of them:

Tanner Houck picks up where he left off in 2021 debut

Tanner Houck (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Pitching with family members in attendance for the first time as a major-leaguer, Tanner Houck carried over the success he enjoyed last September (0.53 ERA in three starts) into his first start of the 2021 season on Saturday.

Starting in place of the injured Eduardo Rodriguez (left elbow inflammation), the 24-year-old surrendered three runs — two of which were earned) on six hits, one walk, and eight strikeouts, though his line was not indicative as to how well he pitched on account of some sloppy defense behind him.

“He did a good job,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said about the righty. “He was good. Velocity was up, moving all the pitches. He did an outstanding job. Good fastball up in the zone, controlled his emotions. He did an amazing job for us.”

Despite the strong performance on Saturday, there is no guarantee that Houck will make his next start the next time through Boston’s rotation. That all depends on if Rodriguez, who threw a simulated game in Worcester on Friday, is ready to return to action later this week.

Garrett Whitlock shines in major-league debut

Garrett Whitlock (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

After being selected by the Red Sox from the Yankees in the major-league phase of the 2020 Rule 5 Draft, Garrett Whitlock emerged as one of the stories of spring training out of Fort Myers.

The 24-year-old allowed just one run over four Grapefruit League appearances this spring on his way to making the Sox’ Opening Day roster.

On Sunday, Whitlock made his big-league debut, pitching in relief of Garrett Richards and Josh Taylor, who combined to surrender 10 runs to the Orioles in just 2 2/3 innings of work.

Coming on with two outs and runners at every base in the top half of the third, the right-hander got out of the jam by getting Maikel Franco to fly out to right field. He then proceeded to retire nine of the next 12 hitters he faced while striking out five and not walking a single batter.

Per Red Sox Notes, Whitlock became the first Red Sox pitcher ever to allow zero runs, zero walks, and punch out five-plus hitters in a big-league debut. 39 of the 59 pitches he threw went for strikes.

Sunday’s outing marked Whitlock’s first time pitching in a competitive (non-spring training) environment since undergoing Tommy John surgery in July 2019. He had never pitched above Double-A prior to going under the knife.

“It was a dream come true,” the Alabama native — who had his mother and wife on hand to watch him –said in regards to making his major-league debut on Sunday. “It was an honor to be wearing the Red Sox name making that dream come true. I just can’t thank everyone with the Red Sox enough for giving me a chance.”

Of the 59 pitches Whitlock threw on Sunday, 44 were two-seam fastballs, 13 were changeups, and two were sliders. Seven of the eight swings-and-misses he induced on the day came on the two-seamer.

“He was good,” said Cora. “He pounded the strike zone, used his fastball up, mixed up his offspeed pitches. It was fun to watch.”

J.D. Martinez off to hot start at the plate

J.D. Martinez (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

While the majority of the Red Sox lineup stumbled out of the gate against Orioles pitching over the weekend, J.D. Martinez did not.

Following a 2-for-4 showing in which he crushed his first home run of the season on Sunday, the 33-year-old slugger is now 6-for-12 with that one homer, three doubles, three RBI, and two runs scored to kick off his 2021 campaign.

The homer he hit on Sunday — which traveled 429 feet to dead center field off a 92 mph fastball from Bruce Zimmermann — was the 239th of Martinez’s career.

For Martinez, who would surely like to put a dismal 2020 season (seven homers, .680 OPS in 54 games) behind him, what he did over the weekend was a great place to start.

“He’s such a workaholic,” Cora said of the three-time All-Star. “In spring training, we saw him swinging and swinging and swinging, chasing pitches. All of the sudden, boom. The strike zone gets smaller, he gets pitches he can handle and he’s driving the ball. That was a good pitch down in the zone and he put a good swing on it It’s good to see him start off this way.”

So for how miserable of an opening series the Red Sox had, there were still some bright spots that indicate that this team may be better than the slow start they have gotten off to would show.

Coming off a three-game sweep at the hands of the Orioles, though, things do no get any easier for the Sox with the reigning American League champion Tampa Bay Rays coming into town for another three-game set that begins on Monday night.

If Boston wants to show that they can compete and play winning baseball at Fenway Park, they will need to turn things around quickly or otherwise risk falling out of contention much sooner than anticipated.

“We know where we’re at. It wasn’t a good weekend,” Cora said on Sunday. “But at the end of the day, it’s only three games. We have a chance to come tomorrow and do it again. We have to be better. Like I said, we have stuff to work on. I still feel the same way about the team five days ago than right now. We have a good team, but we still have to work, and work for our stuff.

“We just got to be ready,” he added. “And the goal whether it’s Baltimore, Tampa, or Seattle, it doesn’t matter. You try to win the series. So tomorrow is a new series. We got a chance to win it and we’ll go at it.”

(Picture of Tanner Houck: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Astros release veteran reliever Steve Cishek; Could Red Sox be in play for Falmouth native’s services now that he is back on the open market?

The Astros have released reliever Steve Cishek after the veteran reliever requested to be cut loose by the club on Thursday, according to The Athletic’s Jake Kaplan.

Cishek, 34, originally signed a minor-league deal with Houston last month and had until this week to opt out of his contract if he wasn’t going to be added to the Astros’ 40-man roster.

Per Kaplan, the Falmouth, Mass. native was going to make $2.25 million if he made the Astros’ Opening Day roster out of spring training, which is a price the club wasn’t willing to pay given how close they are to the $210 million luxury tax threshold.

Coming off a 2020 campaign with the White Sox in which he struggled to the tune of a 5.40 ERA and 5.64 FIP over 22 relief appearances and 20 innings of work before being released in late September, Cishek had been looking better this spring.

Through his first seven outings with the Astros, the 6-foot-5, 215 pounder yielded three earned runs — all of which came on home runs — on seven hits and two walks to go along with 12 strikeouts over 7 2/3 innings pitched in Grapefruit League play.

Known for his sidearm delivery, Cishek has racked up 132 total saves over the course of an 11-year big-league career between the Marlins, Cardinals, Mariners, Rays, Cubs, and White Sox. He was originally selected by Miami in the fifth round of the 2007 amateur draft out of Carson-Newman University in Jefferson, Tenn.

Because of his local connections, Cishek always seemed like someone who would pitch for the Red Sox at some point before calling it a career.

MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo tweeted earlier Thursday that he would “expect the Red Sox to be involved with some relievers who are opting out of deals this week.”

Boston has their own bullpen competition going on at the moment between the likes of Austin Brice, Phillips Valdez, Colten Brewer, and Kevin McCarthy, but it would not be too surprising to see Chaim Bloom and Co. bring in a more established reliever based off the names that have been made available these past few days.

Bloom does after all have a history with Cishek going back to when the Rays acquired the righy reliever from the Mariners in a July 2017 trade.

(Picture of Steve Cishek: Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)