Alex Verdugo comes through with go-ahead 3-run home run as Red Sox top Guardians, 4-2, for seventh straight series win

The Red Sox clinched their seventh straight series victory on Saturday with their second straight win over the Guardians at Progressive Field. Boston defeated Cleveland by a final score of 4-2 to extend its winning streak to six consecutive games and improve to 41-31 on the season.

Josh Winckowski, who was born in nearby Toledo, made his fourth start of the season for the Sox. The rookie right-hander allowed two earned runs on six hits and one walk to go along with four strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings of work.

Both runs Winckowski gave up to Cleveland came in the bottom of the third. There, Steven Kwan led off by drawing a seven-pitch walk and immediately scoring from first on an RBI triple from Amed Rosario. Rosario then scored on a Jose Ramirez sacrifice fly to give his side an early 2-0 lead.

Fast forward to the top of the sixth, and the Red Sox lineup finally got something going against Guardians ace Shane Bieber. Held to just two hits up until that point in the contest, J.D. Martinez came to the plate with two outs and ripped a line-drive single to left field. Xander Bogaerts followed with a hard-hit single of his own to put runners at first and second for Alex Verdugo.

On the third pitch he saw from Bieber, Verdugo deposited a 2-0, 81 mph knuckle-curveball on the inner half of the plate 447 feet into the left field seats to give Boston its first lead of the night at 3-2. Verdugo’s fifth home run of the season was his longest of his career to this point. The ball left his bat at a blistering 108.8 mph.

Winckowski, meanwhile, recorded the first out of the bottom of the sixth before yielding a one-out single to Franmil Reyes. Reyes would prove to be the final batter Winckowski would face as he was relieved by Jakie Diekman.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 77 (52 strikes), Winckowski induced all five of his swings-and-misses with a slider, a pitch he threw 29 times. The 23-year-old hurler also topped out at 96 mph with his sinker, a pitch he threw 36 times. His ERA on the season now sits at 3.60.

In relief of Winckowski, Diekman received the first call out of the Boston bullpen from manager Alex Cora. The veteran left-hander stranded the lone runner he inherited by getting the final two outs of the sixth.

The seventh inning was a different story, however, as Diekman allowed two of the four Guardians he faced to reach base to put runners at first and second with two outs. John Schreiber was then summoned to face Rosario, and he won that matchup by fanning the former Met on three straight strikes to retire the side and strand two more base runners.

After the Sox blew multiple scoring chances and Matt Strahm navigated his way around some trouble in the eighth, Jarren Duran provided some insurance in the top of the ninth with an RBI single that plated Bobby Dalbec.

Taking a 4-2 lead into the latter half of the ninth, Tanner Houck made quick work of the Guardians to preserve the win and notch his sixth save of the season.

With the win, the Red Sox move to 18-4 in the month of June and into sole possession of second place in the American League East. Duran went 4-for-5 with an RBI and two stolen bases. Kevin Plawecki went 2-for-4 with a double.

Next up: Hill vs. Civale

The Red Sox will go for the weekend sweep of the Guardians on Sunday afternoon. Veteran left-hander Rich Hill will get the start for Boston while former Northeastern University right-hander Aaron Civale will do the same for Cleveland.

First pitch from Progressive Field is scheduled for 1:40 p.m. eastern time.

(Picture of Alex Verdugo: Nick Cammett/Getty Images)

Franchy Cordero and Jarren Duran combine for 5 hits, Josh Winckowski puts together 6 2/3 solid innings as Red Sox top Tigers, 5-2

The Red Sox kicked off the final leg of their homestand with a series-opening win over the Tigers on Monday night. Boston defeated Detroit by a final score of 5-2 to improve to 37-31 on the season and 14-4 in the month of June.

In a pitching matchup that featured two rookie right-handers going at it, it was Josh Winckowski who prevailed over Alex Faedo.

Winckowski, making his third start of the year for the Sox, received some early scoring from his lineup and rode that to a second consecutive strong outing. The young righty allowed just two runs on seven hits and one walk to go along with two strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings of work.

The aforementioned early scoring came courtesy of J.D. Martinez right away in the first inning. After Jarren Duran drew a leadoff walk and stole second base, the former Tigers slugger drove in the speedster on an RBI single to give the Red Sox their first lead of the night.

Winckowski, meanwhile, issued a one-out walk to Riley Greene in the top of the second. That came back to bite him after Greene advanced to third on a Jeimer Candelario single and scored on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Spencer Torkelson.

With things now tied up at 1-1, the Boston bats quickly got that run back in the bottom of the third on back-to-back doubles from Duran and Rafael Devers to lead off the inning. In the fourth, Trevor Story led off by reaching on a fielding error and later scored on a sacrifice fly from Christian Vazquez. In the fifth, Franchy Cordero capped off a three-hit night by plating Alex Verdugo and Story on a two-run single to center field.

Leading by four runs now, Winckowski consistently made quick work of Detroit’s lineup before running into some trouble in the seventh. There, Torkelson reached base via a two-out single and scored all the way from first on an RBI double from Jonathan Schoop that cut Boston’s lead down to three runs at 5-2.

Schoop would be the last batter Winckowski would face as he was lifted in favor of Jake Diekman. Of the 92 pitches Winckowski threw on Monday, 59 went for strikes. The 23-year-old induced five of his seven swings-and-misses with his slider and topped out at 95.5 mph with his sinker, a pitch he threw 36 times.

In relief of Winckowski, Diekman received the first call out of the Boston bullpen from manager Alex Cora and ended things in the seventh with some defensive help from Verdugo. Matt Strahm got the first two outs of the eighth before making way for John Schreiber, who worked his way around a Javy Baez double to keep the Tigers at two runs.

Taking a 5-2 lead into the ninth, Tanner Houck recorded his fifth save in as many opportunities while working on consecutive days for the first time in his major-league career.

All told, four different Red Sox relievers (Diekman, Strahm, Schreiber, and Houck) combined for 2 1/3 scoreless frames. Offensively, Cordero and Duran accounted for five of Boston’s nine hits. Neither Cordero, Duran, or Schreiber were on the club’s Opening Day roster back in April.

Next up: Hill vs. Brieske

The Red Sox will go for yet another series win over the Tigers on Tuesday night. Veteran left-hander will start for Boston while right-hander Beau Brieske will do the same for Detroit.

First pitch from Fenway Park is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Franchy Cordero: Paul Rutherford/Getty Images)

Tanner Houck remains perfect in save opportunities as Red Sox hold on for 6-5 win over Cardinals

The Red Sox opened their three-game interleague series with the Cardinals on a nerve-racking, but positive note on Friday night. Boston held on for a 6-5 victory over to St. Louis to improve to 3-1 on the homestand and 35-30 on the season as a whole.

Michael Wacha, making his 11th start of the year, was solid against the team he began his professional career with. In his first time facing the Cardinals, the veteran right-hander allowed just one run on six hits and one walk to go along with five strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings of work.

The lone run Wacha surrendered came with no outs in the second inning, as he served up a 403-foot solo shot to Nolan Arenado that left the third baseman’s bat at a blistering 108.6 mph.

From there, though, Wacha limited the damage by retiring 12 of the next 16 batters he faced before giving up a one-out single to Paul Goldschmidt in the top of the sixth that was followed by a four-pitch walk of Arenado. At that point, the righty was given the hook by Red Sox manager Alex Cora.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 88 (54 strikes), Wacha relied on his four-seam fastball 36% of the time he was on the mound Friday and topped out at 96.3 mph with the pitch. The 30-year-old hurler also induced six swings-and-misses with his changeup, a pitch he threw 27 times. His ERA on the season now sits at 2.28.

By the time Wacha’s night had ended, the Red Sox lineup had pushed across three runs of their own. Matched up against Wacha’s mentor and former teammate in Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright, Jarren Duran made his impact felt right away with a leadoff triple in the bottom of the first inning.

Duran tripled on a 104.5 mph line drive off the center field wall. He then scored from third base when J.D. Martinez grounded into a run-scoring double play.

Fast forward to the fourth, Martinez led off with a single and immediately advanced to third on a line-drive double off the bat of Xander Bogaerts. Both runners scored when Trevor Story snuck a two-run single through the right side of the infield to give the Sox a 3-1 lead.

Picking things up in the top of the sixth, John Schreiber took over for Wacha and stranded the two runners he inherited by retiring Nolan Gorman and Tyler O’Neil. He then got the first two outs of the seventh before Matt Strahm came on to get the third.

In the bottom half of the frame, Franchy Cordero led off with a double and scored from second on a Jackie Bradley Jr. RBI single. After the pinch-hitting Bobby Dalbec moved Bradley Jr. up to third on a hard-hit double, both runners scored on a two-run single courtesy of Rafael Devers.

Taking a 6-1 lead into the eighth inning, Strahm took care of business there before fellow left-hander Austin Davis was called upon in the top of the ninth. Davis got the first two outs rather easily, then allowed the next three Cardinals he faced to reach base on a double, an RBI triple, and a hit batsman.

That prompted Cora to turn to Tanner Houck, who proceeded to give up back-to-back doubles that plated three more St. Louis runs. With Brendan Donovan representing the tying run, Houck did not falter and instead punched out National League MVP candidate on eight pitches to slam the door on the Cardinals.

Houck is now 3-for-3 in save opportunities as he secured the 6-5 win for the Red Sox.

Next up: Crawford vs. Hudson

The Red Sox will go for another series victory on Saturday by sending right-hander Kutter Crawford to the mound for his second start of the season. The Cardinals will counter with fellow righty Dakota Hudson.

First pitch from Fenway Park is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. eastern time on FOX.

(Picture of Christian Vazquez and Tanner Houck: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Christian Vázquez comes through in 10th inning to lift Red Sox to 6-5 win over Angels

It took 10 innings and nearly four hours to accomplish, but the Red Sox won their sixth straight game on Tuesday with a hard-fought, come-from-behind win over the Angels at Angel Stadium.

Boston defeated Los Angeles by a final score of 6-5 in 10 innings to improve to 29-27 on the season and a perfect 5-0 on its current west coast road trip.

Garrett Whitlock, making his ninth start of the season for the Sox, allowed four earned runs on six hits, zero walks, and five strikeouts over just four innings of work. The right-hander served up a two-run home run to Mike Trout in the bottom of the first before giving up another run on a fielder’s choice in the second and a Max Stassi RBI double in the third.

Whitlock ended his night by striking out the side in the bottom half of the fourth. The 25-year-old finished with a final pitch count of 71 (47 strikes). He did not factor into Tuesday’s decision, though he did raise his ERA on the season to 3.51.

While Whitlock may have struggled, the Red Sox lineup certainly backed him up out of the gate. With left-hander Jose Suarez on the mound for the Angels, Trevor Story jump-started a three-run second inning with a leadoff double. Alex Verdugo and Christian Vazquez then both reached to fill the bases for Christian Arroyo, who drove in Story on a force out. Back-to-back RBI singles from Bobby Dalbec and Enrique Hernandez allowed Verdugo and Arroyo to score and give the Sox their first lead of the night at 3-2.

Picking things up in the middle of the fifth inning, Jake Diekman received the first call out of the Boston bullpen from manager Alex Cora. Taking over for Whitlock with his team trailing by a run, Diekman issued a leadoff walk to Luis Rengifo, who advanced to second on a wild pitch and scored from there on a run-scoring double off the bat of Jo Adell.

The veteran lefty managed to limit the damage to just one run, though, and the Sox immediately got that one run back when Dalbec plated Verdugo on an RBI single a half-inning later.

After Hirokazu Sawamura retired the side in order in the sixth, Boston struck once again in the seventh with Rafael Devers ripping a leadoff double and scoring on a 31-foot RBI single from Story that deflected off the leg of Angels reliever Ryan Tepera.

Sawamura also got the first out in the latter half of the seventh before making way for Austin Davis, who worked his way around a two-out walk to keep things tied at five runs apiece.

Tanner Houck was next up, and he ensured this one would head to extra innings by working a 1-2-3 bottom of the eighth and stranding a runner at second base in a scoreless ninth.

With Story in scoring position representing the potential go-ahead run, Vazquez came through by lacing a 96 mph RBI single to right field off Jaime Barria. The speedy Story easily scored from second to give the Sox a 6-5 lead.

Matt Strahm was tasked with keeping the score that way in the bottom of the 10th. He fanned both Jared Walsh and Stassi before getting the pinch-hitting Kurt Suzuki to ground out to Hernandez to seal the win and earn the save.

Hernandez, who started in center field on Tuesday, had moved to shortstop in the ninth inning after Xander Bogaerts was removed from the game due to left shoulder tightness.

So, despite leaving 10 runners on base as a team, the Red Sox came away with another one-run win on Tuesday. That five different relievers combined to surrender just one run in six innings was undoubtedly key.

Next up: Eovaldi vs. Detmers

The Red Sox will look to extend their winning streak to seven consecutive games when they send right-hander Nathan Eovaldi to the mound on Wednesday night. The Angels will counter with left-hander Reid Detmers.

First pitch from Angel Stadium is scheduled for 9:38 p.m. eastern time on NESN and MLB Network.

(Picture of Christian Vazquez: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Alex Verdugo and Jackie Bradley Jr. lead the way offensively as Red Sox bounce back with 7-1 win over Reds

The Red Sox ensured their flight to San Francisco would be a happy one as they defeated the Reds, 7-1, at Fenway Park on Wednesday night. With the win, Boston splits its two-game series with Cincinnati while improving to 24-27 on the season.

Matched up against Hunter Greene out of the gate, it took until the fourth inning for the Sox lineup to get to the Reds rookie right-hander. Rafael Devers led off with a wall-ball double and advanced to third base on a J.D. Martinez single. Xander Bogaerts drove in Devers to break the seal while Alex Verdugo followed by lacing a 106.8 mph two-run double to right-center field to score both Martinez and Bogaerts.

Those four consecutive hits gave Boston a 3-0 lead. Jackie Bradley Jr. tacked on one more by plating Verdugo on a two-out RBI single to center field. A four-run fourth inning proved to be beneficial for Garrett Whitlock.

Making his eighth start of the season for the Red Sox, Whitlock allowed just one unearned run on five hits, no walks, and no strikeouts over six innings of work. It was his first time since moving to the starting rotation that he did not strike out a single batter, though he did induce three double plays.

The lone run Whitlock gave up came in his sixth and final inning. There, the right-hander yielded a leadoff single to Aristedes Aquino, who proceeded to steal second base and advance to third on a Christian Vazquez throwing error. Aquino then scored from third on a Nick Senzel groundout, but he limited the damage to one by getting Brandon Drury to fly out to right field to retire the side.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 73 (49 strikes), the 25-year-old hurler lowered his ERA on the season down to 3.02 while earning his first career winning decision as a starting pitcher in the majors.

In relief of Whitlock, fellow righty Tanner Houck received the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen from Red Sox manager Alex Cora. He needed all of 12 pitches to sit down the side in order in the seventh before stranding one in a scoreless top of the eighth.

A half-inning later, Bradley Jr. provided some late insurance with a bases-clearing, three-run triple off Jeff Hoffman. Bradley Jr.’s first triple of the season gave the Sox a comfortable 7-1 lead. John Schreiber closed things out in the ninth with some defensive help from Trevor Story to secure a six-run victory.

All told, three different Red Sox pitchers (Whitlock, Houck, Schreiber) struck out just one of the 31 batters they collectively faced on Wednesday.

Next up: On to Oakland

The Red Sox will now board an overnight flight to San Francisco before enjoying an off day in the Bay Area on Thursday and opening a three-game weekend series against the 20-33 Athletics on Friday. It marks the start of a 10-game west coast road trip for the Sox.

Boston will turn to right-hander Nathan Eovaldi in the opener while Oakland will roll with fellow righty James Kaprielian. First pitch from Oakland Coliseum is scheduled for 9:40 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Alex Verdugo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Red Sox fail to complete sweep of Rangers, end road trip with 7-1 loss in Texas

The Red Sox were unable to finish off a three-game sweep of the Rangers to close out the weekend. Boston instead saw their winning streak snapped at two games following a 7-1 loss to Texas at Globe Life Field on Sunday afternoon. Their record is now 13-21.

In what was a bullpen game for the Sox’ pitching staff, Austin Davis served as the opener while also making the first start of his major-league career. The left-hander pitched well, allowing just one walk to go along with two strikeouts over two-plus scoreless and hitless innings of work. 19 of the 35 pitches he threw went for strikes.

Davis’ day came to an end after issuing a leadoff walk to Nathaniel Lowe in the bottom of the third. He was replaced by Tanner Houck, who took a combined no-hit bid into the fifth inning.

Shortly before Houck took the mound for the bottom half of the fifth, the Boston lineup finally got something going against old friend Martin Perez in their half of the fifth. With two outs in the inning, Enrique Hernandez singled and immediately came into score on a 110.6 mph RBI double off the bat of Rafael Devers.

That gave the Red Sox their first lead of the day at 1-0. Houck, however, gave that run right back when he served up a leadoff homer to Kole Calhoun a half-inning later, which knotted things back up at 1-1.

After Houck got through the rest of the fifth, manager Alex Cora next turned to fellow righty Ryan Brasier out of the Boston bullpen. Brasier, in turn, got hit hard. He gave up a one-out double to Marcus Semien that was followed by a five-pitch walk of Corey Seager. Jonah Heim fanned for the second out, but Adolis Garcia demolished a three-run home run 413 feet to right-center field.

Calhoun followed in Garcia’s footsteps by going deep again moments later. His second big fly of the afternoon put the Rangers up 5-1. Tyler Danish took over for Brasier in the seventh and surrendered another homer to Adolis Garcia. This one was good for two runs and gave Texas a commanding 7-1 lead.

Besides what they did in the fifth inning, the Red Sox bats were held in check by Perez and three relievers out of the Rangers’ bullpen. After exploding for 10 runs on Saturday, Boston went a measly 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position on Sunday while leaving nine runners on base as a team.

If there are any positives to take away from Sunday’s performance, it’s that Devers extended his hitting streak to eight consecutive games with a 3-for-4 showing at the plate. J.D. Martinez, on the other hand, went 1-for-4 with a single to extend his hitting streak to 16 straight games.

Next up: Back to Boston

The Red Sox will head back to Boston and kick off a seven-game homestand by first welcoming the Astros into town for the first of three on Monday night. Boston will give right-hander Garrett Whitlock the ball in the series opener while Houston will roll with fellow righty Jake Odorizzi.

First pitch from Fenway Park is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN and MLB Network.

(Picture of Kole Calhoun: Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

Red Sox place Michael Wacha on 15-day injured list, recall Tyler Danish from Triple-A Worcester

Prior to getting swept by the White Sox on Sunday, the Red Sox placed right-hander Michael Wacha on the 15-day injured list due to left intercostal irritation. In a corresponding move, fellow righty Tyler Danish was recalled from Triple-A Worcester.

Wacha had been slated to start Sunday’s series finale against Chicago at Fenway Park, but was scratched shortly before first pitch due to what Boston manager Alex Cora described as left side soreness.

At that time, Cora was hopeful that Wacha would be able to pitch in Texas next weekend since he underwent an MRI on Saturday that came back clean. Cora also told reporters (including MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith) that the Red Sox were being cautious with the 30-year-old hurler since he has a prior history of oblique injuries.

Since his stint on the injured list was backdated to May 5, the soonest Wacha could return to the mound for the Red Sox is May 20. This means that he will not be available for next weekend’s series against the Rangers as Cora had originally hoped.

Through five starts for Boston this season, Wacha has posted a miniscule 1.38 ERA and 3.89 FIP to go along with 19 strikeouts to 11 walks over 26 innings of work. The 6-foot-6, 215 pound righty led the Sox in bWAR (1.4) coming into play on Sunday.

With Wacha sidelined, Tanner Houck started in his place in Sunday’s series finale and allowed three runs on four hits, no walks, one hit batsman, and two strikeouts across just 2 2/3 innings pitched. It seems likely that Houck will take Wacha’s spot in the starting rotation for the time being.

Danish, meanwhile, re-joins the Red Sox for the third time this season after previously being used as a COVID-related substitute on two separate occasions. The 27-year-old made his fifth relief appearance of the year on Sunday and has now produced a 3.18 ERA with seven strikeouts and two walks over 5 2/3 total innings at the big-league level.

(Picture of Michael Wacha: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Red Sox can’t avoid sweep, fall to White Sox, 3-2, for fifth straight loss

The Red Sox wrapped up a miserable homestand by getting swept by the White Sox at Fenway Park on Sunday afternoon. Boston fell to Chicago by a final score of 3-2 to extend their losing streak to five consecutive games and drop to 10-19 on the season.

Tanner Houck, starting in place of the injured Michael Wacha, allowed three earned runs on four hits, no walks, and one hit batsman to go along with two strikeouts over just 2 2/3 innings of work.

After facing the minimum through his first two innings, Houck ran into some trouble in the top half of the third when he yielded a leadoff single to Reese McGuire. The right-hander then plunked Josh Harrison with a 94 mph sinker to put two runners on base, both of whom advanced an additional 90 feet on a Danny Mendick sacrifice bunt. Leury Garcia plated McGuire on a softly-hit single that didn’t even reach the infield dirt. Jose Abreu followed by drilling a two-run double down the left field line that put the White Sox up, 3-0.

Abreu would be the final batter Houck would face. The 25-year-old hurler needed 39 pitches — 25 of which were strikes — to record eight outs. Of those 39 pitches, he only managed to induce four swings-and-misses while raising his ERA on the season to 5.70.

In relief of Houck, Hirokazu Sawamura received the first call out of the bullpen from Red Sox manager Alex Cora, and he stranded the lone runner he inherited in the third. A 15-minute delay that saw first base umpire Marty Foster take over behind the plate for Ron Kulpa did not prevent Sawamura from pitching a scoreless frame in the fourth as well.

Tyler Danish, just called from Triple-A Worcester in place of Wacha, worked his way around a bases-loaded jam in the fifth before giving up a leadoff single to Yasmani Grandal in the sixth. Austin Davis then came on and continued to keep the White Sox off the scoreboard despite hitting a batter.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup had been stifled by White Sox starter Dallas Keuchel through the first 5 1/2 innings of Sunday’s contest. Keuchel, who owned an 8.40 ERA coming into play Sunday, had managed to work his way around a significant amount of traffic on the basepaths up until the bottom of the sixth.

There, the Boston bats finally made the left-hander pay after Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts reached base via a pair of back-to-back one out singles. With runners on the corners and one out in the inning, J.D. Martinez drove in Devers on a productive groundout and Christian Vazquez did the same with Bogaerts on an RBI single to left field. The Red Sox now only trailed by one run at 3-2.

Boston relievers continued to impress from there, as Hansel Robles retired the side in the seventh, Jake Diekman punched out the side in the eighth, and Matt Strahm faced the minimum in the top of the ninth.

Down to their final three outs in the bottom of the ninth and now matched up against White Sox reliever Jose Ruiz, Martinez led off by drilling a double off the Green Monster before being pinch-ran for by Franchy Cordero, who represented the potential tying run.

Despite the encouraging start to the inning, Vazquez popped out to second base, Alex Verdugo struck out on a foul tip, and the pinch-hitting Kevin Plawecki flew out to center field to seal the 3-2 defeat.

Some notes from this loss:

The Red Sox went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position and left six runners on base as a team. Trevor Story, meanwhile, went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and is now batting .194 with a .545 OPS on the season.

By losing by one run on Sunday, Boston fell to 3-7 in one-run games this season.

Next up: On to Atlanta

The Red Sox will look to take advantage of their first of two off days this week before opening up a quick two-game series against the Braves in Atlanta on Tuesday night.

Georgia native and right-hander Garrett Whitlock is slated to start the opener for Boston, while Atlanta will roll with fellow righty Kyle Wright.

First pitch from Truist Park on Tuesday is scheduled for 7:20 p.m. eastern time on NESN and TBS.

(Picture of Tanner Houck: Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

Red Sox held in check by Shohei Ohtani in 8-0 shutout loss to Angels

The Red Sox lost their series against the Angels at Fenway Park on Thursday afternoon. Boston fell to Los Angeles by a final score of 8-0 in Thursday’s series finale, thus dropping to 10-16 on the season.

Rich Hill, making his fifth start of the year for the Sox, allowed just one hit and one walk to go along with six strikeouts over a season-high five scoreless innings of work. The veteran left-hander took a perfect game into the fourth before issuing a leadoff walk to Taylor Ward. He then lost his bid for a no-hitter when Shohei Ohtani lifted a one-out single 389 feet single to deep center field that Jackie Bradley Jr. lost in the sun.

With runners on the corners, Hill did not falter and instead fanned Anthony Rendon on five pitches before getting Jared Walsh to pop out to Kevin Plawecki behind home plate. He ended his day by retiring the final three batters he faced in the fifth.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 68 (40 strikes) Hill induced three swings-and-misses each with his four-seam fastball, curveball, and slider while the velocity of his pitches ranged from 66.9 to 89.8 mph. The 42-year-old did not factor into Thursday’s decision, though he did lower his ERA on the season to 2.86.

In relief of Hill, Red Sox manager Alex Cora first used Tanner Houck to piggyback off the starter. Houck, in turn, struck out the side in the sixth before running into some trouble in the seventh. After walking Rendon with one out, the right-hander served up a go-ahead two-run home run to Walsh that traveled 344 feet down the right field line and hooked inside the Pesky Pole. It also put Boston in a 2-0 hole going into the seventh-inning stretch.

To that point in the contest, an Enrique Hernandez-less Boston lineup had been held in check by Ohtani, who was making his first career start as a pitcher at Fenway Park on Thursday. The Sox certainly had their chances, though. In the bottom of the third, Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts hit back-to-back two-out singles but were stranded there by J.D. Martinez, who struck out swinging.

Two innings later, Jackie Bradley Jr. led off with a hard-hit double off Ohtani to put a runner in scoring position with no outs. He, too, was left stranded there, as was Martinez in the sixth after he reached base via a one-out double and advanced to third base on an Alex Verdugo groundout.

Ohtani capped off his strong outing by giving up another hit to Bradley Jr. with one out in the seventh, but once again left him on base by getting Plawecki to fly out before punching out Trevor Story for a fourth time.

Houck, meanwhile, came back out for the eighth and allowed the first three Angels he faced to reach on a single, hit by pitch, and single off the Green Monster. With the bases loaded and the infield in, David Fletcher ripped an RBI single to left field to plate a run and keep the line moving. Ohtani did the very same by smoking a 103.7 mph run-scoring single off the left field wall himself. Rendon knocked Houck out of the game with an RBI groundout that gave the Angels a commanding 5-0 lead.

Kutter Crawford, making his first appearance since Sunday, took over for Houck and allowed both of the runners he inherited to score on a two-run single from Walsh before getting out of the inning. The Red Sox went down in order in their half of the eighth before Crawford gave up a solo homer to Brandon Marsh in the ninth.

Down to their final three outs and trailing by a whopping eight runs, Verdugo, Franchy Cordero, and Bobby Dalbec were all retired by Max Meyers to put the finishing touches on an 8-0 shutout loss for Boston. Sox hitters went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position and left seven runners on base as a team.

Next up: Welcoming in the White Sox

The Red Sox will kick off the final leg of this six-game homestand by welcoming in the White Sox for a three-game series that begins on Friday night. Boston will roll with right-hander Nathan Eovaldi in the opener while Chicago will turn to fellow righty Vince Velasquez.

First pitch from Fenway Park is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on Apple TV+.

(Picture of Shohei Ohtani: Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

Garrett Whitlock to make third start of season for Red Sox against Angels on Wednesday

Garrett Whitlock will make his third start of the season for the Red Sox in Wednesday night’s game against the Angels at Fenway Park, manager Alex Cora said Saturday.

After opening the year in Boston’s bullpen as a multi-inning reliever, Whitlock moved into the starting rotation on April 23 and has made two starts against the Rays and Blue Jays on the road. Over 16 2/3 total innings of work, the right-hander has posted a miniscule 0.54 ERA and 2.20 FIP to go along with four walks and 20 strikeouts.

While Whitlock will remain in the Sox’ rotation for the time being, Cora would not commit to the 25-year-old as a starter beyond Wednesday since the club has three off days within the next two weeks.

“Let’s see how it goes,” Cora told reporters (including MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo). “We’ve got the off day on Monday. Obviously, we’ve got another off day a week from Monday. He’ll start on Wednesday and then we’ll keep making decisions.”

Cora also indicated that Whitlock’s pitch count on Wednesday will surpass the career-high of 61 he threw in Toronto this past Thursday. In his first time out as a starter in St. Petersburg last Saturday, the righty needed just 48 pitches (33 strikes) to toss four scoreless, one-hit innings.

With Whitlock sticking as a starter for now, Tanner Houck is expected to remain in the bullpen. Houck began the season as a member of Boston’s starting rotation but his last two appearances have come in relief after missing the team’s four-game series in Toronto on account of not being vaccinated against COVID-19.

Between the two, the Sox can mix and match with Houck and Whitlock if they so choose when it comes to their respective roles. Also, as noted by Cotillo, the impending returns of left-handers James Paxton and Chris Sale at some point this summer will further shake up the club’s rotation mix in the coming months.

(Picture of Garrett Whitlock: Joshua Bessex/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)