Red Sox generate power with new defensive roster to beat Nationals

“It’s that roller coaster. It’s fun, but it’s not fun. It’s stressful, but it’s not stressful, ”said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “This is where we are at. We must take advantage of each day. Few teams can say they’re still on the hunt, so just try to make the most of it.

Desperate for the offense after a 1-5 stretch in which the Sox scored three points or less in all of their losses, Cora attempted a new defensive roster in an effort to try and generate as much power as possible while playing. in Nationals Park, with no DH benefit. He moved Kiké Hernández from center to second, allowing Kyle Schwarber (left), Hunter Renfroe (center), JD Martinez (right) and Bobby Dalbec (first goal) to lengthen the middle of the frame.

For four innings, the setup gave no offensive dividends. In the spirit of the three consecutive Orioles left-handers who formed the Red Sox roster this week, Nationals left-hander Josh Rogers also sliced ​​early in the Sox roster as the team failed to advance. a runner over first base in five scoreless innings. Over the course of four innings, the Sox have had six pop-ups on the first or second pitch of their at-bat.

At this point, the Red Sox squad’s biggest dividends have come onto the pitch behind Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez. The southpaw – a future free agent who was potentially making his last start with the Sox – operated without a safety net, the stakes of every pitch in a scoreless game are high.

Rodriguez blocked runners in the second and third in the first inning, then after charging the goals (the second of four goals on Juan Soto and consecutive singles) with no outs in the fourth, he took out Jordy Mercer, retired Carter Kieboom on a foul, and induced a second place dribbler from Andrew Stevenson.

Stevenson’s downman looked destined to turn into a hit in the field. But Hernández – who made his first second start since September 12 only because Cora used what he called his “offensive linemen” in the outfield – loaded the ball onto the grass of the infield, l did it with his bare hands and made a sprawling jump towards the first one. The pitch slipped off the grass, but first baseman Dalbec blocked it to maintain the scoreless tie.

“It’s a Gold Glove game there,” said Rodriguez. “It’s something you don’t see every day.”

Rodriguez encountered another warning sign in the fifth, when a two-out single took Soto home with two strikeouts. Through seven tense throws which included three powerful swings resulting in foul balls, Rodriguez and Soto looked at each other without blinking.

In the eighth offer, Rodriguez dotted the top of the strike zone with a 92 mph fastball. Soto swung through her, ending the round and seemingly energizing the Sox.

After Xander Bogaerts led the sixth with a single and became the first Sox base runner to move up to second when Martinez delivered his own single to one out, Renfroe erased a 91 mph meatball for a 423 foot circuit at deep center left. Renfroe’s 31st Homer gave the Sox a 3-0 lead.

A step later, the lead fell to 4-0, as Dalbec threw a skyscraper to the left that apparently followed the Capitol rotunda, his 25th homer of the year – the sixth against a Red rookie. Sox.

Bobby Dalbec (left) followed Hunter Renfroe’s three-point shot in the sixth with a solo homerun, much to Kyle Schwarber’s excitement.Mitchell Layton / Getty

Armed with a 4-0 advantage, Rodriguez came back for the sixth, but quickly courted trouble. He gave a starting walk and ceded a single to Kiebert Ruiz, prompting Cora to call reliever Ryan Brasier.

Brasier is emerging as a key contributor at the end of the round. Friday marked the third time he had participated in so many games. He showed no evidence of fatigue, hitting one down and two more by strikeout to extend his scoreless streak to seven.

Brasier’s excellent work closed the book on Rodriguez, who allowed five hits and three walks in addition to five scoreless innings, including six strikeouts. The longtime Sox starter ended his year on a higher, posting a 2.21 ERA in his last four starts.

“We needed him until the end,” Renfroe said. “He pitched phenomenally. “

However, the enclosure of the relievers of the Sox almost faltered. Matt Barnes ceded a solo homerun to Alcides Escobar in seventh on a 93 mph fastball, and Adam Ottavino ceded a solo homerun to Jordy Mercer in eighth – the fifth homer Ottavino has relinquished in his last 10 games. – to make 4 -2.

Hansel Robles then got a thrilling save – his third with the Red Sox – in the ninth, marching Soto and Josh Bell with two strikeouts before sending Ruiz flying to the right on a fastball in the middle.

The victory ensured the Sox – who entered the day tied with the Mariners for second in the Wild Card – will remain in contention for a playoff spot at least until Sunday, the scheduled final day of the season. regular. They stayed one game ahead of the Blue Jays (who beat the Orioles) and moved within one game of the Yankees (who lost to the Rays) for Wild Card top seed.

“These games mean a lot. Don’t let anyone say they don’t matter, ”Renfroe said. “We know the urgency of needing to win. We see the finish line. We just need to keep being strong, finish strong, and get back to October baseball. “

Alex Speier can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @alexspeier.

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