Analysis

4 takeaways as Alex Verdugo’s 8th-inning homer leads Red Sox over Blue Jays

For the second game in a row, an 8th-inning rally was key.

Alex Verdugo Red Sox
Red Sox OF Alex Verdugo starts his celebration as the crowd rises to their feet after his two-run homer that gave the Red Sox a 5-4 lead on Monday. Jim Davis/Globe Staff

The Red Sox trailed the Blue Jays in the bottom of the eighth inning when Alex Verdugo stepped to the plate, but with 32 comebacks already under the Red Sox’ belts, the most surprising potential outcome might have been a quiet loss.

Sure enough, Verdugo launched a two-run homer that helped clinch a 5-4 victory and comeback No. 33.

“It’s hard to get 27 outs against us,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said after the game. “We know that.”

Here’s what happened.

The Big Picture

The Red Sox took an early lead with a pair of runs in the bottom of the second inning, but they failed to make the most of a much more promising opportunity with the bases loaded and nobody out. The Blue Jays scored two in the third to even the score before Rafael Devers’s line-drive homer boosted the Red Sox back up a run.

Bo Bichette’s two-run blast put the Blue Jays up a run in the top of the fifth, and Toronto hung on to that lead for several innings. In the bottom of the eighth, however, Verdugo unloaded a 414-foot homer over the Red Sox bullpen that scored Hunter Renfroe.

Matt Barnes shut the Blue Jays down in order, and the Red Sox claimed another dramatic victory.

Player of the Game

Alex Verdugo – 2-for-4, three RBIs, one run, HR

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Not only did Verdugo give the Red Sox a lead they wouldn’t relinquish with his first homer since June 15, he got the Red Sox going in the second with his RBI single.

“I’m so happy, man,” Verdugo told the NESN broadcast after the game. “It was like the monkey off your back. It was unbelievable. The guys know I’ve been pressing for that 10th [home run]. It’s been a while since I’ve hit one. … I’m pumped, man.”

What It Means

The Rays were idle on Monday, so the Red Sox (62-39) built their lead up to 1.5 games in the AL East — two games up in the win column. They lead the Astros by half a game for the best record in the American League and are tied for the most wins in the majors with the Giants (62-37).

Takeaways

1. On July 19, the Red Sox raised some eyebrows when they tried a new lineup — sliding Jarren Duran up to the No. 2 slot and Verdugo down sixth.

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Verdugo understood the move and agreed with it, even if he couldn’t quite bring himself to like it.

“Not necessarily do I like it for my … ,” Verdugo said after Monday’s game, before trailing off and chuckling. “I like it because obviously I was struggling. It was warranted, it needed to happen. We needed a little lineup switch, and dropping down, it makes for me personally, it makes me relax a little more.”

The results are undeniable. In his last seven games since he was moved down, Verdugo is batting .318/.400/.545 with three walks (all in his first game , three RBIs and his ever elusive 10th homer of the season.

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Verdugo risked taking a moment to admire that 10th homer as it left the park.

“I said to the guys, if that isn’t going out, it would have been one of the most embarrassing moments ever,” Verdugo said. “Because right off the bat, I felt like I got that one good enough, I felt like I barreled it, right launch angle, everything. If that didn’t go, I would have been devastated. I would have just crawled into a little corner somewhere and stayed there.”

While Verdugo doesn’t love the move to sixth in the order, he knows it helped.

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“Obviously my goal is to be back in the second hole and move back up,” Verdugo said. “But it’s just take one day at a time, and keep showing that I’m having good at-bats and good swings.”

2. Franchy Cordero is 3-for-8 since his return from Worcester with a pair of walks in his first game back. On Monday, he forced Blue Jays pitcher Thomas Hatch to throw six pitches in the bottom of the second inning before lining a base hit that kept the Red Sox’s rally alive.

Cordero struck out prodigiously before his stint in Worcester. Some additional patience at the plate might go a long way.

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3. Nick Pivetta labored a bit — six hits, four runs, two walks and a homer.

Still, Cora noted Pivetta didn’t give up much hard contact aside from Bichette’s rocket.

“He didn’t feel great honestly, energy-wise out there, but I think his stuff played,” Cora said.

Pivetta said he appreciated the Red Sox’ offense and bullpen, who picked him up and prevented a loss.

“Some days you just have your C stuff, and today I had my C stuff,” Pivetta said. “I just really had to lock it in.”

4. Red Sox fans might like this, especially after Devers’ solo shot in the third inning, which maintained his league lead in RBIs (81).

The Red Sox are having fun.

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“That’s the tone is around here, we’re never out of the game,” Pivetta said. “Guys are competing at all times, and it’s great to see. We’re all picking each other up at every given time during the season, and I think that’s what’s helped us really be a strong core and really put us in a position to do some special things this year.”

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