Red Sox

4 takeaways as Red Sox power their way to win over Indians

The Red Sox won their third straight game despite battling a COVID outbreak.

Fans cheer as Boston Red Sox's Hunter Renfroe tosses his bat after hitting a three-run home run during the seventh inning of the team's baseball game against the Cleveland Indians at Fenway Park, Friday, Sept. 3, 2021, in Boston. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm) AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)

The Red Sox continued their win streak on Friday, defeating the Indians 8-5. Four homers and a five-run seventh inning proved to be key to Boston’s win.

Here’s what happened and here are four takeaways from Friday.

The big picture.

Kyle Schwarber got the day started for the Red Sox bats, hitting a leadoff homer in the first. Kevin Plawecki and Jonathan Araúz each hit solo homers in the second and fourth innings, respectively, putting the Sox up 3-0.

Boston’s bats stalled in its third time through the lineup though, with its seven next hitters going down following Araúz’s home run.

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The Indians took advantage. José Ramírez hit a solo homer in the fourth off Red Sox starter Nathan Eovaldi and Austin Hedges hit a two-run homer in the seventh to tie the game up.

That’s when the Red Sox turned it around. In the bottom of the seventh, Travis Shaw — pinch-hitting for Jack Lopez — drew a walk and Araúz hit a double to put runners in scoring position. Schwarber knocked both runners in with a double. Four batters later, with Schwarber on and Alex Verdugo reaching base via an intentional walk, Hunter Renfroe gave the Red Sox some cushion with a three-run homer, putting them up 8-3.

The Indians got a run back in the eighth and ninth, but the deficit was too big and the Red Sox held on to win their third straight.

Player of the game.

Kyle Schwarber: 2-for-5, home run, double, three RBIs.

The addition of Kyle Schwarber continues to pay dividends for the Red Sox. His first-inning homer was his fourth since joining the Red Sox. Schwarber’s batting average moved up to .344 and his on-base percentage is up to .468 in his 18 games in Boston.

While Schwarber hasn’t played first base nearly as much as the Red Sox hoped (he started in left on Friday), Schwarber’s bat is everything the Red Sox hoped for.

What it means.

The Red Sox not only added to their win streak, but they also added to their wild card lead, too. The Athletics fell to the Blue Jays after Marcus Semien hit a walk-off three-run homer. The Red Sox now hold a three-game lead for the final wild-card spot.

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However, they weren’t able to gain ground on the Yankees, who defeated the Orioles in 11 innings. The Red Sox trail the Yankees by two games for the top wild-card spot in the AL.

Takeaways.

1. With Kiké Hernández out due to COVID-19, someone’s had to step up and take his spot as the leadoff hitter.

Kyle Schwarber might be a natural in that spot. Prior to joining the Red Sox, Schwarber was the leadoff hitter in Washington, where he shined this season — hitting a league-best seven first-inning leadoff home runs.

Schwarber added his eighth first-inning leadoff homer of the season on Friday, needing just two pitches to take Indians starter Cal Quantrill deep.

“See it and hit it,” Schwarber told NESN of his approach. “Just being able to get a good pitch and hit it. First pitch of the game, you know what, if it’s there, it’s there. If it’s not, it’s not. I’m just trying to take it like it’s a regular at bat, like I would if it’s the fifth, sixth, seventh, whatever inning and not just going up there and automatically hacking at the first pitch. I want to be in a certain spot. I fouled off the first pitch and got the slider over the middle of the plate and was able to put it out.”

Over his four games as the team’s leadoff hitter, Schwarber’s only 4-for-16 (.250) from the plate, getting on base in 6-of-18 plate appearances. Even though his numbers aren’t as impressive as Boston’s leadoff hitter, getting the instant offense on Friday is certainly what the Sox hope for out of Schwarber.

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2. Nathan Eovaldi gave the Red Sox their third straight quality start on Friday. He got off to a good start, retiring nine of the Indians’ first 11 hitters.

A solo homer from José Ramírez in the fourth inning ended the shutout, but Eovaldi battled back by striking out the next three Indians hitters. Eovaldi continued to look solid in the fifth and sixth innings, allowing just two of eight hitters on base.

Every starter has a point though where the tank nears empty. That happened in the seventh for Eovaldi, who allowed a single to Bobby Bradley before giving up a two-run homer to Austin Hedges in the next at-bat. Eovaldi’s night ended after allowing a single in the following at-bat.

Even though Eovaldi’s ending didn’t look strong, he had a solid night. He struck out nine Indians hitters, allowing six hits and three walks over 6.1 innings pitched. His outing on Friday comes after Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez had impressive starts in Tampa. While the Red Sox are dealing with a less than ideal situation health-wise, what they’ve seen over the last three days is what they’ve ideally hoped for from their top three starting pitchers.

3. After Adam Ottavino struck out two Indians hitters to end the seventh inning, Ryan Brasier entered the game for his first appearance of 2021. The reliever’s battled multiple injuries this season, first going on the 60-day IL in May due to a calf injury.

Brasier suffered another injury in June when he was struck in the head by a line drive while pitching a simulated game, pushing back his big league return even further.

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Brasier was able to get the first two hitters he faced in the eighth out, but got himself into trouble. He gave up a shallow single to Bradley Zimmer and a walk to Daniel Johnson. Bobby Bradley’s single to left scored Zimmer from second, ending Brasier’s night.

“Super excited obviously. Felt good to be back on a big-league mound after nearly a full year,” Brasier said. “Obviously, the results weren’t what I wanted for my first one back. A couple of bad luck hits but we’ve got one of the best relievers in baseball in [Garrett Whitlock] and he did what he’s been doing all year for us.”

Garrett Whitlock was able to get out of the eighth and pitched the ninth, allowing a run on three hits.

4. The Red Sox continue to stay afloat as they battle a COVID-19 outbreak. Jarren Duran was the ninth player added to the COVID-19 related IL on Friday, testing positive for the virus, manager Alex Cora told reporters after the game.

The resiliency the team showed in the first half of the season has been there over the past week, with the Red Sox going 5-3 since they received their first positive COVID test of the outbreak. Of course, they’re getting contributions from their big-name players like Kyle Schwarber, Chris Sale, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Nathan Eovaldi, but they’ve gotten some contributions from the guys who’ve filled in, too.

One of those fill-ins is Jonathan Araúz. Last Friday, he hit the game-winning homer against the Indians just hours after getting called up from Triple-A Worcester. This Friday, he hit another homer against the Indians and helped the seventh-inning scoring outburst.

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Another is Jack Lopez, who got his first career hit on a double in the second inning on Friday.

Cora was proud of the way Araúz and Lopez have stepped up.

“The quality of the at-bats from Jonathan since Cleveland have been very solid,” Cora said. “Yesterday, he had a great game in Tampa. Today with a big swing. Him being patient, swinging at strikes, fouling off stuff, and not just giving outs away. He pulled one for a homer. He hit a ground ball up the middle with Jack at second. He had the double. He’s been solid. Defensively, he’s been great. He’s moving well. They’re paying attention to the game.”

“We told them: ‘Just come up here and play defense. We want you guys to catch the ball and let the big guys do their part. But, we’ll take the home runs, we’ll take the doubles. We’re happy with that.”

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