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The Red Sox extended their win streak to four games on Saturday, defeating the Orioles 9-3.
Here’s a look at everything that happened in Saturday’s game and what it means going forward.
The Orioles bats got off to a quick start, with Ruan Mountcastle hitting a two-run homer on the second pitch of the game.
But the Red Sox immediately responded with three runs in the bottom of the first. Rafael Devers knocked in a run with a single and Bobby Dalbec scored two with a double.
Baltimore tied it back up in the second with Austin Wynns’s solo homer.
After three scoreless innings, the Red Sox finally got on the board again in the fifth. Xander Bogaerts hit an RBI single to center to make it 4-3 Red Sox. They added to their lead in the sixth with a Hunter Renfroe RBI double and a Bogaerts three-run homer to give the Red Sox’ bullpen some cushion.
Boston’s final run of the day game in the seventh on a fielder’s choice when Christian Vázquez grounded into a double play. The Red Sox’ bullpen continued to keep the Orioles off the board, with Garrett Richards putting the finishing touches in the ninth with two strikeouts.
Xander Bogaerts: 3-for-5, one home run, 4 RBIs.
The Red Sox’ cleanup hitter practically played his role to perfection on Saturday. In the first, he hit a single to keep Boston’s inning rolling, setting up for Dalbec’s RBI double later in the frame.
He displayed clutch hitting in the middle innings. Bogaerts’s RBI single broke the tie in the fifth, using a five-pitch at-bat to score Devers from second.
Bogaerts punctuated his afternoon with a three-run shot over the Green Monster in the sixth. While it ultimately wasn’t needed, Bogaerts hasn’t been hitting them out of the park as much in the second half. Saturday’s homer was just his second of the month.
With the win, the Red Sox continue to hold the top spot in the American League wild-card race. Playing the now 101-loss Orioles certainly increases their chances of maintaining their lead. They’ll get another chance to boost their win total on Sunday against the Orioles and still have three more games against them later in the month.
As for Red Sox’ rivals, the Yankees were blown out 11-3 by the Indians, while the Blue Jays beat the Twins, 6-2. The Red Sox are now 1.5 games ahead of the Yankees and a game ahead of the Blue Jays.
1. Bobby Dalbec has had his way with the Orioles in their last two series at Fenway.
In August, Dalbec went 5-for-12 with three homers and six RBIs over a three-game set. He’s continued that this weekend, hitting a solo homer Friday night and adding two RBIs on Saturday while going 2-for-3 on the day.
Of course, the easy thing to say about Dalbec’s play against the Orioles is that “Yeah, it’s the Orioles. He should be hitting well against them.” But it’s also a small sign of how well he’s played since August, when he won the AL Rookie of the Month. He’s hitting .306 in September, which would be a second straight month of him hitting .300 or better if it holds.
2. Nick Pivetta continues to be shaky.
Saturday’s Red Sox starter was tagged quickly, giving up two runs after his first two pitches of the game. Pivetta allowed a single in his third pitch of the game and walked the next batter, adding more trouble to an already bad inning.
Pivetta was able to get the next three Orioles hitters out, though. But he ran into trouble for much of the afternoon, giving up a homer and a single in the second. Pivetta retired the side in order in the third, but gave up back-to-back singles to start the fourth. He was able to force a double play in the next at-bat, but Pivetta’s day ended there. His final line: 3 2/3 innings pitched with three earned runs on seven hits, three strikeouts, and a walk.
Saturday’s game was the fourth time in five starts that Pivetta either lasted less than five innings or allowed four earned runs.
3. Tanner Houck’s spot in the starting rotation appears to be in doubt after his start on Wednesday, but he might have carved out a solid role for himself in the bullpen.
Houck pitched 2 2/3 innings on Saturday. He didn’t allow a run and only gave up one hit in his outing, striking out three Orioles along the way.
This wasn’t the first time the Red Sox used Houck for multiple innings out of the bullpen in an appearance. In July, Houck pitched three scoreless innings against the Yankees out of the bullpen, allowing just one hit and a walk in that outing.
While Houck’s difficulties of lasting long in games he starts is well stated, he doesn’t have to worry about facing the opposing lineup for a third time if he’s pitching out of the bullpen.
4. Kiké Hernández has been in a bit of a slump since returning from COVID-19. Entering Saturday, he was just 4-for-36 in nine games, including a hitless game on Friday.
Hernández might have had a tide-changing performance on Saturday, though. He started the game off with a double off the Monster, setting the Red Sox up to get an early lead.
Hernández got his second hit of the day in the sixth, hitting a deep single to left to get the inning started. He scored from first in the next at-bat when Hunter Renfroe hit a double into right-center, giving the Red Sox a 5-3 lead.
Scoring both times he got on base, Saturday was the first time since his return from COVID-19 that Hernández scored twice in one game. Of course, that’s not all on him, but it’s hard to do that when he’s only reached base in six of his 38 plate appearances over his last nine games.
Through his recent struggles, manager Alex Cora has kept Hernández in the leadoff spot. He rewarded Cora for sticking with him in that spot.
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