Red Sox

9 takeaways from the Red Sox’ four-game series sweep of the Mariners

The Red Sox went 6-1 on their homestand, capping it off with a walk-off win on Sunday.

The Red Sox celebrated all weekend. Kathryn Riley/Getty Images

The Red Sox had to win games in four different ways in order to complete their series sweep of the Mariners.

The one thing that was consistent for much of the weekend was Trevor Story. After a poor first month at the plate with the Red Sox, Story has performed much better in May, having a big breakout party this weekend. The second baseman went 6-for-15 at the plate with five of his hits being home runs.

Story began the series with a historic three home run game on Thursday, driving in seven runs in the Red Sox’ 12-6 win. He hit a grand slam that was ultimately the difference in the Red Sox’ 7-3 win on Friday.

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After a hitless day on Saturday, Story found his power again on Sunday. After the Mariners tied the game 2-2 in the top half of the sixth, Story gave the Red Sox the lead again in the bottom half of the inning when he belted a solo shot over the Green Monster — where he hit four of his five home runs over the weekend.

Story’s turnaround is indicative of the Red Sox’ overall turnaround at the plate in recent weeks. Boston has scored 79 runs over the last 13 games (6.1 per game), hitting 19 homers in that stretch after hitting just 16 in their first 29 games.

“I think offensively, we’re really good,” Cora said of his team’s turnaround. “We knew it coming into the season. Guys are putting up really good at-bats. The determination is great.”

Story had a chance to add to his heroics on Sunday. With the bases loaded and the score tied 4-4 in the 10th, Story just needed a hit or a sacrifice fly to give Boston the win. His fly ball to right wasn’t hit deep enough, though as Mariners’ right fielder Taylor Trammel caught the ball in shallow right.

Luckily for Story and the Sox, they had other players who stepped up in the clutch this weekend.

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2. Franchy Cordero somehow became the Red Sox’ clutch hitter over the weekend. After Story popped out to right, Cordero hit his first homer of the season — a walk-off grand slam — to give the Red Sox an 8-4 win. Not only was it Cordero’s first home run of the season, but it was also Boston’s first walk-off win of the year after being on the opposite end of walk-off wins five times already.

Cordero’s hit on Sunday followed up his clutch hit on Saturday, when he hit a triple in the eighth inning with the game tied, 5-5. Cordero scored on the next at-bat, giving the Red Sox a 6-5 lead, which they held onto to win Saturday’s game after coming back from a 5-0 hole. Cordero is now 3-for-9 in late and close game at-bats this season.

3. Boston received contributions from other unlikely suspects at the plate over the weekend, too. Jackie Bradley Jr. hit a three-run home run in his lone at-bat in Friday’s game. The homer extended the Red Sox’ lead to 7-3 in the eighth inning, giving them some solid insurance in the ninth. He also hit a pair of doubles in Sunday’s game, with the second one coming with the game tied in the ninth inning. The Red Sox didn’t take advantage of the opportunity, but Bradley did present one at least.

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Christian Vazquez was the other unlikely suspect. The Red Sox’ catcher drove in Cordero for the winning run on Saturday, hitting a long single off the Monster. He pinched-hit for Kevin Plawecki in the 10th inning of Sunday’s game, hitting an opposite-field single to begin the inning. Vazquez went 5-for-12 at the plate over the weekend, lifting his batting average on the season from .225 to .250.

4. Nathan Eovaldi was as sharp as anyone could’ve asked for following his disastrous nine-run start against the Astros on Tuesday. The Red Sox’ starter gave up two runs on four hits, a walk, and a career-high 11 strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings on 101 pitches, tying a season-high. The only two runs Eovaldi gave up on Sunday came in the sixth inning when lefty Adam Frazier hit a home run that went just 321 feet along Pesky’s Pole in right field.

The Mariners only had three at-bats with runners in scoring position against Eovaldi on Sunday, who retired the side in order in three of the innings he pitched.

5. The lone pitching problem the Red Sox dealt with on Sunday came from their last two pitchers. Hansel Robles entered the game in the ninth inning with Boston up, 3-2. After getting the first two Mariners hitters out, Robles gave up a home run to Eugenio Suarez, who drilled Robles’s changeup over the middle of the plate well over the Monster. Cora has turned to Robles for save situations in the ninth inning three times in May. Robles has blown the save in two of those opportunities.

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Jake Diekman was tabbed for the third straight game on Sunday, entering for Robles in the 10th. He didn’t give up an earned for his 11th straight outing, but he did allow two hits, with one of them scoring the ghost runner from second. He fell into a 3-0 hole against J.P. Crawford and if he threw another ball, it would’ve loaded the bases up. But Diekman threw three straight strikes to end the inning instead.

6. While Robles blew a save on Sunday, the Red Sox had an encouraging outing from their closer in Saturday’s game. Matt Barnes, who was Boston’s closer for much of 2021 until his late-season struggles, retired all three Mariners hitters he faced on Saturday to earn his second save of the season.

Cora said his big reason for turning to Barnes in that situation was the lack of available bullpen arms. Barnes was just happy to get the chance and was satisfied that his fastball was consistently traveling at 95-96 mph speeds, which was typically how fast it was last season.

“Like I’ve told you guys the last few weeks, I think we’ve made some really good strides and we’ve put in a ton of work behind the scenes to get back to what is normal, and really felt like I was making a lot of good strides,” Barnes said. “So to be able to go out there, the offense really stepped up today, coming up big in the bottom of the eighth, Vazky with the base knock to drive in the run, then to have the opportunity to be put in that position. And then obviously to be able to get it done and win a series against a good ball club over there, so that one felt really good.”

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Barnes’s performance on Saturday was just the final strong outing from several Red Sox relievers on the day. Boston’s bullpen didn’t allow a single run over six innings pitched and it allowed just five runs (four earned) over the weekend.

7. Garrett Whitlock’s struggles as a starter reached a low earlier in Saturday’s game. He gave up four runs in Saturday’s first inning and allowed five total on the day on 10 hits, no walks, and three strikeouts over three innings pitched. He also only got Mariners hitters to whiff at five of the 71 pitches he threw.

“Yeah, I sucked,” Whitlock simply said of his start.

In six starts, Whitlock’s allowed 12 earned runs on 24 hits, eight walks, and 29 strikeouts over 23 innings, giving him a 4.70 ERA as a starter.

8. J.D. Martinez was a late scratch for Sunday’s game, but it doesn’t appear that his injury is serious.

“He’s doing OK” Cora said. “Just a tight back so give him today [off], give him tomorrow [off], and let’s see where he’s at on Tuesday.”

9. Sunday’s win extended the Red Sox’ winning streak to a season-best five games. It also gave them their first series sweep of the year and they closed out their seven-game homestand with a 6-1 record.

Two weeks ago, the team looked dead in the water after getting swept at home over Mother’s Day weekend by the White Sox, falling to 10-19 on the year after that series. They improved to 18-22 on the season and while they were 11.5 games back of the AL East-leading Yankees entering Sunday, they’re only three games back of the Blue Jays for the final wild-card spot. As Memorial Day nears, the Red Sox are starting to look alive and well.

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