CINCINNATI — Yoenis Cespedes came to the plate in the eighth inning with a runner on second base, two outs, and the Red Sox trailing the Cincinnati Reds by one run.
Jonathan Broxton, a relief pitcher built like an offensive tackle, threw a 95 mile-per-hour fastball under Cespedes’s chin and knocked him back.
“A lot of times pitchers think that when you get a pitch thrown high and tight on you like that, you’re going to back off and get a little flustered,’’ Cespedes said. “But that’s not how I am. I was able to focus myself even more after that pitch.”
Broxton’s next pitch, another 95-m.p.h. fastball, was over the plate. Cespedes stayed back and drove it well beyond the fence in center field.
The home run gave the Red Sox a 3-2 victory before a crowd of 35,903 at Great American Ball Park. Based on the cheer that went up when Koji Uehara recorded the final out, a large percentage of the fans were rooting for the visiting team.
The Red Sox are 5-5 since making four trades July 31, one that returned Cespedes from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes. They have won consecutive games for the first time since July 20 and 21 and are 4-3 on a road trip against three playoff contenders that ends Wednesday afternoon.
Cespedes beat the Angels Sunday with a three-run homer in the eighth inning. He’s feeling comfortable with the Red Sox, even if he is still using a glove with green-and-gold highlights. A new one with Red Sox colors is on the way.
He’ll need it. As he wins games now, Cespedes also allows the Red Sox to dream of what their lineup could look like next season. Batting Dustin Pedroia second ahead of David Ortiz, Cespedes, Mike Napoli, and Allen Craig is a solid foundation to build around.
It’s worth noting the Red Sox have averaged a modest 3.5 runs with Cespedes in the lineup, slightly fewer than before he arrived. But his power offers promise.
“All of a sudden we’ve changed the look of this offense to one with a greater ability to impact the baseball,” manager John Farrell said.
Via interpreter Adrian Lorenzo, Cespedes agreed.
“This lineup has the potential to have it all,” he said. “It’s got speed, it’s got power, it’s got hit ability. I think if everybody’s healthy next year we have a really good chance of doing good things.”
Xander Bogaerts, who singled in a run in the seventh inning, believes Cespedes will flourish in Boston.
“Being around [Ortiz] will be good for him,” Bogaerts said. “He’ll learn a lot from David about hitting, about hitting at Fenway, and everything else. It’s pretty scary to think about what they’ll do together in a lineup.”
Another new member of the Red Sox, righthander Joe Kelly, pitched well in giving up two runs in six innings.
Kelly made 38 starts during his three seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals but Tuesday was only his second against the Reds. He allowed five hits with three walks and four strikeouts.
The first inning was Kelly’s only problem in the game. He walked lightning bolt leadoff hitter Billy Hamilton on four pitches. Hamilton then stole second and took third when Christian Vazquez bounced a throw into center field. It was the 44th steal for Hamilton.
Jay Bruce also walked. Singles by All-Stars Todd Frazier and Devin Mesoraco each drove in a run.
Kelly has allowed three runs in 13 innings in his two starts for the Sox.
The Red Sox twice missed chances to score early in the game against Reds starter Mat Latos.
Pedroia and Ortiz had one-out singles in the first inning. Cespedes took a big swing and popped to second. Latos then struck out Daniel Nava looking at a curveball.
Kelly, an adept hitter, singled to right to lead off the third inning. Brock Holt’s sacrifice bunt moved Kelly to second. As Pedroia walked, Kelly stole third base without a throw.
It was the first steal of Kelly’s career and the first for a Red Sox pitcher since Bill Landis on Sept. 8, 1969 at Cleveland. The last Sox pitcher to steal third was Tom Brewers on July 30, 1959, also at Cleveland.
“I figured since I was in the AL I wasn’t going to get many more chances,” Kelly said. “The Cardinals never let me run because I pulled my hammy.
“I figured this might be my only opportunity and I at least wanted to get one in there.”
With runners on first and third, Ortiz popped to shortstop and Cespedes flied to left.
Latos had retired 11 straight when Nava doubled to the gap in left field to start the seventh inning. Bogaerts, who had three hits in his previous 37 at-bars, drove in Nava with a single to left.
The Sox took the lead an inning later. Tommy Layne worked an inning for the win before Edward Mujica and Uehara (26th save) got the final four outs.
It was the first win for Layne since 2012 when he was with the Padres. The Reds had two hits over the last six innings.