The Red Sox squeezed out a 6-5 win over the Seattle Mariners Friday evening in what became a tight contest for the Sox in the final inning.
Closer Matt Barnes took on the ninth inning, allowing two to reach base. With one out in the frame, Barnes surrendered a three-run homer to Kyle Seager, cutting the Sox’ advantage to just one run. Barnes managed to get out of it, however, following a Kyle Lewis flyout and an Evan White lineout.
The Sox, meanwhile, collected 11 hits in the contest. And after a forgettable start by Martín Perez, the Sox relievers, led by Garrett Whitlock, helped to steer the Sox toward their 13th win of the year.
“That was a grind,” manager Alex Cora said. “We’ll take it. And we’re not going to complain about wins. But we had to grind that one out.”
Observations from the game:
▪ Xander Bogaerts started the week without a homer, but he has since homered in three of his last four contests. With the Red Sox down, 1-0, in the bottom of the first, Bogaerts tagged Mariners starter Yusei Kikuchi for a two-run homer. J.D. Martinez homered, too — his was a solo shot in the third that made it out just inside the Pesky Pole. Yet the home runs didn’t dictate the game entirely.
“It seems more like old school swing,” Cora said of Bogaerts. “Chop wood and get on top of the ball. But he’s such a strong guy he can get to whatever there’s no limits what he can get to.”
Both Martinez and Bogaerts helped to establish that in the fifth, just as they did the long ball earlier on. Bobby Dalbec led off the bottom of the fifth with a single, bringing Kiké Hernández to the plate, who negotiated a walk. Alex Verdugo then singled to bring up Martinez. The designated hitter grounded into a double play, but it was enough to get Dalbec in from third. Bogaerts’ single on a 3-2 fastball brought in another, forcing the Mariners to go to their bullpen, bringing a sour ending to Kikuchi’s outing.
▪ Cora and pitching coach Dave Bush don’t want Pérez to nibble around the plate. They have preached to Pérez that he’s at his best when he goes after hitters. At times, Pérez is known to get a bit gun shy, electing to work the corners instead of pounding the strike zone. That approach often doesn’t work in Pérez’s favor because he doesn’t have the command to go with it.
In his Friday evening start against the Seattle Mariners, Pérez nibbled and then some, which led to just 3 ⅔ innings — Pérez went just 3 ⅔ in his last start, too — and 83 pitches. It caused Cora to sing the same tune afterward.
“When he attacks his stuff is good,” Cora repeated.”He’s a veteran, right. And he’s been that way for a while. But I do believe with his stuff, he can live in the strike zone and induce people to weak contact. So we’ll keep preaching it.”
From the outset, Pérez couldn’t find the zone, working himself into deep counts. He went to 3-2 on both Mitch Haniger and Seager in the first and both resulted in doubles (Seager’s delivered the opening run). Haniger initially looked as if he would be out at second, but Christian Arroyo dropped the relay throw at second from Alex Verdugo in left, allowing Haniger to slide in safely.
That helped lead to a long inning, something that has become a norm for Pérez. In his first two outings, Perez had three innings where he threw at least 20 pitches.
In this contest against the Mariners, three of the four innings Pérez started resulted in a 20-pitch frame. Pérez allowed four hits but also walked four and struck out three.
“I need to get everything back and go out there and and give more than five innings,” said Pérez, who noted that he didn’t have a feel for his fastball and is still searching for his changeup. “So, I have a couple of things on my mind I want to work out this week.”
Defense played a significant role
The Sox made two defensive plays that played a significant role in the outcome of this game: Xander Bogaerts’s diving stop up the middle in the first inning which started an inning-ending double play and Alex Verdugo’s assist in the fifth to nab Seager at third.
The Red Sox were up against runners at the corners in the first with White at the plate. The sharp grounder up the middle forced Bogaerts to make a quick decision and once he gathered the ball, he made the instinctual decision to flip the ball from his glove rather than transferring it to his hand.
In the fifth, White was involved in the play again. He belted a sharp liner to Verdugo in left which then ricocheted off the Green Monster. Instead of going glove-hand, Verdugo barehanded the ball and delivered a strike to Devers at third, who tagged out an overzealous Seager attempting to go first to third.
“We like the way he’s playing,” said Cora of Verdugo, who was also 3 for 5 Friday with two runs scored. “And the fact that he can play all over the place and be really good, that’s a plus for us.”