Alex Verdugo lifted both his hands and stared toward the Red Sox dugout late in the top of the eighth inning Tuesday. His go-ahead three-run homer off Braves reliever Chris Martin offered a sense of relief after the Sox squandered what appeared to be an easy win.
Yet the opposite took shape.
Nothing was easy in a contest that ended in a 10-8 Sox win. Verdugo’s homer and the reaction afterward proved not only the feat but the range of emotions that took place in Atlanta’s Truist Park. The pitching mishaps, the all-out slugfest by both clubs took center stage. The sloppy defense.
The Sox, though, somehow managed to pull out a victory and will go for the sweep Wednesday in this two-game set.
“It was an ugly win,” manager Alex Cora said after the game. “But it’s a big-league win. We didn’t give up. We kept putting together good at-bats. The bullpen shut the door. It wasn’t pretty. We did a lot of bad things today on the field. To go through our [bullpen] because of what happened throughout is tough.”
The ball didn’t look as if it would be a homer off Verdugo’s bat, but it kept carrying.
“Off the bat, I knew I hit it well,” Verdugo said. “I was fortunate enough to, to get it over the fence. The thought process behind that at-bat was to let the ball get deep, let it travel, and try to stay up the middle as best I could.
It didn’t take long for Devers to make his presence known Tuesday evening.
Fresh off his walkoff single in the Red Sox’ 2-1 win Monday night, Devers stung a three-run homer in the top of the first inning off Tucker Davidson. The Red Sox extended the lead to 4-0 when Hunter Renfroe followed with a solo shot.
Starter Eduardo Rodriguez came in scuffling, carrying a 8.49 ERA in his last six starts. Rodriguez sputtered in his previous outing against the Astros, lasting just 4⅔ innings while allowing six runs. Rodriguez made it through his first two frames unscathed, registering five strikeouts.
A Devers single followed J.D. Martinez’s triple to give the Sox a 5-0 lead, but in the bottom half of the inning, the Braves began to chip away against Rodriguez, starting with Freddie Freeman’s RBI single.
In the fourth, the Braves opened with a pair of doubles to make it 5-2. Later in the inning, Ronald Acuña Jr.’s double scored two more, shrinking the Sox’ lead to 5-4. Rodriguez’s ERA is now 6.21. The lefthander is still searching for answers.
“It’s been tough the last month and a half,” Rodriguez said, “going out there and giving up runs and then going back and forth every time like. It’s just something that I’d need to turn the page and go to my next start.”
Xander Bogaerts’s solo shot in the fifth gave the Sox breathing room, as did Renfroe’s RBI single.
But the Sox ran into trouble in the sixth. Garrett Whitlock yielded a leadoff walk to Abraham Almonte. A Kiké Hernández error on a chopper, followed by a Guillermo Heredia single through the right side, suddenly made it 7-5. Pablo Sandoval negotiated a walk to load the bases.
Whitlock then struck out Acuña, but Cora elected to go with Darwinzon Hernandez to face Freeman, and a wild pitch brought across the Braves’ sixth run. Freeman’s sacrifice fly then tied the contest.
That didn’t last long. Verdugo’s ninth homer of the year put the Sox up, 10-7.
Matt Barnes came on in the ninth and was touched for two hits and a run before securing his 15th save.
“I think from one through nine, anybody at any given point hit a home run and, and drive the ball out of the ballpark,” Verdugo said. “So, that helps a lot.”