Christian Arroyo weaved some more of his magic late Wednesday evening.
As if he needed more.
With the Red Sox trailing the host Atlanta Braves, 7-6, in the top of the seventh inning, Arroyo came on to pinch-hit for Danny Santana with two outs in the frame.
The count stood at 1-2 with the bases loaded when Arroyo lifted an A.J. Minter 89-mile-per-hour cutter over the left-field wall for a grand slam. It gave the Sox a three-run lead, 10-7, and ended in the Sox squeaking out yet another 10-8 win for the second night in a row, finishing off the two-game sweep.
“Going into the inning, it was supposed to be Danny if [Shane] Greene was still in the game,” Arroyo said afterward. “I kind of was sitting in the [dugout] and was looking in the bullpen just kind of mentally preparing myself. We saw their manager [Brian] Snitker come out there and make a motion to the pen and said, alright, you’re up kid. In those situations, I think that, for me, I had been preparing all game.”
For Arroyo, it represented his fourth homer of the season, the third pivotal one in less than a week, and first grand slam for the Red Sox this season. It also made a winner of righthanded reliever Yacksel Ríos, acquired Monday from the Seattle Mariners.
“I liked the fact he went out there swinging,” said Sox manager Alex Cora. “Sometimes when you pinch-hit, you take the first pitch and you put yourself in a hole. But the first pitch, even though it wasn’t a competitive one, he swung, then he got a cutter, slider down in the zone and he put a good swing on it. He’s been doing that all month.”
But after falling behind in the count against Minter, 1-2, Arroyo had a conversation with himself in the batter’s box to reassess his situation.
“After that I was like, ‘Hey, you need to calm down here. It’s bases loaded, we’re down one and all we need is a single here,’’' Arroyo said.
When he was informed during his postgame NESN interview it had traveled 467 feet, Arroyo was taken aback. Way back.
“Whaaat?” he said. “Four-sixty-seven? Dang, I didn’t know I had that in me.”
The Red Sox jumped on the board for the second night in a row during the first frame Wednesday evening. A one-out single by Alex Verdugo and a J.D. Martinez double set the scene for Hunter Renfroe, who punched a single through the right side, scoring the Sox’ first two runs off Braves starter Ian Anderson.
But much like the Sox’ 10-8 win against the Braves on Tuesday, this contest would feature fireworks on offense by both teams and some sloppy play by the Sox’ defense.
Red Sox starter Garrett Richards made it through two innings unscathed. But a Renfroe error on what should have been a Freddie Freeman flyout to right field ignited the Braves in the third. The dropped ball allowed Freeman to reach second. The Braves later negotiated their first run on a sharp sacrifice fly to center by Abraham Almonte.
Richards came into this start having escaped what should have been an onslaught against the Blue Jays last Friday. Twelve of Richards’s 23 pitches put in play registered at 100 miles per hour or more during that contest. On Wednesday, 10 of the Braves’ 19 balls in play against Richards were 100 m.p.h. or higher. The Sox scored twice in the fourth on a Bobby Dalbec RBI single and a Richards RBI double. Nevertheless, two runs by Atlanta in the bottom of the inning made it a one-run game.
The Sox added some insurance in the fifth with a Xander Bogaerts RBI double and a Rafael Devers RBI single. But Almonte led off the bottom of the inning with a double down the left-field line. A throwing error by Bogaerts that lifted Dalbec off the bag made it two on with no outs. Dansby Swanson’s three-run homer off Richards tied the game, ending the starter’s night.
Of the six runs scored off Richards, four were earned. Richards now has a 4.36 ERA. In Richards’s last three starts (14 innings pitched), the righthander has allowed 26 hits and allowed 11 earned runs. Richards didn’t throw his curveball for his entire outing, adding that he didn’t have much grip or feel for the pitch. Major League Baseball’s new ruling, which goes into effect Monday, prohibits use of any foreign substances on the ball, including sunscreen — a substance Richards said he used. Richards intimated that he will abide by the new rule but doesn’t agree with it.
“I think if you just watch baseball across the league, you’re going to see some interesting things,” Richards said. “Be prepared for four-hour long games and some interesting things. I don’t know. I’m just grateful that I got this far into my career before we are at this point.”
Reliever Hirokazu Sawamura allowed a Freeman solo homer in the sixth, giving the Braves their first lead of the game, 7-6. But not for long, as Arroyo’s homer lifted the Sox to another momentous win. The Sox will have an offday Thursday before opening up a three-game set Friday against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.
“We hung in there,” Cora said after his team made it through a grueling 17-game stretch with a 10-7 record. “It wasn’t a perfect game, but we’ll take it again. We’ll reset tomorrow. We’ve had a tough stretch, but we grinded through it.”