ATLANTA — Red Sox clubhouse manager Tom McLaughlin lugged a pitching machine out to the field 90 minutes before the start of Wednesday night’s game against the Atlanta Braves.
The coaching staff wanted Christian Arroyo and Danny Santana to work on their bunting. The Sox have only four sacrifices all season, but you never know when a bunt will come in handy at a National League ballpark.
Arroyo and Santana dutifully worked on what has become a neglected skill throughout baseball.
“It never hurts to get some early work in,” Arroyo said.
Much later that night, when Arroyo came off the bench, a bunt was the last thing on his mind.
His seventh-inning grand slam gave the Sox a 10-8 victory.
“I would have laughed in your face if you told me that was going to happen,” Arroyo said.
It was the first slam for the Sox this season and the first in Arroyo’s career. He may not need those bunting skills for a bit.
So, this is baseball with non-sticky baseballs? A little sunscreen might be in order after all to calm things down.
In a two-game sweep by the Sox, the teams combined for 36 runs on 49 hits — 27 for extra bases — over seven hours and 42 minutes.
Pitchers seemed helpless for two days at Truist Park.
“I think tonight spoke for itself,” said Red Sox starter Garrett Richards, who allowed six runs (four earned) in four innings and didn’t throw a single breaking ball all game.
“We’re going to follow the rules and this is the game we’re going to get,” Richards said.
Richards managed an RBI double, the first hit of his career. But he was disconsolate afterward in discussing the new rules for pitchers that won’t be in place until Monday but are already changing the game.
“There’s going to have to be a lot of adjustments made,” Richards said. “I don’t know that the people that are checking for whatever they’re supposed to be checking for are qualified to check for anything.”
The Sox will have a day off in Kansas City on Thursday after playing 17 games in as many days. They won 10 of them, including the last three, and now trail the Rays by only one game in the division.
That’s remarkable considering the starting pitchers had a 6.32 earned run average and averaged 4.9 innings. That continued on Wednesday.
“It wasn’t a perfect game, but we’ll take it again,” manager Alex Cora said.
Richards said he didn’t have “conviction” using his curveball and acknowledged he has used sunscreen in the past to improve his grip. A rosin bag, he said, isn’t any help.
“I don’t know anybody who just uses rosin,” said Richards, who uncharacteristically hit two batters. “Maybe I’ll come up with a new pitch . . . but this is what we’re dealing with.”
Cora faulted a game plan that was heavy with fastballs. But given the impending new rules on using substances on the ball, it seemed to be more than that.
Arroyo, who has four home runs and 19 RBIs this season, bailed the Sox out again.
He had a game-tying three-run homer last Thursday against Houston in a game the Sox went on to win, then a solo game-tying homer the next night against Toronto.
Cora initially used Santana as his pinch hitter in the seventh inning. When the Braves countered with lefty reliever A.J. Minter, Cora burned Santana and sent Arroyo up.
“It was all in. Here we go,” Cora said. “Let’s win or lose it here.”
Arroyo talks fast, plays fast and always seems keyed up. As Cora said, there are ups and downs in his game but when he’s focused and calm, he’s short and quick to the ball.
“When you see him, slowing down the game, that’s what he does,” Cora said.
Minter got ahead 1-and-2 then located a cut fastball down. But Arroyo lined it deep into the left field stands. He stood and watched the ball for a second then rounded the bases with a trot that included a basketball Euro step move rounding third base.
He laughed about that later and said it needed work.
“Just having fun out there,” Arroyo said.