Rafael Devers stood just outside the batter’s box in the bottom of the seventh inning for a moment and watched.
After the Red Sox chased Yankees starter Gerrit Cole after five innings with three runs charged to his name. After the Sox had worked Cole’s pitch count up to a whopping 104 pitches. After relievers Phillips Valdez, Yacksel Rios, and Garrett Whitlock posted six scoreless frames, the Sox found a bit of fight. And Devers had a bit of time to admire his work when he struck his second homer of the game.
The first came off Cole in the fifth to give the Sox a 3-1 lead Friday night at Fenway Park. This one, a three-run homer, came against Nestor Cortes in a 6-2 Red Sox win. It was the Sox’ fourth straight victory since dropping their series to the Yankees last weekend.
“That’s the kind of game that we need in order to continue to win ballgames,” Devers said. “To be where we want to be from the bullpen, the pitching staff in general, the offense. It was a good team win for us today and everyone contributed.”
The contributions from Devers, though, have come on a nightly basis.
It was the 100th career homer for the 24-year-old Devers, making him the third Red Sox to achieve that feat prior to turning 25. The other two? Ted Williams and Tony Conigliaro.
“This is the organization that gave me the opportunity to be a big league ballplayer,” Devers said. “And that’s something that means a lot to me. But we have to continue to get back to work. It’s a long season, but it felt really good to be able to do it here.”
The Red Sox solved Cole by the time the bottom of the fifth rolled around. For the first four frames, the Red Sox pushed Cole to the brink, yet Cole survived. They worked Cole’s pitch count to 70 through three innings. Kiké Hernández negotiated a walk in the third inning. So did Jarren Duran. It put runners at first and second with no outs.
The Sox were in prime position to make Cole and the Yankees pay. But that’s when the Yankee ace reached back and made some tough pitches. He dotted a 101-mile-per-hour fastball on the corner to get Xander Bogaerts looking. Cole then got Devers to swing through his 100-m.p.h. heater on the eighth pitch of the at-bat to end the threat and preserve a 1-0 Yankees lead. In that fifth frame, the Sox Yankees finally sank Cole.
It began with a long one-out single by Hernández off the Green Monster, just missing what would have been his 15th homer of the season and seventh this month. Then Duran shot a ground-rule double into the gap in right-center, a bit of misfortune for the Sox as Hernández would have scored from first and Duran would have easily made it to third standing up.
But they had Bogaerts and Devers behind them. Bogaerts had a jam-shot single to right off Cole in the first. They both had seen him twice already and Cole’s pitch count was approaching 100.
“We didn’t win the game early on, but we were winning innings and that’s what you got to do against guys like that,” manager Alex Cora said. “The pitch count was getting up and we put together some good swings and got him out the game.”
Bogaerts delivered a sacrifice fly with Hernández sliding under the tag of Yankees catcher Gary Sánchez. Devers gave the Sox the lead. Cole left a fastball over the heart of the plate and Devers crushed it to left-center for his 25th homer of the season.
Cole worked backwards against the Red Sox, starting each of the eight hitters he faced through his first two innings with a breaking pitch. The Red Sox hunt heaters. They like to swing on the first pitch and Cora wants his hitters to do damage on those pitches. This was Cole’s adjustment.
“This was the cat-and-mouse game,” Cora said. “He adjusts. We adjust. It seems like he had a feel for his breaking ball.”
Yet the Red Sox hung in there, fouling off 18 of Cole’s pitches, and when the time was right, they struck.
“‘We’ve been a lot more patient at the plate and just trying to capitalize on every opportunity that we have against these really good pitches that we’ve been facing lately,” Devers said.