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Red Sox Notebook

Red Sox’ top reliever Garrett Whitlock exits early against the Orioles with right pectoral tightness

Garrett Whitlock threw a scoreless sixth on Sunday, but left the game in the seventh with an unknown injury.David Banks/Associated Press

The Red Sox hope it’s good news as it relates to Garrett Whitlock.

Whitlock exited Sunday’s game in the top of the seventh inning with right pectoral tightness. Now, a huge part of the bullpen, the team’s best reliever this season, could be on the shelf for the Sox’ most important part of the season.

“We’ll know more tomorrow,” manager Alex Cora said after the Sox’ 8-6 win which completed a sweep of the Orioles. “Obviously, it’s an offday. But it’s too soon to know what’s going on.”

Whitlock worked a scoreless sixth inning but after walking Cedric Mullins to begin the seventh, Whitlock winced slightly in pain.

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“[Rafael Devers] was the one who saw it,” Cora said. “I believe [Whitlock’s] fastball was down to 92. And Rafi was the one who got my attention.”

Whitlock then walked off with a team trainer and was replaced with Hirokazu Sawamura.

Not only has Whitlock been the Sox’ best reliever but also their most consistent, too. In 72⅓ innings of work, Whitlock has a 1.99 ERA, 79 strikeouts, and a 1.12 WHIP.

“I mean, the guy’s been absolute nails for us,” Chris Sale said recently. “And being able to go out there and throw one inning, two innings, two-plus, and do what he’s done, it has alleviated a lot of pressure off of a lot of other guys. And to be able to go out there and do what he’s done throughout the entire year, he’s like autocorrect. As soon as he has a bad one, it’s boom, right on to the next one.”

To Sale’s point, the Red Sox can weaponize Whitlock in various ways. He can close or be a long reliever who can navigate his way through a daunting lineup during crucial games. When the stakes are high, the Sox have gone to Whitlock.

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Just recently, the team decided it will need to lean on its bullpen even more, relying essentially on just two starters (Sale and Nate Eovaldi) to get them to this season’s finish line. Everyone else has a quick hook. Nick Pivetta, for example, tossed 3⅔ innings Saturday before Cora went to his bullpen. That tactic makes Whitlock’s role even more valuable. Losing him for any amount of time as the Sox enter the last two weeks of the season could rupture the biggest piece of their plan.

Kiké bouncing back?

Kiké Hernández was 2 for 3 with two runs scored, a double, and an RBI Sunday. He’s 4 for 8 in the team’s last two games after an 0-for-14 skid. Following his bout with COVID-19, and a stint on the COVID-related injured list, Cora said his leadoff hitter struggled to find his timing. Now, Hernández feels as if he’s slowly getting back to feeling like himself again.

“I’m feeling better,” Hernández said. “Like I’m getting close. Not great, but better. Ten days without a swing, I mean, it is what it is. If you think too much about it, it’s just going to pile up on you. My timing wasn’t right. But I’m not going to sit here and put up excuses. I just wasn’t getting the job done. I’m feeling a little bit better now and taking some better at-bats.”

Jarren Duran, Christian Arroyo play for Worcester

Jarren Duran and Christian Arroyo (COVID IL) both were in the lineup for Worcester on Sunday. The team still hasn’t made a decision on what’s next for either just yet … The Red Sox have a two-game series against the Mets beginning Tuesday. Eduardo Rodriguez will take the ball against Marcus Stroman. Wednesday’s starter for the Red Sox is still to be determined. The Mets will have Tylor Megill on the hill.

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Julian McWilliams can be reached at julian.mcwilliams@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @byJulianMack.