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A troubling twist of J.D. Martinez’s left ankle douses Red Sox celebration with a sobering dose of reality

J.D. Martinez, who was hit by a pitch in the second inning on Sunday, twisted his left ankle in a freak accident while taking the field in the bottom of the fifth inning.
J.D. Martinez, who was hit by a pitch in the second inning on Sunday, twisted his left ankle in a freak accident while taking the field in the bottom of the fifth inning.Greg Fiume/Getty

WASHINGTON — All weekend, the Red Sox recognized the hint of peril that accompanied their decision to feature an outfield alignment in which Hunter Renfroe started in center and J.D. Martinez in right. The defensive grouping represented a less-than-ideal pairing forced by concluding the season in the National League park, without benefit of the designated hitter.

Danger did come, but in most unexpected fashion. As he jogged to right field for the bottom of the fifth inning, Martinez – with his head turned back while jogging to his position – stepped awkwardly on second base and stumbled over the bag. Manager Alex Cora and a trainer visited with Martinez and initially left him in the game, but the outfielder struggled to jog after a double to right in the inning.

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In the top of the sixth, with the Sox trailing, 5-1, Cora lifted Martinez in favor of pinch hitter José Iglesias, trying to avoid any further injury to his slugger in case there was to be a Game 163 on Monday.

“It was a weird game, man,” Cora said. “You’re managing tonight, but then you see what’s going on in [other games on the scoreboard in] front of you and it’s like, ‘Wow, this is not going our way and there’s different scenarios that can happen.’ You’re trying to stay in the present, thinking in the future. It’s tough to do.”

Iglesias ended up going 2 for 3 and scored the second Sox run of the game, contributing to the 7-5 win.

“That’s what we do,” Cora said. “Somebody goes down, somebody has to come in and do the job and tonight was really good.”

Cora said he did not know if Martinez would be available for the Wild Card Game on Tuesday.

Nate Eovaldi to get wild

Nate Eovaldi will start the Wild Card Game against the Yankees on Tuesday, Cora announced. Eovaldi was the only Red Sox pitcher who wasn’t available out of the bullpen Sunday.

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Starters Nick Pivetta and Eduardo Rodriguez were both available in a shorthanded Red Sox bullpen, and both delivered perfect innings of work. Rodriguez pitched a perfect eighth in a tie game, and Pivetta recorded his second career save with a 1-2-3 ninth that was punctuated with a nasty curveball that froze the Nationals’ Juan Soto for strike three.

“That was an 80,” Pivetta said of the curveball, referring to the 20-to-80 scouting scale in which 80 represents top-of-the-charts attributes.

Austin Davis returns serve

An unexpected subplot formed between the Nationals and Red Sox over the final weekend of the season.

On Saturday night, with Nationals superstar Soto due up with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the eighth inning, at a time when the Red Sox clung to a 1-0 lead, the Red Sox summoned reliever Austin Davis for a left-on-left matchup.

The two are familiar with each other, having faced off six times when Davis was with the Phillies. Soto was 2 for 6 with a homer and three strikeouts. Davis had been preparing to face Soto for the first two games of the series.

“I’m here to compete and I haven’t ever been in a postseason run this late into the year,” Davis said. “To be in a situation where I can face the best lefty hitter in baseball right now, to help us get into the postseason, it’s really fun.”

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After Davis warmed up, Soto stepped out three times. Davis intimated to Soto that it was time to go. Soto didn’t appreciate the message.

“He started talking trash to me, and my mindset just changed to kick his [expletive],” Soto said Saturday night. “I don’t like it when they talk trash to me.”

Soto drilled a 393-foot drive but to center, just short of the track. Under the circumstances, a game-tying sacrifice fly (and the second out of an inning that Davis escaped without any further harm) represented a more-than-acceptable outcome for the Sox, who plated four runs in the ninth for a 5-3 win.

Davis was informed of Soto’s comments in the clubhouse after the game. He welcomed them.

“I want to kick his [expletive], too,” Davis said. “That’s how it should be. You want someone who’s completely locked in trying to kick your [expletive], and you’re completely locked in trying to kick his [expletive] for us to get in the postseason. The season’s on the line a little bit.”

For Davis, the opportunity to pitch on such a stage represented a memorable experience. Before being traded from the Pirates to the Red Sox at this year’s deadline in exchange for Michael Chavis, he’d spent parts of four years in the big leagues without ever experiencing a moment akin to Saturday.

“I’m really grateful for them bringing me over here,” Davis said. “A lot of guys who play a long time don’t get to be in these situations. And I’m just grateful that I get to because it’s really fun.”

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Garrett Whitlock activated

The Red Sox activated righthander Garrett Whitlock from the injured list. He’d missed two weeks because of a strained pectoral muscle. The righthander represented a welcome form of reinforcements given his elite performance (8-4, 1.99 ERA, 26.8 percent strikeout rate) in 72⅓ innings. Whitlock pitched a perfect seventh, needing just 10 pitches to do so. To clear a spot on the roster for Whitlock, the team optioned righthander Eduard Bazardo to Triple-A Worcester . . . Before Sunday’s game, Red Sox slugger Kyle Schwarber sprinted across the field in search of Nationals home clubhouse staff members. Schwarber, who was traded July 29, wanted to make sure he got a chance to thank them for the help they provided in his four months with Washington.



Alex Speier can be reached at alex.speier@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @alexspeier.