CLEVELAND — In a series that was supposed to be evenly matched, the Red Sox proved that the Guardians are no match for them in their three-game sweep at Progressive Field.
The Sox beat the Guardians in convincing fashion Sunday, 8-3. Rich Hill turned in another quality performance despite walking four. Hill went six innings, yielding just one run while striking out five.
“I made some big pitches in some big situations,” Hill said. “I think the double play saved us today. I think overall we played great, great defense.”
The Sox converted three double plays, one of which came in the third inning. The Red Sox had a 1-0 lead but Myles Straw led off with a double. Hill then walked Owen Miller. Amed Rosario, lined out to Rafael Devers at third. Straw got caught leaning, allowing Devers to double him off at second. After a José Ramirez single, Hill froze Franmil Reyes on three straight pitches for the strikeout, ending the threat.
The Sox racked up 15 hits and walked a season-high 11 times. They tagged Cleveland starter Aaron Civale for eight hits and three runs in four innings. Alex Verdugo was 2 for 3 with three walks. Jarren Duran stayed hot, going 2 for 5 with a walk. Devers was 3 for 5 with an RBI, raising his average to .334. Christian Vázquez’s two hits were doubles, one driving in a run in the top of the fourth to put the Sox ahead, 2-0. Vázquez is having a solid year, batting .282 with a .753 OPS and four homers.
“I’m trying to help the team,” Vázquez said. “No matter if it’s catching, hitting. I’m trying to get on base for the big boys so they can drive me in. That’s going to work, getting on base no matter what. We’re playing good and it’s collective. It’s everybody. It’s not one guy. That’s the good thing we have going.”
The Red Sox have won their last seven games, the longest active streak in the majors. They have the second-best run differential in the American League behind the Yankees, outscoring their opponents, 351-286.
“It’s night and day to the group early in the season,” manager Alex Cora said. “Early in the season, we were swinging at a lot of bad pitches, not walking, striking out a lot, not hitting the ball hard, and now it’s the total opposite.”
The Sox (42-31) now travel to Toronto for a three-game set with the Blue Jays. The Jays, who have been inconsistent despite their top-flight talent, have hit another tough stretch, going 3-7 in their last 10 games. They have dropped each of their last three series — winning just one game in each — following their 10-3 loss to the Brewers Sunday.
The Sox, however, are 2-5 against the Blue Jays this year and lost three of four to them at Rogers Centre in April.
That was when the Sox were at their low point. Yet the Sox will be two players short in Duran and Tanner Houck, who have chosen not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, which is necessary to enter Canada. As a result, the two are being placed on the restricted list. This comes at a time when both have been key figures in the Sox’ success. Duran has given the Sox some identity at the leadoff spot, batting 327/.386/.500 with four stolen bases in five attempts. Houck, meanwhile, took over as the team’s closer during the West Coast trip earlier this month and is 6 for 6 in save opportunities.
The Sox are in the meat of their schedule with the exception of the lowly Cubs, who host Boston in a three-game set starting Friday. The rest of July, though, features playoff-worthy opponents.
Nevertheless, Cora and his team are focused on what’s in front of them.
“We know we’re good and we gotta keep working,” Cora said. “We’ve got to keep working hard for what we are trying to accomplish, but we feel good. Now, we get ready for Toronto. Obviously, they’re one of the big boys in the division, but we’ll be ready for it.”