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Sandy Leon puts 0-for-30 slump behind him

Sandy Leon’s single on Wednesday, which ended an 0-for-30 slump, also was his first RBI since Aug. 14.MIKE STOBE/GETTY IMAGES

NEW YORK — When Sandy Leon slapped an RBI single to right field in the fifth inning on Wednesday night, he ran to first base with no outward display of emotion.

“We were losing the game. It would not have been right,” Leon said.

Still, Leon had earned the right to at least pump his fist. The single broke an 0-for-30 streak for the Red Sox catcher. It also was his first RBI since Aug. 14.

“It was the toughest time of my career at the plate. I was working and trying to make adjustments,” Leon said before the Sox played the Yankees on Thursday night. “All you can do is keep working.”


Leon had his OPS up to .726 early in July. But it has plunged since, falling to .527.

“My job is to catch and when I hit, I hit,” Leon said. “My team was winning and we were in first place. That’s what mattered. I controlled what I could control. It made it better that we were in first.”

Players in a slump will often try a new bat, new spikes or a change in their pregame routine. But Leon did not resort to anything like that.

“I don’t believe in luck. I believe in God,” Leon said. “I didn’t change anything. I worked with the coaches. I feel like results come if you work hard.

“You can’t go home and think about it. I have a good family and they support me. My wife and my mom and dad, they were amazing. They were always positive.”

Until finding a place with the Sox in 2015, Leon was a fringe big leaguer. The 29-year-old from Venezuela has learned to handle the ups and downs of the game. His faith helps.

“You play 100 percent and see what happens,” he said. “I have a beautiful family, a beautiful son, everybody is healthy. I am healthy. That is what is No. 1. Baseball is No. 2.”


As a catcher, Leon sees his job as being there for his teammates.

“If my team is in first place, everything else doesn’t matter. I know I have to hit, every baseball player understands that. But I am working hard.”

It’s difficult to determine to what degree a particular catcher affects a pitching staff. But Sox pitchers have a 3.33 earned run average with Leon behind the plate. It’s 4.00 with other catchers.

“He takes a lot of pride with what he does calling the game, blocking balls and winning ballgames,” manager Alex Cora said. “That never changed. We’re proud of him.”

Nunez will rest

Eduardo Nunez is not expected to play again until Monday at the earliest. He left Wednesday’s game in the ninth inning with a sore right knee and hamstring.

Nunez has dealt with knee issues all season. The injury goes back to last Sept. 9 when his knee collapsed. Nunez returned to play on Sept. 25 and reaggravated the injury.

Nunez came back for Game 1 of the Division Series and his knee gave out again in his first at-bat. The Sox then replaced him on the roster.

“I’m going to try and stay away from him. Hopefully he’ll be back for the Baltimore series,” Cora said. “He doesn’t need too many at-bats to keep his swing going. It’s been very simple for the last month and a half. We’ll make sure he gets at-bats before [the postseason] starts and he’ll be ready.”


Barnes returns

Matt Barnes, who has not pitched since Sept. 3 because of inflammation in his left hip, has been cleared to play. Cora said he would ideally be used in low-leverage situations first.

Mookie Betts was in the lineup as the designated hitter for the second consecutive game. He has not played the outfield since Sunday when he felt soreness on his left side after making a throw.

Cora said Betts would return to the outfield in Cleveland this weekend.

Mitch Moreland was out of the lineup as Blake Swihart started at first base. Moreland was 4 of 28 with 11 strikeouts in his previous nine games.

“Health-wise, he’s good. He’s struggling right now. You see it [mechanically],” Cora said. “He’s very pull-happy. He’s swinging and missing a lot.”

Cora feels a few days off could help. Moreland has hit .179 since playing in the All-Star Game.

Catching on

Sam Travis played the outfield in a major league game for only the third time on Wednesday night. But he made one of the best catches of the season.

Travis ran full tilt into the wall in left field after catching a line drive off the bat of Miguel Andujar in the seventh inning.

Statcast measured the odds of catching the ball at only 15 percent. Travis laughed when he heard that.

“I 100 percent caught it,” he said.

Travis was dizzy after the play and came out of the game at the end of the inning. Tests for a concussion were negative.


Surgery for Maddox

Righthanded reliever Austin Maddox, who was on the postseason roster a year ago, underwent rotator cuff surgery on Wednesday in Los Angeles and will miss the 2019 season. Maddox, 27, first felt discomfort in spring training. He pitched in eight minor league games before being shut down again. Dr. Neal ElAttrache performed the surgery at the Kerlan-Jobe Institute . . . Double A manager Darren Fenster joined the coaching staff for the road trip . . . Fashion designer Ralph Lauren, who was born in the Bronx, threw out the first pitch . . . Cora ended his pregame news conference by mentioning that Thursday was the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria striking his native Puerto Rico. “Proud to be Puerto Rican, proud of my island,” he said.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.