TORONTO — It was the sixth inning on Thursday afternoon, and Rafael Devers had a full count. Before he stepped back into the box and signaled to the umpire he was ready to hit, he stood for a moment and took a deep, centering breath. It’s a routine of his before every pitch.
The game slowed. That’s the idea behind the breath. Then came the 3-2 pitch, an 88-mile-per-hour sinker that stayed up in the zone. Devers hit it to right field for an RBI double. He added another RBI on a single in the ninth, and scored two runs in the Red Sox’ 8-2 win, helping Boston take three of four from Toronto.
The series featured two of baseball’s best young third basemen, Devers and the Blue Jays’ Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and both came to play. Guerrero didn’t appear in the first game of the series, but he got a pair of hits in both the second and third games, including a home run off Rick Porcello in the third. But it was Devers who looked like the more polished hitter, hitting a home run in each of the first three games and going 8 for 19 with six runs and seven RBIs in the series.
“It was a fun four days,” Devers said through a translator.
Devers has 15 RBIs in his last 12 games and has hit .346 over his last 33. He made a great defensive play on Thursday, too, one that likely saved a run. It was in the seventh inning when Devers dived for a ground ball in time to throw a one-hopper to Michael Chavis at first base. Chavis picked it and got the out, likely preventing a runner from scoring from second base.
“It’s an area that I’ve been working on consistently,” said Devers. “I have to be a complete player and I’m just trying to improve on that side of the game, as well.”
As far as playing against Guerrero goes, Devers said he’s met the Blue Jays rookie, likes him, and respects his game and his family, but doesn’t pay a lot of attention to their similarities.
Pearce collects 3 hits
While Devers has been hitting well consistently, the batter behind him in the order Thursday, Steve Pearce, finally found some rhythm. He drove in Devers twice, once with a single in the sixth and again with a two-run homer off lefthanded knuckleballer Ryan Feierabend in the ninth. Pearce was 3 for 5 with three RBIs on Thursday.
After a slow start, Pearce has six hits in his last four games. He had seven hits in his first 20 games.
“He’s in a good place,” manager Alex Cora said of Pearce. “He was fighting his swing for a while and he was actually fighting with himself in the batter’s box. Now it seems like he’s more relaxed.”
“I’ve been putting in a lot of work this season just trying to get back to where I was,” said Pearce. “It feels good to get the ball rolling in the right direction, especially when we have a tough series coming up.”
The other Red Sox runs came when Eduardo Nunez scored on a ground out by Chavis in the third, on a Mookie Betts double in the seventh, and on a single by Nunez in the eighth.
That was more than enough for Ryan Weber (1-0, 1.29 ERA), who went six innings and gave up three hits and one run with no walks and four strikeouts. The run Weber allowed came in the second when Freddy Galvis hit an RBI double to left. Weber was called up from Triple A Pawtucket on May 6 and was making his first major league start of 2019.
“Just giving the team a chance to win and saving the bullpen was really my main goal, and doing that, I mean, I’m excited and I’m proud of what I did,” Weber said.
The hope was that Weber would be able to pitch four or five innings. To have him go six in a day game that started 13 hours after the final out of a 13-inning game on Wednesday was especially valuable the day before the Red Sox begin a big three-game series in Houston.
Travis Lakins, who was with Triple A Pawtucket in Scranton, Pa., at 1:30 a.m. on Thursday when he got the call telling him to go join the Red Sox here, pitched a scoreless seventh inning on about two hours of sleep, then Ryan Brasier pitched a clean eighth. Hector Velazquez finished things off in the ninth, though he did allow a solo home run to Justin Smoak. That meant Cora was able to stay away from the rest of the bullpen, most importantly Matt Barnes.
“Those are the games that set you up for the rest of the week,” Cora said. “We talk about not chasing wins, but sometimes you can’t burn the bullpen every time you have a three-run lead or four-run lead, and they did an outstanding job today of avoiding that.”