For most of the day on Friday, it was just bad news for the Red Sox. They lost two key players with COVID issues before the game even started, and then the offense was shut down by former Boston prospect Logan Allen. Eduardo Rodriguez did pitch mostly well, but a couple mistakes was enough to put Cleveland in front for most of the day. But then came the eighth. With two men on, Jonathan Araúz tried to simply bunt the runners over but couldn’t get it done. So instead he hit a three-run homer that put the Red Sox ahead and ultimately won them the game.
The Red Sox were forced to shake things up on Friday to start their series out in Cleveland to take on the soon-to-be Guardians, as Kiké Hernández tested positive for COVID and Christian Arroyo was also ruled out as a close contact. That brought Yairo Muñoz and Jonathan Araúz up to the majors, with both in the starting lineup for this one. With Hunter Renfroe also out — he was placed on the bereavement list prior to Thursday’s game at Fenway — the offense was shorthanded but still needed to produce to get a win.
Unfortunately, they had some trouble against Cleveland southpaw Logan Allen, a former Red Sox draft pick who was dealt to San Diego as part of the Craig Kimbrel deal. Boston’s bats, with Muñoz in the leadoff spot, went down in order for the first five batters that came to the plate. That streak was broken up by Bobby Dalbec ripping a two-out double in the second, coming off a two-homer game on Thursday, but he was left on second. That was the only base runner they managed through the first four innings.
Meanwhile, on the other side, Eduardo Rodriguez had the start looking to keep pace with the former short-time Red Sox farmhand. He only had to face three batters in the first, though that was through the help of José Ramírez trying, unsuccessfully, to stretch a single into a double. Cleveland would get a runner over to second on a single and an error in the second, but he’d be stranded there as well. After a perfect third, the game was still scoreless heading into the fourth.
At that point, there really wasn’t all that much hard contact against Rodriguez, but the fourth inning was when things started to change. Amed Rosario started the inning with hard contact, ripping a single into center field. That brought Ramírez back to the plate, and he worked a full count. Rodriguez tried to put him away with a changeup, but it caught way too much of the plate and Cleveland’s star infielder blasted a two-run shot out to left field, and that was the first scoring for either side. They’d get another single before recording an out as well, but only the two runs came across.
Now, the Red Sox offense was looking for some answers, and they were able to put together their first rally of the day in the fifth. It started with Alex Verdugo getting hit by a pitch, and then he’d quickly move up to second on a wild pitch. After Dalbec reached on a ground ball to put runners on the corners, Boston had a chance for a big inning with still nobody out. Instead, they got just one run on a double play ball from Christian Vázquez that ended up killing what could have been a potential rally. They’d settle for just the single run, trailing 2-1.
That was the same score entering the seventh, with the Red Sox finally getting into Cleveland’s bullpen. They managed just one hit off Allen the entire night, and were hoping for a change against new pitchers. Instead, they went down in order in the top half of that inning.
That brought Rodriguez back out for the bottom of the inning, which started with a leadoff single. Boston’s southpaw was able to get a big double play after that, but then he made another mistake. He threw a changeup out of the zone to Yu Chang, but it was up and away and Cleveland’s infielder was able to handle it. Chang blasted it the other way for a solo shot, extending the Red Sox deficit to two. Rodriguez did get out of it after that, finishing his night with seven runs, allowing the three runs on eight hits and a walk with two strikeouts.
Boston now had six more outs to play with to at least extend this game. They made the most of it in the eighth. With James Karinchak in the game, the bottom of the Red Sox order went to work. Vázquez started the inning off with a walk, and then Jarren Duran followed it up with a base hit. Alex Cora opted to let Araúz hit after that, with the infielder trying to bunt the runners over. He failed, but that ended up being the best possible thing. Karinchak threw a 3-2 fastball up and in, and Araúz jumped on it, sending it out to right field for a huge three-run shot. Just like that, it was a 4-3 Boston lead.
With the Red Sox suddenly in front, they were going to now need to lean on their bullpen to protect said lead. For the eighth, they’d turn to Garrett Richards, who has looked like a new man in this new relief role. It took only nine pitches for him to get through the inning in order.
After Boston failed to add any insurance in the top of the ninth, it was Adam Ottavino trying to close this one out in the bottom half. He’s been struggling a bit of late, and he did start off the inning with a leadoff walk. Pinch runner Andres Giménez then stole second to put the tying run into scoring position, still with nobody out.
The 4-3 victory pushed the Red Sox record to 74-56. They started this day trailing New York by three games for the top wildcard spot while leading Oakland and Seattle for the second spot by 2.5 and 3.5 games, respectively. New York and Oakland are playing each other tonight with that game still scoreless as this is being written while the Mariners are just getting started against the Royals.
The Red Sox stay in Cleveland for the second game of this three-game set on Saturday. Boston will have Nathan Eovaldi on the bump with Cal Quantrill going for the home side. First pitch is set for 4:05 PM ET.