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Red Sox 2, Rays 1: The Hunter Renfroe Game

And Nathan Eovaldi shoved all night.

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Tampa Bay Rays v Boston Red Sox Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Talk about a much-needed win. The Red Sox were on the verge of a sweep at the hands of the Rays coming into Wednesday’s game, and for most of the game the offenses were nowhere to be found. Nathan Eovaldi got the start for Boston, and he was dominant. The stuff was about as good as we’ve seen from him this year, and he got through seven scoreless. But on the other side, the Red Sox had hard hit after hard hit, but nothing to show for it. The Rays eventually took a lead in the eighth, but Hunter Renfroe made sure the fans went home happy. He hit a two-run shot in the eighth to give Boston the lead, and then for good measure ended the game with a monster outfield assist. All in a day’s work.

With the Red Sox trying to avoid a sweep on Wednesday, they were turning to the guy that has been their most consistent starter all year in Nathan Eovaldi. With his ability to pound the strike zone, the righty has been mostly fantastic this year, and the Red Sox were in desperate need for that form from him once again on Wednesday night.

They got it. Eovaldi was fantastic, and with the Rays knowing he is going to be throwing strikes they were not staying at the plate long, making for something of a quick evening early on. Boston’s starter gave up a leadoff single, but then retired the next six batters he faced. The third inning did feature some uncharacteristic control issues, but it wasn’t anything too major and he worked around a pair of walks for a scoreless inning.

Eovaldi just continued to roll in the next couple of innings as well. The fourth did feature another hit when Manuel Margot fisted a ball on the inner half for a soft liner down the right field line, but Hunter Renfroe cut him down trying to stretch it to a double for the final out of the inning. Then, in the fifth, Tampa Bay did get one hit on an infield single on a swinging bunt from Josh Lowe — the rookie’s first career hit — but that was all as he struck out the other three batters he faced in the inning.

The issue for Boston, however, is that their offense was having a frustrating night of their own against Shane McClanahan. Like Tampa Bay, they weren’t even really threatening all that much, but they were making a whole lot of hard contact. They did get at least one runner into scoring position in each of the first two innings, but no runs were able to come across.

That would remain true through the fifth inning as well, with McClanahan only allowing three singles on the day to that point. It was a bit misleading, however, because the Red Sox had a whopping nine batted balls coming in at at least 99.6 mph, with six of them being outs. Here’s their 11 hardest hit balls from the first five innings, along with their exit velocity, play result, and expected batting average.

Baseball Savant

The good news is Eovaldi was able to keep rolling with another perfect inning in the sixth, and in the bottom of the inning the Red Sox were looking for new life with Tampa Bay now turning to their bullpen. And things got off to a good start, with Renfroe coming through with a leadoff single, ironically hit just 70 mph off the bat. It seemed like a good omen with the hard contact working out so poorly, but J.D. Martinez followed it up with a double play ball to kill any momentum.

Eovaldi had one more inning in him, inducing three straight ground balls to the right side with Bobby Dalbec getting all three outs in impressive fashion. It closed the book on the Red Sox starter, who tossed seven brilliant shutout innings, allowing three hits and two walks while striking out eight.

With the offense going down in order in the bottom half of the seventh, Boston now turned to their bullpen with Josh Taylor getting the call. He got two quick outs, but then an infield single from Brandon Lowe kept the inning alive. That brought the switch-hitting Wander Franco coming to the plate, and Alex Cora called for Garrett Richards to try and finish the inning.

Instead, he issued a walk to bring up Nelson Cruz with two on and two out, still in a scoreless game. Sure enough, Cruz broke that tie, striking a base hit through the middle to bring home the first run for either side in the game.

So now the pressure was on for the offense with just six more outs to play with. They were bringing on reinforcements to start the inning, with Alex Verdugo and Kyle Schwarber coming on to hit for José Iglesias and Jonathan Araúz, respectively. Verdugo got things started the right way, ripping a base hit into right field. Schwarber then canceled out Verdugo on a fielder’s choice.

A couple batters later, Renfroe came to the plate with the man on first and two down. Finally, a hard-hit ball did real damage. Renfroe got a first-pitch slider that hung right out over the plate and blasted it way out to left field for a two-run shot. With that, the Red Sox were up 2-1.

Surprisingly, Cora turned to Hansel Robles to get through the ninth, with an absurd defensive alignment after the pinch hitters in the previous inning. Most notable among the changes were Devers going to second and Dalbec going to third. Robles started the inning with two strikeouts before Joey Wendle hit a fly ball out to center field. Danny Santana, who moved over to center for this inning, came up short on a dive. But Renfroe was there to back up this time (he made that mistake earlier in this series) and made a huge throw into third base to cut down Wendle and end the game.

The 2-1 victory pushed the Red Sox record to 80-62. As of this writing, the Blue Jays hold a late lead over the Yankees, while the Mariners won their afternoon game and the Athletics are just getting started. To start the day, Boston trailed New York by a half-game for the top wildcard spot while Toronto trailed the Red Sox by two games for the second spot and Oakland trailed by 3.5. With their win, Seattle stays three games back.

The Red Sox now have Thursday off as they travel to Chicago to face the other Sox. That three-game set starts on Friday with Tanner Houck on the mound. First pitch is set for 8:10 PM ET.