Break up the Red Sox! Boston has been playing their best baseball of the season over the last week-plus, feasting on AL West competition. That carried over into Thursday’s series opener against the Mariners at Fenway, with Trevor Story taking center stage. Swinging a better bat over the last couple of weeks, he had his best game of the season here in this one, smashing a trio of homers and finishing with five runs and seven RBI. J.D. Martinez contributed a four-hit game while Tanner Houck came out of the bullpen and threw four dominant innings, all combining for a 9-5 win.
More robust game notes below.
It’s been a strange few days for Red Sox starting pitchers, who have oscillated between both extremes in terms of outing lengths. On Tuesday, Nathan Eovaldi was knocked out with two outs in the second inning after having given up a record five homers in the inning. Then on Wednesday, Nick Pivetta followed it up with Boston’s first complete game since back in 2019. Rich Hill got the start on Thursday to start a four-game set against the Mariners, and he was looking to at least find a happy medium if not match Pivetta’s performance. Instead, he was closer to the Eovaldi end of the spectrum, albeit without quite as extreme of a blow up.
He also didn’t have as extreme of a first inning in terms of effectiveness, needing 17 pitches to get through his scoreless opening frame compared to Eovaldi’s five. But in the second, he found himself in some trouble and it would ultimately be his final inning of work. Things started when Eugenio Suárez hit a fly ball out to left field that was just past the glove of Alex Verdugo, falling in for a leadoff double. After a strikeout, Hill gave up a single before facing Dylan Moore. The key for Hill is for hitters to not sit on the fastball, because if they are and it’s over the plate, it’s essentially batting practice. This was batting practice. Moore took Hill’s fastball and put it into the Monster Seats for a three-run shot, and Seattle got on the board first with a 3-0 lead.
Hill followed that up with the second out of the inning, but Seattle continued to push from there. Adam Frazier drew a two-out walk to keep the inning alive before Ty France attacked the first pitch and lined a double into the right field corner. Jackie Bradley Jr. struggled to cut it off, bobbling it on a sliding attempt, which made it fairly simple for Frazier to come around and make it a 4-0 game. A Julio Rodríguez base hit then put runners on the corners, but fortunately Rich Hill was able to induce a pop up from Jesse Winker, ending both the inning and his outing.
It wasn’t really what the Red Sox were looking for, and now the onus was on the offense to pick up Hill as they faced an inexperienced but very talented rookie in George Kirby. They also went down without a run in the first, but in the second they answered back. Verdugo started it off going the other way against the shift and reaching on an infield single, putting a runner on for Trevor Story. He’s been swinging a better bat of late, and he showed it here by sending a middle-middle fastball just up and into the Monster Seats for a two-run shot, cutting the deficit in half. Boston had a chance to add on, too, with a one-out groundrule double from Christian Vázquez, but failed to capitalize.
That frustrating subsided in the next inning, and it was basically the same story as the second. After Tanner Houck came on for a perfect third, it was J.D. Martinez this time leading things off with a base hit. Different leadoff man getting on, but same guy producing the big swing. Story came up again with a runner on base and hit his second two-run homer of the day, this one a bit more emphatically for a no-doubt shot to tie the game at four runs apiece.
From here it become about Houck. The Red Sox are still trying to find the right role for the righty, but this seemed like a perfect spot with the game still within reach and needing someone to go a few innings to give the offense a chance to come back. It only took a couple of frames for the latter portion to happen, and Houck held up his end of the bargain. Including that aforementioned scoreless third, he ended up giving the Red Sox four very strong innings, allowing just a single and a walk — in separate innings — to go with six strikeouts.
So it was still a 4-4 game head into the bottom of the sixth, with Kirby still on the mound. He’d throw just one pitch — Seattle tried to take him out to start the inning, but as he was already warming up he had to stay in the game — and it was a double for Verdugo. That brought Story back to the plate, and once again he delivered. It wasn’t a home run this time, but rather a line drive up the middle for a base hit. The young Julio Rodríguez then got a little overaggressive, trying to cut down Verdugo at third after the latter had to hold up in case the line drive was caught.
It was a poor decision and it backfired, with the ball getting by the bag and allowing Verdugo to come home and make it a 5-4 game with Story now in scoring position. The bottom of the lineup looked as though they were poised to waste the chance, but Jackie Bradley Jr. made sure that wasn’t the case. He worked an impressive 10-pitch at bat, finishing it off with a double going the other way off the Monster, bringing home Story and extending the lead to two.
Now it was on the bullpen to hold this lead, and John Schreiber got the call for the seventh. He’s been impressive since joining the club, and he was once again, retiring the top of Seattle’s lineup in order. That gave more time for the Red Sox offense, who got some help from Seattle’s bullpen to start to pull away a bit in the bottom of the inning. Boston got a one-out double from J.D. Martinez, and then a two-out single from Verdugo kept the inning alive, and everything when downhill when Wyatt Mills came in. He walked Trevor Story to load the bases, then issued another walk to Bobby Dalbec before hitting Vázquez with a pitch. Seattle then went back to the bullpen to bring in Danny Young, who walked Bradley before finally ending the inning, but not before Boston created a five-run cushion.
With the bigger lead now in hand, Hirokazu Sawamura got the call out of the bullpen, but he didn’t make things easy. After starting off the inning with a strikeout, he gave up back-to-back singles before issuing a walk, loading the bases and bringing the tying run to the plate. That was enough for Alex Cora, who brought on Matt Strahm to get out of the jam. Things didn’t go much better, as he walked the first batter he saw to bring home a run. Strahm started the next at bat falling behind 2-0, too, but came back for a strike out and ultimately got out of the inning with just the one run coming across.
The Red Sox then, once again, broke things open, and it was Story again. With two men on, he smashed a three-run shot, his third homer of the game, and the Red Sox were up 12-5. That just left it up to Ryan Brasier to protect the blowout. He did allow a solo homer, but that was all to finish out the 12-6 victory.
The Red Sox can now guarantee at least a split for this series with a win on Friday. Boston will have Michael Wacha back from the injured list for this game while Robbie Ray goes for Seattle. First pitch is at 7:10 PM ET.