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Red Sox make statement with 3 HRs vs. Rays

Vazquez goes deep, then Betts and Moreland go back-to-back
@Sportsgal25
April 19, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG -- On Friday night, the Red Sox decided they’d had enough. Enough of the questions, the second-guessing and, most of all, the losses. And so, in the eighth inning, they made a statement. Will it be enough to send the team back on the same kind of winning

ST. PETERSBURG -- On Friday night, the Red Sox decided they’d had enough.

Enough of the questions, the second-guessing and, most of all, the losses.

And so, in the eighth inning, they made a statement.

Will it be enough to send the team back on the same kind of winning tear it rode in 2018? Only time will tell. For one night, the Red Sox were simply content to enjoy the 6-4 win over the Rays and let tomorrow bring what may.

The victory snapped Boston’s three-game slide overall and a four-game slump against American League East-leading Tampa Bay.

“We have something to prove,” Dustin Pedroia said before the game. “I think everyone’s highly motivated. I understand it’s difficult to win the World Series in back-to-back years. Everyone’s motivated; that’s not an issue. It’s just a matter of playing well, and we haven’t done that up until the first 19 games. So we’re all focused on trying to get back on track.”

There were several positives to take from Boston’s series opener at Tropicana Field.

J.D. Martinez extended his on-base streak to 19 games, Christian Vázquez homered for the third time in five games, the defense flashed leather and Eduardo Rodriguez did what he could to keep his team in contention.

Even so, the Red Sox were locked in a 4-all tie after a Daniel Robertson double up the third-base line erased Boston’s two-run lead in the sixth inning.

The Red Sox used the seventh frame to step back and formulate a new game plan. They sent Mookie Betts to lead off the eighth, and he knew just what to do.

“We fought to stay in the game,” said Betts, who parked a 2-1 pitch over the wall in straightaway center field for his fourth home run of the season. “[I was] just excited. A lot of emotions going through my head there. The main thing was that it put us ahead.”

Betts’ knock proved the eventual game-winner. But just in case, Mitch Moreland followed suit with his team-leading sixth home run.

The back-to-back roundtrippers marked Boston’s first since Sept. 26, 2018, against the Orioles.

“We know what we’re capable of,” Moreland said. “We’ve got a great team. We’ve just got to keep rolling like that.”

After a slow start out of the gate, the Red Sox roared to life in the fifth inning with a three-spot to take control of the game, 3-2. Martinez walked to open the frame and scored one out later, on Rafael Devers’ line-drive double to center field. The next hitter, Vazquez, lifted a 2-1 pitch just over the wall in center field for his fourth home run.

Vazquez’s four homers are the most by a Boston catcher before the end of April since Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit four in 2012.

“From top to bottom, it was solid,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “It was good to see.”

Martinez extended the lead in the sixth inning by singling in Betts, who’d stroked a leadoff double to snap an 0-for-12 skid. Betts is now slashing .311/.388/.521 with 24 doubles, 14 homers and 44 RBIs in 80 career games against the Rays.

“We were relentless today at the plate,” Cora said. “That’s good to see. We’ll turn the page. We’ll show up [Saturday] and … we’ve got two shots at winning the series. This is the first time I can say that all season.

“It’s good to feel that way.”

Dawn Klemish is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Tampa. Follow her on Twitter @Sportsgal25.