Sox use small ball to stay unbeaten vs. Yanks

June 27th, 2021

BOSTON -- Make contact and good things will happen. Red Sox manager Alex Cora has preached that since Spring Training, and it materialized in a big way on Saturday night.

This was a game in which the Sox -- at least from an offensive standpoint -- simply scratched and clawed their way to a 4-2 victory against the Yankees in front of another packed house of 36,857 at Fenway Park.

“We got enough today,” said Cora. “When we score four, we’re really good, so we should shoot for four every night.”

The Red Sox are 41-4 when they score four runs or more this season and 5-27 when they don’t.

How did the four runs score? On three sacrifice flies and an infield hit -- one of three that Hunter Renfroe had on the night. Overall, Boston had five infield hits.

To some managers, that might seem like winning ugly. To Cora, it was beautiful.

“Did a good job putting the ball in play. We had traffic early on, a lot of traffic,” said Cora. “We hit some balls hard. We got lucky on a few of them, but we ran the bases well, and we put pressure on them.”

The second sacrifice fly was a true work of art, hit all of 152 feet by Bobby Dalbec and caught in foul territory by first baseman Luke Voit.

You can bet that Voit never envisioned would tag and try to score on the play. But sometimes the element of surprise is what is needed, and Devers came roaring home to beat the throw and the enthralled Fenway approved with hearty cheers.

“He’s a good player. He’s a good athlete,” Cora said of Devers. “The presence of mind, he sees Voit going back, he knows he doesn’t have a good arm, and he took off. He was flying. That was an amazing job by him and [third-base coach] Carlos [Febles].”

The gritty offense was just one element to this highly-satisfying win that pushed the Red Sox to 5-0 against their forever rivals this season, a monumental improvement from last year’s 1-9 mark.

Nate was great
The tone-setter was . The flame-throwing righty turned in yet another dominant outing against his former team. In 7 2/3 innings, Eovaldi (8-4, 3.67 ERA) scattered seven mostly inconsequential hits, walking none and striking out six. The only run he allowed was to the last batter he faced, a homer off the bat of DJ LeMahieu.

Since joining the Red Sox, Eovaldi has allowed one earned run or fewer in seven of his eight starts against the Yankees. That includes his strong effort in Game 3 of the 2018 American League Division Series.

It was the first time the Red Sox have received a start of at least seven innings since June 3, and the fifth in 77 games this season.

“I felt like everything was working for me,” Eovaldi said. “The fastball command was there, I was able to throw it inside. We were able to establish that early in the game, and I think that opened it up for us later in the game as well. It helped the slider a lot, kept them off balance, and the curveball played really well, too.”

Ottavino didn’t buckle
Eovaldi wasn’t the only former Yankee to thrive on Saturday night. Nobody was under more pressure than setup man , who inherited a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the eighth inning after the normally reliable Hirokazu Sawamura came on for Eovaldi and walked three straight batters. Ottavino got the Sox out of that precarious situation by getting Voit on a groundout.

With closer Matt Barnes unavailable due to his recent workload, Ottavino also took on that role on Saturday, coming back out for the ninth.

LeMahieu put all the pressure on Ottavino when he belted a two-out RBI single to slim the lead to 4-2. That brought the dangerous Aaron Judge to the plate.

Ottavino won the battle, ending the game on a 96.1 mph heater. Earlier in the six-pitch at-bat, Ottavino fired his hardest pitch of the season, at 97.8 mph.

“I was pretty tired at that point but just trying to find a way to get a swing and miss,” Ottavino said. “I think the crowd probably helped, but just kind of gave everything I had.”

Wong impresses in first start
Considering that it was such an intense game, the way Red Sox catcher handled himself in his first MLB start was impressive.

Boston’s No. 16 prospect -- who is filling in as Christian Vázquez’s backup while Kevin Plawecki recovers from a left hamstring strain -- showed poise in the way he handled Eovaldi and Ottavino.

“He did a good job. There’s some calmness, right? The way he sets up, he’s not panicking back there,” said Cora.

While his work behind the plate was his most impactful element of the night, Wong experienced a thrill when he belted a single to right in the second inning, getting a hit in his first career at-bat.

“It was nice. It felt like it was my first hit in a long time,” said Wong. “Obviously, I was struggling in [Triple-A] Worcester, so it was nice to get that one and I’m looking forward to building on that.”