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Red Sox find strong start, win from bullpen

Pearce blasts first home run of season
May 23, 2019

TORONTO -- The Boston Red Sox got more than they could have asked for in Thursday’s series finale from starting pitcher Ryan Weber, who smoothly weaved his way through the Blue Jays’ lineup to set up the 8-2 win. Weber had made three relief appearances since joining the Red Sox

TORONTO -- The Boston Red Sox got more than they could have asked for in Thursday’s series finale from starting pitcher Ryan Weber, who smoothly weaved his way through the Blue Jays’ lineup to set up the 8-2 win.

Weber had made three relief appearances since joining the Red Sox earlier this month, topping out with highs of four innings and 63 pitches. But he quickly found a groove against the Blue Jays that allowed him to push through six innings of one-run ball with just three hits allowed and four strikeouts.

Box score

“Amazing,” Alex Cora said after the game. “He did a good job changing speeds, moving the ball around the strike zone, changing eye level. He can pitch. He and Christian [Vazquez] were on the same page today. They went over that lineup and they did an outstanding job.”

The timing couldn’t have been better, either. The Red Sox burned through five relief pitchers in Wednesday’s 13-inning win and, even after adding a fresh arm in Travis Lakins before Thursday’s game, they didn’t want to dig too deep before flying to Houston for a big series against the Astros.

“Giving the team a chance to win and saving the bullpen was really my main goal. Doing that, I’m excited and proud,” Weber said.

Weber leaned heavily on his sinker, which he threw for 51 of his 93 pitches. It was an effective offering that the Blue Jays couldn’t seem to barrel up. The eight groundouts Weber forced helped to keep the Blue Jays at bay and limit their offense to the lone run on an RBI double in the second inning.

Location was key for Weber throughout, as he lived in the bottom half of the zone with his sinker and managed to keep his curveball and changeup out of the dangerous areas. Weber’s velocity is limited, with his sinker averaging just 88.4 mph on Thursday, so he’ll need to continue walking that fine line going forward.

“He’s not that vertical attack with fastballs up, breaking balls down,” Cora said. “He’s more about pitching east-west, changing speeds, kind of a little bit of the old school. We’re pleased with the way he went about it. It was a great all-around game.”

Bradley, Pearce round out encouraging series

Jackie Bradley Jr.’s 2019 season has been a rocky ride at the plate, but he showed signs of turning that around throughout the four-game series in Toronto.

The 29-year-old homered in games one and two of the series, doubled and scored in game three of the series and then made his presence felt again on Thursday. Bradley doubled and singled, bringing his average up to .168.

Steve Pearce also took some positive steps in the familiar setting of Rogers Centre, driving in the third run of the game with a single to left field and then delivering the big bang with a two-run shot to left field in the ninth.

Cora had joked with Pearce on the way to Toronto that a trip to his old home might spark something, but credited this outburst to the hard work that Pearce has put in along the way despite his results.

“I’ve been putting in a lot of work this season just trying to get back to where I was,” Pearce said. “It feels good to get the ball rolling in the right direction, especially with a tough series coming up.”

Coming off a great 2018 stretch run with the Red Sox that culminated with him being named the World Series MVP, Pearce had yet to homer in ‘19. This one also gave the Red Sox 11 home runs over their four-game set in Toronto.