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Red Sox win fourth straight, club O’s again

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Red Sox win fourth straight, club O’s again

If the Red Sox are able to make it to the postseason at the expense of their ancient rival Yankees, they should send a bouquet of roses to the city of Baltimore.

While the floundering Yanks managed to lose eight times to the cellar-dwelling Orioles, the O’s rolled over yet again for the Sox on Saturday. Behind a three-hit, four-RBI performance from Xander Bogaerts and solid relief work from Tanner Houck, the Sox picked up their 11th win of the year over the O’s, who suffered their 101st loss of their wretched season in a 9-3 drubbing at Fenway Park.

With the Yankees’ loss to Cleveland on Saturday, the Sox opened up a game and half lead over New York while the Blue Jays — a game behind the Sox after the Fenway win — were playing a late afternoon game against the Twins.

With 12 games left in the regular season, Bogaerts has picked a good time to heat up again.

“It’s fun just being able to go out there and help your team,” said the shortstop, who bashed his 22nd homer of the year. “We know that every game matters now. We’re at a point in the season now that every win is huge, regardless of how you get them. It’s fun that everyone has their best game at the moment.”

It wasn’t a pretty start for the home team, however.

On his first three pitches, Sox’ starter Nick Pivetta allowed three consecutive ropes, the second of which was a two-run Monster shot by Ryan Mountcastle. O’s starter Zac Lowther did Pivetta one better, allowing three runs in the first on five hits, the most damaging one being a bases-loaded, two-run double by Bobby Dalbec.

Pivetta quickly gave up the lead in the second on a solo shot from Austin Wynns and the game was knotted at 3-3. But that’s all the O’s could get off Pivetta.

He would leave in favor of Darwinzon Hernandez with two outs in the fourth after inducing Wynns to hit into a 4-6-3 double play to help thwart what appeared to be the makings of a big inning after the first two men reached.

After Hernandez pitched just two thirds of an inning, manager Alex Cora went quickly to Houck.

“When we have to be aggressive, we’re going to be aggressive. And we needed to be aggressive,” said Cora. “Nick, with what they did on the first three pitches, put us in a bad spot but after that, he weathered the storm, they scored three, he got the big double play. We went aggressively with Darwinzon, knowing that he can give us more than one out. The walk (in the fifth) put us in a bad spot. Tanner was ready and it was time to use him… He went out there and did an outstanding job. The whole bullpen did a great job.”

As has so often been the case for the O’s this year, they could not deny the Sox’ bats.

The Sox inched ahead again in the bottom of the sixth on an RBI single from Bogaerts, but they stranded two runners when O’s reliever Mike Baumann caught Dalbec looking to end the inning.

But the Sox finally created some breathing room with four runs in the sixth. After Hunter Renfroe delivered an RBI double to the triangle and Rafael Devers poked a single to left, Bogaerts ripped a first pitch homer off the National Car Rental sign in left to give the Sox an 8-3 lead.

The Sox scratched out another run in the bottom of the seventh and they were on their way.

Meanwhile, in his first outing in a defined bullpen role, Houck provided some quality relief to make sure the O’s didn’t keep pace, throwing 2 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing just one hit, no walks and striking out three.

“It’s about going out there and putting the team in the best spot to win,” said Houck, who picked up his first win of the season. “I came in today, felt pretty good with everything and just went at hitters. That’s a very positive thing to take away from today, regardless of the circumstances, starting or relieving, whatever it is. I’m just happy I went out there, went at hitters and threw strikes with all my pitches today.”

Asked whether he believes it’s more important to seize home field advantage for the wild card game or to line up his starting pitching, Cora leaned towards the former.

“That last at-bat home is very important. And playing here is different. It’s a different ballgame. It’ll be great to make it first but at the same time to play here,” said Cora.

“I do believe we’re going to be lined up so that those two guys (Chris Sale and Nathan Eovaldi) are going to be ready for 161, 162 and if there’s a 163, they should be there. I’m talking about Chris… And at the same time, we’ve got other guys who are very capable, too. Now it’s just playing chess, honestly. See where we are at the end of the night and then plan accordingly.”

After Saturday’s win, the Sox are now 37-18 at Fenway in their last 55 home games.

Speaking of Sale, he revealed after his win on Friday and after his second positive COVID-19 test (he said he was asymptomatic) that he remains unvaccinated.

Asked if he was concerned that even a close contact for Sale could result in more missed time for the team’s ace, Cora said the club is doing it’s best to keep all the un-vaxxed players available.

“We’ve been doing a lot of things here as far as that,” said Cora. “(Head athletic trainer) Brad (Pearson) and the medical group have done an amazing job in the last 15 days with that. Like I’ve said, this is a time to enjoy this, but at the same time we have to be very careful not only with him. There’s others, the unvaccinated. We make sure they get their work in and they go home. I think we’ve done an amazing job the last few 15 days to avoid something like that.”

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