January 29, 2023

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Sox riding wave of momentum: 'It's been awesome'

4 min read
Devers HRs twice in comeback win over Mariners

BOSTON — A 5-0 deficit in the third inning?

That that would have been jarring to the Red Sox a couple of weeks ago, when they were completely disjointed on offense and shaky in the bullpen.

Now? It’s barely something to even blink about, particularly at Fenway Park as the weather starts to warm up.

On Saturday afternoon, the resurgent Sox roared back from the first truly tough outing of Garrett Whitlock’s career (3 innings, 10 hits, 5 runs) and scored six unanswered runs for a thrilling 6-5 victory over the Mariners. Just two days earlier, Boston rallied back from an early 4-0 deficit for another win against Seattle.

“We’re getting that feeling back,” said manager Alex Cora.

After going from April 13 to May 11 without winning a single series, the Sox have now won their last three series and will go for a four-game sweep against the Mariners on Sunday afternoon.

They’ve won four in a row, five out of six and eight out of 11. There is still a hill to climb for a team that has an 18-22 record, but the momentum is noticeable to anyone in the clubhouse.

“It’s been awesome,” said Matt Barnes, who earned his second save of the season. “I think you can kind of feel the energy shifting. Guys are just having fun playing.”

Here are three takeaways from a memorable Saturday for the Red Sox.

Devers kept them in it
The most constant thing about the Red Sox this season? Big hits from Rafael Devers. The star slugger helped make this comeback possible when he swatted a no-doubter over the Boston bullpen in right-center and into the bleachers in the bottom of the third, followed by a two-run rocket over the Green Monster that slimmed Seattle’s deficit to 5-3 two innings later.

Devers has nine homers this season. Over his last 12, he is his batting .440 (22-for-50) with 12 runs, seven doubles, one triple, five homers, 13 RBIs and a 1.382 OPS.

On Saturday, Devers was satisfied to produce two swings that sent the momentum back in Boston’s direction.

“It feels great. We never give up at any point in the game. It feels great to help the team to close that deficit,” Devers said. “I feel great.”

Bottom’s up
The Red Sox aren’t going to get very far this season if their big four of Devers, Xander Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez and Trevor Story has to do all the damage.

That’s why Saturday was so encouraging. No. 7 hitter Franchy Cordero thrilled the crowd when he hit a triple that left his bat at 110.9 mph into the gap in right-center. It was the fifth triple of his career, but the first since 2018.

For a big man, Cordero can motor around the bases, diving head first into third for good measure.

“Obviously, when I hit the ball, I thought it was going to be a home run,” Cordero said. “But as soon as I saw the ball hit the wall, I just started running, tried to put myself in scoring position. When I saw the chance to go to third base I took that chance, knowing I had good hitters behind me to bring me home.”

That hitter was Christian Vázquez, who stepped up with one out needing a sac fly to put his team ahead, but instead drilled an RBI single high off the Green Monster to complete the comeback.

It was huge for us,” said Devers. “We know the type of hitter Franchy is, he’s good in clutch situations and with what Vázquez did behind him, everybody was as excited about that moment in the game and I’m happy for both of them.”

Familiar face at closing time
With a one-run lead and three outs to go, Cora turned to someone he always went to in that situation for the first half of last season in Barnes. But the righty’s struggles have been well-chronicled since August of last season, which made Saturday’s opportunity one Barnes badly wanted to seize.

He did just that, thanks in part to some sweet glove work in the outfield from Jackie Bradley Jr. and Kiké Hernández, who ended the game with a nice snag on the warning track.

“Please catch it,” said Barnes, when asked what he was thinking. “We were trying to go bottom of the zone, kind of bounce it off the plate. Ty France is a really good hitter and he’s swinging the bat really well right now. Trying to make a quality pitch, I think I left it up. Luckily we’ve got some really good outfielders and athletes on this team and Kiké was able to go track it down for me.”

Why did Cora go to Barnes, whose only previous save this season was a one-out job on April 22?

“A lot of people down,” said Cora. “He has to get people out at one point. [John] Schreiber, this was his third day, so we decided to go with him in that pocket facing the bottom of the lineup [in the eighth]. You’ve got to trust him. At one point, he’s got to get people out at this level and help us win games. He grinded there and he got us three outs.”

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