Wong, bullpen lead Red Sox past Blue Jays – Lowell Sun


BOSTON — The Red Sox offense continues to be stuck in neutral early this season, but on Tuesday night, it found a different way to win.

On a cold night when runs were at a premium, the Red Sox finally cashed in on a gift opportunity. Connor Wong – freshly called up from Triple-A Worcester – hit a sacrifice fly that scored Bobby Dalbec in the seventh, and the Red Sox held on for a 2-1 win over the Blue Jays in the opener of a three-game series at Fenway Park.

The Red Sox kept coming up empty on Tuesday night. They opened the game with back-to-back walks against Blue Jays starter Yusei Kikuchi and didn’t score in the inning. They had runners on first and third with no outs in the fourth, and still couldn’t score.

Kiké Hernández and Trevor Story combined for back-to-back doubles in the third to tie the game for really their only source of life on offense.

But in the seventh, Bo Bichette gave them a gift. The Blue Jays shortstop had made a couple of pretty plays early in the game, but may have gotten a bit too cocky. His second of two throwing errors on the night missed Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at first, allowing Bobby Dalbec to get to second on what should have been a groundout.

The Red Sox didn’t even need to record a hit – they only had three on the night – to score Dalbec. Jackie Bradley Jr. moved Dalbec over to third with a grounder before Wong lifted a fly ball to right, deep enough for Dalbec to get home for the game’s deciding run.

– The Blue Jays boast one of the most feared lineups in baseball, but the Red Sox pitching staff, led by Nathan Eovaldi, was up to the task. The right-hander had to work for it as threw 95 pitches – which included 17 foul balls – in just 4 2/3 innings, but he allowed just one run and gave the Red Sox a chance to win.

Without Christian Vazquez or Kevin Plawecki – both out on the COVID-19 related IL – he didn’t have a problem. His familiarity with Connor Wong, a fellow Houston area native who he throws to in the offseason, paid off again. In four starts since last season, Eovaldi has a 2.52 ERA with 27 strikeouts to two walks in 25 innings.

Eovaldi, though, is getting bit by the home run bug early this season. He gave up a solo homer to Zack Collins – a 432-foot shot to right – in the second, the fifth home run he’s given up in three starts this season. He didn’t give up his fifth home run of last season until July 6.

– Matt Strahm continued to look like Alex Cora’s new secret weapon in the middle innings. Summoned to a 1-1 game with two outs in the fifth, the left-handed newcomer threw 1 1/3 hitless innings with one strikeout.

Strahm led a dominant effort from the bullpen, as Hansel Robles continued his regular season scoreless innings streak – reaching 18 2/3 innings – with 1 1/3 shutout innings before Garrett Whitlock’s 1-2-3 inning in the ninth.

In six appearances this season, Strahm has been terrific in his new home. He’s allowed one run on two hits in six innings across five appearances.

– Christian Arroyo’s transition to right field has included some expected hiccups, but on Tuesday night he looked more natural out there, with two impressive catches on the run.

The first one came in the opening inning, when Bo Bichette hit a laser deep to right toward the bullpen. But Arroyo made a good jump and snared it in stride, then flashed a grin and some excited words with his teammates in the bullpen.

Then in the fourth – with two runners on a tied game – George Springer made a bid to deep right. Arroyo got a late break on it but got there in time to make an important inning-ending out to help the Red Sox get out of a jam. Tuesday marked Arroyo’s first start in right field at Fenway, and he certainly could come away encouraged with his performance.

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