It’s all coming together for the Boston Red Sox.
After scoring at least eight runs for the first time in 32 games in an 8-3 win at Pittsburgh on Wednesday, the Red Sox will aim for a three-game sweep of the Pirates on Thursday night.
An all-around effort on both sides of the ball has helped Boston win three straight and five of six.
“I’m locked in, I’m staying within myself and not trying to do too much,” said Red Sox right fielder Alex Verdugo, who is hitting .447 (17-for-38) with 11 runs in his past 11 games after going 3-for-3 on Wednesday. “I’m just trying to be on time with the pitcher and use the big part of the field.”
Verdugo has also logged nine extra-base hits and seven walks during his hot streak. On Wednesday, teammate Christian Arroyo had three RBIs and matched Verdugo’s three hits.
Boston’s starting pitching has been solid, too.
Including five innings of two-run ball from Rich Hill on Wednesday, the Red Sox have a six-game streak in which their starters lasted at least five innings and gave up three run or fewer.
For Thursday, the Red Sox will have to shake things up as scheduled starter Nathan Eovaldi is dealing with a sore trapezius muscle.
Josh Winckowski (5-5, 4.69 ERA) will start instead. The rookie right-hander began with five scoreless innings on Aug. 11 against the Baltimore Orioles but wound up yielding three runs in 5 2/3 innings.
Boston manager Alex Cora said Hill’s five-inning outing was sufficient to set up the staff for Thursday. Winckowski will be opposing the Pirates for the first time.
“We’re in full force with (Winckowski), it’s a regular start for him,” Cora said. “(John) Schreiber got a day, (Matt) Barnes is available. … We feel good.”
Winckowski had been slated to piggyback Hill on Wednesday before Eovaldi was scratched.
“I feel like I could pitch (on Thursday), but we’re playing it safe,” said Eovaldi, whose next start is now slated for Tuesday against the Toronto Blue Jays. “I felt it coming out of the last start. I can’t tell you exactly when — day two, three.”
The Red Sox enter play Thursday four games behind the final American League wild-card position.
“We know we’re a little way’s back, but we’re within striking distance,” Verdugo said. “We’re just looking for one open spot.”
Pittsburgh’s JT Brubaker (2-10, 4.45 ERA) will start the series finale. The right-hander has allowed three or fewer earned runs in five of six starts since his last win on June 30. His 117 strikeouts in 113 1/3 innings lead the Pirates.
Brubaker’s trend of solid starts continued last week as he held the Arizona Diamondbacks to two runs on three hits and struck out six in five innings. Both runs scored in the fourth.
“I think for the first three innings, he had a really good tempo and went after guys,” manager Derek Shelton said. “He gave up the solo homer (to Emmanuel Rivera) to start the fourth and it looked like he got out of his rhythm a little bit.”
Thursday will mark Brubaker’s first career outing against the Red Sox.
On the whole, Brubaker has been a bright spot for a team that sits at the bottom of the National League Central.
The Pirates will look to finish the series with a more consistent offensive effort and avoid what would be their second seven-game losing streak in less than a month.
After Bryan Reynolds hit a two-run homer two batters into the Wednesday game, the Pirates were held to just one hit until the ninth inning.
“We kind of got out of our zone throughout the game, and we let the Boston pitchers dictate what we were going to swing at instead of staying in our hitting zones,” Shelton said.
–Field Level Media