Red Sox’s pitching plans unclear ahead of key game vs. Nats

National Sports

After improving their playoff prospects Friday night, the visiting Boston Red Sox will look to carry that momentum into their Saturday game against the Washington Nationals.

A 4-2 Red Sox win, coupled with the Yankees’ 4-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, pulled Boston (90-70) within one game of New York (91-69) for the top American League wild card. The Seattle Mariners (89-71) and the Toronto Blue Jays (89-71) are one game behind the Red Sox, with each team having two games to play.

Slumping Boston won for just the second time in seven games. Hunter Renfroe and Bobby Dalbec supplied all the offense with back-to-back, sixth-inning homers.

“You really want it a different way, right? That you can breathe and get ready for next week like some of the teams that have clinched already,” Boston manager Alex Cora said. “But this is where we’re at, and we’ve got to take advantage of every day.”

With ace Chris Sale slated to pitch on Sunday, Cora hadn’t named a starter for Saturday afternoon. One possibility is right-hander Tanner Houck (1-5, 3.80 ERA), who pitched two innings in relief on Tuesday, allowing a run on three hits against the Baltimore Orioles. He has appeared in 17 games, making 12 starts.

Rookie left-hander Josiah Gray (2-2, 5.85 ERA) will start for Washington (65-95). Gray, acquired as part of the trade that sent Max Scherzer and Trea Turner to the Los Angeles Dodgers, has won his past two starts after failing to record a win in his first 10.

Last time out, he gave up three runs on four hits and three walks in 5 1/3 innings during a Monday win over the Colorado Rockies. Gray struck out four in that contest, and he has not allowed a home run in his past two starts.

“The kid has a lot of fire,” Washington manager Dave Martinez said. “He competes, not only on the field, but every day he’s trying to get better. That’s pretty incredible for a kid his age. And he wants the ball. … I think we’ve got something in Josiah, and he’s only going to get better.”

Playing without the designated hitter in a National League park and needing offense, Cora put as much power in his lineup as possible Friday night. He started an outfield of Kyle Schwarber (left), Renfroe (center) and J.D. Martinez (right) for the first time, with right-handed-hitting Dalbec at first base against Washington left-hander Josh Rogers.

It worked, as Renfroe smacked a three-run homer in the sixth and Dalbec followed with a solo shot to make it 4-0. Hansel Robles worked out of a jam he created in the ninth, and the Red Sox held on.

“We’re not necessarily putting a lot of pressure on ourselves, but we do know the urgency. We do need to win,” Renfroe said. “We’ve got to come out here and prepare every day and keep going. …

“We can see the finish line. We’ve just got to keep going strong.”

The Nationals got solo homers from Alcides Escobar and Jordy Mercer, and Juan Soto walked four times, the 26th time this season he has reached base four times in a game.

“They’ve been pitching around him a lot these last couple of weeks,” Martinez said of Soto. “They’ll make a mistake one of these times this weekend, and he’ll hit one hard.”

–Field Level Media

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