Brandon Phillips hit a two-out, two-run home run in the top of the ninth inning in his Boston Red Sox debut on Wednesday afternoon, allowing the American League East leaders to complete a three-game sweep of the Atlanta Braves with an improbable 9-8 win in Atlanta.
Boston (97-44), which completed a seven-game trip with a 5-2 record, temporarily padded its lead atop the AL East to nine games over the second-place New York Yankees (87-52), who were scheduled for a night game at Oakland.
The loss, the Braves’ sixth on a just completed nine-game homestand, temporarily cost Atlanta (76-63) to see its National League East lead fall to 2 1/2 games over second-place Philadelphia (73-65), pending the Phillies’ night game at Miami.
After rallying from a 7-1 deficit with a six-run top of the eighth, only to fall behind again by virtue of a Freddie Freeman home run in the bottom of the inning, the Red Sox flipped things again in the ninth after Andrew Benintendi drew a one-out walk from A.J. Minter (4-3), the Braves’ sixth pitcher.
Minter got a second out, but then served up Phillips’ first home run of the season in just his fifth major-league plate appearance.
Phillips was playing for the first time for the Red Sox after having been called up from Triple-A when rosters expanded on Sept. 1. He signed a minor league deal with Boston in June.
The homer was his first since last September for the Los Angeles Angels.
Brandon Workman (4-0), who gave up Freeman’s tie-breaking home run in the eighth, was credited with the win. Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel worked around a two-out walk in the last of the ninth to register his 38th save.
Phillips’ heroics stole the spotlight from Freeman, who had been held out of the starting lineup for the first time all season before belting his solo shot in the eighth.
Freeman, who had started each of Atlanta’s first 138 games, entered the contest as part of a double-switch while the Red Sox were rallying into a 7-7 tie in the eighth. The homer was his 21st home run of the season.
Ian Kinsler, another former Angels second baseman now playing for the Red Sox, capped Boston’s six-run eighth inning with a pinch-hit, two-run single. Blake Swihart had a two-run double earlier in the inning.
Boston’s late flurry stole a win from Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz, who left with a 7-1 lead after throwing six innings of two-hit ball. He walked two and struck out five.
Ronald Acuna Jr. provided the big blow of the Braves’ early scoring when he led off the bottom of the first with a home run on Hector Velasquez’s second pitch.
The homer was Acuna’s eighth when leading off the first inning, a Braves franchise record. It was his 24th of the season overall.
Velasquez was pulled after four innings, having allowed two runs on five hits. He walked three and struck out two.
—Field Level Media