The Boston Red Sox bullpen should get a large chunk of the credit if the team ends up taking the American League East and moving deep into the postseason. The Red Sox will try to give their relief corps a break and earn a fifth straight win when they visit the Cincinnati Reds in the second of a three-game interleague series on Saturday.
The Boston bullpen is the biggest reason the team is 15-3 in extra-inning games and the relievers are posting an ERA of 1.17 during a stretch of 12 wins in the last 15 games. The Red Sox added another weapon to the bullpen recently in the form of former Cy Young Award winner David Price, who tossed 2 2/3 scoreless innings in Friday’s 5-4 win and has yet to allow a run in 4 2/3 innings of relief since coming off the disabled list last weekend. The Reds are losers of four in a row and are struggling to embrace the spoiler role with each of those four setbacks coming against postseason contenders. Boston, which owns a four-game lead over the New York Yankees in the AL East, will send lefty Eduardo Rodriguez to the mound on Saturday opposite Cincinnati righty Robert Stephenson.
TV: 4:10 p.m. ET, NESN (Boston), FSN Ohio (Cincinnati)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Red Sox LH Eduardo Rodriguez (5-6, 4.15 ERA) vs. Reds RH Robert Stephenson (5-5, 5.01)
Rodriguez is on a roll lately with two or fewer earned runs allowed in each of his last three starts but is coming off a loss at Tampa Bay. The Venezuela native struck out seven and yielded two earned runs over 5 2/3 frames, but could not get any support in a game Boston went on to lose 3-2. Rodriguez, who struck out 24 in 17 2/3 innings over his last three outings, is 3-5 with a 4.42 ERA on the road.
Stephenson showed off all the skills that made him a top prospect when he got the start against Pittsburgh on Sunday and yielded one hit in six scoreless innings while striking out eight. The 24-year-old surrendered two or fewer runs in seven of his last eight appearances. Stephenson struggles with his control at times and issued a total of 21 walks in 31 2/3 innings over his last six outings.
1. Red Sox 3B Rafael Devers hit his first home run since Aug. 19 in the opener.
2. Reds CF Billy Hamilton started on Friday for the first time since suffering a fractured thumb on Sep. 6 and went 2-for-5.
3. Cincinnati 2B Scooter Gennett hit his fourth grand slam of the season on Friday and is the first player in major league history with at least four grand slams and a four-homer game in the same season.
PREDICTION: Red Sox 6, Reds 4