BOSTON – Playing against the New York Yankees seems to bring out the best in Nathan Eovaldi. His latest performance has the Boston Red Sox on the verge of a second straight sweep of their longtime rivals.
Eovaldi pitched neatly into the eighth inning, Adam Ottavino escaped a pair of late jams and the Boston held off New York 4-2 on Saturday night. The Red Sox improved to 5-0 against the Yankees this season.
It was a bounce-back night for Eovaldi (8-4), who was coming off his shortest outing of 2021 in which he lasted just four innings at Kansas City.
He was more composed at Fenway Park, keeping his fastball in the high 90s while allowing one run off seven hits, issuing no walks and striking out six over 7 2/3 innings.
“Tonight I felt like everything was working for me,” Eovaldi said. “The fastball command was there. ... I think that opened things up for the rest of the game as well.”
Eovaldi exited after DJ LeMahieu's homer made it 4-1 in the eighth. After Hirokazu Sawamura came on and issued three walks to load the bases with two outs, Ottavino got Luke Voit to ground out to end the threat.
Ottavino made his own trouble in the ninth, and LeMahieu hit an RBI single with two outs. But with two on, Ottavino struck out Aaron Judge for his fifth save in eight chances.
Judge said there's no big secret to how the Yankees can avoid another setback to Boston.
“We've got to score first, that's the big thing," Judge said. “These guys have put the pressure on us early in the game. ... We've got to flip the switch."
Ottavino, who spent the previous two seasons in New York before being traded to Boston in January, said it is still strange facing his former team. He said avoiding eye contact with the familiar faces was key to him staying composed late.
“The game’s are never easy either way,” Ottavino said, “Both teams really battled. Tonight they didn’t want to go away.”
Jordan Montgomery (3-2) took the loss, allowing three runs off eight hits, walking two and striking out five.
Trailing 3-0, New York had a chance to tie the game in the sixth when LeMahieu and Judge reached on back-to-back singles with one out. The inning ended when Gary Sánchez ground into a 5-4-3 double play.
The Yankees had a runner on with two outs the following inning when Gleyber Torres hit a line drive to center field. But the ball had just enough air underneath it for Kiké Hernández to run it down on the warning track.
Boston loaded the bases with no outs in the second inning and took a 1-0 lead on Hernández’s sacrifice fly.
It grew to 2-0 two pitches later when Voit got spun around hauling in Bobby Dalbec’s popup in foul territory, allowing Rafael Devers to tag and score from just ahead of the first baseman's late relay.
The Yankees appeared to get out of the third inning unscathed after Xander Bogaerts reached with a two-out double and Devers appeared to ground out on a close play at first.
But Red Sox manager Alex Cora challenged, and the call was overturned. Hunter Renfroe then legged out an infield single, allowing Bogaerts to cross home plate and make it 3-0.
Renfroe and Bogaerts each had three hits.
Cora said he was pleased with how the team played defensively, which gave Eovaldi and the bullpen the support they needed when the Yankees threatened late.
"They were in tune with everything," Cora said. “Games like that just gives you a chance for the pitchers only to get 27 outs."
Yankees: LHPs Zach Britton (hamstring) and Wandy Peralta (back) were both added to the 10-day injured list. Right-handers Albert Abreu and Brooks Kriske were called up from Triple-A. It’s the latest injury issue for Britton, who recently returned after missing the first 63 games of the season following elbow surgery. But manager Aaron Boone said they don’t believe this injury will keep him sidelined for long based on the early assessment.
Red Sox: LHP Chris Sale faced live hitters for the first time in more than a year Saturday, throwing 15 pitches during a batting practice session. He’ll throw another one next week.
SAVE THAT BALL
Red Sox catcher Connor Wong lined a single to right field in the second inning to tally a hit in his first career major league at-bat. Saturday was Wong’s second big league game and first career start.
Yankees: RHP Gerrit Cole (8-3, 2.33 ERA) has 123 strikeouts through his first 15 starts, which are the most by any Yankees pitcher in his first 15 starts of a season, surpassing David Cone’s 120 in 1997.
Red Sox: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (5-4, 6.07) is looking to get back on track after going 0-4 with a 7.94 ERA and .325 opponent batting average over his last eight games.
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports