WASHINGTON – Christian Vazquez tripled his tiebreaking run in the ninth inning and the Boston Red Sox were on the verge of a postseason berth with a 5-3 win over the Washington Nationals on Saturday.
The top AL entering the final day of the regular season tied with the Boston Yankees for a wild card. Red Sox will send ace Chris Sells to the mound on Sunday, who will need a win for a playoff ticket. If they win, they will host Tuesday’s wild-card game regardless of New York’s result as Boston won the season series 10–9.
“We know what it means if we win,” said Boston manager Alex Cora.
If the Red Sox lose on Sunday, they will still be assured entry into the tiebreaker game on Monday. The Red Sox are a game ahead of Toronto and Seattle.
“Total team effort,” Cora said. “It wasn’t easy. … It hasn’t been easy the whole season.”
Tanner Hawke played five of the eight, but Washington tied it to 1 in the eighth inning by centering Austin Davis (1-2) on Juan Soto’s long, base-loaded sacrificial fly.
JD Martinez took the ninth-place lead with a walk for Boston, and Vazquez drilled a ball to the right of Tanner Rainey (1-3), which easily pinched-runner Jose Iglesias 2-1 with two outs. Made for the edge of. Travis Shaw singled out to drive in Vazquez, then Kike Hernandez extended the lead against Mason Thompson in the Boston bullpen to 5–1.
Washington’s Andrew Stevenson hit a two-run homer in the ninth before Hansel Robles made his 14th save to end the game.
The Nationals loaded the bases with one in the eighth after center fielder Hunter Renfro lost a fly ball in the twilight, leading to a double, and Adam Ottavino for two. Soto hits a flying ball to hit it over deep center, but Josh Bell chases down with a soft lineout to end the threat.
Soto said he thought Davis was “lucky” the ball was out instead of at a Grand Slam. Soto also said that Davis was “talking trash” during the at-bat.
Rafael Devers’ 36th homer of the season took Boston 1–0 in the fourth. Devers hit with loaded bases against Rainey and got two outs in the eighth.
The Hawks zipped through the Nationals lineup, needing just 53 pitches to strike eight out of 15 consecutive runs he recorded. Washington hit a ball out of the infield before picking up the Hawk for pinch-hitter Christian Arroyo in the sixth.
Hawke, a 25-year-old rookie, threw 90 pitches twice in his 13 starts this season. Both came at the end of August. He had not bowled more than 42 pitches in his last three appearances, all in relief.
Before the game, Cora said there was no limit on Hawke, who played five innings three times earlier this season. He entered sixth place once again on 29 August.
“Not a struggle at all,” Cora said of the decision to remove Hawke. “(Saturday) the plan was actually to see where Soto was and see where we went. He did an amazing job.”
“I want this team to win and continue to grow,” Hawke said of the decision.
Gerardo Parra’s pinch-hit single in the sixth against Garrett Richards made the Nationals’ first baserunner. Washington loaded the bases with two in the seventh against Ryan Brasier, who was pitching for the fourth day in a row, before Jordan Mercer tried to eliminate the threat. Mercer was kicked out for arguing over a call by plate umpire Phil Coozie.
Washington starter Josiah Gray played six innings, scored seven runs and conceded one.
NATS pitching coach to return
National manager Davy Martinez said on Saturday that pitching coach Jim Hickey, who was hired by Washington for the 2020 season, will return for the 2022 season. Hickey and Martinez had a previous relationship working together in Tampa Bay from 2008–2014. The national team entered the game on Saturday 24th in the ERA.
National: P Josh Rogers (hamstring strain) was placed on the 10-day injury list on Saturday. OF Para (knee) was activated to replace Rogers.
Red Sox: RHP Garrett Whitlock (right pectoral strain) did not activate Saturday after throwing a bullpen session on Friday. According to Quora, depending on how he recovers, Whitlock could be active on Sunday.
Cell (5-1, 2.90 ERA) will make his ninth start of the season in the finale after missing most of the year following Tommy John surgery. After spending most of the season at High-A Wilmington, RHP Joan Aidan would be called by Washington to make his major league debut.
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