Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora admitted Wednesday night if there is one thing that’s going well after their two-game slide against the Houston Astros, it’s been the two-way production from Hunter Renfroe.
The right fielder put together his most recent dazzling display on defense with his seventh assist of the season during the first inning of Boston’s eventual 8-3 loss at Fenway Park.
Renfroe charged a one-hopper to right field and threw a bullet on a line to catcher Christian Vázquez, who applied the tag on Houston’s Alex Bregman as he tried to score from second base. It kept the game scoreless in the first inning and gave Renfroe the second most assists in the America League.
Renfroe, however, had a very subdued reaction to his throw, which clocked 98 miles per hour.
“Average. Middle of the pack,” Renfroe said on a postgame video conference when asked where it ranks among his best throws. “There’s more in the tank.”
Cora was a little more giddy about it. And he revealed his conversation with Renfroe after the play.
“I asked him, I go, ‘Do you have any doubts?’ And he’s like, ‘No,'” Cora said with a chuckle. “That’s what he brings to the equation. He’s playing well right now. Offensively, he’s putting together good at bats. Obviously, defensively, he’s a force back there. If there’s a positive out of all this, he’s been very solid.”
Renfroe had another almost-assist later in the seventh on a sacrifice fly by Myles Straw, but Houston’s Michael Brantley was able to avoid the tag by Vázquez and slide across home plate. Renfroe added an RBI single in the first inning, as well.
Here are some other notes from Red Sox-Astros:
— Cora praised the Astros, who have now won five of their last six games against Boston, for their offensive output. Houston compiled 17 hits to Boston’s four in the game.
“They do an amazing job putting the ball in play,” Cora said. ‘When everybody is going where they’re at right now, putting the ball in play, using the whole field, not striking out, long at bats, they’re tough. They’re really tough. They’re one of the best offenses in the big leagues.
“They put (on) a clinic. They did. That’s why they are the best offense in baseball,” Cora added.
— Nathan Eovaldi explained how he lost a bit of his command, especially during Houston’s four-run third inning. The Astros, from that point on, never looked back despite Eovaldi eventually going 5 2/3 innings with five runs on 11 hits.
“I just felt like I need to do a better job of making adjustments on the fly,” Eovaldi said after striking out five.
— Alex Verdugo missed his second straight game Wednesday.
The 25-year-old outfielder has been dealing with back tightness, according to Cora, but is expected to be back in the lineup when the Red Sox return to host the Astros on Thursday.
— Chris Sale and the Red Sox made headlines earlier this week as the left-hander was seen on the field at Fenway Park getting some work in.
And while Sale is hoping to play soon, it seems a mid-summer return is much more likely. Still, Cora knows Sale’s importance, and won’t throw him in a bullpen role just to get him on the mound faster.
— Red Sox closer Matt Barnes will be a free agent at the end of the 2021 season, and he offered some insight into contract talks during a pregame video conference.
Barnes said while he is open to negotiating a contract extension during the season, nothing has presented itself to this point. The right-hander did, however, express how the Red Sox and he were talking about an extension during spring training.