Alex Verdugo prepared himself to get dropped in the batting order when the Boston Red Sox acquired Tommy Pham and Eric Hosmer at the Major League Baseball trade deadline.
But the opposite happened for Verdugo.
Instead, Red Sox manager Alex Cora showed trust in the 26-year-old outfielder by thrusting him to the cleanup spot, and the move continues to pay off, especially in Wednesday’s 8-3 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. Verdugo put together another terrific performance at the plate, reaching base five times off of three hits and two walks while also driving in a run as well.
“When we got Tommy (Pham) and (Hosmer), he thought he was going to hit in the bottom of the lineup, but I was like, ‘No, you will hit up there,'” Cora told reporters, as seen on NESN postgame coverage. “It just happened that we created balanced — right, left, right, left — and he’s hitting fourth for the Red Sox now. He’s hitting in-between some good hitters, too. He recognizes situations. Today he recognized, probably, patterns. Slider away, fastball in, but some good swings. Was patient enough in certain at-bats.”
Verdugo hit the ball all over the park in his strong showing, first spraying a single to left-center in the top of the second to spark a three-run frame and overcome a 2-0 deficit. In the fifth, Verdugo ripped a double down the first base line to score Xander Bogaerts and collected his final hit by dropping in a single to left field.
Verdugo is now hitting .360 (18-for-50) in the month of August, which has put his offensive slow start in April and May well into the past.
“I’m locked in,” Verdugo told NESN’s Jahmai Webster, as seen on the network’s postgame coverage. “I’m staying within myself, not trying to do too much. Being on time with the pitcher and just trying to use the big part of the field.”
Here are more notes from Wednesday’s Red Sox-Pirates game:
— Rich Hill’s outing didn’t get off to a good start, allowing two runs after the first two batters he faced. But the veteran left-hander settled in nicely, retiring 12 straight batters after giving up a two-run homer to Bryan Reynolds. Hill ended up going five innings to get the win while letting up just the two runs on three hits and striking out four with no walks.
For Hill, who threw 43 of his 57 pitches for strikes, it was his first outing since Aug. 9 when he got hit around by the Atlanta Braves.
“We were talking about his last outing, obviously it didn’t go the way he wanted,” Cora said. “He takes pride in going five or six because he knows what it means bullpen-wise. … He didn’t rush. They got two, hits, two runs and he knew kind of like, ‘I got to slow down here,’ and he did an amazing job.”
— Cora bemoaned his team’s inability to keep on the offensive following the series opener. On Wednesday, it seemed like the Red Sox heard their manager. After scoring three times in the top of the second, they added on runs in the fifth, eighth and ninth innings.
— The Red Sox scored at least eight runs for the first time in 32 games, according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.
— Boston showcased more of a patient approach, walking seven times in the contest. That’s the most walks the Red Sox have had in a game since June 26, according to Speier.
— Jeurys Familia wasn’t his sharpest in his Red Sox debut. The hard-throwing right-hander allowed one run on three hits in the ninth inning.
— The Red Sox will look to complete the series sweep of the Pirates on Thursday. First pitch from PNC Park is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET, and you can watch the game, plus an hour of pregame coverage, with NESN 360.