BOSTON (AP) — A surprising roster shakeup didn’t disrupt the power surge that has the Boston Red Sox back in first place.
Hours after Boston designated Hanley Ramirez for assignment, Mookie Betts and three teammates homered as the Red Sox beat the Atlanta Braves 6-2 on Friday night.
“Offensively, don’t get me wrong — we’ve done an outstanding job — but we feel that we’re going to be better,” manager Alex Cora said.
Betts hit his major-league leading 17th home run and J.D. Martinez slugged his 16th for the Red Sox, who had just seven hits in the game. Mitch Moreland, the newly anointed regular first baseman with Ramirez now gone, hit his seventh homer of the year, and Xander Bogaerts also went deep.
“I don’t think we had a ton of hits, but the ones we did have counted,” Moreland said. “It’s nice to be able to never feel like you’re out of the game. One swing of the bat can get you right back in it. It’s a lot easier to put up crooked numbers that way.”
Boston got its fifth win in six games and welcomed back All-Star second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who was activated from the DL earlier Friday but did not play. The Red Sox needed a roster spot for Pedroia, expected to make his season debut Saturday, and made the stunning and likely costly move to option Ramirez, the struggling slugger they signed to an $88 million, four-year deal before the 2015 season.
One of the reasons the Red Sox cited for the move was wanting to get Moreland more time at first, where he’s an improvement defensively, as well as at the plate, where he delighted Boston fans with a solo homer to center in the eighth.
“It felt good to add another run and join all the other guys that hit homers today,” Moreland said.
Eduardo Rodriguez struggled early but managed to hold Atlanta to just a pair of runs on six hits with three walks in 5 2/3 innings. Rodriguez (5-1) struck out seven despite his early control issues and walked three.
Nick Markakis hit a two-run double for the Braves, who have lost three of four. Julio Teheran (4-2) pitched six innings, allowing three runs on four hits, walking three and striking out four.
“I’ve seen him a lot sharper obviously, but he kept us in the game and kind of battled his way through it,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “We kept the game manageable, just had a hard time putting anything together.”
Martinez pulled Boston within 2-1 with a leadoff homer in fourth on a line drive that clipped the top of the Green Monster. Bogaerts tied it two batters later on a solo shot that left the ballpark entirely.
Boston took its first lead in the fifth when Jackie Bradley Jr. tripled to center with one out and scored on Andrew Benintendi’s sacrifice fly.
“There are certain guys that struggled in the first part of the season but they’re working at it. They’re getting better. You can see the progress with Jackie,” Cora said. “Obviously with Dustin coming in, it’s going to help.”
Rodriguez appeared headed for a short night when he allowed two or more baserunners in each of the first three innings. Atlanta scored twice in the third when Ronald Acuna Jr. and Freddie Freeman started the inning with back-to-back singles and Markakis drove in both with a double to left.
Atlanta didn’t get another hit until Dansby Swanson’s one-out double to left in the ninth.
“We’re going to go through really good stretches, and through some tough ones like the last couple of games that we haven’t been able to win,” said center fielder Ender Inciarte, who went 0 for 4. “But we keep grinding at it and hopefully it’s going to go our way the rest of the series.”
Ramirez, 34, was hitting .254 with six homers and 29 RBIs in 44 games this season while splitting his time between first base and designated hitter. He hit .163 with three homers and 12 RBIs in May after starting the season with a .330 average, three homers and 17 RBIs.
He bid farewell to Boston in a Tweet.
“Thank you #RedSoxNation. It’s been real. Love you always.”
Atlanta had just as many hits as Boston, but six of the seven came in the first three innings as Rodriguez struggled. Rodriguez was pulled after his 101st pitch.
Heath Hembree finished off the Braves in the sixth, the Joe Kelly, Matt Barnes and Craig Kimbrel delivered one scoreless inning apiece.
“I’ve been pleased the whole season,” Cora said of his bullpen. “If you look at them as a whole, they’re great.”
Braves: Placed LHP Luiz Gohara on the bereavement list, allowing him to return to Brazil to spend time with his mother as she recovers from heart surgery. … Atlanta recalled RHP Matt Wisler from Triple-A Gwinnett and he pitched the final 1 1-3 inning, allowing Betts’ and Moreland’s homers.
Red Sox: Activated second baseman Pedroia (offseason knee surgery), but did not start him. Dave Dombrowski, president of baseball operations, said the Red Sox are going to let the four-time All-Star and 2008 AL MVP ease back into the lineup, likely starting Saturday. “He feels good. He’s not having any pain so we think that he’ll be fine to go out there but we are going to be careful in that regard,” Dombrowski said.
Braves: A rookie who grew up in Massachusetts, Sean Newcomb (5-1, 1.29 ERA) is 4-0 with a 0.36 ERA in four starts this month and is making his first appearance against the Red Sox. The Middleboro High School alum had a stretch of 21 consecutive scoreless innings before the Miami Marlins scored one on him in the second last Saturday in Atlanta’s 8-1 win.
Red Sox: LHP Drew Pomeranz (1-2, 5.97) lasted only four innings against Baltimore on May 18, allowing five runs — four earned — on seven hits while striking out a season-low two.
More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball
Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.