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Alex Verdugo blasts three-run homer against Guardians

Alex Verdugo blasts three-run homer against Guardians

CLEVELAND — The sixth inning was an inning of peaks and valleys for the Boston Red Sox on Saturday. The valley came early, when Jarren Duran made the first out of the inning at third base trying to advance on a wild pitch.

The peak ended up being the knockout blow. 

Four batters after Duran recorded the first out of the inning at third, Alex Verdugo staked Boston to a 3-2 lead with a 447-foot home run off Shane Bieber. That was all the offense the Red Sox would need, as Josh Winckowski and four relievers locked in to guide the Sox to a 4-2 win.

In Friday’s opener, Verdugo scalded the ball (four of the five balls he put in play were hit over 90 mph) but only had a double to show for it. He ended up with even more to show for it Saturday.

“I was looking for a heater, and was able to get a curveball that was middle in,” Verdugo said. “I’ve been really locked in over the last couple days, and been using the whole field.”

The home run was the lone blemish allowed by Bieber, who ended up going seven innings. He stifled the Red Sox the first two times through the order (Boston only had one baserunner the second time through), but came undone facing the Red Sox for the third time. After allowing back-to-back two-out singles to J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts, Bieber hung a curveball to Verdugo that ended up in the Progressive Field bleachers.

“He didn’t miss [that pitch],” manager Alex Cora said of Verdugo’s homer. “There’s a reason he’s hitting behind the big boys. He’s a good hitter and understands the strike zone.”

Saturday marked the third straight start that Winckowski went more than five innings, as the rookie right-hander allowed two runs in 5 1/3 innings to pick up the win. Since being recalled from Triple-A Worcester on June 15, Winckowski is 3-0 with a 2.12 ERA in 17 innings.

“I feel pretty good,” Winckowski said. “I finally got to show all my pitches and threw the cutter more. I’m a guy that’s going to roll…

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