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By CHARLES ODUM AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA (AP) — Rafael Devers says five straight losses had driven home the ugly point for the last-place Boston Red Sox: “We haven’t been playing well.”
A big hit by Devers helped provide hope the Red Sox can revive their offense and their season.
Devers hit his first career grand slam and the Red Sox broke out for clean-shaven manager Alex Cora in a 9-4 win over the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday night that ended a five-game skid.
Devers hit a fastball from Kyle Wright 432 feet off the center-field scoreboard behind the Braves’ bullpen.
“I got a good pitch to hit,” said Devers through a translator. “… If it was in the zone, I was going to put a good swing on it.”
Devers also had a double and a walk.
The slam, Devers’ fifth homer, was the highlight of Boston’s six-run second inning. Trevor Story had a two-run single in the ninth.
The Red Sox matched a season high for scoring last reached April 13. Boston had combined for six runs over their past four losses.
“I think overall a lot of good at-bats,” Cora said. “… The line was moving today.”
The offensive surge came after Cora decided to shave his salt-and-pepper beard before the series. He grew out his facial hair ahead of the season and joked that it was to blame for his team’s poor start.
“If our offense depends on my facial hair, we’re in big trouble,” Cora said after the game.
Christian Vázquez had a run-scoring single and Jackie Bradley Jr. drew a bases-loaded walk before Devers’ slam gave Boston a 6-0 lead.
The Red Sox led 6-4 before adding three runs in the ninth off Tyler Thornburg. Alex Verdugo’s bases-loaded walk drove in a run before Story’s two-run single.
The Red Sox ended their streak of six consecutive series losses by earning at least a split of the two games in Atlanta.
Boston (11-19) is last in the AL East, 10 1/2 games behind the first-place New York Yankees.
The Red Sox, who lost to Houston in last season’s AL Championship Series, aren’t the only team struggling to reclaim their winning form. The defending World Series champion Braves (14-17) fell seven games behind the NL East-leading New York Mets.
The Braves, coming off a series win over Milwaukee, have no winning streaks longer than two games this season.
Wright (3-2) allowed six runs on seven hits and four walks in 4 2/3 innings.
Travis d’Arnaud hit a two-run homer off Garrett Whitlock, who allowed three runs on four hits and four walks in three innings. Tyler Danish (1-0) allowed one hit in two scoreless innings.
Right-hander John Schreiber had three strikeouts in two scoreless innings for his first save.
Braves designated hitter Marcell Ozuna was 0 for 2, but drove in two runs with a sacrifice fly and a fielder’s choice grounder. Ozuna is hitting .210.
“He has struggled,” said Braves manager Brian Snitker. “… He’s going through a stretch where he doesn’t like where he’s at, but it’s not about lack of work.”
SHAKE IT UP
Cora didn’t depend on his clean look to change his team’s direction. He also tweaked his lineup.
Story, hitting .194, hit sixth instead of at the top of the lineup and had two hits, including a single in the big second inning. Xander Bogaerts moved down one spot to fourth and had three hits. Designated hitter J.D. Martinez hit third instead of fourth and had a single.
Red Sox LHP Rich Hill, who was placed on the COVID-19 injury list on Friday, is “doing good” and is symptom-free, according to Cora, but is still awaiting the necessary two negative tests before he can be activated. Cora said “if everything goes well” Hill could return to the rotation for this weekend’s series at Texas.
Atlanta’s Ian Anderson (3-1, 4.01) will face Boston’s Nathan Eovaldi (1-1, 2.94) in a matchup of right-handers in Wednesday night’s final game of the series. Anderson allowed four runs in four innings last season in his only previous start against the Red Sox. Eovaldi is 2-2 with a 2.71 ERA in 14 starts against the Braves.
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