Christian Arroyo has found a feel for the moment, and that’s probably an understatement.
On another night that Red Sox starting pitching didn’t get the job done, and the second consecutive night that the Red Sox blew a lead in the late innings, it was Arroyo who was the hero again on Wednesday night in Atlanta.
During a month in which he had already hit three clutch home runs, Arroyo — quietly claimed off waivers last season — continued his career renaissance with his biggest knock yet. Down by a run in the seventh with two outs and the bases loaded, Alex Cora turned to Arroyo to pinch hit for the pitcher in the No. 9 spot.
It worked out, to put it lightly. Arroyo turned on a 1-2 cutter, cranking it deep to left for a dramatic, go-ahead grand slam that put the Red Sox ahead for good as they came from behind for another 10-8 victory over the Braves, sweeping a wild two-game set at Truist Park.
The Red Sox had leads of 4-1 and 6-3 but another poor outing from a starter, this time from Garrett Richards, who lasted just four innings, erased it. Freddie Freeman’s solo homer off Hirokazu Sawamura put the Braves in front, 7-6.
But the Red Sox remained resilient.
For another night, the offense, which had eight doubles on the night, overcame bad pitching. Christian Vazquez loaded the bases with a one-out walk, but Bobby Dalbec struck out. That left a pinch hitter to take advantage of the opportunity. Cora originally had Danny Santana ready to step in, but after the Braves made a pitching change for A.J. Minter, he went to Arroyo.
Arroyo made no mistake on Minter’s two-strike cutter, smashing it 467 feet to the left-field seats. As he’s done with his previous homers, he rounded the bases with some flair, this time approaching third base with a basketball Euro-step celebration.
Arroyo has four homers this season — all in the last two weeks — and he’s made them all count as they’ve all been go-ahead or game-tying blasts. The first came in Houston on June 3 with a three-run homer. Last Thursday, he hit another three-run homer that helped the Red Sox avoid a sweep from the Astros, and he hit a game-tying blast the next night before the Sox walked off over the Blue Jays.
Then came Wednesday night, as he produced the Red Sox’ first pinch-hit grand slam since Mike Carp hit one in 2013. It was the Red Sox’ first grand slam this year.
The victory helped the Red Sox (42-27) move to within a game of the division-leading Rays, who lost on Wednesday. They’ll head into the off day on Thursday on a happy note as they went 10-7 over a tough stretch of 17 games in 17 days.
Richards had another rough start as he allowed six runs (four earned) over four innings. He entered the fifth, but Abraham Almonte hit a leadoff double before Austin Riley reached on an error and Dansby Swanson tied the game with one swing as he smacked a three-run homer to left.
Richards threw 84 pitches, and they were exclusively his fastball and slider. He didn’t throw a single curveball, which he’s used this season more than he ever has in his career, and he seemed to have some command issues as he hit a pair of batters. The spin rate on his fastball and slider were down 256 and 266 RPMs, respectively, from his season average.
The right-hander’s short outing continued the rotation’s recent issues, as they’ve combined for an 8.05 ERA over their last 12 starts.