Red Sox bounce back to destroy Rays behind 20-run outburst

After yet another excruciating loss on Tuesday night, Red Sox manager Alex Cora just wanted to see his club put together a well-rounded performance. It was a simple call, yet a tall task given their recent brutal stretch.

“We just need a good, sound game, from first pitch to last one,” Cora said Tuesday. “Kind of breathe a little bit and just enjoy it.”

It won’t erase weeks of misery that have suddenly put their playoff hopes in question, but the Red Sox granted Cora his wish.

A night after blowing another late lead, the Red Sox took a desperately needed and big step in the right direction on Wednesday night at Fenway. They seemingly released all of the frustration they had built up over the last two weeks into their most dominant victory of the season, a 20-8 shellacking of the division-leading Rays.

“It was definitely a night that a lot of us were looking forward to,” Xander Bogaerts said.

The victory had everything Cora was hoping for, and more: He wanted a solid pitching performance from Nathan Eovaldi, who was rather dominant over seven innings. And he wanted a “good offensive game.” He received a massive outburst with 20 runs on 19 hits, their highest single-game run total of the season and most since a 22-10 win over the Mariners in 2015, behind a dominant performance from the top of the lineup.

“We needed it,” Cora said. “We put ourselves in a situation to win the series (Thursday).”

The Red Sox set the tone in the first, as Eovaldi pitched an easy 1-2-3 inning before their first three batters — Kiké Hernandez, Hunter Renfroe and Xander Bogaerts — opened with three consecutive doubles to open an early lead, marking the first time in the expansion era that a team has opened the game with three doubles in a row.

They were relentless against Rays starter Josh Fleming, matching a season-high with six doubles over the first four innings. They broke the game open in the fourth with five runs as they finally put an end to Fleming’s night after he surrendered 10 runs on 11 hits.

It was another encouraging night for an offense that was largely asleep for two weeks, as all but two starters recorded at least one hit. J.D. Martinez went 4-for-4 and reached base six times, Hernandez and Renfroe both had three-hit nights and even Bobby Dalbec got in on the fun with five RBI, which included a three-run triple in the fifth when right fielder Randy Arozarena lost a fly ball and it sailed over his head.

It got a little silly in the eighth, as the Rays sent catcher Francisco Mejía to the mound and he was tagged for six more runs. Bogaerts belted a three-run homer to left, Connor Wong hit an RBI triple and Marwin Gonzalez put 20 on the board with an RBI single. But it provided another reminder of what kind of damage this offense can do. And they hope it’s only the beginning.

“We know how we’ve been grinding these last couple of weeks, but I think these last couple of games we’ve been turning it,” Bogaerts said. “A lot of the guys that weren’t playing as well are starting to get their groove back, get their swings back. … I think (Thursday) we need to come back with the same approach, be aggressive and try to score runs early and often.”

On the mound, Eovaldi gave the Red Sox exactly what they needed after their bullpen had been taxed over the weekend and again on Tuesday, and on a day their rotation struggles were magnified again with the demotion of Garrett Richards to the bullpen. Eovaldi struck out 10 over seven dominant innings, with his lone blemish coming on a solo homer from Brandon Lowe. But he was otherwise masterful, departing in the seventh to a standing ovation from the 30,000-plus at Fenway.

The Red Sox led 20-1 going into the ninth inning before Phillips Valdez gave up seven runs, including a grand slam to Brett Phillips. But even after their blown leads of late, this one was never in danger.

With Tanner Houck on the mound for Thursday’s series finale, a win could suddenly put the Red Sox on the right track again.

“We’ve just got to keep playing baseball,” Cora said. “We know where we’re at. Right now we have a wild card spot, but that’s not what we’re shooting for. We’re shooting for the division. For that we have to play better. … We’re getting there.”

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