Red Sox lineup’s season-high 7 doubles, O’Neill’s Monster HR clinch series win over Phillies

After completing their largest comeback of the season on Wednesday night, the Red Sox lineup figured they might as well check off another first on their 2024 bucket list.

They forced Philadelphia Phillies starter Aaron Nola to give up five hits in an inning, his most in any frame this season, and a career-high five doubles.

All within the first two innings of what turned out to be a 9-3 Red Sox victory and their first series win after going 0-2-3 in their previous five.

Overall, the Sox collected 14 hits. They knocked Nola out of the game after 3.2 innings, tagging him with eight earned runs – matching his career-high set on Aug. 30, 2022 – on 11 hits, two walks, and two strikeouts. He needed 90 pitches, and only threw 53 for strikes, before Rob Thomson made the call to the ‘pen.

“He’s probably one of the best pitchers in the league, and I just thought we saw him good tonight, and we just put really good swings on the ball, man, like we didn’t try and do too much, we were just keeping it simple and passing the baton to the next guy,” Jarren Duran said.

Boston scored four runs on five consecutive knocks in the bottom of the second. Enmanuel Valdez began the onslaught with a double, then scored on Reese McGuire’s double. Dom Smith drove the catcher in with a single before Ceddanne Rafaela advanced him down to third with a double.

Continuing making his case for the All-Star Game, Duran made it five hits in a row with a two-RBI double, already his second two-bagger of the contest. He finished the night 2-for-4 with a run, two batted in and a walk.

“Leadoff hitter, man. He’s doing it all up there for us. He’s slugging the ball and he’s using the whole field. Speed is just killer up there, too,” Tyler O’Neill said. “He’s a table-setter for us. Wouldn’t want any other guy at the top of our lineup.”

The Red Sox would need all four runs almost immediately, because Tanner Houck found himself in big trouble in the top of the fourth. A leadoff single by Edmundo Sosa, hitting Whit Merrifield with a pitch, and another single by Johan Rojas loaded the bases for Kyle Schwarber, who promptly unloaded them with a double to deep center.

Just like that, the lead was cut to one.

But the Boston bats weren’t close to finished with Nola. Undeterred in a way rarely seen from them this season, they answered back immediately. Smith and Duran drew one- and two-out walks respectively, and David Hamilton knocked in Smith with a single.

The biggest hit, however, was still to come. With two on and two out, O’Neill unloaded a 430-foot bomb, drilling the baseball 108.4 mph into the DraftKings sign atop the Green Monster. As the light show flashed, he followed Hamilton and Duran around the bases, bringing home an 8-3 lead.

“That was huge. I mean, I feel like that’s when you get tested as a team, is when you get punched in the mouth, you’re able to punch back,” Duran said, “and they hit us pretty good, but we came back right away.”

“We were able to have a good bounce-back inning,” O’Neill said. “Obviously it was a big swing for them, but we came out and wanted to punch ’em right back.”

Even then, Nola remained in the game. Only after Rafael Devers and Masataka Yoshida followed O’Neill’s blast with back-to-back singles – which meant the entire lineup had at least one hit – did the Phillies make a change.

Buoyed by the bomb-tastic inning, Houck was able to pitch his first 1-2-3 inning of the night. And aside from that rocky fourth inning, it was business as usual for the right-hander, who’s become the Red Sox ace. He entered the contest leading the American League with a 1.91 ERA and 0.2 HR/9, and leading all MLB pitchers with 2.9 fWAR.

Houck went six innings, just as his manager has come to expect. He allowed three earned runs on eight hits, hit one batter but didn’t issue any walks, and struck out five. It was his league-leading 12th quality start. He’s the first Red Sox pitcher to make more than 12 quality starts in this span since Derek Lowe in 2002 and Pedro Martinez in 2000 and 1999; Martinez won his second and third Cy Young awards those season.

“In a grinder, right, in a bad outing or whatever you want to call it where his stuff wasn’t as sharp, he goes six against a great offensive team,” Alex Cora said of his starter. “You show up to the ballpark, it’s Tanner on the mound, we got a pretty good chance of winning it.”

“I know I threw a lot of strikes, but in my opinion, I just didn’t throw a lot of quality strikes,” Houck said. “But all in all, six innings against a good team like that, take that any day. And then obviously, the boys doing what they did with the bats was fun to watch.”

For good measure, the Red Sox tacked on their ninth run in the bottom of the sixth, and Devers’ double in the eighth set a new season-high of seven for the team, their most in a contest since last July 8 against Oakland.

Brad Keller pitched the remaining three innings for the Red Sox, and the Phillies couldn’t string anything together against him. After splitting their series with the lowly Chicago White Sox, the Red Sox took two out of three from Dave Dombrowski’s first-place Phillies.

“Philly’s no joke, man,” O’Neill said. “We took it to ’em.”

“It was huge. We showed a lot of heart, like all series. I mean, we got knocked down and then we came back and we played two great games,” said Duran. “I think we got a bunch of guys that are stepping up really huge, and I’m so proud of everybody on this team.”

“We have a good team, and we’re gonna lose some games and we’re gonna win some games,” Cora said. “We show up every day and we work hard. And like I said, sometimes it’s gonna be good. Sometimes it’s gonna be great. And sometimes we’re gonna struggle. ‘Cuz that’s who we are, and we have accepted that as a team, and we’re gonna show up every day and try to kick your (expletive). That’s the bottom line. And sometimes we will and sometimes, they’ll kick our (expletive). That’s the bottom line.”

Next up, it’s finally time to see if the Red Sox can kick the Yankees’ (expletive).

Tanner Houck of the Boston Red Sox pitches during the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Fenway Park. (Photo By Matt Stone/Boston Herald)
Tanner Houck of the Boston Red Sox pitches during the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Fenway Park. (Photo By Matt Stone/Boston Herald)

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