On Tuesday night, Velazquez makes his first start since April when he faces Yovani Gallardo in the second game of a three-game series with the Texas Rangers at Fenway Park.
The Red Sox won their seventh straight and their 12th in their last 14 games on Monday night, improving to 63-29 with a 5-0 victory over the Rangers. Velazquez wasn’t named until after the game because he was in line to replace starter Eduardo Rodriguez if Boston needed a long reliever.
Rodriguez tossed 5 2/3 scoreless innings for his 11th win and Velazquez got the nod for Tuesday. He replaces Brian Johnson, who replaced injured Steven Wright for one start before he, too, went on the disabled list with a hip injury.
Rodriguez allowed three hits and walked three before four relievers finished yet another Red Sox win, this one in the first game of a seven-game homestand that leads up to the All-Star break.
The win, coupled with the New York Yankees splitting a doubleheader in Baltimore, increased Boston’s lead atop the American League East to 2 1/2 games — their biggest lead since April 30.
“Up and down the lineup everybody can hit,” said Pearce, who became the first Red Sox hitter with a home run in his first home at-bat since Daniel Nava in 2010. “You look at the pitching staff — great starters, good bullpen. This is just a complete team.”
Of his homer off Mike Minor, he said, “It was a very fortunate at-bat. Dramatic. Worked a good count and was able to put good wood on it and give us an early lead.”
Velazquez was 2-0 with a 2.53 ERA as a starter in April and is 4-0 with a 2.83 ERA as a reliever, leaving him 6-0 with a 2.76 ERA overall — 30 hits and 28 strikeouts (10 walks) in 30 innings.
He faces Gallardo, the veteran who has gone 3-0 with a 5.87 ERA in four starts during his second tour with the Rangers.
The right-hander is 2-3 with a 5.25 ERA in seven career starts against the Red Sox — 1-3 with a 6.12 ERA in five starts at Fenway.
The last-place Rangers fell to 2-3 on their current 10-game road trip that leads up to the All-Star break.
“They’re a tough team,” Texas manager Jeff Banister said. “They swing the bats really well. They have good starting pitching.
“We had an opportunity in the fourth, sixth and the seventh and even the eighth to push a run across. We had the triple (with no one out) there in the seventh and didn’t get the run across.”
Both J.D. Martinez, who hit his 28th home run of the season on Monday, and Xander Bogaerts, named American League player of the week, are 5-for-15 (.333) and Jackie Bradley Jr. is 3-for-10 (.300) lifetime against Gallardo.
Steve Pearce, who hit a two-run homer in his Fenway debut Monday for the Red Sox, is 2-for-14 (.143) against Gallardo, who was 13-11 for the Rangers in 2015.
Velazquez has just one short relief appearance against the Rangers in his two seasons with the Red Sox.
The Red Sox have won at least 63 of their first 92 games for the third time in their history, having also done it in 1912 and 1946.
Ryan Brasier, making his first major league appearance since 2013, worked a perfect ninth inning.
Shin-Soo Choo, who set a Rangers record by reaching base for a 47th straight game Sunday, didn’t play against the left-handed Rodriguez on Monday night. He has been named to his first All-Star Game.
Newly acquired right-hander Cody Gearrin, picked up in a trade with the San Francisco Giants, arrived at Fenway to join his new team and tossed 1 2/3 scoreless innings in relief in the loss.
“I told my wife, ‘Trades always seem like something that happens to other people,'” he said before the game. “I got that phone call, they said this might be happening. A little bit later, it’s happening. It was a shock, it’s a surprise. It’s not unique, it happens all the time in baseball, but it’s a first for us. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind.”