The Red Sox had a problem, but Steve Pearce was the solution.
In his first home game at Fenway Park, the Sox’ newest offensive weapon cracked a first-inning two-run homer to score the only runs against Texas Rangers lefty starter Mike Minor to spark a 5-0 victory.
It was the Sox’ 13th victory against a southpaw starter in 23 tries this year (.565). They’re 50-19 (.725) against right-handers.
“He can hit,” manager Alex Cora said of Pearce, who was acquired from Toronto on June 28. “We always talk about him hitting lefties, but he has a pretty good idea. He’s been a pro. We can use him in different spots in the lineup. He’s going to give you a quality at-bat.”
J.D. Martinez added a three-run homer off Jesse Chavez in the eighth inning to secure the win, the Sox’ seventh straight.
They collected just six hits off Minor and two of them were from Pearce, who entered the game hitting .321 with a .920 OPS off lefties this year.
With Pearce hitting cleanup behind Martinez, the Sox were able to stack four righties in the first five spots and move the left-handed hitting Mitch Moreland to the six-hole.
“We were joking — Mitch, he hasn’t hit sixth the whole season, all of a sudden he’s an All-Star and he hits sixth (last night),” Cora said. “It’s a lefty lineup. It’s one that we’re very comfortable with. From top to bottom now, we can do damage.”
In the first, Martinez hit a two-out single up the middle, then Pearce worked the count full before hammering a 95-mph heater on a line over the Green Monster. It left the bat at 108 mph and there was never any doubt.
“He made a mistake that at-bat,” Pearce said. “I’m just glad I fouled off a couple of other good pitches to hit that at-bat, too.”
Pearce is hitting .458 with five extra-base hits in eight games with the Red Sox, who have scored 46 runs in those eight contests.
“Well the transition is pretty easy since I’ve been in the AL East for such a long time that I know all these guys,” said Pearce, who has played with all five division teams since 2012. “Now I’m just trying to get to know them personally, and this team has welcomed me with open arms. So I love showing up here and working with these guys.”
This was a team that ranked 29th in the majors in OPS against lefty pitching on May 28, the day Hanley Ramirez was designated for assignment.
But Cora never expressed any concern about the numbers, which started to change in June and have only sky-rocketed with the addition of Pearce.
“We started hitting against lefties before the trade,” Cora said. “I’ve been saying, take away Blake Snell from the stats and tell me how we’re doing. He’s been shutting down people the whole season.
“I think the last month we’re hitting almost .300 against them, doing damage, .850 OPS or something like that I saw (Sunday). Pearce adds one more weapon for us and we all know what he can do.”
A career .265 hitter with an .843 OPS against lefties, Pearce set the tone for an effective game from Eduardo Rodriguez.
With an early lead, Rodriguez (11-3) looked confident and comfortable on the mound, working his fastball and changeup to both parts of the plate as he allowed just three hits over 52?3 scoreless innings.
It’s been a struggle for Rodriguez to complete six innings this year. He’s done it just eight times in 18 tries, and Cora challenged him about a month ago to start lasting deeper into games and help out the bullpen.
Rodriguez looked strong into the sixth, but faded with two outs and walked two batters before he left the game. Heath Hembree struck out Isiah Kiner-Falefa to end the threat.
Brandon Workman allowed a leadoff triple in the seventh but escaped the jam without damage.
Martinez’ 28th homer put an end to the Rangers’ chances in the eighth. Martinez is looking to join Aaron Judge as the only two players in the last five years to hit 30 homers before the All-Star break.
“I’m on 28 right now,” Martinez said. “I’m worried about 29.”