MILWAUKEE -- After the Red Sox and Brewers both missed prime opportunities in the eighth inning Thursday, Boston's Mookie Betts wasn't going to let another chance slip away in the ninth.
Betts smashed a three-run home run off Brewers closer Neftali Feliz, snapping a tie that had stood since the sixth and giving the Red Sox a 4-1 win at Miller Park in the finale of an Interleague series. Craig Kimbrel's escape in the eighth and Betts' blast -- which followed a leadoff walk and an error charged to shortstop Orlando Arcia -- meant Boston avoided a three-game sweep.
"I mean, we put ourselves in good position, so we can't ask for a whole lot more," Betts said. "Once we continue to put pressure on somebody, eventually something good happens, and that's kind of what we were doing."
Betts had a big series, going 7-for-11 with five runs scored, three doubles, two home runs, four walks and eight RBIs, including his double, home run and two walks Thursday.
"This road trip, [Betts is] certainly impacting the baseball, no bigger than the three-run homer in the ninth to give us the lead," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "And he's come up big in so many situations, and in the early part of the season, maybe 25 percent of the way through, that's probably as big a swing as he's had all year for us."
Betts reached safely three times against Brewers starter Jimmy Nelson, who limited the damage to one first-inning run in 6 2/3 innings for Milwaukee's fifth start all season that lasted beyond the sixth.
"That's a good club over there, and to only have to face Kimbrel once out of three games is pretty reassuring," Nelson said of taking two of three from the Red Sox. "They're a good club year in and year out. It shows we can hang with teams like that."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Crazy eighth, Part 1: Brewers reliever Corey Knebel has at least one strikeout in all 19 of his appearances, and he sure needed them on Thursday. After striking out Betts with a runner aboard to end the seventh, Knebel found himself in big trouble in the eighth, when Boston put runners at second and third with nobody out in a tie game. Knebel regained some control by inducing an infield popout from the dangerous Andrew Benintendi, but then walked Mitch Moreland to load the bases. Knebel stopped the rally there, getting Jackie Bradley Jr. and Josh Rutledge to swing under high fastballs for a pair of strikeouts.
"It got to a point where you have to let him face the guy with the bases loaded there," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said of pushing Knebel to a career-high 41 pitches. "That was the last hitter he was going to have. The way the inning played out, he was the guy." More >
Crazy eighth, Part 2: The Brewers mounted their own threat in the bottom of the eighth, putting runners on the corners in an inning that began with Matt Barnes on the mound for Boston and ended with Kimbrel. Arcia advanced to third when Keon Broxton swung at a curveball that bounced far in front of home plate for a wild pitch, but Kimbrel followed up with a 99-mph fastball up in the zone for an inning-ending strikeout. With that, a 1-1 tie went to the ninth, when Kimbrel struck out the side after the Red Sox jumped in front.
"Yeah, I mean there were a lot of variables that put me in the game today," Kimbrel said. "I hadn't thrown a lot over the last week. And the last few days, our bullpen has done a lot. Today was the day I had to get in there early. Tie ballgame, throw the save situation out the door. My job is to help this team win, and I was able to do that today." More >
"Neftali is struggling right now. He's struggling, and we have to get him on track. Save situation, non-save situation -- it's a tie ball game in the ninth inning. It's a big spot. We're not playing for saves, we're playing for wins. -- Counsell, on Feliz, who now has nine walks versus 13 strikeouts this season
"Honestly, I was looking at the jumbotron and looking where I was in the order. Thought maybe it would get around to me. It didn't happen. I was able to go out there and finish the job." -- Kimbrel, hoping he was going to have a rare chance to hit in the top of the ninth
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS Dustin Pedroia has gone 67 straight games without an error for the Red Sox, dating back to Aug. 19, 2016.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
Nelson recorded his final out with an assist from Counsell, who requested a challenge after pinch-hitter Chris Young was deemed hit by a pitch in the seventh. Replays showed that Nelson's pitch actually struck the knob of Young's bat, so he was ordered back to the batter's box. Instead of runners at first and second with one out in a 1-1 game, Nelson rebounded to strike out Young, then yielded to reliever Knebel for the final out of a scoreless inning.
WHAT'S NEXT Red Sox:Rick Porcello will try to continue his recent roll when he opens a brief three-game homestand for the Red Sox on Friday night against the Rays. Porcello has a 1.69 ERA in his past four starts. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 ET. Alex Cobb makes the start for Tampa Bay.
Brewers: The Brewers will begin hosting a three-game series with the banged-up Mets at 7:10 p.m. CT on Friday. Matt Harvey will be making his return to the rotation after a three-game suspension for missing a game, while Matt Garza is slated to start for the Crew. Garza is coming off his best start of the season, a no-decision where he held the Pirates to one run over seven innings.