CINCINNATI -- The Red Sox endured the early body blow of a grand slam by Cincinnati's Scooter Gennett and then stormed back with big hits and clutch relief to pull out a 5-4 victory over the Reds on Friday night that reduced their magic number for clinching the American League East to six.
Rafael Devers belted a three-run homer in the fourth to put the Red Sox in front. The bullpen, led by David Price, took it from there.
The 89-64 Red Sox lead the Yankees by four games with nine games left.
"We've been in first place for a long time now. Ball's in our court," said Price. "If we win, we're fine."
It was Price who got the win in this one, his first since July 4. Making his second relief appearance since being activated off the disabled list, Price fired 2 2/3 scoreless innings and struck out the side in the sixth. He even added a single to left for his first hit since 2010 and third in his career.
Things didn't look good for the Red Sox when Gennett crushed his grand slam to right-center against Rick Porcello with nobody out in the bottom of the first to make it 4-1, Cincinnati. It was Gennett's fourth grand slam of the season to set a Reds record. Gennett also became the first player in big league history to have a four-homer game and three grand slams or more in the same season.
"I didn't feel great," said Porcello. "Was pretty much grinding the entire time. Obviously the first inning was horrendous and trying to right the ship and get everything squared away. Boys did a hell of a job coming back and putting up four there and taking the lead. That was pretty much it."
Boston's bullpen pitched five scoreless innings after Porcello's exit.
"Going to David Price against the heat of their order, he throws 2 2/3 very good innings," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "And then Addison Reed is doing an excellent job here over the last two weeks or so. As good as that bullpen is pitching, that was another five strong innings tonight."
Reds rookie Sal Romano, who was 3-1 with a 2.09 ERA over his last six starts and was coming off eight scoreless innings last Saturday vs. the Pirates, had his night ruined in the fourth, when he gave up four runs. In the first inning, he survived a bases-loaded, no-outs situation by allowing only Mitch Moreland's sacrifice fly.
"I hung a few breaking balls. I wasn't very sharp the whole game," said Romano, who allowed five earned runs and five hits over four innings with four walks and three strikeouts. "I was happy I was able to get out of the first inning with just the one run. Scooter came up with the grand slam right there and my job was to throw zeros after that. I fell into some trouble and made some bad pitches. I've got to learn from it."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Devers ends power drought: After hitting eight home runs in his first 77 at-bats for the Red Sox, Devers had gone 107 at-bats without one before belting a towering three-run shot to right in the top of the fourth inning that gave the Red Sox the lead back at 5-4. According to Statcast™, the drive had an exit velocity of 101 mph and traveled a projected distance of 394 feet.
"All I wanted to do was just make contact and drive those runs in," said Devers. "I was lucky enough to hit a home run and put us on top, but I was really just trying to put the bat on the ball with power."
Vazquez nails Hamilton: In a matchup that pitted the best basestealer in the game against one of the strongest throwing catchers, Christian Vazquez won out. The intriguing matchup happened in the bottom of the second, with the Reds already up, 4-1. At that point, a successful steal by Hamilton would have put runners at second and third with just one out. But Vazquez came up firing and got the key out. That wound up being big when the Red Sox were able to come back and win the game. It was Hamilton's first game since fracturing his left thumb on Sept. 6.
"Very big [out]," said Farrell. "Sometimes there's a defensive momentum that you can capture. And a play like that is one of those, because he's such a weapon when he gets on the bases. But to knock down an out in a key spot, you get some energy from those, and that was one of them."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
With eight grand slams this season, half of them by Gennett, the Reds are one shy of their team record set in 2002. More >
The Red Sox continue to thrive in Interleague Play this season, improving their record to 14-4.
BENINTENDI GETS HERO'S WELCOME
Playing for the first time in Cincinnati, just 12 miles from where he grew up, Andrew Benintendi had a contingent of roughly 870 family members and friends in the left-field bleachers. He got a standing ovation in his first at-bat.
"You know, I heard there was a pretty healthy contingent from his hometown, and it's awesome to see some of the human side of the game. He's such a good player," said Farrell. "I know that he's been raised right. He's got a great family, and to see the support that his hometown came out to show, just a fantastic night." More >
WHAT'S NEXT Red Sox: Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will try to continue his momentum toward winning a spot in the postseason rotation when he gets the nod on Saturday. After a slump in July and August, Rodriguez has looked much better in September, going 1-1 with a 2.55 ERA in his first three starts of the month. First pitch is scheduled for 4:10 p.m. ET.
Reds:Robert Stephenson will get the ball vs. Boston. Stephenson is 5-1 with a 2.84 ERA over his last six starts, and on Sunday vs. the Pirates, he pitched six scoreless innings with one hit, three walks and eight strikeouts for a 5-2 victory.