Adam Ottavino started the ninth inning with a two-run lead and five Angels hitters between him and Shohei Ohtani.
“I was trying to avoid ever getting to that point,” the Boston reliever said. “I had it in the back of my mind, ‘Don’t let Ohtani come up.’ But of course it happens.”
Indeed, the major league homers leader came up with two Angels on base, two outs and just a one-run deficit — and he smashed a grounder into right field.
But with their final big defensive play in a game full of brilliant moments, the Red Sox hung on.
Rafael Devers hit a two-run homer and drove in three runs, and second baseman Christian Arroyo threw out Ohtani from right for the final out in their 5-4 victory over Los Angeles on Monday night.
Arroyo also homered for the AL-leading Red Sox, who held Ohtani to a single on his 27th birthday and improved the majors’ best road record to 27-15. Devers’ 21st homer of his first All-Star season punctuated his three-hit performance in Boston’s 10th win in 11 games.
The Sox were backed by a contingent of West Coast fans that was loud — until it spent most of the ninth holding its collective breath.
Ottavino secured his seventh save even though he walked leadoff hitter José Iglesias and gave up Jose Rojas’ two-out RBI single. David Fletcher singled off Devers’ glove at third to bring up Ohtani, but Arroyo’s position in the shift in shallow right field was perfect, denying the Angels their third walk-off win in four days.
“We were in a position to win it, and Shohei hits a top-spinning line drive at their (shift) guy, and we lose,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “You never want to lose games, but I really appreciated our effort tonight.”
Ohtani’s final grounder left his bat at 101.3 mph and had an expected batting average of .910, according to Statcast. He went 1 for 5 and didn’t add to his 31 homers after hitting 14 in his past 17 games — but he has Boston’s respect.
“Seems like every pitch when he’s at the plate, you can hear the oohs and aahs,” manager Alex Cora said. “I think it’s great for baseball. We did a great job against him, but he’s a threat. Pretty similar to when Barry (Bonds) was doing his thing. It felt that way. Everybody is into every pitch and every swing.”
The Halos’ two-way star was also denied an RBI in the fifth inning after his single when Danny Santana threw out Rojas at the plate on a call that was reversed upon video review, irking Maddon.
Rojas also homered for the Angels, who fell back to .500 with just their second loss in eight games.
Martín Pérez (7-4) made it into the sixth inning for the Red Sox, giving up just one earned run on eight hits. Boston stayed in front thanks to superb defense all night at Angel Stadium, most notably when Kiké Hernández robbed Luis Rengifo of a two-run homer to center to end the second inning.
After Rojas was thrown out at the plate by Santana, who replaced Marwin González in left field two innings earlier, Hernández threw out Max Stassi trying to reach second on his drive to the wall in the sixth.
Boston added two outfield assists to its major league-leading total of 28 — and that didn’t count Arroyo’s game-ending play from well into right field.
José Suarez (3-2) threw 75 pitches, but made it through only three innings in his first start of the season for the Angels.
“I haven’t lost any faith in him,” Maddon said of Suarez. “A good learning experience for him there tonight against a good ballclub. The thing about that team there, you are not going to get a lot of chase. You’ve got to beat them in the strike zone. That’s always been the benchmark of that division. They fouled off a lot of pitches. It’s really classic AL East-style baseball.”
Arroyo, who had been sidelined since June 20 by a bruised right knee, connected for his fifth homer in the second inning of his first game back. Devers followed with an RBI single during Boston’s lengthy rally.
Devers connected off reliever Dylan Bundy in the fourth. Santana added an RBI single in the fifth.
FLETCH PART 19
Fletcher extended his hitting streak to 19 games with a third-inning single. It’s the longest streak of his career and the longest for the Angels since Kendrys Morales went 20 straight in 2009.
Red Sox: González left in the third inning with right hamstring tightness. He likely won’t play Tuesday, Cora said. … INF Michael Chavis was sent down to Triple-A Worcester to make room for Arroyo’s return from injury.
Angels: 3B Anthony Rendon sat out with tightness in his left hamstring sustained Sunday. … OF Taylor Ward also was out of the starting lineup after jamming his right index finger into a base Sunday.
Ohtani (3-1, 3.60 ERA) makes his 13th mound start and his last start before the All-Star Game, hoping to bounce back from his dismal start at Yankee Stadium last week. Boston counters with first-time All-Star Nathan Eovaldi (9-4, 3.41).