The Cincinnati Reds’ five-game winning streak came to a crashing conclusion Thursday night in Fenway Park, an 8-2 crusher from the Boston Red Sox.
The Red Sox broke a 2-2 tie in the eighth inning with six runs against relief pitcher Kevin Herget.
When the division-leading Milwaukee Brewers lost Thursday afternoon in Toronto, the Reds were afforded the opportunity to scramble within two games of the Brewers.
It was not to be.
Another outstanding performance by Hunter Greene was tossed into the waste basket. He pitched six innings and gave up one tainted run on two hits with eight strikeouts but was pulled after throwing 109 pitches.
The Reds trailed, 2-1, entering the eighth inning but tied it. Kevin Newman led off the inning with a double, took third on a wild pitch and scored on Matt McLain’s single, extending his hitting streak to 10 games.
Herget’s number was called for the bottom of the eighth and it came up zero.
He walked Alex Verdugo on a full count to start his downfall. Rafael Devers doubled high off the Green Monster in deep center field, pushing the Red Sox ahead, 3-2.
And it kept getting worse.
Justin Turner singled Devers to third and he was caught in a rundown on Masataka Yoshida’s grounder, but runners were on third and second with one out. Jarren Duran was walked intentionally, filling the bases.
Herget balked a run home to make it 4-2 and Kike Hernandez singled home two more. The carnage ended after Connor Wong dropped a two-run home run into the front-row seats atop the Green Monster in left field.
The Reds caught a break, they thought, in the fourth inning when Boston starter Chris Sale had to leave with a stiff left shoulder. He came into the game 5-2 and had won his last four decisions.
He struck out the side in the first and had four straight strikeouts with one out in the third.
As happens so often to Greene, the baseball gremlins got Sale. He struck out the side in the first, two more in the second and two more in the third.
Then he suddenly lost it, most likely due to his shoulder. Curt Casali doubled and scored on Newman’s double, one of his three hits.
After Sale left, five Boston relief pitchers held the Reds to one run and two hits over the final 5 1/3 innings. The Reds finished with seven hits, four of them doubles.
After pitching six no-hit innings in his previous start in Chicago, Greene extended his hitless streak to nine.
But in the fourth, Devers lifted a high, lazy fly ball to center. Jose Barrero couldn’t find it, losing the ball in the gray clouds of dusk. It fell for a double. Justin Turner followed with a run-scoring single, the only two hits off Greene.
The baseball gremlins hit the Reds in the fourth when Spencer Speer and Tyler Stephenson opened with back-to-back doubles. But Speer didn’t score on Stephenson’s double. He had to stay close to second, because it looked as if Boston center fielder Duran might catch Stephenson’s ball.
He didn’t catch it and the ball was retrieved quickly and Steer only made third. But that put runners on third and second with no outs.
Stuart Fairchild flied to right. Steer tagged and bolted for home, but Devers threw him out. The Reds challenged that catcher Wong illegally blocked home plate and challenged the out call.
The Reds lost both challenges. After Nick Senzel walked to put two men on. Barrero popped out.
The Red Sox, winning for only the third time in 10 games, collected eight hits.
While remaining three games behind Milwaukee, the Reds lost a half game to second-place Pittsburgh because the Pirates were idle. The Reds trail the Pirates by 2 1/2 games.
After a 5- 1 trip, the Reds begin a seven-game homestand Friday, beginning with four against Milwaukee and three against the Los Angeles Dodgers.