Where: Miller Park, Milwaukee
He had another big day Thursday, reaching base four times but also making sure Boston would avoid a sweep by blasting a three-run home run in the ninth inning to give the Red Sox a 4-1 victory over the Brewers at Miller Park.
“You don’t want to get swept,” Betts said. “We had a couple of frustrating days where we could have won a couple of ballgames, but avoiding the sweep and coming back with a little momentum is a positive.”
Betts went 2-for-3 with a double, home run and two walks Thursday and finished the series 7-for-11 with eight RBIs.
“This road trip, he’s certainly impacting the baseball,” manager John Farrell said. “No bigger than the three-run homer in the ninth to give us the lead. He’s come up big in so many situations. In the early part of the season, maybe 25 percent through, probably as big of a swing as he’s had all year for us.”
Betts opened the game with a double and scored on an error by Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar as the Red Sox put pressure on Brewers starter Jimmy Nelson early, but he limited Boston to just a run over 6 2/3 innings thanks to a pair of double plays and eight strikeouts.
Milwaukee, though, accomplished little against Boston starter Eduardo Rodriguez, who allowed a one-out double to Keon Broxton in the first but only faced the minimum through his first five innings. He allowed just a run on five hits over six innings of work.
“Both starters were excellent,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “We were having a hard time against Rodriguez. His changeup was very effective. Jimmy was pitching very well. The first batter of the game hit a ball real hard but the was kind of the end of the hard contact. Jimmy did an outstanding job. It felt like a game that runs were going to be pretty tough to come by.”
Milwaukee’s Manny Pina hit a leadoff single in the sixth and tied the score when he came home on a double by Jonathan Villar.
Josh Rutledge singled off Nelson to open the seventh but was left stranded as Nelson retired Christian Vazquez and pinch hitter Chris Young, and Corey Knebel struck out Betts to end the inning.
The Red Sox challenged Knebel again in the eighth, loading the bases with one out but Knebel escaped by striking out Jackie Bradley Jr. and Rutledge.
“He pitched his butt off,” Counsell said. “He has to make a bunch of big pitches and they fouled some balls off but he’s pitching at a really high level right now.”
Milwaukee threatened in its half of the inning, but Craig Kimbrel struck out pinch hitter Eric Thames, and, after Villar’s infield single put two on, Kimbrel struck out Broxton.
“He is going up there and guys are swinging and it doesn’t even look like they are close,” Betts said of Kimbrel. “Knowing that when he comes into the game that he is shutting it down is a good feeling.”
Vazquez opened the ninth with a walk off Brewers closer Neftali Feliz (0-4). Deven Marrero reached on a botched force play that allowed Vazquez to reach second. Betts was next, and he smacked a 2-2 fastball at the belt to left-center.
“They were aggressive using him today,” Counsell said. “I was hoping to get Eric an at-bat before Kimbrel just because he’s so good but they were aggressive about putting him in right there.”
Kimbrel (2-0) struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth.
NOTES: LF Ryan Braun was out of the Brewers’ lineup Thursday. He had missed a week with arm and shoulder soreness, then played 1 1/2 games before experiencing tightness in his left calf Tuesday night. Manager Craig Counsell said Braun isn’t likely to return Friday when Milwaukee hosts the Mets. … The Red Sox were without INF Hanley Ramirez, who tweaked his right trapezius muscle while playing 1B Tuesday night. … Boston SS Xander Bogaerts extended his hitting streak to 14 games Thursday with a third-inning single off RHP Jimmy Nelson. … LHP Robbie Ross Jr. joined the Red Sox bullpen Thursday after he was recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket. He took the roster spot of RHP Kyle Kendrick, who was sent down Wednesday night after a second consecutive rough start.