Rafael Devers, right, reacts with Alex Verdugo after Devers hit a two-run home run off Baltimore pitcher Matt Harvey during the first inning Thursday in Baltimore. Julio Cortez/Associated Press

Before Thursday’s road opener in Baltimore, Red Sox Manager Alex Cora seemed to have a feeling about Rafael Devers, who hadn’t homered through the first week of the season.

“I know he likes hitting here, so hopefully he can pop one out and just get rolling,” Cora said.

Devers immediately obliged. With a runner on in the first inning, the third baseman was all over a fastball from Matt Harvey and crushed it to center field, a 452-foot blast that gave the Red Sox an early 2-0 lead in their 7-3 win over the Orioles.

Given the approach he’s seen Devers make at the plate in recent games, Cora wasn’t surprised.

“He’s been hitting the ball hard,” Cora said. “That walk (Wednesday). When he starts controlling the zone, good things happen. That was a good swing. He actually missed another one, the changeup on the second at-bat, but we know what he can do.”

The manager hopes it can get Devers going. Notoriously a slow starter at the beginning of every season, that hadn’t changed this year – two hits in 19 at-bats in the opening six-game homestand. But after a 2-for-3 outing Thursday, Devers will look to continue that momentum this weekend.


Devers seemed confident that the results would come despite the slow start.

“I feel good,” Devers said before the game. “Obviously I’m not worried about how I started off this season. It’s only been six games and I have continued to go out there and work and do my best because I know the type of player I am. Like I always tell you guys, it’s early and there are going to be ups and downs, but I feel really good about where I’m at with my swing, so we’ll see how it goes.”

WHITLOCK DOMINATES AGAIN: It seems like the Red Sox have found a gem in Garrett Whitlock.

After 3 1/3 shutout innings in his major-league debut last weekend, the right-hander shut down the Orioles again in Thursday’s win, pitching two scoreless innings in the sixth and seventh innings. It says a lot about the trust Cora has in his new weapon out of the bullpen that he trusted him to come in and protect a one-run lead.

“You see it, and it’s like, ‘Wow, he belongs,’ ” Cora said. “The tempo. The conviction. Most of the time, Rule 5 guys don’t shake off your catcher, but he knows what he wants to do and he does. He shakes him off and goes to the pitch he feels is right in that situation. He’s been great for us.

“We still have to be careful. This is not what he’s used to, but we do believe his stuff will play. This is the second time they’ve seen him, and you saw the swings. We’re comfortable with him. That was a situation where we’re down, get the lead, he was hot, so why not? We needed him, and he did an outstanding job.”


After never pitching above Double-A before this season, Whitlock has started his big-league career with 5 1/3 shutout innings. He’s allowed no runs, just three hits and struck out eight while walking none.

“He’s doing good,” catcher Christian Vazquez said. “Great kid. He’s got great stuff, heavy fastball, plus changeup. He’s doing good. I think he’s going to help us big-time.”

HOT START FOR BARNES: Matt Barnes was strong again with a shutout ninth inning to close out Thursday’s win, as he nearly produced an immaculate inning. In three appearances, the veteran has pitched four shutout innings with nine strikeouts and one walk.

“That was amazing, right?” Cora said of Barnes’ performance on Thursday. “Just throwing a lot of strikes. Velocity, I do believe this is his best fastball at least of the last three years. The carry .. it’s not only up in the zone, it’s actually through the zone and down. The breaking ball is good. He was one pitch away from whatever you guys call it, but we’re very happy with him. He has matured a lot. He’s going to be a big part of what we’re trying to accomplish.”

NOTES: With his RBI double in the seventh, J.D. Martinez became the fifth player in major league history to hit an extra-base hit in each of his team’s first seven games. He joined Ken Griffey Jr., Larry Walker, Phil Nevin and Alex Rodriguez on the list. … Former Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, who is now the U.S. secretary of labor, was one of the people throw out the first pitch at Camden Yards on Thursday.

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