Boston’s Alex Verdugo, right, is congratulated by Triston Casas after his solo home run in the sixth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on Wednesday. Charles Krupa/Associated Press

BOSTON — Rich Hill and three relievers shut down the Baltimore Orioles 3-1 on Wednesday night, hurting Baltimore’s chances in the AL wild-card race.

Alex Verdugo had an RBI single in the first and a homer in the sixth. Abraham Almonte homers in the third for Boston.

Robinson Chirinos accounted for Baltimore’s only run with his fourth homer in the eighth inning. The Orioles (80-75) lost for the fourth time in five games.

They were 3 1/2 back of Seattle for the third AL wild card heading into the day.

Santander went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts one night after he homered from both sides of the plate in Baltimore’s 13-9 loss at Fenway Park. The slugger went 8 for 20 with six homers and nine RBIs in his previous four games.

Hill (8-7) struck out nine, pitching six innings of five-hit ball. The 42-year-old left-hander also tossed five scoreless innings in a 1-0 victory at Baltimore on Sept. 11.


Hill became the 21st pitcher in major league history to make at least 25 starts in a season at the age of 42 or older. Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey in 2017 were the last players to accomplish the feat, and Jamie Moyer in 2009 was the last lefty to do it.

Ryan Brasier and Kaleb Ort each got three outs before Matt Barnes handled the ninth for his sixth save. Gunnar Henderson walked with two out, but Barnes fanned pinch-hitter Adley Rutschman to finish the game.


NESN: The last couple of days have represented something of a passing of the torch in the NESN broadcast booth. Alongside play-by-play man Dave O’Brien, Will Middlebrooks has made his booth debut as Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley begins his final stretch of games before retiring at the end of the season.

Middlebrooks seems like a natural candidate — along with Kevin Youkilis and others — to replace Eckersley in 2023. He joined NESN as a studio analyst this year and has impressed with his analysis. In the sixth inning of Tuesday’s long Red Sox-Orioles game, the 34-year-old Middlebrooks decided to pick the brain of the soon-to-be 68-year-old Eckersley.

“We know how great you are at this,” Middlebrooks told Eckersley. “I know you don’t want to talk about it, you don’t want to hear it. You’re humble, I get it. What do you have for me? I’m new here. I’m new. What would make me good at this job?”


Eckersley offered a touching response.

“You know something? Not being afraid to say what needs to be said,” he replied. “That’s probably one of the hardest things to do coming out of the dugout. Once you leave the dugout, you’re not in the dugout anymore. I think players have a hard time with it. This game is not easy. We get up here and we think it’s easy. It looks a lot easier up here, doesn’t it? And ultimately, be who you are… and it’s scary because if you are who you are, you can’t be afraid to be who you are.

“I feel like sometimes, you feel a little naked up here because, I don’t know, it’s falling off a cliff sometimes because you never know. Because it’s live. When I talked to you before about it… this is as close as it gets to playing, because you get a little nervous. I love it. That’s why it’s going to be hard to leave. Because there’s nothing that you do in life that gets you going like this.”

Eckersley reiterated his decision to retire and move to California full time has caused mixed emotions, though he knows it’s time. He said the thought of not having to do games anymore “sometimes feels pretty good.”

“I am tired of grinding every day,” Eckersley said. “Even when I don’t do these games, I’m thinking about it. I’m watching and I’m thinking baseball as soon as I open my eyes.”

Middlebrooks was glad to get the chance to be Eckersley’s apprentice for a couple of days.


“Well, I’m glad I was able to get up here while you were here and do it with you because I’ve obviously learned a lot just listening,” Middlebrooks said. “It’s good to see it up close.”

KYLE SCHWARBER and Niko Kavadas have a lot in common. They’re both stocky, midwestern-born sluggers who played college baseball in the state of Indiana and who boast a unique combination of power and plate discipline.

They also joined the Red Sox organization right around the same time, with Kavadas arriving in mid-July of 2021 as a sixth-round pick out of Notre Dame and Schwarber coming a few weeks later at the trade deadline.

Schwarber’s stay in Boston wound up being short, but in his first full season of professional baseball Kavadas has shown signs that over the long haul he could become, if not a similarly dominant power threat, at least one who can provide a similar profile for the Red Sox.

Kavadas was honored at Fenway Park on Monday as the organization’s Minor League Offensive Player of the Year, capping off a brilliant season in which he was twice promoted and finished with 26 home runs and 86 RBI in 120 games split between Low-A Salem, High-A Greenville and Double-A Portland.

The 23-year-old left-handed first baseman also boasted an impressive .443 on-base percentage thanks in large part to his 102 walks. Kavadas said he takes particular pride in that, noting that one of his main goals since college has been to try and maintain as close to a one-to-one walk-to-strikeout rate as possible.


“That’s always a goal for me because it could be really easy to sit here and chase home runs and swing for the fences all day long,” Kavadas said. “So that’s a way I try and pull myself in and discipline myself, and I think it’s been a really good goal for me.”

Kavadas said exercising discipline helps him hit for power as well, because when you don’t chase outside the zone the pitchers have come to you. That was something he learned from watching Schwarber, who he used to watch play at Indiana University as a teenager and who has served as an inspiration ever since given all of their similarities.

“That’s been a guy I’ve always modeled my game after,” Kavadas said.

To put it into perspective, hitting 25 home runs while also drawing 100 or more walks in a season is quite rare at any level. Kavadas is the only player across the minors to do it this season so far, and only two players will top both marks in the big leagues, Juan Soto (26 home runs, 131 walks) and Aaron Judge (60, 101). No other big leaguers even have 25 home runs and 80 walks, though Schwarber is in the next tier with 42 homers and 78 walks.

Last year Kavadas only played 15 games spread across the Florida Complex League and Salem, but this year he dominated pitchers in both Salem (1.062 OPS) and Greenville (1.064 OPS) before helping Portland on its run to the playoffs.

“It was good. Each jump brought with it new challenges and with the jump to Portland the biggest adjustment was the command was just a little bit better,” Kavadas said. “Every pitch was competitive and there were less balls down the middle, so that’s something to gameplan for next year.”


Though the Sea Dogs were eliminated in the Eastern League playoffs last week, Kavadas’ season isn’t over yet. After enjoying the awards ceremony in Boston on Monday, Kavadas will fly home to pack and then immediately head west on Thursday to take part in the Arizona Fall League.

“I’m excited,” he said. “Six weeks out there, I’ve never really spent a whole lot of time in Arizona so I’m interested to see how the ball flies out in the thin air.”

TRIPLE-A Manager Chad Tracy texted Connor Wong a few days ago to inform the catcher he had been named the WooSox’s 2022 MVP.

“That was probably the last thing I was expecting and when he told me, I was pretty shocked,” Wong said Monday at Fenway Park.

Shocked but deserving. Wong belted nine homers in his final 16 games for Worcester before the Red Sox promoted him Sept 1. During the stretch, he batted .368 with a .411 on-base percentage, .838 slugging percentage, 1.249 OPS, five doubles, 14 runs and 22 RBI.

Wong has split time with Reese McGuire here in Boston as they sort of audition for the 2023 roster. The Red Sox like both catchers and it would not be surprising if McGuire and Wong were the catching duo next season.

“I’m thankful for that honor and very appreciative of all the time and support the coaching staff gave all of us,” Wong said. “They brought the energy from day one.”

The 26-year-old, who Boston acquired in the Mookie Betts trade, posted a .288/.349/.489/.838 line with 15 homers, 20 doubles, 47 runs, 44 RBI, 27 walks and 80 strikeouts in 81 games for the WooSox. He threw out 24% of base stealers.

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