CLEVELAND — Rob Refsnyder had the go-ahead RBI single in a four-run eighth inning and James Paxton tied his season high with nine strikeouts, giving the Boston Red Sox a 5-4 victory over the Cleveland Guardians on Tuesday night.
Kiké Hernández drove in two runs and Masataka Yoshida had three hits for the Red Sox, who put their first six batters on base in the eighth against relievers Enyel De Los Santos (2-1) and Nick Sandlin.
Paxton (2-1) allowed two runs on six hits over seven innings in his longest outing since Sept. 3, 2019, with the Yankees. The left-hander gave up both Guardians runs in the first, then scattered three hits over the next six frames.
“It’s always the goal to hear that seventh-inning stretch song when you go out there,” said a smiling Paxton, who missed the entire 2022 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. “I felt great and feel like I got better as the game went on.”
Kenley Jansen worked a perfect ninth for his 13th save in 16 opportunities. Boston snapped a three-game losing streak and improved to 10-16 since May 7.
Cleveland carried a 2-1 lead into the eighth before De Los Santos loaded the bases and walked Hernández to plate Justin Turner with the tying run. Refsnyder and Pablo Reyes followed with RBI singles off Sandlin, and Alex Verdugo added a sacrifice fly.
“We’ve been grinding, obviously, so this is a good win to start the series off,” Refsnyder said. “We just want to pass the baton like that at the plate, and hopefully we have a few guys get big hits.”
The Guardians pulled within 5-4 in the bottom of the inning with a pair of runs off Chris Martin. Amed Rosario singled in Josh Naylor and Will Brennan doubled for his third hit, scoring Tyler Freeman, before Myles Straw struck out to end the eighth.
Naylor singled, doubled and scored twice, and Josh Bell had two hits in his return from the paternity list. Naylor and Bell smacked back-to-back RBI doubles to right in the first, putting the Guardians in front 2-0.
Defending AL Central champion Cleveland has lost 27 of its last 45 games after beginning the season 9-6.
“Paxton has never had a problem with his stuff, he just hasn’t been able to stay healthy,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said. “When we got a couple out of the chute, he kind of locked it in. He was and he is good.”
The 29-year-old Yoshida, who went 3 for 5 with a run, leads AL rookies with 66 hits and ranks third with a .320 batting average.
Hernández singled in Yoshida in the sixth, cutting Boston’s deficit to 2-1 and chasing Cleveland starter Shane Bieber. The right-hander tossed 5 2/3 innings, allowing five hits and matching his season-low with two strikeouts.
“I could have and should have been better, but it is what it is,” Bieber said. “I understand and I never questioned (why he was removed) because I understand how the inning would have and should have played out.”
Guardians pitching coach Carl Willis was not with the team for personal reasons. Assistant Joe Torres filled in.
Red Sox LHP Chris Murphy, one of the top prospects in the organization, was recalled from Triple-A Worcester and could start Thursday. Murphy went 1-3 with a 7.71 ERA in 10 games, nine of them starts, with 42 strikeouts and 25 walks over 39 2/3 innings.
“There have been a lot of downs, some ups this season,” the 25-year-old said. “I’m ready to go and work wherever they need me.”
Manager Alex Cora said Murphy is available out of the bullpen, but will be a candidate to fill the vacant spot in the rotation if he isn’t used in the first two games in Cleveland.
Red Sox: CF Adam Duvall (left wrist fracture), who is batting .188 through five games of a rehab assignment with Worcester, is set to be activated Friday. Cora said Duvall will “most likely” join the team in New York for its series against the Yankees.
Guardians: SS Amed Rosario (left knee soreness) was not in the lineup for the third straight game, but Francona said he will likely start Wednesday. Rosario had been hitless in 15 consecutive at-bats prior to his pinch-hit RBI single in the eighth.
Red Sox RHP Kutter Crawford (1-2, 3.48 ERA), who has made eight of his 11 appearances in relief, takes on Guardians RHP Tanner Bibee (1-1, 3.20 ERA). Crawford started and pitched three innings Saturday in the first game of a doubleheader against Tampa Bay.