By CHARLES ODUM, AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA (AP) — Boston hitters chipped away at Atlanta starter Sean Newcomb with their patient approach.
It was a familiar strategy in yet another interleague win for the best team in the majors.
Steve Pearce had three hits and three RBIs, Rick Porcello allowed two hits in five innings, and the Red Sox beat the Braves 5-1 on Tuesday night for their second straight win in a matchup of division leaders.
Atlanta pitchers walked nine, including five by starter Sean Newcomb (11-8), who matched his season high.
“There definitely were some close pitches where they were being picky,” Newcomb said when asked about the disciplined approach of Boston’s hitters.
It was Boston’s fourth game this season with at least nine walks, the most in the American League. The Red Sox are undefeated in 23 games in which they have drawn six or more walks.
“Today he had that fastball up and away early,” said Boston manager Alex Cora of Newcomb. “But then we were disciplined enough to lay off. … We got to their bullpen.”
Newcomb lasted only 4 1/3 innings, allowing three runs and four hits.
The Red Sox (96-44) have won 20 more games than the Braves (76-62). Boston has not lost any of its last 12 series against NL teams and has won 24 of its last 28 interleague games.
Porcello (16-7) allowed his only run on Kurt Suzuki’s second-inning homer. He struck out five and walked one.
“I think even though they hit one home run, not giving up the big hit and not giving up free passes to guys I didn’t want to give free passes to was the difference tonight,” Porcello said.
Porcello improved to 10-3 on the road this year. He had been 0-2 in his previous three starts overall since an Aug. 14 win at Philadelphia.
The Braves’ lead over the second-place Phillies in the NL East was cut to three games.
Newcomb got into a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the fourth. He forced in the tying run with a walk to Xander Bogaerts, Pearce hit a run-scoring single off Shane Carle and Eduardo Nunez hit an RBI groundout for a 3-1 lead.
Pearce hit a two-run single in the sixth off Luke Jackson after the Red Sox loaded the bases for the third straight inning.
Infielder Brandon Phillips, whose contract was selected from Triple-A Pawtucket, is the first player in Red Sox history to wear No. 0. He wore No. 4 in his career with Cincinnati and last season with the Braves, but that number is retired by the Red Sox for Joe Cronin. Phillips, whose major league salary is $600,000, may start on Wednesday, according to Cora.
Newcomb failed to last five innings for the third time in five starts. The five walks were the biggest problem. Asked about the left-hander pitching into jams, manager Brian Snitker said, “That’s an understatement.”
Newcomb has thrown a career-high 149 1/3 innings in his second season but said he hasn’t hit a wall. “I felt good. I came out pretty strong,” he said.
Kyle Wright, a 22-year-old right-hander selected by Atlanta with the fifth pick in the 2017 amateur draft, pitched two hitless innings and allowed only a walk in his major league debut. He struck out his first two batters, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Sandy Leon, in the seventh.
Red Sox: LHP David Price (bruised left wrist) was confirmed to start Friday’s opening game of a home series against Houston. … 3B Rafael Devers (strained left hamstring) was activated from the 10-day disabled list. … LHP Chris Sale (left shoulder inflammation) could return in Boston’s upcoming homestand. He has been out since Aug. 15.
Braves: SS Dansby Swanson left after he was hit on his helmet by an 85-mph slider from Porcello in the second inning. Swanson was knocked to the ground but rose quickly before being examined by a member of the Braves’ medical staff. Snitker said Swanson had ringing in his ears but “passed all the tests” and will not be placed in concussion protocol. Charlie Culberson entered as a pinch-runner and remained in the game at shortstop.
Red Sox RHP Hector Velazquez (7-2, 3.24) will make his seventh start of the season when the three-game series ends Wednesday. He has made 33 relief appearances. Braves RHP Mike Foltynewicz (10-9, 2.80) allowed one run and three hits in seven innings during a 7-1 win at Boston on May 27 in his only previous appearance against the Red Sox.