Alex Verdugo led off the game with a homer and the Boston Red Sox beat the Washington Nationals 5-4 on Tuesday night in the opener of a three-game series.

Boston, which remained three games behind Toronto for the American League’s last wild-card spot, has won six of eight. The Red Sox improved to 9-1 at Nationals Park.

Stone Garrett and Keibert Ruiz each drove in two runs for the Nationals. They had won 12 of their last 14 at home.

John Schreiber (2-1) pitched a scoreless sixth inning. He was the second of five Boston relievers who combined for 4 2/3 scoreless innings.

Kenley Jansen handled the ninth for his 28th save. He has converted all 17 of his save opportunities on the road and 19 in a row overall. Chris Martin, who pitched a perfect seventh, has an 0.40 ERA in 25 appearances since June 9.

“I think there's a lot of us down there right now that are in pretty good form right now and throwing the ball really well and throwing a lot of strikes,” said reliever Josh Winckowski, who worked the eighth inning. “That's going to lead to success more often than not. We're pushing each other, and Kenley is pushing all of us with the stability that he's had.”

After Verdugo's ninth home run and second career leadoff blast, Triston Casas made it 3-0 with a two-run single in the third off Josiah Gray (7-10). Washington responded in the bottom of the inning as Ruiz and Garrett delivered two-run doubles.

The Red Sox chased Gray after Jarren Duran led off the fourth with a single and Pablo Reyes followed with a double. Duran scored on Verdugo's sacrifice fly, and Reyes came in on reliever Robert Garcia's wild pitch.

“Overall, we grinded out at bats and took our walks and we did enough to win the game,” Boston manager Alex Cora said.

Gray allowed five runs in three-plus innings, his shortest outing of the season. The Nationals' lone All-Star has not completed five innings in his last three starts, and his ERA has jumped from 3.27 to 3.96 in that span.

“There's some good starts and bad starts and OK starts,” Gray said. “The last three have been self-inflicted damage, more or less just one pitch away, but I'm not getting out of those jams. I know things will turn for me. I don't want to say it's a trend. It's just pitching.”

Red Sox starter Nick Pivetta yielded four runs in 4 1/3 innings while striking out seven.


Nationals: Washington activated RHP Hunter Harvey (elbow) from the injured list and optioned LHP Joe La Sorsa to Triple-A Rochester. Harvey pitched a 1-2-3 ninth Tuesday in his first outing since July 14. La Sorsa was 1-0 with a 6.61 ERA in 15 games with the Nationals. … RHPs Tanner Rainey (Tommy John surgery) and Mason Thompson (left knee) threw simulated games.


Washington SS CJ Abrams hit the 30-steal plateau with a swipe of second base in the first inning. He is the fifth National with a 30-steal season, joining Trea Turner (four times), Nyjer Morgan, Alfonso Soriano and Denard Span.


Red Sox: LHP James Paxton (7-3, 3.36 ERA), who threw 5 1/3 shutout innings Thursday to beat Kansas City, draws the start Wednesday as the series continues.

Nationals: LHP MacKenzie Gore (6-9, 4.62) is 1-0 with a 1.46 ERA in his last three starts at home.

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