MILWAUKEE — Alex Verdugo said his manager challenged him at the end of last season to find a way to get better at every facet of the game.
He has met Alex Cora’s demands so far.
Verdugo homered for the second straight game and doubled as the Boston Red Sox defeated Milwaukee 5-3 on Friday night to snap the Brewers’ four-game winning streak. Verdugo is batting .341 with three homers, 10 RBIs and a .931 OPS through Boston’s first 21 games.
“AC challenged me with a lot of things,” Verdugo said. “I took it personally. We’re still holding to that.”
Verdugo also went deep Thursday in Boston’s 11-5 victory over the Minnesota Twins. He hit a two-run shot in the third inning and doubled in the fifth Friday against Freddy Peralta.
His fast start reflects the work he put into the offseason. Verdugo said he did more running and baseball-oriented activities and less of what he called “bodybuilder-type work.”
Cora downplayed the role his challenge may have played in Verdugo’s surge while complimenting the outfielder’s approach.
“You look at his body compared to last year, it’s night and day,” Cora said. “His routine is a lot better.”
Rowdy Tellez hit a solo shot for the Brewers to continue his history of success against the Red Sox. Tellez, who played for Toronto from 2018-21, has 13 homers in 36 career games against Boston. He entered Friday with a 1.164 OPS against the Red Sox.
Boston came from behind, thanks in part to its patience. Each of the last three Red Sox players who scored had reached base on a two-out walk.
The Brewers led 3-2 in the sixth when Peralta issued consecutive walks to Kiké Hernández and Triston Casas, who worked his way back from an 0-2 count.
Hoby Milner replaced Peralta and promptly allowed a tying bloop single to pinch-hitter Rob Refsnyder. Jarren Duran followed with a liner that went off the glove of diving third baseman Owen Miller, resulting in a single that brought home Casas with the go-ahead run.
“That’s part of the offense,” Cora said. “Grind at-bats, create traffic and then hopefully good things happen.”
Peralta (2-2) struck out four and allowed five hits, four runs and two walks in 5 2/3 innings.
“Kind of the results didn’t match how he pitched, I thought,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “That happens sometimes. The walks ended up costing us. We couldn’t get out of that sixth inning. But he threw the ball well.”
The Red Sox added an insurance run in the seventh as Bryse Wilson came out of the bullpen with two outs and walked Justin Turner before allowing Masataka Yoshida’s RBI double to left-center.
The Brewers threatened to tie it with a two-out rally in the eighth. But after walking Tellez and allowing a single to William Contreras, Josh Winckowski struck out Brian Anderson to end the threat.
Kenley Jansen retired the side in order in the ninth to earn his fifth save in as many opportunities.
Red Sox starter Nick Pivetta (1-1) struck out seven and allowed seven hits, three runs and one walk in 5 2/3 innings.
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