It was a two-man effort Tuesday night, as Rick Porcello and Mookie Betts teamed up to end Boston's losing streak at four games with a 2-0 victory over Tampa Bay.
Baseball is, in many ways, an individual game played as a team. But the Red Sox really took that to extremes tonight. Looking down the box score for Boston, just about everybody had a bad night. There are six 0-for's with only a handful of walks mixed in for Dustin Pedroia, Allen Craig (who "reached" twice, but managed to run into an out at second on his wall ball hit) and Xander Bogaerts. David Ortiz came the closest of the bottom eight to doing anything, picking up a late double and just barely missing out on a homer that would've opened the scoring in the fourth when Kevin Kiermaier made a leaping catch against the wall in the center field triangle.
In fact, for five innings, there was a big fat zero in the hit column for the Red Sox. Drew Smyly had held the Red Sox completely in check, with Ortiz' near-blast really the only thing that approached danger. It was an ill omen in their first game without Hanley Ramirez, and on most nights with this rotation pitching the way it has, it would've been enough to sink the Sox.
Rick Porcello, however, was unwilling to let the game get away from him. Unlike the Red Sox, the Rays managed to get their hits against Porcello, but that's how games are supposed to go for Porcello. The key was that these hits were singles. And the outs were not threatening to leave the park the way six balls did in Porcello's first four starts. With Porcello giving away no free bases, the Rays were stuck on first and second all night. The greatest danger came in the fourth, with the first two batters reaching and Logan Forsythe producing solid contact. But Forsythe's line drive found Mookie Betts in center field, and Betts caught Evan Longoria having strayed quite a long way away from second base, taking all the punch out of the inning by doubling him up.
With that danger behind him, Porcello cruised through seven innings. It really has seemed like the only thing between Porcello and success is a home run rate that's anywhere near his career average, and the last two games seem to suggest that's the case. A rare positive sign for a rotation in desperate need of a bright light.
Still, it doesn't matter how well Porcello performs if the lineup gets shutout. Thankfully, Mookie Betts had something to say about that. Twice. Boston's young center fielder has not had impressive results to this point, but he's had competent at bats, and has come up just short time and again. Just short of the wall in left, or just short of a homer when he reaches it. He's been one step away from breaking out for weeks now.
He didn't just miss on Tuesday. Instead, Betts destroyed the second pitch he saw in the sixth inning. It ended up landing on the warning track in left field, but only because it bounced high off the Sports Authority billboard over the Monster. It was a no-doubter that ended the no-hit bid and the shutout in one fell swoop.
But Betts wasn't done. Ernesto Frieri's first pitch of the eighth was the victim this time. Betts' second homer of the night wasn't quite the rocket his first one was, but it was plenty high and deep enough to drop into the second row of Monster seats.
But for Betts, this game is probably still going on. But with his heroics, Porcello was able to hand the ball off to Alexi Ogando and Koji Uehara for a couple of quick innings to close out the game. The Red Sox need more from their lineup--they can't rely on a night like this from Mookie every day--but at least for tonight he and Rick Porcello were able to carry the Red Sox to a win they desperately needed.