Even matched up against the AL East leading Toronto Blue Jays Monday afternoon, the Red Sox managed to keep on rollng behind a big game from Jackie Bradley Jr. and a solid outing from Rick Porcello against the most dangerous lineup in the game.
Honestly, it's hard to say whether "solid" is the best way to describe Porcello's outing. On the one hand, three earned runs in seven innings is just exactly that--solid, not spectacular. The 3.86 ERA it produces is one of those strange baseball-exclusive milestones, with the small but significant difference of seven innings and six being all that separates it from the not-so-quality-anymore start of six innings with three earned. Porcello even threw in an out in the eighth for good measure.
There is one particular knock against this outing that might push it in a negative direction, though, which is the two homers. One in the first to Josh Donaldson, another in the fifth to Justin Smoak. Both on fastballs that more touched the zone than really caught it flush. Donaldson will get even the best pitchers, yes, but two homers from the man whose season was haunted more by the long ball than anything else is concerning.
Far more, however, pushes it in a positive direction. For one: one of those earned runs (and one unearned), weren't entirely on him. Porcello entered the eighth with 100 pitches already on his arm, and after getting a ground ball to second, surrendered a pair of singles on back-to-back pitches, ending his day. It was a combination of a passed ball and a single allowed by Noe Ramirez that allowed the two runs to score, ultimately, and Porcello could well have left the game with seven innings of two-run ball to his name.
And beyond that, well, these are the Blue Jays! Porcello found himself in a little more trouble as the game dragged on, getting a lucky line drive double play to end the sixth, but otherwise he largely managed to keep them off the bases, and erase those baserunners he did allow with well-timed ground balls. This is a team that has scored 80 runs more than the closest competition, and other than those solo shots, Porcello was largely untroubled. It's another strong outing to add to his season-end resume, another data point suggesting he might well be fixed.
So Porcello was quite good, but the Red Sox didn't really need him to be to win this one. Up against Mark Buehrle, the Red Sox scored early and often. David Ortiz scored the first run, leading off the second with a double and coming around on Rusney Castillo's sacrifice fly to tie the game. The very next inning, the Sox got singles from Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts to lead the inning off, with Xander Bogaerts bringing one home on a fielder's choice and Ortiz producing the second with his second double of the day.
That third-inning single would be the first of four hits on the day for Jackie Bradley Jr. The second would drive Rusney Castillo in to make it 4-1 in the fourth, with Mookie Betts' second hit adding another run. The fifth saw the Toronto bullpen finally produce a scoreless frame, but after a leadoff single from Blake Swihart in the sixth, Jackie Bradley produced his third hit: an opposite-field shot into the Monster seats. One inning later, and Bradley was knocking in Castillo again, this time by golfing a double onto the track and up into the stands in right.
Ultimately, the Red Sox would produce 11 runs. Bradley brought four hits to the table, of course, with Betts adding three, and Castillo, Ortiz, and Travis Shaw two more a piece, with Shaw even getting back on track with an eighth-inning homer of his own. The Red Sox are winning games these days, and I find myself typing these names--Bradley, Betts, Bogaerts, Swihart, Castillo, Shaw--over and over again as they do. It's a shame that the young guys weren't in position or ready yet to start this earlier in the season, but now that they're in place, it's easy to look forward to a full year of this.