The Red Sox are back above .500 as Christian Vazquez put on a show in his return to the big league club, leading the way both behind the plate and at it in a 5-3 win.
The bottom of the first...well, it was really only the one at bat that was particularly strange, but it left the whole thing feeling strange. Betts and Pedroia didn't get the Sox started with any great speed, but Xander Bogaerts managed to at least keep the Sox alive by reaching outside to just tap a single through the right side of the infield. David Ortiz' at bat wasn't the odd one. He just launched a double to dead center that nearly got out, plating Xander from first with ease to give the Red Sox a run.
Then up came Hustlin' Hanley Ramirez, who put his own hustle in jeopardy by punching a foul ball right into his own foot, taking a seat at the plate. He would stay in the game, however, and then toss his bat almost into the stands in the process of striking out. But, after a brief pause, Ramirez realized that just as the bat got away from him, the ball had escaped catcher Josh Thole, allowing him to leg out a free base and extend the inning. Travis Shaw made good by planting a double off the Monster, and while he found himself caught in a rundown between second and third, the Sox had their second and third runs all the same.
So the Red Sox had a first-inning lead, which has been true in two other games this year: their game one and two losses to the Orioles. Ominous! How will Rick Porcello handle this with Christian Vazquez behind the plate?
Honestly? Not all that differently from how he handled the Blue Jays last time. This was, like his start in Toronto, a mixed outing for Rick Porcello, but largely positive. He started off struggling to hit the spots established by Christian Vazquez, which is the fear when it comes to the young catcher's ability to influence his pitchers (he can't throw the pitches himself, after all). This would come back to bite him in a big way when, with Vazquez set up outside, he delivered a high fastball over the plate to Edwin Encarnacion. E5 crushed it for a solo shot, and the Jays were back within a pair.
Porcello would find himself in some more trouble in the second when he came a bit too far inside and hit Troy Tulowitzki, But a curveball earned a swinging strikeout of Justin Smoak, and Vazquez delivered a snap throw to first, catching Tulowitzki off the bag for the inning-ending double play. And from there, Porcello started actually finding the glove. Which is just that much more important with Vazquez behind the plate. The strikeout of Smoak started a stretch of twelve straight batters retired by Porcello. Yes, 1-2-3 innings from a mid-rotation Red Sox starter, including outs from the heart of this dangerous Blue Jays lineup.
The Red Sox would get Porcello his run back in the bottom of the second, with Christian Vazquez also contributing on offense with a double off the wall, scoring on a Mookie Betts single. He'd even score their fifth run all the way in the sixth, after a leadoff single. He could've had three hits but for a perfectly placed Smoak at first base in the fourth.
Of course, for those keeping score, there's something missing from this Porcello game if it's going to come out looking similar to his first outing against the Blue Jays. And sure enough, come the seventh with Jose Bautista on base, he misplaced another fastball over the middle, once again to Edwin Encarnacion. In Toronto he gave up four runs, all of them coming on two homers to Jose Bautista. This time it was three on two homers to Edwin Encarnacion.
But again, that'll just kind of happen. Rick Porcello has 15 strikeouts and two walks and has kept the Red Sox 100% in the game for two starts against this nasty Blue Jays lineup. Get him away from Bautista and Encarnacion, and we might start seeing some truly good results to go with all those strikeouts.
For tonight, though, 6.1 innings with three earned was enough. It got the ball into the hands of Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara, and Craig Kimbrel with the lead. And while Kimbrel ran into a bit of trouble when a two-out broken bat bloop led into a walk, he delivered a no-chance curveball to Justin Smoak that cut in from well outside to cross the bottom of the zone for strike two, then blew him away with a completely unhittable inside fastball at 98 to end the game.