We have a theory around these parts--phenomenon, law, whatever you want to call it--that we call the "Hamels - Harang theory." It stems from the opening days of 2015 where the Red Sox crushed Cole Hamels one night, then were largely shut down by Aaron Harang the next. Simply put: the Red Sox can hit the best, but not the rest.
Enter Drew Smyly and Chris Archer. On Tuesday Smyly made the Red Sox look like a high school team trying to play in the majors. On Wednesday the Red Sox made Chris Archer look like a position player taking the mound in the 14th. Having gone ten innings without a single run the day before, the Sox scored five runs before the third tonight.
As you might expect, that left everyone who had been cold looking mighty hot. Xander Bogaerts singled home Mookie Betts to start the scoring after Betts and Pedroia both reached safely, and David Ortiz cleared the bases by going the other way and finding the gap between left and center to make it 3-0. In the bottom of the second, it was Betts giving notice that his cold start was coming to an end by crushing a 2-1 fastball off the stanchion over the Monster for a two-run shot, bringing Jackie Bradley Jr. in to score and making it 5-0.
And Rick Porcello? He just kept on defying expectations. Even his most ardent supporters have an image of Porcello in their minds: ground balls, low walks, and equally low strikeouts. So far this season, though, he's been all about the strikeout. That certainly held true against the Rays. Leaning heavily on his sinker and changeup, Porcello just sliced through the Tampa Bay lineup with ease. He entered the fourth with five strikeouts to his name, and the sixth with the shutout intact.
In his last few innings, things did start to go a bit wrong. We saw Porcello surrender some of those long fly balls that have been such a problem for him since he joined the Red Sox, and they hurt him again here against the Rays, with a triple and a homer costing him a pair in the sixth. They would tack on a third in the seventh on a couple of two-out hits, though by that point the Sox had grabbed their sixth and seventh runs on a David Ortiz double and Chris Young single. It was a strong start that, frankly, was even better than the box score will suggest. The homer came on a rare cutter which maybe Porcello should just excise from his game entirely, with the core sinker that should define Porcello working wonders. Junichi Tazawa and Noe Ramirez would finish the job for him, securing the win.
Of course, you may have noticed that Chris Young crept into things in that last bit. Why was he in? Well that brings us to our bad news of the day: in the process of scoring Boston's sixth run in the fifth inning, Xander Bogaerts seemed to pull up a bit rounding third. Shortly thereafter he was ruled out of the game with a tight left quad. Not terrible news--at least not yet--but certainly not great on a night where Bogaerts had been looking quite good at the plate.
Still, if Bogaerts escapes this without more than a game or two missed, it will go down as an important streak-breaker, with the Red Sox getting back in the win column before things could spiral too far out of control. And while putting all our eggs in the David Price basket didn't exactly work out last time, you have to feel good about Boston's chances on Thursday.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'll resume the salt-over-shoulder, knocking-on-wood, livestock-sacrificing practices from earlier today, lest I invite evil upon Price.