The Red Sox made their third straight comeback, and for the second straight time sealed the win, taking a more comfortable 8-4 win over the Toronto Blue Jays behind a balanced attack, a resilient Rick Porcello, and a spotless bullpen.
After Clay Buchholz and Joe Kelly turned in terrible starts in Boston's last two games, Red Sox fans were begging Rick Porcello to give them anything to hang their hopes on after David Price. Against this Toronto lineup, it was always going to be tough, but Porcello seemed to make a show of crushing those hopes and dreams early. After an encouraging strikeout of Kevin Pillar, Porcello started hanging pitches, and against the likes of Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista...well, what do you expect? Donaldson tagged him for a loud hit, and Bautista took it a step further, crushing a terrible slider over the wall in left where, frankly, it belonged.
So the Red Sox were down 2-0 early. But they've got some experience in erasing early deficits, and while the knuckleball was doing good work early on, that changed abruptly when R.A. Dickey got to the bottom of Boston's lineup in the third. Rusney Castillo would actually be the one to get things going with a sharp single past the shortstop, and Blake Swihart took five straight pitches and a walk to move him to second, giving the Red Sox their first big threat of the game with the top of the order coming up to bat.
Mookie Betts couldn't advance the runners with his bat, but Dickey would make up for it himself by slinging a pickoff throw wide of second base, allowing both men to move into scoring position. Dustin Pedroia, who would finish the day with three hits, did not pick one up here, but did manage to bring a run home with a ground ball, and Xander Bogaerts brought the other man home by doubling into the stands down the right field line. Travis Shaw mirrored him with an almost identical ground-rule double to left, and just like that, the Red Sox had taken another early deficit and turned it into an early lead.
And so of course Porcello came in and gave up another hit to Donaldson and another homer to Jose Bautista because why not? All rotation hope is lost and everything is terrible and--
Well, not so much. That happened, certainly, but the reality is that if Porcello started the game pitching quite poorly, by the end he looked like the Porcello the Red Sox were always hoping for. He got himself under control after that homer, even managed to pitch around a Pablo Sandoval error (another shocking turn of events, that), and induced the ground balls he needs to induce if he's going to have a chance at making good on that big extension. He got the Red Sox through six, and if you look back at it, only really took damage from Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista.
That's going to happen. It will happen to Rick Porcello, and if he ends up facing them, it will probably happen to David Price eventually. Good hitters are going to hit, and if they hit a bit louder than you'd like, Porcello managed to get through six innings without letting the game get away from him. It's one of the more encouraging six-inning, four-run starts you'll see.
Still, it left the Red Sox with work to do in the fourth, so work they did! Albeit with some help from R.A. Dickey and Josh Thole, who combined to strike out Brock Holt with one down in the inning, and to let him reach first as the third strike found its way to the backstop. Rusney Castillo made it two hits in two tries with a loud double to right-center, and Blake Swihart got a ball deep enough to left to score the tying run.
Then came the top of the fifth, and oh what a strange half-inning it was. Pedroia started things off with a mundane single, and Xander Bogaerts walked to move him on to second. Travis Shaw couldn't get the job done for once, striking out to give Dickey some life, but Hanley Ramirez hit a line drive to right that seemed likely to load the bases, but leave the game tied.
It would have, too, but it hit the turf in right, and took one of the crazier bounces you'll see. Jose Bautista had no chance at the thing as it popped up over his head and escaped all the way to the wall, allowing Ramirez to make it to third as Pedroia and Bogaerts both scored. And if that wasn't enough, yet another knuckleball gone awry allowed Hanley Ramirez to come in to score as Thole was too slow chasing it down. The whole thing reads as a triple and a wild pitch, but it played out like an inside-the-park home single.
Strange or not, it put the Red Sox ahead 7-4. Mookie Betts and Dustin Pedroia would make it 8-4 in the top of the sixth, but more important was Porcello getting the ball to the seventh, where the Boston bullpen could lock it in. And while the Sox do have some weapons to go to, with a four-run lead in hand, they didn't even need them all. Koji Uehara came in to handle the terrifying Donaldson - Bautista combo, but Robbie Ross Jr. was allowed to handle Encarnacion and Tulowitzki in the eighth, and he did so with total ease. Travis Shaw snared a line drive to end the inning, and Ross came back out to handle another easy frame for the ninth, finishing things in Toronto.
So the Red Sox didn't need eight runs, but they scored them anyway, even without David Ortiz. And what's more, they got through the game without using Junichi Tazawa or Craig Kimbrel, and got a reasonably encouraging result from Rick Porcello after a few innings that seemed to spell disaster for the rotation once more. They are series winners against a key opponent, and will at the very least head back to Fenway Park with a winning record . The only question is just how far above .500 they'll be.