The Red Sox are a season-high four games up in the East, and they have Rick Porcello to thank for it.
Porcello delivered one of the more remarkable starts the Red Sox have seen all year long tonight. It wasn’t that he was untouchable—the score will make that much clear. The Orioles got a couple of big hits against him to push two runs across, including a solo shot from Adam Jones.
But the efficiency? The efficiency was just unreal. Porcello needed just 89 pitches to produce his complete game victory. Not only did he not walk a batter—he barely even fell behind! He was dropping big curves into the zone, burying changeups below, and then finishing batters off with high fastballs. And that was perhaps the most impressive part of it all. Porcello wasn’t just getting quick outs, but quick strikeouts, changing his elevation, mixing up his pitches, and blowing batters away with low-90s “heat”.
You’d think with Porcello taking care of things in such short order, there’d be little room for drama. But now, Manny Machado made sure we got our share of that. With two down in the fourth, Porcello came inside to Machado and ended up hitting him, drawing no little ire (and no few words) from the young third baseman as he took first. The big problem with Machado’s umbrage: Porcello had a perfect game going before he hit Machado. And yet, for some reason, when Mark Trumbo doubled to right to drive him in, Machado slid home with a flourish and then stared out at Porcello as though he’d gotten one over on him.
If Machado claimed a small victory, though, the Red Sox were busy taking the big one. Mookie Betts had continued his habitual destruction of the Orioles in the third, getting around on an inside fastball and sending it into the seats in left for a two-run shot before Machado put his run on the board, giving the Sox first blood. Then, as soon as the Orioles had scored, the Sox quickly built their lead back up, with Benintendi doubling to the wall, Dustin Pedroia driving him in, and David Ortiz capping things off with his 35th home run of the year. Perhaps he heard Mookie’s footsteps starting up again?
Tempers would briefly flare up in Ortiz’ next at bat, with the Orioles grazing his leg and making nobody so angry as Dustin Pedroia. But the best revenge, as they say, is to live well. The Sox never responded to the incident, intentional or not, instead sending Porcello back out to record the final outs and finish the game he started with the complete game win. His 21st victory of the year puts the Sox four ahead in the East--higher than they’ve ever been this season—and ensures that they will leave Baltimore with at least some lead in the division, no matter how the rest of the series goes.