Well, that sucked. I’m not really sure how else to put it. Rick Porcello had his worst start since his horrid 2015 and the offense couldn’t really get anything going until this game was already out of hand.
In the first inning, at least, things looked promising for Porcello. He got two quick outs to start the game, and with one being a pop out and the other a ground out, neither of the first two batters left the infield. With two outs, Evan Longoria did smash a hard-hit double to left field, but that was all the damage done in the top of the first after Porcello struck out Brad Miller with a 95 mph fastball to end the frame. It looked like we’d be seeing another good start from Porcello tonight, but that’d change.
He started off the second with another strikeout, this time on Steven Souza but again with the fastball. He followed that up by allowing a double to Logan Morrison, but then struck out Derek Norris with yet another fastball. At that point, it looked like maybe he’d give up a double in every inning, but the fastball was working so well that he’d be able to escape any real danger. It was especially promising that Shane Peterson was coming to the plate, a batter who hadn’t appeared in a game since 2015. Porcello went back to the fastball, but unfortunately Peterson was able to get out in front of one coming for the inside corner and smacked it into the right field corner and over the wall. Just like that, the Rays were up 2-0 thanks to a player that I had to Google while putting together the lineups this afternoon. The inning would end at that score.
It was the third, though, when the Rays were really able to break this game open. It was also when Porcello really stopped looking like the Porcello we’ve gotten so used to. He did get the first batter to ground out, but then followed that up with a walk, a single and another walk. To make matters worse, he got squeezed on some of the calls (they didn’t look too egregious in this writer’s opinion, for whatever that’s worth) and he was clearly getting frustrated. That’s never a good thing for a pitcher. Sure enough, after starting Morrison off with two straight balls, he left a changeup right up over the plate and the Rays first baseman smashed it into the right field seats for a grand slam. In the blink of an eye, Tampa had a six-run lead.
Porcello did come back and get two quick outs after that and then had a 1-2-3 inning in the fourth. It looked like maybe he could salvage this game and at least make it through five or six innings. After starting the fifth with a strikeout, though, he allowed two more solo home runs and that was that. Robbie Ross was coming into the game, and the Rays had eight runs on the board. Not great.
To make matters even worse, Tampa was able to lean on Chris Archer on the mound. Coming off a rough 2016, he’s out to prove something this year and it’s working. He wasn’t perfect, and there was some good contact, but the Red Sox lineup never really got any momentum. In the first, they went down 1-2-3, although the last two outs were off solid line drives. They did get a hit in the second, but Xander Bogaerts was stranded at second after his single. Boston followed that up with another 1-2-3 inning in the third.
It was at this point in the game, with his team already up 6-0, that Archer started to lose a little of his command. The fourth inning started with a walk to Andrew Benintendi followed by a line-drive single from Mookie Betts. Once again, Hanley Ramirez had a chance to come through with a big hit. Instead, he struck out. After that, Mitch Moreland made good contact with a fly ball to center field that looked like it might even go out but was instead caught on the warning track. With runners now on the corners, Bogaerts drew a walk to load the bases for Pablo Sandoval. This would not be one of the third baseman’s best at bats, as he fouled off two extremely hittable sliders and ended up grounding out to end the inning without a single run.
They were able to score in the fifth, when Pedroia led off the frame with a ground-rule double and Benintendi knocked him in with a single. That was far too little, far too late, though. They would get a couple runners in the next inning — and they also knocked Archer out of the game after 5 2⁄3 — but they were both stranded. In the seventh, they scored another run when Ramirez hit a single with two runners on.
Meanwhile, the bullpen was...well, it was pretty fine. Ross did get through 2 2⁄3 innings, which was huge towards saving the bullpen for the rest of the series, but he allowed two runs in the top half of the seventh. Fernando Abad came on for the eighth, and while he allowed two base runners he got out of the inning with a walk. After Steven Wright warmed in the bullpen for a bit, it ended up being Robby Scott who came in for the ninth. He’d come through with a 1-2-3 inning.
In the bottom ninth, the offense made things very interesting. Or, at least more interesting than anyone would have anticipated. Austin Pruitt was still in the game after taking over to start the seventh, and Boston’s lineup went to work. Marco Hernandez, who came in to pinch run for Dustin Pedroia earlier in the game, started things off with a single and Benintendi moved him over to third on a ground rule double. After Betts hit a single and Ramirez grounded out, the Red Sox had closed to deficit to just six runs. A couple batters later, Bogaerts would have another hit to bring them within five. Unfortunately, that’s as close as it’d get.
Mercifully, the game did eventually end. The story was not the offense, who can’t seem to get things going early in games but really appears to be ready to turn it on soon. No, the story was Rick Porcello. It really seemed as if his frustration with the umpire in the third snowballed quickly and that killed his outing in the blink of an eye. This was a tough game to watch, but I’m not worried about the reigning Cy Young winner as I look forward to his next few starts.