Well, that was fun. The offense finally got rolling and crushed a pitcher they should have crushed. Although almost all of the damage came in one inning, it didn’t make the day any less entertaining.
That inning would be the second, when the Red Sox plated eight runs using power, timely hitting and actually taking advantage of mistakes. Interestingly enough, all of that damage came with two outs, as Twins starter Nick Tepesch retired the first two batters in the second frame after pitching a scoreless first in which he allowed two base runners. After he got those two quick outs, the game took a huge turn.
It all started with Chris Young, who, if you recall, had the big hit on Friday to tie the game in the top of the ninth before the bullpen (and coaching staff) blew it in the bottom half. Tepesch left a slider hanging up in the zone on the outer half of the plate and Young got his arms extended pulled it out to left field over the fence for a no-doubt solo homer to give the Red Sox an early lead. After a Sandy Leon single, Josh Rutledge reached on an error by shortstop Jorge Polanco in which he simply dropped a routine ground ball that should have ended the inning.
Over the last few weeks, when opponents made mistakes like this the Red Sox just couldn’t seem to take advantage. They bucked that trend on Saturday. Mookie Betts drew a walk to load the bases and Dustin Pedroia cleared them with a big double out to left-center field. Just like that it was 4-0 and it was clear Tepesch just couldn’t fool this lineup. After that the Red Sox would go single, double, single, double and plate four more runs before Mitch Moreland ended the eight-run, two-out rally.
Tepesch was removed in the middle of that rally, and Boston’s bats quieted down a bit against reliever Drew Rucinski. That is, until Chris Young led off the fifth and took a fastball right down the heart of the plate and demolished another one into the left field seats. That gave the Red Sox nine, and likely gave Young a spot in tomorrow’s lineup. They’d tack on another in the seventh on an RBI single from Josh Rutledge and another in the ninth on a solo home run from Leon.
While the offense breaking out was the story of this game, Rick Porcello gave the Red Sox another great start. The Twins aren’t the most frightening lineup in the game, but Porcello looked like his 2016 self on Saturday afternoon regardless of the opponent. Minnesota....well, quite frankly Minnesota’s lineup looked a lot like Boston’s has over the last few weeks. Porcello never really felt like he was in too much trouble despite allowing at least one base runner in all but one of his seven innings of work.
Porcello’s one mistake came in the third inning. On the first pitch of the frame, last year’s Cy Young winner wanted to throw a fastball away to Robbie Grossman, but left it on the inner half of the plate and Grossman pulled it over the fence to right field. At that point, the Red Sox already had an 8-0 lead, so the home run didn’t matter much.
Beyond that one pitch, he was fantastic for the entire day. For the most part, he was locating his fastball and relied on that pitch for most of the day rather than messing around with his offspeed stuff. He did allow seven hits on the day, and three for extra bases, so it wasn’t all weak contact and domination. However, he didn’t allow a single free pass and didn’t allow the Twins to string any of those hits together. Porcello also struck out six Twins over his seven innings.
In his last four starts since that implosion against the Rays on April 14, Porcello has a 1.69 ERA with 27 strikeouts and just five walks over 26 2⁄3 innings. His overall numbers are still skewed by that rough outing against Tampa, and of course it’s unfair to totally eliminate it. It happened. With that being said, Porcello is looking a lot like the dominant version of himself he was for much of last year. Right now, it’s hard not to be confident in the top two Red Sox pitchers, and with Eduardo Rodriguez and Drew Pomeranz looking solid in their own rights, the rotation is mostly doing its job on a night basis.
This was as positive a game as one could possibly hope for. The offense was firing on all cylinders and took advantage of a Twins pitching staff that was overmatched from first pitch. Porcello did Porcello things and never let the Twins feel like they were in this game. Ben Taylor and Fernando Abad came in and ended the blowout without issue. Let’s do it again tomorrow.