After Monday’s loss to Cleveland, the Red Sox were looking to get back to their winning ways on Tuesday. It wasn’t a must-win by any stretch, but the mark of a good team is one that can avoid long losing streaks, particularly at this important juncture of the season. The Red Sox showed that to be the case for them on Tuesday, and they did it behind a massive fifth inning from their bats. The lineup that has struggled to come through with runners in scoring position so often this year couldn’t stop getting big hits in that inning and it propelled them to a stress-free win. Specifically standing out in the lineup were Hanley Ramirez, Xander Bogaerts and, of course, Rafael Devers.
Although that fifth inning is where the Red Sox did the majority of their damage, they actually got going early on in the first inning. After a couple of quick outs to lead off the game, Andrew Benintendi started a two-out rally with a single. After Hanley Ramirez followed that up with a single of his own (though, for what it’s worth, it would have been a home run if not for that big ol’ wall out in left field), Devers came through with an RBI single to put the Red Sox up 1-0 early on. Boston would load up the bases after that, but Mitch Moreland left the bases full of Red Sox with the same 1-0 lead.
In fact, after that Devers RBI single things were pretty frustrating for the Red Sox offense for a few innings. Mike Leake was making quick work of Boston’s lineup, only allowing a few baserunners and not really allowing anything resembling a rally. This is the Leake that was around for much of the first half as he just induces quick, weak contact to roll through lineups.
That changed in the fifth inning as the Red Sox hitters decided enough was enough. After Jackie Bradley started the frame with a flyout, the hits just kept coming. Eduardo Nuñez and Mookie Betts had back-to-back singles and Benintendi was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Ramirez. Hanley smoked another ball off the Monster — another one that’s likely a home run in most parks — and that scored two runs. With a 3-0 lead and runners on second and third, St. Louis opted to intentionally walk Devers to load the bases in the ultimate sign of respect for the young slugger. It backfired. After the intentional walk, Leake and reliever Matt Bowman combined to allow five consecutive hits (four singles and one double from Sandy Leon) and in the blink of an eye the Red Sox had a 9-0 lead. It was one of the most productive innings in recent memory for the team.
They’d load the bases again in the sixth, though they weren’t able to take as much advantage of this situation. They did get another run, though, to give them ten on the day.
On the mound, it was a strong effort for Rick Porcello, though it certainly wasn’t perfect all the way through. Still, things were good early on and he had enough run support that the rough patches were fine. A few things stood out for the 2016 Cy Young winner in this game. The first was that, particularly in the early innings, Porcello was locating his two-seamer with wonderful precision. In the first inning he had a couple of great strikeouts on two-seamers that crossed back over the plate on his glove-side at the last second. The strike zone was a bit wide, to be fair, but Porcello recognized that and took advantage with some borderline calls going in his direction. The fastball, as always, was his money pitch on Tuesday.
In addition to the location of his fastball, Porcello also got back to his groundball roots for the evening and induced some big ones when they were needed. Over the first five innings, he got a total of seven outs from three ground balls. For those who aren’t great at quick math, that includes a triple play. The Red Sox turned their first triple play since 2011 in the fourth inning of Tuesday’s game. The Cardinals started the frame with a couple of quick singles before Yadier Molina hit a ground ball right to Devers. The rookie stepped on the bag and they simply went around the horn for a relatively routine triple play. Technically speaking, nothing was difficult about the play but it was a heads up play by Devers, particularly the fact that he didn’t rush because Molina isn’t exactly a burner on the bases.
After Boston’s lineup’s big fifth inning, Porcello ran into the only bit of trouble he’d get into all night. It wasn’t a horrible inning, as he was singled to death and some better defense could have possibly gotten him out of it earlier, but it wasn’t great. Porcello ended up allowing three singles and a double in a sequence that allowed three runs to cross the plate. In all, he’d allow just those three runs over seven strong innings of work with two walks and six strikeouts. He’s still giving up a lot of hits, but he’s at least giving Boston a chance to win just about every time out these days.
In the bullpen, Joe Kelly came out for the eighth and did not do too well. The score was lopsided enough that his performance didn’t matter much in this game, but he didn’t inspire confidence for moving forward. While he didn’t implode by any measure, he allowed one run on a couple of hits and also threw a wild pitch. The ninth belonged to Robby Scott, and the southpaw shut down the Cardinals without allowing a run.
One other note from tonight’s game: I mentioned that in the big fifth inning, Benintendi was hit by a pitch. He remained in the game after being struck above the knee, but in the sixth he was removed for Chris Young. The hope is that this was just a precautionary measure and he was only removed because it was a blowout. We’ll keep you updated if it’s more serious than that.
So, in a battle of two of the hottest teams in baseball the Red Sox took the first contest. They’ll go for a short two-game sweep on Wednesday with Eduardo Rodriguez on the bump.