The Red Sox started a big series against a bad White Sox team on Thursday. They really need to put forth a strong effort against a very beatable team before a stretch that includes games against both the Rays and the Yankees. Getting as much ground between themselves and their rivals — while both play division leaders — could prove to be huge.
The first game was a strange one, but they reached their ultimate goal. On the plus side, the offense stayed red hot and continues to put that miserable July cold streak behind them. Rafael Devers and Eduardo Nuñez continued to provide a spark, with the former going yard yet again in this one. Andrew Benintendi, fresh off a couple days off to regroup after a brutal stretch of baseball, came back firing on all cylinders and reached base five times in the game. He also made a tremendous baserunning play to score a run, though that was negated by two bad outs on the basepaths. Mookie Betts also continued to get hot with a home run and Christian Vazquez stayed red hot with a couple of hits. Everything came up Milhouse for the lineup.
On the mound, this seemed like a good chance for Porcello to finally get going in the right direction. He had been solid of late, no doubt, but he had yet to reach the second gear at which we saw him last year, particularly in the second half. A game against a bad White Sox lineup seemed like just the place to hit that gear. Instead, he struggled with his command all night, missing both in and out of the zone. It was not a good night for the Red Sox starter, but the offense picked him up.
At first, it didn’t look like things were going to be too bad for Porcello. He got off to a quick start against this hapless White Sox offense, setting them down in order in the first inning. Even better, that was followed up with a monster inning from his offense. In the first inning against Miguel Gonzalez — a pitcher that has pitched strangely well against Boston in the past — Benintendi started the rally with a one-out double and he was quickly knocked in by the sparkplug himself, Eduardo Nuñez. The new infielder immediately stole second base and then was knocked in on a double from Hanley Ramirez. After that, Devers hit his home run on yet another impressive swing. Once again, the long ball went the other way, and to make it even better he hardly hit the ball hard at all this time around. It appeared he got under it but it just kept carrying and sailed into the Monster Seats. Just like that, it was a 4-0 lead.
Porcello didn’t respond well to the lead, though. He started the second off by walking old friend Yoan Moncada and followed that up with consecutive ground-ball singles to give Chicago their first run of the game. After a wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position, the White Sox scored another on a ground out before Porcello was able to get out of the trouble.
Fortunately, this wasn’t one of those games where the Red Sox offense had one big inning then fell asleep for the rest of the game. They came right back in the bottom of the second and put up yet another crooked number. This time the big shot came from Betts, who is starting to heat up after an uncharacteristically ugly July. Gonzalez hung a breaking ball right in Betts’ sweet spot and the 2016 MVP runner-up didn’t miss it. After that, Benintendi got another hit then showed off great base running to score another run. He immediately stole second after his single then scored on an infield single from Ramirez. Yes, he scored from second on an infield single.
Those insurance runs turned out to be important, as Porcello pitched like he was in shock seeing seven runs from his offense. He gave up a single and a walk with a couple of outs mixed in there to bring up rookie Nicky Delmonico with two on and two out. Porcello couldn’t get out of the jam, and instead hung a breaking ball to the rookie and allowed a huge home run demolished out to right field. It was Delmonico’s first career dinger and it brought the White Sox within two.
From here, the game settled down as both lineups quieted down. The Red Sox were able to get some baserunners against the White Sox bullpen, but for a few innings there they weren’t able to knock anyone in. Meanwhile, Porcello started to look much sharper and was getting good results against this subpar White Sox lineup. Boston would end up scoring a couple more in the fifth and sixth to start getting some separation in this game.
In addition to the offense, the Red Sox bullpen was able to do what Porcello was not and keep Chicago’s hitters off the scoreboard. Fernando Abad and Heath Hembree faced one batter each in the sixth inning with both recording strikeouts. Addison Reed came on for the seventh with a four-run lead, presumably because he hasn’t worked much in the last week and the top of the White Sox order was coming up. Whatever the reason, he did his job by getting through a 1-2-3 inning. Matt Barnes did the same in the eighth, and then Brandon Workman did so in the ninth.
Although the game didn’t go entirely to plan, the Red Sox got a win. With the Yankees dropping one in Cleveland, Boston moves up to a full two games up in the American League East. As I type this, the Rays are also losing, though that game still has a few innings to go. Either way, the Red Sox will take this win and also have to be encouraged by how well the offense is playing. The pitching hasn’t been great, particularly in the rotation, but they were due for a slump at some point. That they are still getting wins is what really matters. They’ll try to get a more well-rounded victory Friday night with Eduardo Rodriguez on the bump.