The Red Sox just keep winning, and while some will surely point to the favorable schedule they can only play the teams they are told to play. Good teams take care of business against subpar competition, and that’s what the Red Sox did in this one. Granted, it wasn’t a blowout victory by any means, and it looked somewhat bleak for a little bit towards the beginning. Rick Porcello had a bad outing, and while all of the runs came in one bad little stretch of batters he didn’t look quite right all outing. For a guy who the Red Sox were surely hoping would grab hold of a playoff rotation spot and not let go, this was not a good day. However, the Red Sox did get some clutch hits from the middle third of their lineup and then got a phenomenal performance from the bullpen. In particular, David Price came in and showed exactly why he can be an important piece in October. It wasn’t a perfect day, but it was a win.
The early portions of this game were defined by poor pitching and disappointment for the Red Sox. Things actually got off to a really nice start for the good guys in the top half of the first against a pitcher in Sal Romano who has been lights out of late. The rookie appeared to be a little amped up and struggled finding the zone. The result was a single and two walks to lead off the game, giving the Red Sox a bases loaded no out situation. This where the disappointment comes in, as they were only able to plate one run despite the favorable position with the middle of the order coming up.
Things went from bad to worse from this point as it was fairly clear from the get-go that Porcello just didn’t have it in this game. Control has always been the best part of his game, and even in his struggles he’s generally done a good job of throwing strikes and avoiding free passes. That wasn’t the case on Friday. He fell behind early in too many counts and got lit up right off the bat. He allowed a single and a double to start the game before walking Joey Votto to load the bases before recording an out. The Reds didn’t squander their chance like Boston did in the top half, and instead Scooter Gennett was ready for a strike after Votto walked on four pitches. Gennett jumped on the first-pitch fastball and launched it into the bleachers in right field for a grand slam. In the blink of an eye, the Reds had a 4-1 lead.
From there, things quieted down for a little bit. Porcello was still shaky and having trouble hitting the zone, but he was keeping runs off the board. Meanwhile, Romano was shutting down the Red Sox lineup for the next couple innings thanks to a truly impressive power slider. When he was able to throw strikes the Red Sox couldn’t get anything going.
With the score still 4-1 heading into the fourth, Roman started to miss the zone a bit more again and the Red Sox took advantage of getting ahead in counts. That inning started with a double and a walk to put two on with nobody out. Christian Vazquez stayed hot with the runners on and smacked a double into the right-center field gap to score one and put two in scoring position for Rafael Devers. The rookie third baseman fell behind in the count, but he fought off a couple of tough pitches before getting a pitch to hit. Romano left a slider up in the zone on the inner half and Devers turned on it to break his home run slump. With one swing of the bat, the 20-year-old gave his team a 5-4 lead.
At this point it was up to the Red Sox pitchers to hold on to this lead, and they were up to the task. Porcello had one more inning left in him and it looked like it might be scary after he hit the first batter he saw. However, he came back and got three quick outs to get out of it.
From there, John Farrell turned to David Price and we got a glimpse of what the team hopes he can give them in the postseason. The lefty was excellent in 2 2⁄3 innings of work and formed a perfect bridge from a short Porcello outing to the late-inning relievers in the back of the bullpen. He came right in and immediately shut down a scary middle of the order for Cincinnati and then stayed and let them come back around without allowing a run to score. As if that wasn’t enough, he also got an at bat and picked up a single. Things got a tad bit shaky in his last inning of work as he allowed two baserunners, but he got two outs before turning things over to Addison Reed, who shut the door and finished off the seventh. It’s hard to overstate how huge it is for the Red Sox bullpen that Price has shown he’s capable of this kind of outing.
Reed came back out for the eighth with the Red Sox still holding on to that one run lead. He did allow one batter to reach on a single, but otherwise got out of the inning unscathed. Craig Kimbrel, of course, had the ninth against the top of Cincinnati’s lineup. The Red Sox closer did allow a runner to get on in front of Votto with just one out, but then induced a game-ending double play to get the save.
As if winning wasn’t good enough, the Red Sox were finally able to pick up a game on the Yankees as New York finally took a loss on Friday night. With that combination, Boston’s lead in the division grows to four and all of a sudden their magic number is down to six. Friday was a good day, and they’ll look to keep the good times rolling Saturday afternoon with Eduardo Rodriguez taking the mound.