Well that was fun. The Red Sox have had a tremendous start to their season, winning six straight heading into Saturday afternoon’s contest at Fenway Park. There haven’t really been any games quite as nice as this one, though. The offense exploded early on, knocking out Rays starter Jacob Faria with him having recorded just four outs on the day and showing real depth in the lineup. Xander Bogaerts stood out, as he has all year, contributing six RBI on the day including one absolutely demolished home run. Even Rick Porcello looked good despite a rough start to the day. More games like this, please.
While most of this one was panic-free, the Red Sox actually found themselves in an early hole and it looked as if Porcello was going to break their streak of impressive starting pitching performances to start 2018. The Rays jumped all over the Red Sox righty early, smacking two singles in the first three at bats, bringing Brad Miller up with two on and just one out. Tampa’s first baseman came through, sending a fly ball over Jackie Bradley Jr.’s head and into the triangle for a two-run double. Just like that, the Rays had an early 2-0 lead and looked as if they could score more. Porcello avoided more damage, though, getting a fly out and a strike out to get out of the inning with just the two-run deficit.
From there, it was all about the Red Sox offense. They didn’t waste much time cutting into that lead as they were all over Faria from the get-go. Mookie Betts led off the bottom half of the first with a double of his own, and then Andrew Benintendi drew a walk and Hanley Ramirez hit a single to load the bases. That brought up J.D. Martinez, who hit one well but one that stayed in the park and he settled for a sacrifice fly. The lead was cut in half with just one out and two in scoring position for Bogaerts. The Red Sox shortstop has killed the Rays all year, and he kept on keepin’ on here in the first, smashing a two-run double to give Boston a lead, and he’d come around to score right after that when Rafael Devers drove him in. Just like that, the Red Sox erased Tampa’s two-run lead and took their own.
The offense didn’t stop in the second, as the Red Sox once again had no trouble getting on base against the Rays starter. This time, Faria did get a quick first out before walking both Betts, Benintendi and Martinez to bring Bogaerts to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs. Now, if you’ll recall, the Red Sox did not hit a grand slam at all in 2017. That trend ended with a bang as Xander did a very mean thing to this baseball. He got a fastball down the heart of the plate in a full count and he sent it over everything in left field.
After that, Boston’s bats quieted down for a few innings, but in the seventh they woke back up and kept the dingers comin’. First was Martinez, who finally got off the home run schneid. The slugger got a fastball on the inner part of the plate (maybe even off the plate), and he just turned on it and sent it 420 feet out to left field for his first dinger as a member of the Red Sox. That inspired Devers, who came up next and took a slider down and in and sent it over the right field wall to give the Red Sox two more runs and back-to-back homers.
Meanwhile, during this offensive explosion from the Red Sox lineup, Rick Porcello was settling down in a big way. The 2016 Cy Young award winner has always seemed to have some trouble in the first inning, and last season he wasn’t always able to turn it around. He most certainly did on Saturday, though. In the second he allowed a one-out single to Joey Wendle....and that was it. Following that single the next, the next 17 Rays batters would be set down, a streak that ended when Wendle hit a double to lead off the top of the eighth. Tampa would get one more off Porcello on a Denard Span single before the righty was taken out of the game. Overall, Porcello went 7 1⁄3 innings with seven strikeouts and no walks while allowing three runs on six hits. This was the worst start by a Red Sox starter so far this year, but clearly that says a lot more about the kind of performances they’ve gotten in 2018 than it does about Porcello’s day.
Marcus Walden came in with the hopes of finishing off this blowout, and he finished the eighth easily with a comebacker that was turned into an inning-ending double play. Walden came back in the next inning to set the Rays down in order and close out this blowout victory. It was a nice little recovery after Walden’s last outing went poorly.
As a final note, with the Rays burning through four relievers through the first seven innings and having a bullpen day scheduled for Sunday, they turned to infielder Daniel Robertson for the bottom half of the eighth. And, wouldn’t you know it, he set the side down in order. Baseball is weird.
So, the Red Sox will look to extend this win streak to eight games and finish off their second consecutive sweep on Sunday afternoon. They’ll be getting Eduardo Rodriguez back for this one and, as mentioned above, he’ll be going up against the Rays bullpen. First pitch is at 1:05 PM ET.