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Red Sox 5, Athletics 6: A frustrating start to the homestand

Porcello struggles and the offense just couldn’t catch up.

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Boston Red Sox Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

This was a super frustrating loss for the Red Sox in a few different ways. The worst part of this game was probably Boston’s starter, Rick Porcello. The righty just didn’t quite have it for the duration of this start, throwing too many hittable pitches and just generally not being able to put away batters with two strikes or put away the A’s when he got two outs. He was very close to getting out of a lot of jams before allowed Oakland to get some runs on the board. The offense was fine in this game, but they did have a few opportunities in which it felt like they should have done more, and that came back to bite them. Of course, it didn’t help that every time they scored a run the pitching would give it right now. It was not the start to this homestand the Red Sox were looking for, to say the least.

Through most of this season, Porcello has been incredible with his command, proving almost impossible to draw walks against and extremely difficult to square up. He was cruising through lineup after lineup and it was hard to see it stopping. His last two starts have been different, though, as he’s throwing more pitches than usual and having trouble putting the finishing touch on his opponents. That was basically the theme of this game for the Red Sox starter, as he had chances to get out of a lot of the trouble he got into, but was never able to take that final step. A lot of that came to his fastball, which had some flashes but for the most part his most trustworthy strikeout pitch wasn’t there.

The first inning didn’t see any damage, but in hindsight it showed what kind of night it could shape up to be for the 2016 Cy Young winner. In its simplest terms, Porcello had a strong start to the night as he set the side down in order. However, it took him 22 pitches to get through it. Half of them were to Jed Lowrie in the final at bat, but he was throwing more balls than usual and couldn’t quite get strike three against anyone. He had a similarly long second inning, and it was another frame in which he didn’t allow a run. Porcello did, however, have to work around a pair of singles.

The trouble finally caught up to the righty in the top half of the third after it looked like he could have his first easy inning of the night. Porcello got a couple of quick outs to start that frame, but then Matt Joyce came up to the plate and worked a full count after falling down 1-2. On the 3-2 pitch Porcello threw an awful changeup that just stayed right in the heart of the zone and Oakland’s outfielder demolished it to right field for a solo home run, breaking up a 0-0 tie.

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Boston Red Sox Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Meanwhile, the Red Sox offense was out for revenge against Sean Manaea after the southpaw no-hit them last month. They didn’t get that elusive base knock in the first inning, but J.D. Martinez wasted no time in the second. He jumped on the first pitch he saw and sent a line drive into center field for the team’s first hit off Manaea in ten innings. Hooray! That was all they’d get in that inning, though. Boo!

They were able to add some damage to the punch in the bottom half of the third, though, right after the A’s took their 1-0 lead. That rally started with a two-out single from Mookie Betts, who then stole second and moved over to third on a wild pitch. Just 90 feet from the plate, the Red Sox star came home when Andrew Benintendi hit an infield single to score the run, and he’d get to second on a throwing error. That turned out to be big because Hanley Ramirez followed that up with a single into right field, and Boston had the lead.

So, Porcello headed back out for the fourth with a new game in front of him and looked to keep his team in the lead with a big shutdown inning. That...well, it didn’t happen. The top of the fourth was the righty’s worst inning of the game, and it started with back-to-back one-out singles. After getting a big strikeout to put him one out away from escaping the danger, Porcello gave up a big double from Jonathan Lucroy to score two, and he allowed one more on a triple from Dustin Fowler. Both balls were on loud contact, and all of a sudden Oakland was up 4-2.

That score stayed the same heading into the bottom of the fifth — Porcello finally had an easy inning in the fifth when he faced only three batters in relatively quick fashion — when Boston once again got back to scoring, but it was still frustrating. They got a leadoff single from Sandy León, and he moved over to third on a Betts double that was just a few feet too low for the Monster Seats and a sure home run at most other parks. Still, they had two in scoring position with nobody out and a chance for a big rally. Instead, Benintendi hit a fly ball that was too shallow to score a run for the first out. Ramirez did get a run home on a ground ball, but Betts was caught in a rundown for the second out. Martinez then lined out to right field and the inning was over with just one run in what felt like a wasted opportunity.

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Boston Red Sox Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Once again, Porcello came out in the sixth looking to keep momentum on his team’s side, and once again he couldn’t come through. This time, he didn’t wait around to give the run back as he threw a two-strike fastball to Matt Olson that caught too much of the plate and found its way into the bullpen for a solo home run. It was all Oakland would get, but it gave them the 5-3 lead. Porcello was done after that sixth inning, having allowed the five runs on nine hits with five strikeouts. He didn’t walk anyone, but with all of the hits he allowed that’s not much of a consolation prize.

After the Red Sox went scoreless in the sixth and then Heath Hembree came on for a scoreless bottom half, the Red Sox had nine more outs to score at least two more runs. They got started with that effort in the ninth with Rafael Devers. The young slugger got a fastball up and away and he went with it, putting it in the Monster Seats to cut the lead down to one. After León reached on an error by Matt Chapman — the second of the day from the typically great third baseman — Manaea was removed in favor of Yusmeiro Petit. León would get to second on a two-out wild pitch, but the 1-2-3 hitters (Betts, Benintendi and Ramirez) went down in order to spoil what should have been a good chance to tie the game.

As was the case all game, however, the Red Sox just could not hold the momentum after cutting into Oakland’s lead. This time, it was with Carson Smith on the mound. The righty left a sinker up too high in the zone against Khris Davis, who smashed it into the bullpen for an opposite first home run to lead off the eighth. That was all they’d get off Smith, but it still extended the lead to two.

Once again, the Red Sox got right back on the horse to start off the bottom half of the eighth. This time it was the red-hot Martinez doing what he does, hitting a leadoff, opposite-field home run on the first pitch he saw. Mark Canha looked like he probably should have made the catch at the bullpen on this ball, but it just missed his glove and counted the same as if it was ten rows deep. The Red Sox were down just one now.

After Brian Johnson tossed a 1-2-3 top of the ninth, it was up to the offense against Oakland closer Blake Treinen.

So, the Red Sox will look to put this one behind them and keep open the possibility of winning this series on Tuesday night. They’ll be sending Eduardo Rodriguez to the mound to take on Daniel Mengden, with first pitch at 7:10 PM ET.


Courtesy of Fangraphs