After dropping the second game of this series, the Red Sox were able to come back out and get right back to their winning ways and keep alive the possibility of series victory in this four-game set. Rick Porcello wasn’t perfect, but he gave the Red Sox six solid innings and a chance to win. You’d like to see a bit more command that he showed on Saturday, but he was still very good, particularly when you consider that there was some steady rainfall throughout the night. The offense took a little bit to get going, but some home runs — including another one from Mookie Betts because of course — got them a lead they’d never give up. The bullpen, which was well-rested heading into this one, had a phenomenal game as well. Wins are much more fun than losses, if I do say so myself.
The Red Sox were looking for a big pitching performance from Porcello in this game for a few reasons. For one thing, they’re always looking for big pitching performances. It generally leads to wins, ya know? Their righty has also been struggling a bit of late, at least relative to the huge start he got off to. A step back in the right direction would be great to see. They also had just gotten a poor performance from Drew Pomeranz, and while Steven Wright helped prevent the bullpen from being worked to death due to the rough day, that also meant they were without their primary long reliever for this game. So, yeah, they wanted good things from Porcello. Fortunately, that’s exactly what they got.
It wasn’t a perfect outing from the 2016 Cy Young winner — he walked three batters for the second consecutive start after walking just five batters total over his first seven outings — but he had all of his pitches working and the Orioles had real trouble squaring him up pretty much throughout the night. Over the first two innings, he allowed only two baserunners and neither of them advanced beyond first base.
In the third, with the game still knotted at zeroes, Porcello got into his first bit of real trouble of the night. This one started with some legitimate contact when Chance Sisco knocked a groundrule double into the right field corner. After a strikeout, Sisco moved over to third on a single and a Manny Machado walk loaded the bases with just one out. Porcello did avoid a big inning from here, however, allowing a sacrifice fly before escaping the danger. It was a 1-0 Baltimore lead, but it still felt like a win for the Red Sox. Porcello settled down a bit for the next couple innings, once again allowing a baserunner in each but not allowing them past first base.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox offense was looking, and failing to find, some early production to take some pressure off their starter. They were going up against a total wildcard in Dylan Bundy who has had some electric outings this year along with some of the worst by any pitcher in the game. This game was something of a microcosm of that, and while they never totally teed off on the righty they certainly got going more and more as the game went on.
They made the Orioles starter work a bunch in the first inning but only got two baserunners out of the deal and neither of them scored. In the second, Eduardo Núñez contributed a one-out double, but he’d be stranded at second base. After a 1-2-3 third, the Red Sox finally showed a little bit of life in the fourth. There, trailing 1-0, Rafael Devers came up with two outs and he continued to trend in the right direction. The young third baseman took a Bundy changeup the other way and placed it into the Monster Seats for a game-tying solo shot. Devers is at his best when he’s using the whole field, so this was an encouraging sign beyond simply tying the score.
Things only got better in the fifth as the Red Sox continued to rely on big swings to do damage against Bundy. This one started with Sandy León, who continued a mini hot streak with a double high off the Monster. After Jackie Bradley Jr. struck out, Mookie Betts walked up to the plate and did a Mookie Betts thing. That is, he took a fastball up in the zone and ripped it on a line into the Monster Seats, which shouldn’t be as easy as he makes it appear. Andrew Benintendi came up after that and sent a Bundy slider into the bullpen for back-to-back shots, giving the Red Sox a 4-1 lead.
So, we headed to the sixth as Porcello looked for a shutdown inning, but some familiarly bad defense helped prevent that. In that inning, the Orioles got a one-out single from Trey Mancini on a grounder totally misplayed by Núñez on what may be changed to an error shortly after you read this. (Or maybe even before!) Porcello couldn’t work his way around this mistake, allowing a fly ball out to left field by Pedro Alvarez. It was a Fenway special, just barely sneaking over the top of the wall for a two-run home run. Just like that, the lead was cut to one. Porcello would get the next two batters to end the inning, and his night. In all, he had a nice night in which he allowed the three runs over six innings on six hits and three walks with nine strikeouts.
After the Sox went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the sixth, Joe Kelly came on for the seventh against the top of the Orioles order. He did his job and then some, tossing an impressive 1-2-3 frame that included strikeouts against both Adam Jones and Manny Machado.
In the bottom half, the Red Sox got a little bit of much-needed insurance. Orioles reliever Tanner Scott did himself no favors by walking the eight and nine hitters to lead things off, and that was followed by a Betts fly ball to right field that advanced both runners. Bradley moving to second on the flyball ended up being big, as it brought the infield in. Benintendi then snuck a grounder through the middle — a ball that is likely fielded if the infield could play back in double play depth — and both runs scored.
So, with a new three-run lead, Matt Barnes came in for the eighth and had no trouble at all. Like Kelly, he tossed a 1-2-3 inning with a pair of strikeouts. Craig Kimbrel came on for the save in the ninth, and while he didn’t get a strikeout (it was weird), he set the side down in order and locked down the victory.
The Red Sox will look to lock this series up with a quick turnaround tomorrow afternoon. Eduardo Rodriguez will be on the mound for the Red Sox, and as far as I can tell the Orioles still have not announced a starter. First pitch will be at 1:10 PM ET.