Make that four series victories in a row for the Red Sox and five of their last six as they’ve taken the second game of this three-game set against the Blue Jays. They got to Marco Estrada early and often, though the ultimate run total against Toronto’s starter wasn’t as impressive as it seemed like it was at the time. Still, they got themselves an early lead and never gave it up thanks to a solid, if imperfect, outing from Rick Porcello. There was some drama between the two teams as well, but it never escalated to anything remotely serious, and all in all everyone enjoyed a beautiful day at Fenway Park. Well, except the Blue Jays, presumably.
The Red Sox clearly had a plan at the plate heading into this game against Marco Estrada, and that was to jump on anything early in counts. That’s obviously been a strategy all year long and is one of the early staples of the Alex Cora era, but it was even more noticeable than usual in this game. If Estrada was going to throw an early pitch in the zone, the Red Sox were going to swing. More often than not, they did damage too. They were smoking balls throughout what ended up being a quick outing for the Blue Jays righty, even if they didn’t score as many runs as it felt like they did.
Just like the Red Sox didn’t waste any time to go for damage in any given at bat, they didn’t waste time in this game to take a lead over Estrada. After Andrew Benintendi led off with a well-hit out, Xander Bogaerts hit a single low off the Monster (that probably could have been caught), and he was quickly knocked in on an RBI double into the right field corner from the red-hot Mitch Moreland. J.D. Martinez quickly followed that up with a double of his own, this one towards the left-field corner, and just like that the Red Sox had a 2-0 lead. Those three hits came on the second, third and first pitches of their respective at bats, and each of them came on the first strike of the at bat. Like I said, the strategy was clear.
The second inning saw some more damage against Estrada, and once again it featured good contact aided by bad defense. This rally started with a double from Sandy León that should have been caught by Teoscar Hernandez, and two batters later he’d be knocked in by a Benintendi double as Boston’s left fielder stays red hot. Benintendi would move on over to third base on a wild pitch, but he’d be stranded there.
After the Red Sox actually went down 1-2-3 in third, they got right back into action in the fourth. There, Brock Holt kicked things off with a one-out single, and then stole second base. To be fair, the throw beat him by a mile but Yangervis Solarte couldn’t hang on to the low toss. That paid off, because two batters later Jackie Bradley Jr. continued to look better at the plate with an opposite field single to knock in the run and give Boston four runs before even getting through the fourth. That would be it for Estrada, as Aaron Loup had to come in and finish off that inning. It was exactly what the Red Sox were looking for against the struggling Blue Jays righty.
Meanwhile, Porcello was having a better day on the mound than he’d been having lately. It wasn’t a perfect outing and with some worse luck it could have ended much worse than it did, but the righty was keeping the ball in the zone more than he had been and was inducing much more weak contact. The Red Sox needed Porcello to turn things around, and he took a major step in that direction on Tuesday.
It actually seemed like it could be a long night for the righty as soon as it started considering he walked the first batter of the game. Since control has been the most noticeable issue for Porcello over the last month or so, it was a fair concern. It didn’t work out that way, though. Curtis Granderson made a bad read and got himself immediately thrown out at second base, and Porcello only had to face three batters in the inning despite the leadoff free pass.
He did get into a little bit of trouble in the second inning after a couple of quick outs, too, allowing back-to-back singles to Russell Martin and Kendrys Morales to put runners on the corners with two outs. He induced a pop up from Devon Travis, though, and the inning was over with the Blue Jays still having no runs. Porcello came back with an easy 1-2-3 third before giving up his first run in the fourth. There, with his team up 3-0 at the time, the righty threw a slider that was a little below the strike zone to Justin Smoak, but it also didn’t have a ton of movement on it. The Blue Jays first baseman got a hold of it and sent it to the back of Toronto’s bullpen for a solo home run to cut Boston’s lead down to two.
The Red Sox got their run back in the bottom half of the fourth, and Porcello settled in after that homer. The righty retired two straight to end the fifth, and then came back with an easy 1-2-3 sixth and his pitch count down in the low-80s.
After Boston put another run on the board in a weird bottom half of the sixth that included an infield single from León — the pitcher deflected the ball and then the second baseman kind of dove and missed, is the best way I can describe it — Porcello came back out for the seventh and things began to take a turn for the worse.
The inning started with some suspicious possible drama when Martin called time as Porcello was starting his motion, a turn of events that didn’t make the Red Sox pitcher too happy. Perhaps coincidentally (but I suspect not), Martin was hit soon after that. Whether it was intentional or not, it came back to bite him. Porcello walked the next batter he faced before giving up a single to load up the bases. After getting a huge strikeout to almost escape the jam, he allowed a ground ball to the right side. Dustin Pedroia made a great sliding stop, but Porcello couldn’t make the catch while on the run to the first base bag. The pitcher was charged with an error, and Toronto scored two runs on the play to cut the Red Sox lead to 5-3. That was the end of Porcello’s night, as he got throw 6 2⁄3 innings while allowing three runs (two of which were earned) on five hits and two walks with five strikeouts. His command still wasn’t as strong as it was early in the season and that seventh was definitely shaky. That being said, it was still a step in the right direction given his previous few outings.
Joe Kelly came in with a couple of runners in scoring position and a two-run lead, and he continued his wildly impressive season in the late innings. He struck out Kevin Pillar on three pitches to hold onto the lead and escape the jam.
After the Red Sox added a little bit of insurance in the bottom half when Bogaerts smashed a solo shot into the Monster Seats, Kelly came back out for the eighth. The righty did hit a batter but other than that was able to get through the inning without worry.
The Red Sox then made sure to add a couple more runs to their tally to try and avoid using Craig Kimbrel. In the bottom of the eighth, León finished off what was a good day for him at the plate with a home run that coincidentally was caught by Kimbrel himself, giving the Red Sox a five-run lead.
Hector Velazquez came on for the ninth, but didn’t do his job in avoiding having to turn to the Red Sox closer. Velazquez allowed a double to deep center field right off the bat, and after an error and a single the Blue Jays had the bases loaded with nobody out. Velazquez did get a shallow fly ball for the first out, but Cora called upon Kimbrel after that. Having to use Kimbrel wasn’t great, but he did what he does by getting a strikeout and a ground out to preserve the victory. That’s ten wins in thirteen games for the Sox.
On Wednesday, Boston will go for their first sweep since they took all three against the Angels back in the middle of April. They’ll be sending Eduardo Rodriguez to the mound to take on Sam Gaviglio, with first pitch coming at 1:05 PM ET.