If you like solo home runs and great pitching performances, this one was for you. Rick Porcello continued to be absolutely incredible, showing off a vast arsenal of pitches and locating each and every one of them (well, for the most part). He combined the best versions of himself, inducing plenty of weak contact, limiting free passes and missing a ton of bats. When you go to the Porcello lab to pick up your optimal Porcello, this is the version you get. On offense, the Red Sox didn’t have a ton of sustained rallies but they didn’t really need it, instead leaning on the long ball. Rafael Devers smacked a couple and the team got one apiece from J.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts, and that was enough for the win.
As has been the case for the righty all year long through, Porcello had his command on point and he ran through the Rangers lineup. It was the same kind of outing as it’s been each time out for the 2016 Cy Young award winner. He was using all of his pitches, pretty much all of them were moving exactly as he wanted, and he was painting corners all night long. The result was a frustrating and quick night at the plate for Texas hitters. Well, most of them, anyway.
In the early going, Porcello actually got into a little bit of trouble in each of the first couple innings. Or, at least, it was a little bit of trouble relative to his standards from the early parts of 2018. The first inning saw a leadoff single for Delino DeShields, putting speed on the bases without any outs. No worries, though, as the Red Sox starter quickly induced a double play to eliminate the threat.
The second was a little more worrisome as Nomar Mazara led things off with a double as he continues to be one of the hottest hitters in the game. He’d quickly move over to third on a Joey Gallo ground ball, putting Texas just a deep fly ball away from their first run of the day. Instead, Porcello got a weak grounder that held the runner at third with the infield playing in before coming through with a huge, inning-ending strikeout. The righty had an easier time in the third as he set Texas down 1-2-3.
While this was happening, the Red Sox offense was having a bit of a hard time with Bartolo Colon. He wasn’t totally dominating as Boston was making some hard contact, but he has the acumen and command to survive at this level despite recently celebrating his centennial in the league. They did manage to put one run on the board in the first third of the game, however, when J.D. Martinez got a changeup middle-in and put it just over the wall in left field. It wasn’t a moonshot, but it counted just to same and gave Boston a 1-0 lead in the top of the second.
That lead would last a couple of innings, but it wouldn’t last the night. While Porcello was outstanding for the majority of the night, it wasn’t a mistake-free outing. Once again it was Mazara doing the damage as he’d already become a Red Sox killer just a game-and-a-half into this season series. In the fourth, the Rangers outfielder got a hanging slider and he made Porcello pay for it, smashing it over the right field wall to tie the game at one.
Fortunately, the Red Sox were not ready to cancel their own home run party, and they didn’t wait too long to get the lead right back from the Rangers. Right after Porcello got out of that fourth, Devers started off the top half of the fifth. The young third baseman got a fastball right smack in the middle of the plate, and he didn’t miss it. Devers murdered the baseball and it landed in the second deck to give Boston another one-run lead.
Boston would tack on a couple more later in the game on a couple more solo home runs. The first was from Mookie Betts, because obviously it was. It’s not a Red Sox game without at least one home run from the best player on the team. The solo blast was his 13th dinger of the year, maintaining his lead over the rest of baseball. Then, in the seventh, Devers did it again for his second of the game, giving the 21-year-old his second multi-homer game of his career.
Meanwhile, Porcello didn’t let that home run get to him and he settled down nicely as his teammates started pouring on the solo blasts. He got a quick 1-2-3 in the fifth after Devers’ first blast gave him the lead back, and in the sixth he allowed just one walk and was assisted by a diving catch from Andrew Benintendi. (I’m still not convinced he actually caught this ball and am flummoxed that the Rangers did not challenge the play, but I seem to be alone in that.) That would end his night after six innings, and Porcello allowed just one run on three hits and one walk with eight strikeouts. Seems pretty good!
So, from here it was all up to the bullpen and Joe Kelly was called upon first. Equipped with his new fastball-light plan of attack he got a 1-2-3 seventh to maintain the three-run lead. After the offense added one more to their total on an RBI double from Hanley Ramirez in the top half of the eighth, Matt Barnes came out for the bottom half and tossed a 1-2-3 frame of his own.
Bobby Poyner would come out for the ninth with the goal of finishing this one off without having to bring Craig Kimbrel out. The lefty did allow one runner to reach on a bunt single and it took him 22 pitches to get through the ninth, but he kept Texas off the board and clinched the victory.
The Red Sox will look to avoid the one step forward, one step back routine they’ve been doing lately and pile up a few wins in a row. That quest starts Saturday night with Eduardo Rodriguez (likely) on the mound for the Red Sox against Cole Hamels of the Rangers. First pitch is at 8:05 PM ET.