After an ugly start to this series, the Red Sox managed to take the final two games and salvage a split against the defending champs with Mookie Betts on the sidelines. I think that qualifies as a win. This game was a great all-around performance. They got contributions from up and down the lineup, with Andrew Benintendi, Mitch Moreland, Eduardo Núñez and Brock Holt (\o/) all standing out. On the mound, Rick Porcello got into some trouble here and there but for the most part he was able to work his way out of jams. Maybe this will kill the narrative that the Red Sox can’t beat good teams. Lol imagine.
Early on in this game, it seemed like it was going to be a slugfest on both sides. The Red Sox and the Astros each saw consistent hard contact from their lineup against Charlie Morton and Rick Porcello, and that led to some damage. Frustratingly (again, for both sides), a lot of that hard contact also ended up in the gloves in the opponent. There were runs in both halves of the first inning, though, before both pitchers started to settle in. Porcello definitely settled in more than Morton, though, as despite the Red Sox not putting a huge number up against Houston’s starter, they did make him work hard all night long. Porcello, meanwhile, certainly had some tough innings but also had more stress-free stretches than his counterpart.
The Red Sox, just as they did in Saturday night’s win, got off to a hot start at the plate and took an early lead before their starting pitcher even had to take the mound. This time around, Benintendi kicked things off by continuing his red-hot streak with a double out to deep right-center field. He’d move over to third after a couple of ground outs, and Mitch Moreland was the only thing standing between a run and a blown opportunity. The first baseman decided he liked the first scenario better, taking a hanging curveball way out to center field for another home run and a 2-0 lead for the Sox.
So, with a lead from his teammates Porcello came out and tried to get through an easy first inning without getting into trouble like Morton. It didn’t take very long for that to not work out. George Springer led the inning off, and he got a hanging curveball from the Red Sox righty and put it over the wall in left field to cut Boston’s lead in half in the blink of an eye. Fortunately, Porcello started to settle in from there. He got the next three batters in Houston’s terrifying foursome atop their lineup, including a pair of strikeouts against Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa.
Porcello only continued navigate his way against this talented Astros lineup, cruising at times and bending but not breaking at others. In the second, he allowed a leadoff double to Yuli Gurriel, but two flyouts and a groundout stranded the runner in scoring position. The third was his most impressive inning of the day, and it started with a couple of baserunners. Moreland made an error to lead things off before Springer drew a walk to put two on with nobody out and the heart of Houston’s lineup coming up. All Porcello did from there was strike out Alex Bregman, then strike out Altuve, then strike out Correa to end the inning. It was wild.
That kicked off a run for the righty where he just started dominating. After that walk to Springer, Porcello retired nine of the next ten batters he faced, with the only batter reaching on a hit by pitch.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox offense was biding their time against Morton and really not giving him a ton of easy innings after getting on the board in the first. Well, other than the second that is, as the bottom of the order went down in order with three strikeouts. In the third, it looked like they may add to their lead when Xander Bogaerts ripped a one-out double ahead of J.D. Martinez in Moreland, but then baserunning happened. Martinez hit a deep fly ball to center field that was caught just in front of the track, but Bogaerts made a poor read and was late tagging. Frustrating, but whatever. It happens. Except, he compounded that mistake by trying to tag anyway, and he was thrown out by a mile. An inexplicable and inexcusable error.
The fourth was also a frustrating one for the Red Sox, though not in the same hair-pulling way the third was. Still, they got a couple of batters to lead off that inning with a Moreland walk and Eduardo Núñez single, but neither runner would score. Fortunately, the frustrating ended with an exclamation point in the fifth. This time, it was Benintendi once again and he took a hanging slider middle-in and demolished it into the second deck down the right-field line, pushing the Red Sox lead back to two.
In the sixth, the Red Sox really broke things open. Morton, as I’ve said, had been worked all day but he never really succumbed to any huge innings. That changed in the sixth, which would be the inning he saw his exit. That inning started with a single and a hit by pitch (on which Núñez was shaken up but stayed in the game). After the first out, Brock Holt came up and came through with a big triple out to center field to score two and double the lead to four. Blake Swihart followed that up with a single, and just like that the Red Sox had a 6-1 lead.
From here it was simply on Red Sox pitching not allowing a big inning from the Astros over the last four frames of the game. Porcello got into a little bit of trouble in the sixth, allowing the first two batters to get on but he got a groundout and a double play to escape the jam without a run being scored.
Unfortunately, the wheels fell off for Porcello in the seventh. It looked like he had two quick outs to start things, but on the second ball Núñez was eaten up by a ground ball at third base, allowing the batter to reach on an error. After that, Porcello walked a batter and hit another, and all of a sudden the bases were loaded for Bregman with just one out. He didn’t hit one hard, but a broken bat single found its way into left field, scoring two and knocking Porcello out of the game.
Matt Barnes came on with two on and one out and a three-run lead in hand, going up against Altuve and Correa to start things off. He got a strikeout against Altuve — the third of the night for the 2017 MVP — before Correa came up. Houston’s shortstop hit a soft grounder out to Bogaerts, who tried to make the force out at second rather than throwing to first. He dove in and just barely beat out Bregman in a race to the bag, or at least that was the original call. The play went under review and though replay showed that Bregman may have actually gotten in there a millisecond earlier, the call was upheld and the inning ended with a 6-3 lead for the good guys.
After the Red Sox got another insurance run in the eighth thanks to Núñez and Holt, Barnes came back on for the bottom half of the inning. He got the job done, setting the side down in order and preserving the four-run lead.
The Red Sox would add even more in the ninth when Sam Travis came through with a two-run single in his first MLB at bat of the season. He was inserted as a pinch hitter for J.D. Martinez, though the reasoning for the move is not known as of this writing. After that it was Heath Hembree in the ninth with a six-run lead. He got through a scoreless inning to wrap up the game and the series.
So, the Red Sox get a well-earned day off on Monday before heading back to Fenway for a six-game home stand. That will start against the Tigers on Tuesday with Steven Wright getting a spot start for the Red Sox taking on Artie Lewicki of the Tigers. Also, tomorrow night is the draft, so make sure to keep your eye on the site for all the draft coverage your heart desires.