Well this certainly was a baseball game. We saw some of the bad with the Red Sox, including a bullpen we all knew was not deep enough being exposed and an offense liable for long lapses falling into that trap again. However, the good outweighed the bad on this night and the Red Sox clinched their first series victory of 2019. They got a solid performance from Rick Porcello, a big second inning that gave them a nice cushion with which to work, an Michael Chavis’ major-league debut that resulted in a clutch double. I’ll take it!
The big question heading into this game was what kind of performance the Red Sox would get out of Rick Porcello. The offense broke out a bit in Friday’s game, and while one game is far from enough to truly feel good about them, it was at least a step in the right direction. With the starting pitcher, we’ve seen nothing but the bad in 2019. Porcello had been battling with wildly uncharacteristic control woes and when he was in the zone he was getting crushed. With the Red Sox staring at a chance to win their first series of the year, they needed to see a big step forward from the righty.
The good news was that he had to at least feel a bit more confident and comfortable with Sandy León behind the plate. Whether or not that’s fair to the other catchers is a different discussion, because Porcello has been very vocal in the past about how much he likes throwing to León. Also in his favor was the umpiring, at least some of the time. Tim Timmons had himself a rough night behind the plate, calling inconsistent zones all night but seemingly benefitting the Red Sox more often than the Rays.
Whatever advantages he had in this game, mental or out of his control, he did look much better this time out. He wasn’t perfect, to be fair, and there are still strides to be made. However, Porcello was mixing his pitches well, getting his fastball up in the 92-94 range and, most importantly, hitting the zone. It looked like the normal Porcello, even if it wasn’t the best version of Porcello.
He came out firing in the first inning, allowing just a single and that one came on a weak ground ball to third base that wasn’t hit hard enough for an out to be recorded. He did run into a bit of trouble in the second, however, when Avisaíl Garcia got a 2-1 fastball right down the heart of the plate and he drove it way out to right-center field for a solo home run. The Red Sox righty would come back strong after that, though, getting two more outs to end the inning before facing only three batters in the third.
In the fourth, he got into a bit more trouble when Ji-Man Choi started the inning by driving a middle-middle fastball out towards the center field wall. It didn’t quite make it out, but it found the right part of the park for the slow-footed Choi to leg out a triple. Two batters later, Porcello was at the mercy of the umpire when Timmons missed a strike three call. That was costly because Brandon Lowe drove a triple of his own on the next pitch to give Tampa their second run of the game.
In all, Porcello would be able to make it through 5 2⁄3 innings of solid work. He did lose his control a bit in the fifth when he issued his first walk of the night as well as hitting a batter, but he made it out of that jam. At the end of the night, thanks to Heath Hembree coming in and stranded an inherited run at first base, Porcello ended his day allowing two runs on six hits and a walk with five strikeouts.
Another thing that made it easier for the Red Sox starter was that the offense picked up where they left off on Friday and gave Porcello an early lead with which he could work. It wasn’t a consistent, nonstop attack from the lineup in this game, to be fair. They did have one big inning, though, and it was enough to give them a cushion.
That big inning came in the second after they went down in order in the first. This second inning was also where the impact of Timmons was most felt, too, because Rays starter Charlie Morton was getting squeezed on some good pitches, and the frustration clearly kept building as the inning went on. The rally started, though, with the first two batters when J.D. Martinez poked a single through the middle and Xander Bogaerts drew a walk. Jackie Bradley Jr. would draw a one-out walk as well, and that would load the bases. Eventually, León came up with two outs and the bases still full in a big spot, and Morton lost a pitch and hit the Red Sox catcher in the foot. That scored a run, and as we’d learn was more important, it kept the inning going. Andrew Benintendi came up next, and he got a first-pitch fastball up and away and he drove it just over the wall in left-center field for a grand slam. The Rays did challenge for fan interference, but the call stood and just like that it was a 5-0 lead for the Red Sox.
The offense didn’t get much going after that, though, leaving things open for the Rays to chip away if Boston’s pitching allowed. Porcello, as mentioned, did a solid job of preventing that by allowing just the two, and heading into the bottom of the seventh it was all on the bullpen now. Hembree was back out there for that inning after getting the final out in the sixth. Things did not start well when Kevin Kiermaier gave Tampa their third triple of the game to start off the frame.
After getting a big pop up, Hembree’s night was over and Bobby Poyner came on in relief. He did not do well. The lefty walked the first batter he saw before giving up yet another triple, this one plating two and cutting the Red Sox lead down to one. That brought on Marcus Walden in a big spot with a runner on third, one out and a one-run game. He got a big strikeout against the first batter he saw, and then struck out the next guy to to escape the jam. It was a huge, huge outing for the righty.
In the eighth, the Red Sox were looking to get some of those runs back and extend their lead back out beyond one. They got off to a good start, too, when Steve Pearce — who came in for Mitch Moreland after the latter left the game with back spasms — got to second on a botched fly ball by the Rays defense and Martinez followed that up with a walk. That brought Bogaerts to the plate, and he ripped a line drive up the middle. Unfortunately, Lowe made a tremendous leaping play, knocking the ball down and getting the double play. The second out at first was likely only possible because Bogaerts took a second to break out of the box. In the end, the Red Sox would get out of the inning without allowing the run.
That brought Matt Barnes into the game for the bottom half of the inning, and the righty has been phenomenal for the Red Sox all year. He got into trouble here, though, throwing Yandy Diaz a fastball up and away. It really wasn’t a terrible pitch, as it was above the zone, but Diaz was ready for it. The Rays third baseman muscled it out the other way over the fence, and just like that we had a tie game. The righty came back and struck out each of the next three batters he saw to keep the game tied.
We went into the top of the ninth and Bradley started things off with a bloop single. After Tzu-Wei Lin struck out on a fouled off bunt attempt, Michael Chavis stepped up to the plate to make his major-league debut in a tie game in the ninth against Jose Alvarado. Welcome to the bigs, kid. He got down to two strikes, but then he ripped a double out over Kiermaier’s head in center field, putting two in scoring position with one out for Benintendi. He hit a fly ball out to right-center field that was an out but deep enough to get Bradley home and Chavis to third. More importantly, it gave the Red Sox a 6-5 lead.
Now, it was just up to Ryan Brasier to hold on and protect the one-run lead in the ninth. He gave up a single to the first batter he faced before getting two outs after that. However, with two outs Tommy Pham smoked a base hit back up the middle, and the tying run was in scoring position with the winning run at first for Willy Adames. Adames wouldn’t have a chance, though. Christian Vázquez, who came in after Chavis pinch hit fo León, had a play on with Pearce and they back-picked Pham at first base to end the game. Unbelievable way to end a baseball game.
Somehow, some way, the Red Sox have a chance to finish off a sweep if they can get another win on Sunday. They’ll send David Price to the mound in that one to take on the red-hot Tyler Glasnow. First pitch is scheduled for 2:05 PM ET.