The Red Sox offense got rolling a bit on Monday and kept that momentum into Tuesday’s game, picking up an early lead and never looking back. That effort will be totally overshadowed by total brilliance from Rick Porcello, though. The Red Sox starter was amazing in this game, giving his team some much-needed length and shutting Oakland’s lineup down over eight shutout innings. It wasn’t just what Boston needed, as Porcello had been shuffling towards the guy he wants to be. This was a giant leap forward, though, and while he won’t be this good on a consistent basis if he can sniff this neighborhood he’ll make himself some money this winter. For now, though, we’ll settle for him leading the way as the Red Sox clinch their second series victory of 2019.
The trend for this latest turn through the Red Sox rotation has been starters trending in the right direction before taking a step back in their latest start. Granted, Chris Sale was hurt by his defense and Eduardo Rodriguez was only scored against in one inning, but both were disappointing and not where they needed to be. With that in mind, Porcello had been trending in the right direction over his last couple of starts as well. The righty had been far from perfect and was still allowing too much hard contact for anyone’s liking, but the control was coming around and he was suffering from some bad luck. He was now looking to fall victim to the step back, and he did so in a big way.
Porcello was flat-out great in this outing, and it was that way from the start. He was command everything and his two-seam was particularly devastating, freezing Oakland hitters left and right all night long. The tone was set in the first inning, too, as he was totally dominant in that opening frame. Porcello needed only eight pitches, all of which were strikes, to get through a perfect first that ended with a strikeout of Matt Chapman. Game on.
The second inning wasn’t quite as effective, though the bar was obviously set quite high. Porcello needed 19 pitches to get through this one and he walked the second batter he faced, but that was all he gave up. The third, meanwhile, represented his first true trouble of the Tuesday evening when he gave up a leadoff single before walking the fourth batter of the inning, putting a pair on with two down. Porcello got a big ground ball after that, though, and they were just barely able to get Robbie Grossman at second base to end the inning. That was actually a bit of a scary play, too, as Grossman stepped back directly on Michael Chavis’ ankle, but the rookie stayed in the game.
Porcello came back strong after that, getting back to perfection in the fourth with another 1-2-3 inning and allowing just a double in the fifth to keep his scoreless outing going. That continued into the sixth and seventh with two more 1-2-3 innings.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox offense was going up against a guy in Aaron Brooks who perplexed them when they faced off on the West Coast early in the year. It was one of the more frustrating performances from them all year, and Brooks has shown nothing from that point to indicate he was as good as he looked in that outing. Boston hitters broke out after a couple of key mistakes from the A’s on Monday, and they were able to carry that success over to Tuesday’s game.
They got the scoring started early, too, giving their starting pitcher an early lead with which to work. It was Mookie Betts, too, as the 2018 MVP has stayed hot following a brutal start to his year. Betts got a fastball that stayed middle-middle from Brooks and he jumped all over it, sending it into the seats in straightaway center field to give the Sox a 1-0 lead.
They kept it going in the second, too, this time with a rally started by Chavis. We saw the young righty’s power come through in a different way here as he snuck a bloop single in front of an outfield shaded deep. Mitch Moreland drew a walk after that, and Chavis was eventually knocked in on an unlikely RBI base hit from Sandy León. Two runs, two innings.
A couple innings later, the scoring opened up a little more thanks to the same portion of the lineup. It was Chavis starting it again, this time with a rare infield single into the shift. That was a big baserunner, because Moreland put his first big swing on a ball in a couple of weeks in the next at bat. Brooks left another fastball down the middle of the plate here, and again the Red Sox didn’t miss it. Just like Betts earlier in the game, Moreland drove it out over the fence in straightaway center field, and just like that it was a 4-0 lead. That margin would grow even more in the following inning thanks to an RBI double from Rafael Devers. Boston could have gotten more there, too, with a pair in scoring position with just one out, but they’d settle for the 5-0 lead after five.
That same lead stood heading into the eighth, with Porcello coming back out with 98 pitches to his name. He didn’t look like he was that deep into the game, though. The righty finished off an absolute gem of an evening with his third consecutive 1-2-3 inning. In the end, Porcello tossed eight scoreless innings on two hits and two walks with eight strikeouts.
In the ninth, it was Tyler Thornburg coming on to try and finish it off. He did not get off to a good start, allowing a home run to Robbie Grossman to kick off the inning. Thornburg also issued a one-out walk, which forced Matt Barnes up in the ‘pen, but he finished off his own inning, and with it the game.
The Red Sox will look for the sweep as this series comes to a close with some afternoon baseball on Wednesday. Boston will send Hector Velázquez to the mound to take on Mike Fiers, with first pitch scheduled for 1:05 PM ET.