The Red Sox and Twins started a big series on Monday, and the opener was all about the starting pitching. Rick Porcello was on the mound for the Red Sox and he was phenomenal, getting through seven shutout innings against the best lineup in baseball. His command was on point and he was in a rhythm all night long, though he did get away with a few mistakes as well. Boston needed every bit of his dominant performance, too, because after three straight hits resulted in an early run against José Berríos the Twins starter actually out-pitched Porcello the rest of the night. (At least he did in my opinion.) The Red Sox bullpen, without their three best arms, then came through and held the lead for the final two innings and made it six in a row for the good guys.
Who doesn’t love a good pitchers duel? Home runs are cool and close, high-scoring games can be a lot of fun, but there’s something special about a quick-paced game that is totally dominated by the pitching. That’s what we got early on in Minnesota on Monday, as two teams probably more known for their offenses than their pitching staffs got huge performances from their respective starting pitchers.
For the Red Sox, that was Rick Porcello, who at times this year it could be argued is their worst regular starting pitcher. That is to say, we aren’t counting that revolving door of spot starters in Nathan Eovaldi’s space. That’s probably not fair and at best says more about the rest of the rotation than Porcello, but he put any negativity around him to bed for this night at least.
The Red Sox righty wasn’t quite as perfect as his stat line the first couple times through this order may have seemed, but he was damn close. Although he did get away with a few mistakes and allowed a few loud outs, that’s all part of the game. Particularly, it’s part of the game against a lineup like that of the Twins. It’s virtually impossible to literally, completely shut them down for an entire night. Even with the few mistakes, Porcello was phenomenal in his own right with pinpoint command for most of the night as well as a nice mix of pitches and sequencing to keep hitters off-balance.
The first inning was actually mildly troublesome for Porcello even though it was fairly quick. The righty got through it scoreless and only tossed ten pitches, but he also gave up three fairly well-hit balls including a rocket out to left-center field for a two-out double from Nelson Cruz. The runner was stranded in scoring position, though, and Porcello turned on cruise control after that.
He needed only nine pitches to get through a second inning that included a pair of strikeouts, and then he struck out the side in the third on twelve pitches. The fourth saw a few more pitches but was still 1-2-3 before the Twins finally got another baserunner in the fifth. There, they got a leadoff single when C.J. Cron’s ground ball deflected off Porcello’s foot, but he’d be left at first as the Twins followed the hit with three straight outs. The Twins would come back and get a two-out single in the sixth but Porcello struck out Cruz to end the inning with his shutout still in hand.
On the other side, the Red Sox looked like they were all over José Berríos early in this game. The Twins righty is one of the best young pitchers in the game and looks poised to among the top American League starters for years to come. The Red Sox started the game with some hard contact against the righty, though. Mookie Betts led off the night with a line drive base hit before Andrew Benintendi rocketed one high off the wall in right field. However, he seemed to watch it for a second out of the box, and that proved to be costly as he was thrown out at second base going for a double. So, instead of a pair in scoring position with nobody out the Red Sox had a man on third with one out. They did get a run when J.D. Martinez smacked an RBI single into left field.
After that third consecutive hit, Berríos found another gear and started to absolutely dominate the Red Sox. They really didn’t have a chance in any at bat and didn’t even really threaten to get on base, much less start a rally. The Twins righty, to his credit, was making perfect pitches for strikes, meaning it was tough for the Red Sox to make good contact and impossible for them to drive up the pitch count by taking balls. Berríos ended up retiring every batter he saw after the Martinez RBI single through the sixth inning.
The Red Sox did break that streak up in the bottom of the seventh after Berríos had retired his 19th consecutive batter. Xander Bogaerts came up with two outs in the inning and poked a soft line drive into left field for a base hit and his team’s first runner since the first. That was all they’d get in the inning, however.
From here, we head to the bottom half of the seventh with Porcello still in the game. He got a quick first out before Cron came to the plate. The Twins first baseman put a charge into a fastball left right down the center of the plate, but fortunately for the Red Sox it hit high off the wall in center field and went for a double instead of a home run. Still, that put the tying run in scoring position with just one out. Marwin Gonázlez then flew out to left field on the first pitch he saw before Miguel Sanó drew Minnesota’s first walk of the evening. That brought Jason Castro to the plate, and the Twins catcher hit a lazy fly ball out to left field that ended the chance and kept the Red Sox ahead 1-0.
In the top of the eighth, the Red Sox got a leadoff single from Michael Chavis. He was eventually swapped out with Jackie Bradley Jr. on a fielder’s choice and the latter stole second with two outs. However, he was left there when Betts struck out looking to end the inning.
In the bottom of the eighth, Colten Brewer entered the game for the Red Sox with Porcello’s stellar night being done. It was a bit of a strange move with the latter only at 94 pitches on the night, as was letting León hit for himself in the top half of the inning with a runner on first when you knew Porcello was coming out of the game. Anyway, Jonathan Schoop started the inning with a single into left field. Max Kepler then followed that up with a walk. After Jorge Polanco dropped a sacrifice bunt, the Twins had two in scoring position for Cruz with one out. The slugger hit a weak tapper back out to the mound and Schoop was off on contact, resulting in an out on a rundown with the runner on second going back to second during the rundown for...reasons. Eddie Rosario then grounded out to first and, somehow and some way, the Red Sox got out of that inning.
The Red Sox were then looking for a bit of insurance against the Twins bullpen, and they got it in the ninth thanks a Martinez double and a two-out, RBI double from Bogaerts to make it 2-0.
With that lead still in hand, it was up to Ryan Brasier in the ninth. The righty came through with an easy 1-2-3 inning to finish the game and lock down Boston’s sixth straight victory.
The Red Sox and Twins continue their series on Tuesday night with David Price taking the mound against Michael Pineda. First pitch for that one is scheduled for 8:10 PM ET.