There’s a scene in Parks and Recreation where Ron Swanson explains that, when people are getting a little too chummy he calls them by the wrong name to let them know he doesn’t care about them. It’s a very funny scene, largely because in real life this would be absurd and ruthless behavior. I know that because the Red Sox are calling me by the wrong name. After the first two games of this series things were starting to feel good for this team. I didn’t suddenly have them pegged as a sure playoff team or anything, but it was actually fun to watch them play baseball for a bit. Today, they called me Mike by having Rick Porcello bookend his day with two homers, Darwinzon Hernandez and Hector Velázquez team up for a disaster of a seventh inning and the offense once again failing to come through with big hits when needed. It all ended in an Angels win and hurt feelings for me.
Rick Porcello, who has gone through some obvious and well-documented struggles in 2019, headed into Saturday’s game coming off one of his best starts of the year. It came against a lowly Royals offense, but the righty was desperate for some positive momentum as he’d been digging his season into a deeper and deeper hole with each passing outing. After that start against the Royals, he was looking to take that success into this game against the Angels with the Red Sox looking to push their win streak to three games.
Well, things did not get off to a great start for Porcello. Kole Calhoun was in the leadoff spot for this game and he kicked things off with a crisp base hit through the left side. After striking out Mike Trout, Porcello then gave up a double to Shohei Ohtani to bring Justin Upton to the plate. On Friday, Upton drew a walk on a bad call that continued the inning and led to a three-run shot from Albert Pujols. This time, he took care of business on his own with a three-run shot right down the right field to give the Angels a 3-0 lead with only one out in the game.
The good news is, after that back-breaking homer Porcello settled into a massive groove and the Angels never really threatened for the next few innings. In fact, they didn’t threaten at all as the Red Sox righty was perfect. Porcello retired the next two batters after the homer to end that inning then threw four consecutive 1-2-3 innings.
So, the Red Sox offense found itself in a bit of a hole after the top of the first and were going to play from behind. The good news is that they were going up against a rusty lefty in Andrew Heaney, who had not pitched in the majors since July 16 and had only nine starts on the entire season coming into this game. Boston’s hitters were on fire on Friday and just needed to carry that momentum into this game. Easier said than done, as we learned.
Over the first two innings, the Red Sox got just a single baserunner in each frame — one on an error and one on a walk — with neither advancing beyond first base. Once the third rolled around, they started to get more scoring chances but failed to really take advantage. In that third, for example they got the leadoff man on when Jackie Bradley Jr. was hit by a pitch. Mookie Betts then followed that up with a base hit to left field that included an error from Upton that allowed both runners to advance into scoring position.
With runners on second and third and nobody out, this was a prime chance for the Red Sox to bring home multiple runs. Instead, Xander Bogaerts hit a fly ball that was too shallow to bring a run home for out number one. After J.D. Martinez was hit by a pitch to load the bases with one out, Sam Travis brought one home with a sacrifice fly but that was all Boston ended up with. It was a prime chance, but they settled for cutting the deficit to a 3-1 score.
The Red Sox got themselves another chance in the fourth after getting two quick outs to start that inning. Sandy León kept things going with a single and Bradley followed that up with a base hit of his own. Suddenly, Boston had runners on the corners with two outs for Betts, who could tie the game with a double. Instead, he hit a routine fly ball out to right field and the score stayed steady at 3-1.
From here, we fast-forward to the top of the sixth with Porcello still in the game and still having not allowed a runner since the Upton homer. That changed quickly here. The righty gave up a leadoff base hit to Calhoun to end that streak, and then Trout ended his day. The league’s best player had never hit a home run at Fenway — the only AL park for which that was true — but notice how I said “had”. Porcello left a ball right in Trout’s wheelhouse and he smashed one over everything in left field. Just like that Porcello was out of the game and the Angels had a 5-1 lead. Darwinzon Hernandez came on to get out of the inning with no more runs being scored.
After the Red Sox squandered another chance in the sixth in which they did score one but nothing more, the Angels put the game out of reach in the top half of the seventh. Hernandez came back out to start this one and totally lost his command, giving up two singles, hitting a man and walking a batter. That let one run score and left the bases loaded with nobody out for Hector Velázquez. It was here the floodgates opened. I really don’t want to go through everything that happened, but there were hits and there were walks and there were errors and, eventually, there was a 12-2 lead for the Angels.
And, well, that was pretty much that. Sam Travis did hit a home run in the seventh and the Red Sox added one more in that inning. On the other end, Ryan Weber came out for a couple solid innings to finish things off.
The Red Sox can still win this series if they can grab a win Sunday afternoon. Boston will send Andrew Cashner to the mound to take on Patrick Sandoval. First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 PM ET.