The good news: Rick Porcello pitched well. Mitch Moreland hit a couple of homers. The bad news: The bullpen blew a 2-0 lead in the seventh, and then after Moreland tied the game in the ninth they gave up the walk-off in the eleventh. Not ideal.
Rick Porcello is pitching for himself right now. That sounds selfish, but that’s the way things go for a team that is out of the postseason. Porcello is going to be a free agent in a couple of months, and the way his season has gone has already cost him a whole lot of money. It’s too late for him to recover a significant chunk of his value, but he can get his reputation trending in the right direction with a good end to his year. The good news for the Red Sox is that when Porcello pitches for himself and succeeds, it does nothing but benefit the team.
The Red Sox righty had a big test for himself on Friday night, heading out on the road to take on a good Rays lineup that is fighting tooth and nail for a postseason spot in an extremely close American League wildcard race. There was plenty of reason to believe this could go south quickly for the 2016 Cy Young winner, but that wasn’t the case. Instead, he came out dealing and just continued to do so.
He set the tone early on here, giving up some hard contact in the first at bat but for a line drive that resulted in an out. He would finish off a perfect first with a strikeout. Porcello came back with another perfect inning in the second, though it very nearly was not. Before making the third out Kevin Kiermaier hit a moonshot down the right field line that was called foul. It was very close, and likely too high to really tell one way or another, but upon review the call was upheld.
The third represented the first bit of real trouble for Porcello, though it wasn’t entirely his fault. Avisaíl García started the inning with a grounder down the third base line. Rafael Devers moved in to make a play on the ball, but it skipped off the bag and past Devers for a strange infield single. Matt Duffy followed that up with a base hit of his own, and suddenly there were runners on the corners with nobody out. Porcello came back with a big strikeout followed by a fly ball that was just a bit too shallow to get the run home, bringing Austin Meadows to the plate. Porcello got a fastball up in the zone by the Rays outfielder and the inning was over with no runs crossing the plate.
The righty would come back out for a few more innings after that. He allowed just a single in the fourth before getting through a perfect fifth. Porcello came back out for one more in the sixth, and once again he got a perfect inning to finish off a phenomenal night.
Unfortunately, the Red Sox offense was having plenty of trouble in their own right against Charlie Morton. This one was a little more understandable considering just how good Morton has been this year, but it was frustrating nonetheless. Boston did get Mookie Betts back in this game, as he was back in the leadoff spot and filled the DH role for this one. Of course, they can’t get a player back without losing one, and Andrew Benintendi exited this one early after hurting his finger. It doesn’t appear to be anything serious.
Anyway, the offense struggled to get anything going. They went down in order in the first, and that would become a theme. Over the first six innings, they had baserunners in just three of them and a runner got as far as second just once. It wasn’t what you want.
So, we headed into the seventh inning, where Gorkys Hernández — who came in for Benintendi — started off with a nine-pitch strikeout. It got Morton’s pitch count up into the mid-90s, and Brock Holt came up and immediately smacked a double into left field. That brought Kevin Cash out of the dugout, but Morton convinced his manager to leave him in. That would be a mistake. Mitch Moreland came up next and got an 0-2 curveball that stayed up in the zone on the outer half. He smashed it way out to center field for a two-run shot, and suddenly the Red Sox were up 2-0.
With the lead in hand, Alex Cora turned to his bullpen with Darwinzon Hernandez coming in for the bottom half of the seventh. The rookie southpaw started off well with a strikeout, but then gave up a single before issuing two walks. Suddenly, the bases were full with only one out and Marcus Walden was coming on to try and escape the jam. The righty got a ground ball like he was looking for, but it was too slow for a double play and the Rays got one run while recording the second out. Then, with runners on the corners, Willy Adames ripped one down towards the right field corner. It looked like it was sure to give the Rays the lead, but Boston caught a huge break with the ball bouncing into the seats for a ground rule double, only tying the game at two.
There were now two in scoring position with two outs and Josh Taylor was coming into the game to try and keep this one all knotted up. He did get the third out against the first batter he faced, but not before throwing a wild pitch — that really looked like it could have and probably should have been blocked by Christian Vázquez — and allowing the go-ahead run to score. 3-2 Rays after seven.
The Red Sox then came out looking to answer back in the eighth, but managed just a one-out walk. Andrew Cashner then came in for the bottom of the inning and allowed one more run to extend the deficit to two.
That gave Boston one more chance in the ninth trailing 4-2. Things got off to a good start with Gorkys Hernández smacking a triple out to the right field corner. After Brock Holt lined out, Moreland came up again. Once again he got down to two strikes, and once again he did damage. He went the other way this time, smashing a two-run shot to tie this game at two. Ryan Brasier then came on for a scoreless bottom half, and we were headed for extras.
Neither team got anything going in the tenth, and after Boston failed to score in the eleventh they turned to Trevor Kelley for the bottom of the inning. He got a couple quick outs to start things off before getting into trouble with back-to-back walks. That brought Adames up to the plate with two on and two out, and the shortstop came through. He smacked a base hit into left field, bringing home Johnny Davis for the walkoff win.
The Red Sox and Rays will be back in action on Saturday for the second game of this series. Boston has yet to announce a starter while Tampa Bay sends Tyler Glasnow to the mound.