As famous rapper DMX once said, “X gon’ give it ya” and X gave it to the Tampa Bay Rays last night. That’s right, Red Sox short stop Xander Bogaerts continued his hot start to the season by adding three more hits, including his first home run of the season. We’ll get to that later. For now though, let’s discuss Rick Porcello’s start.
Making his 2018 regular season debut, the 2016 American League Cy Young Award winner put together a solid outing at the Trop. He tossed 5.1 innings of one run ball, allowing six hits, one walk, and fanning four along the way. That lone run came with no outs in the sixth, ending the scoreless innings streak for Red Sox starting pitchers at 18 to begin the season. Porcello wasn’t on the mound for the run, as he departed with one out and runners on first and third. The righty finished the night with 89 pitches, 61 of which went for strikes.
Heath Hembree would come on for Porcello with one out in the sixth, and he got the first batter he faced, Joey Wendle, to pop out to left field. That pop fly did allow the runner on third, Carlos Gomez, to score, giving the Rays their first run of the game. Hembree would proceed to close out the sixth and record the first two outs of the seventh before walking Denard Span. With Kevin Kiermaier, a lefty, due up next, Alex Cora made the decision to go to his lefty specialist, Bobby Poyner, to get the last out of the inning.
Poyner, making his MLB debut, got the speedy Kiermaier to pop out to third on the fifth pitch of the at bat, thus ending the inning. In the eighth, Rays outfielder Carlos Gomez welcomed Poyner to the big leagues by taking him deep to left field, cutting the Red Sox lead to just one run. The 25-year-old southpaw got the next batter he faced, Brad Miller, to pop out to first base, and that ended his night.
Carson Smith got the call next, and he was looking for retribution after his sub par Opening Day performance. Smith gave up a single to the first batter he faced, but followed that up by recording the last two outs of the inning, preserving the lead for Craig Kimbrel. Although he wasn’t as sharp as he was on Friday, the Red Sox closer still got the job done, in part because of sloppy base running by the Rays. Kimbrel walked the first batter he faced in the inning, Mallex Smith, another speedster. The very next batter, CJ Cron, lined out to Xander Bogaerts for what looked like the first out of the inning. However, Mallex Smith was hung out to dry in between first and second base, and Bogaerts doubled him up on a hard throw back to Mitch Moreland. With two outs, Kimbrel got Denard Span to pop out to the man of the night (Bogaerts), and guaranteed the Red Sox at least a split in their first series of the season.
Offensively, the Red Sox were held in check by Rays pitching yet again. The oddest part about last night’s game was the fact that the Rays did not use a starting pitcher. Andrew Kittredge, last night’s “starter”, has been a reliever for the majority of his professional career. In total, the Rays used four pitchers last night, one less than the Red Sox did.
Xander Bogaerts got the Red Sox on the board first in the top of the second. The native of Aruba took a 3-1 fastball from Kittredge and smoked it over the left field wall, giving him his first home run of the new season.
Bogaerts would go on to add two more hits after this, including an RBI double in the sixth, scoring JD Martinez from second. Speaking of Martinez, the 30-year-old outfielder made his first start in left field on Saturday night, and he finally got a hit, two actually. The first came in the sixth, when Martinez led the inning off with a double and eventually scored.
The second came in the eighth, when Martinez singled to right field. After a frustrating two games to start his Red Sox career, I’m sure Martinez is feeling relieved that he finally got his first hit out of the way. First home run is up next.
As the series wraps up later this afternoon, it would be nice to see the top of the Red Sox lineup pick up some of the slack. Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, and Hanley Ramirez have combined for a grand total of four hits and three games. Xander Bogaerts has been great, he currently owns a .667 Batting Average, but the top of the order needs to start setting the table.
Hector Velazquez faces off against Jake Faria today with first pitch at 1:10. Easter and day baseball make for a great combination.