Wrapping up a nine game road trip in Kansas City on Sunday afternoon, the Red Sox looked for their sixth straight win and their second straight sweep. With a rookie pitcher making his first career start on the bump for the Royals, they got that done in fairly simple fashion.
In his 19th start of the season yesterday, Rick Porcello was certainly not at his best, but credit to him for limiting the damage, which is something he excels at.
Pitching seven full innings in this one, the righty surrendered three runs, all earned, on nine hits and one walk while also tying a season-high in strikeouts with nine on the day.
What looked to be a stress free outing for Porcello turned into a bit of a rough one starting in the third inning and carrying over to the fourth as well. Over that stretch, the Royals got to the New Jersey native for five of their nine hits, three which came consecutively in the third, and all three of their runs. After what David Price went through on Saturday night, this did not seem all that encouraging, but Porcello settled down after that.
After striking out Adalberto Mondesi to retire the side in the sixth, you would think that Porcello’s day would come to an end with his pitch count nearing 100. Instead, he came back out for the seventh.
That decision looked like it was going to backfire immediately for Alex Cora and the Red Sox, as the Royals led the bottom half of the frame off by putting runners on second and third after consecutive hits from Drew Butera and Whit Merrifield.
Following a brief mound visit from Cora, Porcello still remained in the game, high pitch count and all. He must have gotten strong words of encouragement during that visit, because he sat down the next three batters he faced on 10 pitches to both strand the runners in scoring position and end his day on a positive note.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 111 (78 strikes), the 29 year-old hurler relied on his slider the most yesterday, as he went to it 40 times. He also topped out at 93.1 MPH with his four-seam fastball in the seventh inning.
Beginning his July with two solid outings against the Nationals and Royals, Porcello will look to build on this success he has found in his next time out, which should come against the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday in what will be his last start before the All-Star Break.
In relief of Porcello, Matt Barnes got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen for the eighth inning, and he retired the side in order while picking up two strikeouts along the way.
That set things up for Tyler Thornburg to make his second appearance in three days for the ninth, and he was not at the top of his game either. Keep in mind that it as a 7-3 game by the time Thornburg took the mound, but he was unable to finish the inning while allowing the Royals to score their fourth run of the contest. With that being said, Craig Kimbrel had to come on in what turned out to be a save opportunity.
With two outs still to get, the Red Sox closer gave up a single to Jorge Bonifacio, which meant the tying run for Kansas City was now at the plate and represented by Mike Moustakas and Lucas Duda after him.
Luckily, Kimbrel buckled down, struck out both Moustakas and Duda, and came away with his 27th save of the season to ensure his teams 62nd win.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against a pitcher in Heath Fillmyer who had yet to make a big league start. Righty Jakob Junis was supposed to make the start for the Royals, but he was placed on the disabled list with lower back inflammation on Sunday morning.
Instead, Fillmyer got the nod, and it took a little while for the Red Sox lineup to get going. In fact, it wasn’t until the third inning when they finally got on the board thanks to a sacrifice fly off the bat of Steve Pearce to score Mookie Betts from third.
After the Royals took the 2-1 lead in their half of the third, Eduardo Nunez responded by driving in the tying run on a one out RBI single in the fourth to score Xander Bogaerts, who had reached base on a fielding error to leadoff the top half of the frame, from second.
Following another bottom half of an inning in which the Royals tacked on what looked to be a go-ahead run, the Red Sox responded again in the top of the fifth.
With Fillmyer still on the mound for Kansas City, The 1-2-3 hitters in the Red Sox lineup all reached base with one out to load the bases for Mitch Moreland. In a five pitch at bat, Moreland eventually drew a walk to score Mookie Betts from third and pick up his first of two RBI on the day.
Following a pitching change, Xander Bogaerts followed that Moreland at bat up by simply launching a sacrifice fly to center field, allowing Andrew Benintendi to easily score from third for what turned out to be the go-ahead run.
Fast forward to the seventh now, and the Red Sox essentially put this thing out of reach by tacking on an additional three runs of insurance. Highlighted by RBI hits from Moreland, Bogaerts, and Nunez, Boston entered the seventh with a 4-3 lead, and by the time the side had been retired by Royals reliever Enny Romero, that lead had inflated to 7-3. A lead in which they would not have to look back from.
Some notes from this win:
After reaching base six times on Saturday, Andrew Benintendi reached base in his first four at bats against the Royals on Sunday, taking him to ten straight plate appearances in which he reached base before striking out in the eighth.
Heading into the home stretch of the first half of the season, the Red Sox are 62-29.
With seven games still to play before hitting the All-Star Break, the Red Sox are back home to take on the Texas Rangers and the Toronto Blue Jays. For the opener against Texas tonight, it will be a pitching matchup featuring two lefties in Mike Minor and Eduardo Rodriguez.
Coming off a start in which he strung together six shutout innings against the Nationals, Rodriguez will look to rebound against a team that he gave up three home runs to back on May 5th in Arlington. First pitch of the first game is scheduled for 7:10 PM at Fenway Park.
Also, vote for Andrew Benintendi.