Believe it or not, the Red Sox are not a perfect team. They are capable of losing games and that is exactly what happened Thursday night for the first time this month.
Coming off the game of his life in his last time out against the New York Yankees this past Friday, Rick Porcello made his 24th start of the season yesterday, and he found himself struggling against Toronto’s team yet again.
If you recall the last time Porcello faced the Blue Jays in the series before the All-Star break, then you’ll remember that he got absolutely lit up for eight runs in two innings pitched back on July 13th in an eventual loss.
Last night, it was more of the same for the right-hander. Not only was he matched up against the same pitcher as before in Toronto’s Ryan Borucki, Porcello surrendered SEVEN runs in only four-plus innings pitched in another losing effort.
Things went awry right away for the New Jersey native in this one, as he walked the very first two batters he faced, which later resulted in two Blue Jays runs crossing the plate in the first.
An inning later, another leadoff walk and a single off the bat of Aledmys Diaz put runners at first and third for the Jays with no outs and Kevin Pillar at the plate.
On the first pitch of his at bat, Pillar grounded into what looked to have the potential of a force out at second. The run was scoring no matter what, but an E5 from Eduardo Nunez prevented a single out from being recorded and runners were safe at first and second with still no outs.
Nothing more came of that in the second, but Teoscar Hernandez, as he is known to do, blasted a solo homer off of Porcello in the third to pull his team ahead by two runs. He now has hit eight home runs in 20 career games against the Red Sox.
After what was without a doubt his best inning of the night in the fourth, a 1-2-3 effort, Porcello got hit hard again in his final frame, a frame that was capped off by a go-ahead three-run home run from Randal Grichuk, the last batter Porcello faced before getting the rather quick hook.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 79 (54 strikes) and his team trailing by three runs at the time of his departure, Porcello relied on his curveball nearly one-third of the time he was on the mound Thursday. He also topped out at 92.6 MPH with his four-seam fastball on his 13th pitch of the game.
How one goes from pitching a complete game in one outing to struggling mightily in the next is something I don’t think I will ever understand. If you’re frustrated by Porcello’s lack of consistency though, just keep these numbers in mind.
The 29-year-old will look to rebound from one of his worst performances of the season in his next time out against the Phillies in Philadelphia on either Tuesday or Wednesday, probably Tuesday.
In relief of Porcello, Brandon Workman got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen, and he retired three of the only four batters he faced to clean up the mess made in the fifth.
Hector Velazquez was next up for both the sixth and seventh innings, and he allowed a lone Blue Jays run to score on back-to-back hits from Curtis Granderson and Devon Travis in the sixth while tossing a scoreless seventh.
And in the eighth, Tyler Thornburg worked his away around a pair of two out singles to strike out the side and give his team one last chance in the ninth trailing by four runs.
On the other side of things, as I had mentioned above, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against a pitcher they had already familiarized themselves with in Toronto’s Ryan Borucki.
Similar to Porcello, Borucki, 24, in his rookie season, has been solid as a starter for the Blue Jays against teams not named the Red Sox.
He gave up seven runs, four of which were earned, in three innings pitched on July 13th at Fenway Park, and despite picking up the win on Thursday, Borucki was not much better.
Like Porcello, Borucki too allowed the first two batters he faced to reach base on back-to-back singles from Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi.
Four batters and one Xander Bogaerts walk later, Eduardo Nunez came through in a bases loades situation by ripping a two-run single to right field to drive in Betts and Benintendi. Just like that, the Red Sox had themselves a quick two run lead and it looked like it was going to be another one of this high scoring nights.
Unfortunately, that’s not how it turned out to be, because the Blue Jays answered right back with two runs of their own in their half of the first, and jumped out to a 4-2 lead by the time Boston tacked on their next run in the fifth.
That run, a one out solo home run off the bat of JD Martinez, was good for his 35th of the season and had an exit velocity of 108 MPH. 4-3 game.
A Brock Holt RBI single later in the inning that scored Eduardo Nunez from second knotted this thing up at four runs a piece, but a three-run rally from the Blue Jays in the bottom half of the fifth essentially put this contest out of reach for the Red Sox.
Thanks to Mookie Betts though, headlines would still be made in Boston’s favor despite their first loss in over a week.
Going into the ninth with a single, a double, and a triple already under his belt, Betts had one last chance to go for history with Ken Giles on the mound for Toronto.
As I wrote yesterday, Betts got ahead in the count at 3-1, fouled off a 96.5 MPH fastball that was right down broadway, and capitalized on the very next pitch, a 85.6 MPH slider from Giles located at the top of the strike zone, by sending it 379 feet into the left field seats. First career cycle completed.
That homer, Betts’ 27th, put Boston’s fifth and final run of the night on the board, but it really meant so much more.
The 21st cycle in Red Sox history and first since Brock Holt did it back during the 2015 season, Mookie Betts should 100% be the favorite to win American League MVP right now. Not Mike Trout, not Jose Ramirez, Mookie Betts.
Some notes from this one:
With a 1/4 night at the plate on Thursday, JD Martinez is currently riding an eight-game hittins streak. Over that span, Martinez is slashing .438/.514/.906 with three home runs and 10 RBI.
In seven games and 28 at bats this month, Mookie Betts owns a 1.500 OPS to go along with seven extra base hits.
Wrapping up the first leg of their road trip with a series win, the Red Sox head to Baltimore to take on a lowly Orioles team in a four-game weekend series.
Getting the start in the opener will be Nathan Eovaldi for Boston, who has yet to surrender a run in two starts and 15 innings pitched with his new club.
Opposite Eovaldi will be Baltimore’s ace Dylan Bundy, who has pitched well against the Red Sox in three starts this season. Last time Bundy faced them on June 11th, he held Boston scoreless in eight innings of work in a game the Red Sox eventually won in extras.
The Orioles have traded off most of their assets in Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, Zach Britton, Brad Brach, and Kevin Gausman, so I totally expect the Red Sox to have full control of this series. Chris Sale will also make his return to the rotation on Sunday.
First pitch of the first game is scheduled for 7:05 PM ET Friday.