Fresh off a four-game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles over the weekend, the Red Sox headed north for some tougher competition in the form of the 65-52 Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday.
Coming off an outing in which he surrendered seven earned runs on six hits in four innings pitched in his last time out against the Toronto Blue Jays last Thursday, Rick Porcello looked much more like the Rick Porcello we saw two starts ago when he threw a complete game against the New York Yankees.
Making his 25th start of the season in this one, Porcello ended up tossing seven innings of one run ball after taking a perfect game into the fifth.
The only real costly mistake the right-hander made last night was the hit that broke up the perfecto and no-no simultaneously, a leadoff solo shot off the bat of Phillies slugger Rhys Hoskins to leadoff the fifth.
A 1-1 72 MPH hanging curveball located towards the bottom of the strike zone, Hoskins did not miss in what turned out to be his 23rd homer of the season and lone run of the evening for Philadelphia.
Other than a two out single he gave up in the same inning, Porcello was perfect en route to his 15th winning decision of the season, as he set a new-season high in strikeouts with 10 on the night.
Like the typical quick worker he is, the 2016 Cy Young Award winner found himself in one three-ball count all night and never dealt with the same one batter for too long a time.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 90 (61 strikes), Porcello was pinch-hit for in the top half of the seventh inning, which would go down as the correct decision to make in that spot.
Before that happened though, the 29-year-old added on to his fine day on the mound with a second inning double off of Phillies starter Nick Pivetta for his second two-bagger of the year.
Out of those 91 pitches thrown, Porcello relied on both of his fastballs a combined 51% of the time on Tuesday while topping out at 92.5 MPH with his four-seamer in the first inning.
Improving to 15-5 and lowering his ERA on the year to 4.04, Porcello will look to build on what has thus far been an inconsistent month in his next time out against the Cleveland Indains on Monday.
In relief of Porcello, the Red Sox bullpen was responsible for closing out the final two frames on Tuesday night, and Heath Hembree did his part with a 1-2-3 eighth inning, which ended with this Odubel Herrera whiff.
Craig Kimbrel, on the other hand, was a different story.
Entering the ninth with a 1.071 OPS against over his last seven appearances, the flame throwing closer got his night started in a one-run game by walking the first batter he faced on six pitches.
With the help of Sandy Leon though, Kimbrel was able to secure his 36th save of the season by retiring the final three Phillies he faced to wrap up a 2-1 win for the Red Sox.
All and all, in nine total innings, Boston pitching held the Phillies to one run on two hits and one walk to go along with 13 punch outs. Not bad.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against Phillies starter Nick Pivetta, who owned a 4.51 ERA in 24 games (23 starts) this season.
A right-hander in his second year in the majors, Pivetta held Boston scoreless in seven innings pitched in his only other career start against them at Citizens Bank Park last season.
Unfortunately for the Red Sox, it was more of the same from Pivetta on Tuesday night, as they could only tack on one run in the six innings he appeared in.
That run, a 384 foot solo shot off the bat of Sandy Leon with one out in the third, put Boston on the board first in this one.
Although they had another opportunity to score in the inning, nothing came of it after Andrew Benintendi grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Fast forward all the way to the eighth, with Pivetta out and reliever Tommy Hunter in for Philadelphia, Brock Holt came through with the biggest hit of the night.
Batting in the pitcher’s spot with one out in the inning, Holt swung away at the first pitch he saw from Hunter, a 94 MPH cutter located on the inner half of the plate, and sent it 424 feet to right field to score what ended up being the winning run.
Some notes from this win:
The Red Sox are 86-35, 10 games up in the American League East, and have won five games in a row.
From @SoxNotes: This is the first time Red Sox starting pitchers have ever recorded 10+ strikeouts and 0 walks in consecutive team games (source:
@EliasSports). Rick Porcello had 10 K and 0 BB tonight, after Chris Sale had 12 K and 0 BB on Sunday.
That home run from Brock Holt was his second career pinch-hit homer. The last time he did that came nearly two seasons ago against the Padres in San Diego.
Over the span of his six-game hitting streak, Holt is slashing .364/.440/.636 with two long balls and six RBI in 22 at bats.
Rick Porcello owns a 1.200 OPS this season.
Going for the quick two-game sweep later tonight, it will be Nathan Eovaldi looking for redemption in his first interleague start with the Red Sox.
In case you have forgotten, Eovaldi got his bell rung for eight runs on 10 hits in two innings last Friday against the Orioles.
In four career outings at Citizens Bank Park, the newest Red Sox hurler owns a 4.57 ERA in 21.2 innings pitched.
Opposite Eovaldi will be Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez, who, like Pivetta, has only made one start against the Red Sox in his four-year career.
That start, which came back when Velazquez pitched for the Astros during part of the 2015 season, was an outing in which the California native gave up three runs on seven hits in six innings pitched in an eventual 8-3 win for Houston.
That was a long time ago though, and things have definitely changed in the last three years.
First pitch of the series finale in Philly is scheduled for 7:05 PM ET Wednesday.