After exploding for 14 runs to complete the two-game sweep of the Miami Marlins on Wednesday night, the Red Sox headed to the Windy City to embark on yet another road trip.
Getting the start in the series opener was Rick Porcello, who has faced the 53-80 White Sox plenty of times over his 10-year career, and entered Thursday with a 3.57 ERA in 11 career starts at Guaranteed Rate Field.
In what was his 28th start of 2018, the right-hander wrapped up his month of August with another shaky outing.
Pitching into the sixth inning of this one, Porcello surrendered four earned runs on eight hits and three walks to go along with seven strikeouts on the night.
All four of those White Sox runs crossed the plate within the first two frames of this one, as an Avisail Garcia two-run home run and Matt Davidson RBI single in the first followed by a sacrifice fly off the bat of Garcia to score Yolmer Sanchez in the second gave Chicago an early three-run advantage.
Fortunately, Porcello settled down a bit, and despite still dealing with a solid amount of traffic on the base paths, held the White Sox scoreless over the final three-plus frames he pitched in.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 95 (63 strikes), the New Jersey native saved his best for last by retiring the side in order in the fifth, which probably should have been his final frame of work.
Instead, he came back out for the bottom half of the sixth, walked Matt Davidson on eight pitches, the last three of which were all balls, and that is how is night would come to a conclusion. Given the fact the Red Sox were still trailing at this point in the contest, I probably would have started the sixth with Brandon Workman. That’s just me though.
Out of those 95 pitches, the 29-year-old relied heavily on his two-seam fastball, as he threw it 39% of the time he was on the mound on Thursday. He also topped out at 93.6 MPH with his other fastball, the four-seamer, in the second inning.
Unable to pick up the winning decision while his ERA jumped up to 4.27 on the season, let’s go ahead and look back at Rick Porcello’s August:
6 GS, 2-3, 5.11 ERA, 37 IP, 29 H, 21 ER, 8 HR, 9 BB, 45 K.
Those numbers include two starts against the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies in which Porcello combined to give up two earned runs over 16 innings pitched. He’ll look to get back on a more consistent track in his next time out, which should come against the Atlanta Braves next week.
In relief of Porcello, the Red Sox bullpen held the White Sox in order in four scoreless frames of work.
Yup, Brandon Workman, Joe Kelly, Ryan Brasier, who picked up the win, and Heath Hembree combined to give up just two hits while fanning five en route to their team’s 92nd win of the season.
Shoutout to Xander Bogaerts for some great defense over at shortstop as well.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against young White Sox right-hander Lucas Giolito, who had never faced Boston in his three-year career between Washington and Chicago before Thursday.
A former 2012 first round draft pick who was part of the trade that sent Adam Eaton to the Nationals, Giolito, 24, has not been outstanding in any means in his first full season as a big league hurler, but he impressed last night.
Holding the Red Sox hitless through four scoreless innings, it was not until Ian Kinsler singled with two outs in the fifth when the potential no-hitter came to an end.
Still, Giolito remained in the game up until the point when he walked Brock Holt with one out in the seventh. That is how his night would end and that is where things really started to turn around quickly for Boston.
With one out, one runner on, and Jeanmar Gomez now on the mound for the White Sox, an Ian Kinsler put runners on the corners for Blake Swihart, pinch-hitting for Sandy Leon.
In a similar role on Wednesday, Swihart came through with a big pinch hit, and he did the same last night, as he drove in Holt from third on an RBI to right center field. 4-1.
Jackie Bradley Jr. was up next, and he cut into the White Sox lead some more by driving in Kinsler from third on a sacrifice fly to center field. 4-2.
Back to the top of the order now came Mookie Betts, who had only faced Gomez three times in his career prior to Thursday, yet came away with arguably the clutchest hit of the contest.
On a 1-1 92 MPH slider, Betts launched his 29th home run of the season 373 feet to the left field seats to knot things up at four runs a piece.
Fast forward to the ninth, still in a 4-4 game, with one out and runners on first and second, Jackie Bradley Jr. played hero, as his RBI single off of White Sox reliever Thyago Vieria plated to the go-ahead run in the form of Ian Kinsler, but that was just the beginning.
In fact, three more runs would come around to score in the top half of the ninth, one on an Andrew Benintendi RBI single to add on some extra insurance, and the next two coming courtesy of JD Martinez, who put this game on ice with his 39th big fly of the season.
Some notes from this 9-4 win:
During the seventh inning of their last two games, the Red Sox have scored 15 total runs.
Over his last four games, Mookie Betts is batting .583 with two home runs and six RBI. So much for that slump.
In only 127 games this season, JD Martinez has hit 39 home runs and driven in 114 runs. We’re not even in September yet.
Ian Kinsler recorded his second three-hit game in a Red Sox uniform on Thursday. He is also batting .583 in his last three games.
Blake Swihart is slashing .304/.333/.391 with six RBI in his last 10 games. Probably time for him to start getting more regular playing time behind the plate.
Joe Kelly has now gone seven straight relief appearances without giving up a run.
Looking to guarantee a series split later tonight, it will be Nathan Eovaldi getting the ball for the Red Sox.
Over his last four starts, Eovaldi owns a 7.41 ERA in only 17 innings pitched. That is not great, but with some help from Pedro Martinez, it would not be surprising if Eovaldi bounced back with a solid outing against a team he has not seen much of over his career.
Opposite Eovaldi will be rookie right-hander Michael Kopech for the White Sox, who was once part of the Red Sox organization himself.
Traded to Chicago along with current second baseman Yoan Moncada among others for Chris Sale back in December 2016, Kopech was recently called up on August 21st.
Ranked as the White Sox’s best pitching prospect, the former 2014 first round draft pick owns a 1.13 ERA in eight innings pitched over his first two career starts, the first of which was shortened due to rain.
Known for the speed of his four-seam fastball, a pitch he throws nearly 70% of the time, according to Statcast, this Red Sox lineup will undoubtedly be the toughest opponent Kopech has faced in his very young career.
I, for one, am very excited to see how it goes down.
First pitch of the second game of the series is scheduled for 8:10 PM ET.