After sweeping the lowly Baltimore Orioles over the weekend, the Red Sox kicked off the second leg of their two-city, six-game road trip on Monday by taking the first of three against the American League Central-leading Minnesota Twins in a tightly-contested 2-0 win, marking their sixth consecutive victory to improve to a season-best six games over .500 at 40-34.
Making his 15th start of the season for Boston was Rick Porcello, who entered Monday fresh off a quality outing in his last time out against the Texas Rangers as well as an impressive track record when working at Target Field.
Tossing seven full innings this time around, the right-hander held one of the top offensive clubs in the American League scoreless, scattering just four hits and one walk to go along with eight strikeouts on the night to tie a season-high.
It wasn’t quite clear that Porcello would wind up putting together the dominant performance he did in this one, with Nelson Cruz ripping a two-out double off of him in the first inning and all, but the New Jersey native did not waver, as he received some help from his defense and never faced more than four hitters in a single frame up until the bottom half of the seventh.
There, following a string of retiring 17 of the last 19 Twins he had faced, a one-out, line-drive double off the bat of CJ Cron that nearly snuck over the wall in right-center field put the tying run in scoring position for Minnesota.
A two-out walk of Miguel Sano two batters later also put the go-ahead run on base, but, fortunately for Boston, Porcello managed to escape the jam and thus preserve the shutout by getting Jason Castro to fly out to left, and that would be how his outing came to a close.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 94 (68 strikes), the 30-year-old hurler turned to his four-seam fastball nearly 45% of the time he was on the mound Monday, inducing six swings and misses and topping out at 92.7 MPH with the pitch while Sandy Leon behind the plate.
Eventually earning his fifth winning decision while lowering his ERA on the season down to 4.31, Porcello will look to continue this recent run he has been on in his next time out, which should come against the Toronto Blue Jays this weekend.
In relief of Porcello, Colten Brewer came on in the eighth with a one-run lead to protect, allowed the first two men he faced to reach to put the go-ahead run on for Minnesota yet again.
With no outs and the AL’s top hitter Jorge Polanco (.332 BA) at the plate, the Twins decided to take the bat out of their shortstop’s hands, and instead opted for a sacrifice bunt to advance both Jonathan Schoop and Max Kepler into scoring position for Neslon Cruz.
Having only faced Cruz one time prior to Monday, Brewer got ahead in the count with two straight strikes before getting the Twins slugger to ground into a fielder’s choice that just so happened to catch Schoop in a rundown between third and home.
Devers, on the toss from Sandy Leon, was able to tag Schoop out to eliminate the threat, all while Kepler failed to advance to third himself.
Three pitches later, Brewer miraculously got out of the tight spot he put himself in by getting Eddie Roasario to ground into an inning-ending out at first.
And in the ninth, after his team had provided a little insurance in their half of the frame, Ryan Brasier, just activated from the bereavement list earlier Monday, shut the door on the Twins and notched his seventh save of the year by locking down the 2-0 win for Boston.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against Twins ace right-hander Jose Berrios, and he proved to be just as, if not more dominant than Porcello in this one.
It was a good thing the Boston bats got to him right away with one out in the first on an RBI single off the bat of JD Martinez to plate Mookie Betts from third, because the Puerto Rico native was essentially unhittable the rest of the night.
Sitting down 19 in a row at one point and capping off his performance by fanning the final two hitters he faced, it wasn’t until Berrios departed and right-handed reliever Blake Parker entered to begin the ninth.
Down to their last out of the inning with JD Martinez at second following a one-out double off Parker, Xander Bogaerts came through in the clutch and gave his side some much-needed insurance, as he took an 0-2 fastball on the outer half of the plate and slapped an RBI two-bagger to the opposite field, allowing for Martinez to come in and score and put the Red Sox up 2-0.
That extra-base hit, the 300th of Bogaerts’ career, would be all the Sox would need to take the series opener from the Twins and win their sixth straight overall in the process of doing so.
Some notes from this win:
From MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith:
From The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier:
Xander Bogaerts, since this road trip began on June 14th: 5-for-11 with three doubles, six walks, and four RBI in four games.
I don’t want to say that the Red Sox passed their first test since there are still two games remaining in this series, but after all the negativity about being unable to beat quality teams, coming out and blanking arguably the best team in the American League at the moment at home is impressive nonetheless.
For the middle contest of this three-game set, it will be a starting pitching matchup featuring a pair of veteran arms, with left-hander David Price getting the ball for Boston and Michael Pineada doing the same for Minnesota.
Coming off his second-shortest start of the season in a six-run beatdown at the hands of the Rangers on June 13th, Price (4-2, 3.52 ERA), brings with him a lifetime 3.08 ERA over nine career starts and 61.1 total innings pitched at Target Field.
Pineda, meanwhile, missed all of the 2018 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery and has posted a 5.04 ERA through 13 starts in his second year with the Twins.
In 12 prior starts against Boston, the 30-year-old is 5-5 to go along with an ERA of 4.23 over 66 innings of work.
First pitch Tuesday is scheduled for 8:10 PM EDT on NESN. Red Sox looking to extend their winning streak to seven.