At long last, the Red Sox have won a baseball game, as they opened a seven-game homestand on Monday with a 7-5 win over the Kansas City Royals to halt their losing streak at eight.
Making his 23rd start of the season for Boston to begin the new week was Rick Porcello, coming off a month of July where he went 4-1 despite allowing 25 earned runs over his last five starts and 28 1/3 innings pitched.
Tossing six full innings in this one, the right-hander surrendered just one earned run on four hits and two walks to go along with five strikeouts on the night, marking the first time since Friday that a Sox starter had made it to the sixth.
That lone Kansas City tally came in the top half of the sixth inning, when with two outs and the bases empty, Porcello served up a solo home run to Cheslor Cuthbert off a 1-2, 84 MPH slider on the outer half of the plate.
The New Jersey native had retired nine of the the last 10 hitters he faced before giving up that bomb to make it a 4-1 contest, but Porcello did not falter, as he got Ryan O’Hearn to pop out to first to end the frame and thus end his evening on a more positive note.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 99 (67 strikes), the 30-year-old hurler relied on his four-seam fastball more than 31% of the time he was on the mound Monday, inducing three swings and misses and topping out at 93.2 MPH with the pitch while Sandy Leon was behind the plate.
Ultimately improving to 10-8 while lowering his ERA on the year down to 5.54, Porcello now has quality starts in two of his last three outings, both of which have come at Fenway Park. He’ll look to keep that trend going in his next time out, which should come against the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday.
In relief of Porcello, Nathan Eovaldi entered the seventh with a three-run lead to protect, and he, in his first action since Friday, saw that lead shrink to two by giving up a one-out solo homer to Meibrys Viloria off an 0-2, 97 MPH heater at the top of the zone.
That made it a 4-2 game, but Eovaldi rebounded well enough to strand another runner at first following a two-out walk and get out of the inning with the two-run lead still intact.
Matt Barnes came in right after his team had gone up 7-2 in the bottom of the seventh only to give all three of those runs back on a three-run homer off the bat of Bubba Starling. Granted, it was a bit of a Fenway Park special, as it only traveled 332 feet and had an expected batting average of .040, but it was good for three runs nonetheless, and that cut Boston’s lead down to 7-5.
Like Eovaldi, Barnes was also able to recover by punching out Viloria on five pitches, making way for Brandon Workman in the ninth.
There, Workman allowed the tying run to come to the plate following a Whit Merrifield one-out double, but ultimately finished things off by getting Alex Gordon to ground out to first before striking Dozier out on six pitches to secure the 7-5 victory and notch his sixth save of the season.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against left-hander Mike Montgomery, someone who had surrendered 10 runs in his first three starts as a Royal since being acquired from the Chicago Cubs last month.
Kicking the scoring off in the bottom half of the third after Xander Bogaerts was called out at home for the final out of the first, Bogaerts made up for his earlier mistake by lacing a hard-hit grounder to Nicky Lopez over at short, one hit so hard that the rookie infielder could not field it cleanly, and that allowed Mookie Betts to score from third for his side’s first run.
Two batters later, with two outs in the frame and Rafael Devers at third, Sam Travis unloaded on a 2-1, 92 MPH sinker from Montgomery and sent it a booming 429 feet over the Green Monster to make it a 3-0 game.
Fast forward to the fifth, Rafael Devers put his opposite field power on display, as he deposited a one-out, 1-0, 77 MPH curveball 364 feet to left for his 23rd big fly of 2019. 4-0.
And in the seventh, Sandy Leon and Betts both greeted new Royals reliever Tim Hill by reaching base on a leadoff walk and single, allowing Devers to move Leon up to third on a fly out to right field.
Another Kansas City pitching change saw right-hander Scott Barlow take over for Hill, and he proved to be pretty wild, as he let Leon coast in from third in the process of walking Bogaerts on four straight pitches.
With runners at first and second now, Andrew Benintendi came to the plate having faced off against Barlow on three separate occasions before Monday, and he came through by dropping to one knee and ripping a two-run double through the right side of the infield.
That two-RBI double put the Red Sox ahead 7-2, and after the Royals made things a bit interesting in the eighth, 7-5 would go on to be Monday’s final score.
Some notes from this win:
Mookie Betts had to be removed from Monday’s game before the start of the eighth inning after taking a foul ball off his left shin in the bottom of the seventh. He was later diagnosed with a left shin contusion and has been ruled day-to-day, but is expected to be good to go for Tuesday. This comes on the same night that J.D. Martinez was scratched from Boston’s starting lineup due to back soreness.
From Red Sox Notes:
Andrew Benintendi’s last 15 games: .415/.433/.785 with five homers and 17 RBI.
With the Red Sox winning on Monday night and the Cleveland Indians, Oakland Athletics, and Tampa Bay Rays all losing, the Sox are back to within 5 1/2 games back of the Rays for the second American League Wild Card spot.
Now that that eight-game nightmare is done and over with, the Red Sox should adopt a one-game-at-a-time kind of mentality for the remaining two months of the 2019 season.
As things stand right now, the defending World Series champions are viewed as long shots to make it back to the postseason. That much is evident by how Fangraphs is giving the Sox just a 20.4% chance to get back to October baseball.
With that, Boston needs to take advantage of all the doubt surrounding them.
It starts with this soft spot in their schedule, but picks up next week when they head to Cleveland for a pivotal three-game series against the Indians.
Many have said that the Red Sox are done. I’m saying that they are 1-0 in their last one game.
Anyway, this series against the Royals picks up again on Tuesday night, with right-hander Andrew Cashner getting the ball for Boston and fellow righty Jakob Junis doing the same for Kansas City.
This will be Cashner’s first start as a member of the Red Sox where he is not facing off against a division rival.
In his career against the Royals, the 32-year-old owns a lifetime 3.29 ERA and .271 batting average against over five prior starts and 27 1/3 innings pitched.
Junis, meanwhile, has surrendered 11 earned runs over 26 innings in four starts since the All-Star break. That’s good for an ERA of 3.81.
In one prior start at Fenway Park, Junis took the no-decision while allowing two runs on seven hits over six quality innings in a game the Royals eventually won back on May 1st, 2018.
First pitch Tuesday is scheduled for 7:10 PM EDT on NESN. Red Sox looking to make it two wins in a row.