Coming off a disappointing weekend in New York in which they could only pick up one win in three tries against the Yankees, the Red Sox headed south to the nation’s capital to take on the NL East’s Washington Nationals. Entering Monday with a record of 42-40, the Nationals have been far from the team they were expected to be going into the season. But with Max Scherzer on the mound for the opener, runs were more than likely going to be hard to come across for Boston.
Speaking of Scherzer, one of his better friends made his 18th start of the season for the Red Sox last night in Rick Porcello. We’ll get into Porcello’s day at the plate later, but for now, let’s just stick to pitching.
Since he was going up against one of the best pitchers in all of baseball, I was interested to see how Porcello would deal if he did not have much of a lead to work with. But thanks to his own efforts with a bat in his hands, the righty got some run support in the second and would not have to look back.
In six full innings pitched, Porcello surrendered two runs, both on solo shots, while scattering seven hits, walking two, and racking up five strikeouts on the night.
Throughout those six frames of work, the only real mistakes the New Jersey native came in the bottom halves of the third and sixth innings. Before that, Porcello escaped a potential jam in the second with some help from Mookie Betts’ cannon of an arm.
The first mistake came on a leadoff homer off the bat of Nats third baseman Anthony Rendon in the fourth, and the second came on a one out solo homer from second baseman Daniel Murphy in Porcello’s final inning.
Other than that, Porcello had himself a solid night on the mound. Can’t get too upset about giving up two solo home runs at a ballpark he had never pitched in before Monday.
Finishing with 92 pitches (66 strikes), the 29 year-old hurler went to his two-seam fastball 29% of the time last night and topped out at 92 MPH with his four-seamer. He’ll look to build on a successful start to July in his next start against the Kansas City Royals on Sunday.
In relief of Porcello, the Red Sox bullpen had a bit of a rough go at it over the last three innings of Monday night’s contest.
Matt Barnes was first up in the seventh, and he held Washington scoreless while leaving two baserunners at first and second to pick up his 16th hold of the season.
For the eighth inning, Joe Kelly got his July off to a rough start by serving up a 439 foot mammoth shot to Bryce Harper on the third pitch of the at bat to make it a one run game.
After striking out the next two batters he faced, Kelly walked Mark Reynolds on six pitches to put a runner on first, which consequently ended his night.
Needing four more outs to pick up the win, Alex Cora turned to his closer for the longer than usual save opportunity. Craig Kimbrel, who did not see the mound once over the weekend in New York, got the Red Sox out of the eighth by getting Michael A. Taylor to fly out to right field.
While recording the first two outs of the ninth in fairly simple fashion, the last out to pick up the save was somewhat of a challenge for the Red Sox closer. He walked Juan Soto on eight pitches to put the tying run on base, although it wasn’t entirely his fault.
With Anthony Rendon, who had already homered in this game, at the plate now, Kimbrel fell behind 3-0 on the first three pitches of the at bat. Luckily though, Rendon must have gotten the green light from the Nationals bench, because he swung on the next pitch, and although he made hard contact (105 MPH off the bat), lined out to Andrew Benintendi to left to wrap this thing up. Save #25 in the books for Kimbrel.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup followed the instructions on how to score runs off elite pitchers by getting to Max Scherzer early.
In fact, Rick Porcello helped his own cause by coming up clutch after Scherzer loaded the bases by intentionally walking Jackie Bradley Jr., the number eight man in the Red Sox lineup.
To make the Nationals pay for that, Porcello ripped a scorching double over everyone’s head in left field off his old friend and former rotation mate. Unloading the bases toput his team up by three runs early, Porcello came away with his first RBI (3) since 2009.
Those were the only runs the Red Sox could manage off of the Nationals ace, who went on to pick up a quality start despite the bumpy second inning.
Fast forward to the seventh, with Scherzer out of the game and Nationals reliever Brandon Kintzler in. With a one run lead to protect, Mookie Betts added on some insurance by mashing his 21st big fly of the season to lead off the inning.
That 430 foot bomb gave the Red Sox their fourth and final run of the night, and despite some shaky moments in the eighth and ninth innings, that would be all they would need to pick up their 57th win of the year.
Some notes from this W:
Over his last 12 appearances, Joe Kelly has tossed 9.1 innings. In those 9.1 innings, he owns a 8.68 ERA and a .300 BAA. Not great.
From @SoxNotes: Last night marked the 7th time Mookie Betts homered and recorded an outfield assist in the same game. According to , that is tied for the most such games in the majors since the start of 2015.
Since joining the Red Sox prior to the 2015 season, Rick Porcello is slashing .143/.143/.214 with two hits and three RBI.
In the middle game of this series, it will be Brian Johnson making his second start in Steven Wright’s spot in the rotation for the Red Sox. In his previous start, Johnson allowed just one run in four innings pitched against the Los Angeles Angels this past Thursday. He’ll be matched up against Nationals righty Tanner Roark, who has never started against Boston in his career, but does have one relief appearance against them under his belt. One in which he surrendered one earned run in 3.2 innings of work back in 2015. First pitch is scheduled for 6:05 PM ET later tonight.