After dropping the first two games of this weekend series against the scorching Tampa Bay Rays, the Red Sox looked like a competent baseball team this afternoon.
Rick Porcello got the start for the Red Sox in this one, and he was looking for his fifth winning decision before we flip the calendars to May. That didn’t happen unfortunately, but that doesn’t mean Porcello had a bad day, because he looked like he has all season so far, that being one of the best pitchers in the American League. The lone righty in the Red Sox rotation tossed 7.2 quality innings and really only made two mistakes. The first being a two-run home run, the first Porcello has given up this season, off the bat of Denard Span in the third, and the second being an RBI single off the bat of Mallex Smith an inning later. Other than that, nothing much to complain about. In those 7.2 innings pitched, the New Jersey native scattered seven hits, including those two previously mentioned, struck out six, and did not allow a single walk. In six starts Porcello has made this season, he has given up three earned runs or less and pitched 5+ innings in all of them.
Finishing with a season high 116 pitches, 82 of which went for strikes, I was a bit surprised to see Alex Cora stick with Porcello for as long as he did, but it worked out. He could have pitched eight full innings if he didn’t give up a two-out single to CJ Cron. With the game tied at the time, that hit put the go-ahead run on base and Cora made the switch to his closer.
In a rare eighth inning appearance, Craig Kimbrel gave up a double that should have been an out to the first batter he saw. With runners on first and third, the Red Sox closer came back and struck Brad Miller out on three pitches to end the inning. After the Red Sox tacked on the go-ahead run in their half of the eighth, Kimbrel would come back out for the save in the ninth. He led the inning off by allowing the first two batters he faced to reach base and the third to move those runners to second and third on a sacrifice bunt, but bounced back nicely. With the tying run just 90 feet away, Kimbrel struck out Jesus Sucre and Carlos Gomez back to back on seven pitches to end the game and pick up his first win of the season.
Offensively, the Red Sox lineup was held in check for the first five innings of this game. It wasn’t until Andrew Kittredge took the mound for the Rays and Eduardo Nunez led the sixth inning off with an infield single when the scoring finally commenced. After that infield single, Andrew Benintendi and Hanley Ramirez both reached base to load things up for JD Martinez. On a 2-1 87 MPH slider from Kittredge, Martinez sneaked a ground ball just past Adeiny Hechavarria and put the Red Sox on the board for two.
That was followed up by a four pitch walk to Mitch Moreland which loaded the bases once again for Rafael Devers. Devers struck out, but Jackie Bradley Jr. drove Hanley Ramirez in from third on a sacrifice fly one batter later. Sandy Leon would reload the bases for the third time in the inning after taking a pitch from Sergio Romo off his foot, but Tzu-Wei Lin would fly out to end the inning. Game tied at three.
A 1-2-3 seventh inning from the top of the lineup made way for JD Martinez to lead off things for the Red Sox in the eighth against Rays closer Alex Colome. To cap off his great day at the plate, Martinez ripped a single to right field for his fourth hit of the game. After Mitch Moreland and Rafael Devers recorded outs, Jackie Bradley Jr. drew a five pitch walk to move Martinez into scoring position. That led to Sandy Leon stepping up to the plate in what would be the biggest at bat of the day. In a surprising move, Leon was not pinch hit for. Instead, he drove Martinez in from third on a line drive single to left field.
Leon’s first RBI since April 12th put the Red Sox up by one and essentially gave them their 20th win of the season. It certainly wasn’t easy, but taking the series finale is certainly better than getting swept. The 4-3 win also ends the winning streak the Rays had going on at eight games.
Some notes from this one:
Mookie Betts was held out of the lineup today after straining his right hamstring on Saturday.
With his four-hit and two RBI performance today, JD Martinez now ranks ninth in the AL in hits (32), fifth in RBIs (22), and 10th in OPS (.941). Not too shabby for someone who just wrapped his first full month with a new team.
The Red Sox have won their last 25 games with Rick Porcello on the mound when they give him at least three runs of support. (@SoxNotes)
Next up for the Red Sox is a three-game set against the lowly Kansas City Royals. At 7-20 on the year, the Royals are the worst team in the American League in terms of team ERA and runs scored. With that in mind, a sweep before heading back on the road would be nice. That’s all I”m going to say.
Eduardo Rodriguez gets the nod for the series opener tomorrow. He’ll be facing off against Jason Hammel, who owns a career 4.25 ERA in 55 innings pitched against the Red Sox. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 PM.