BOSTON -- Perhaps Mookie Betts will cool off at some point this season. But it hasn't happened yet. As if Betts doesn't prevent enough of a problem to Boston's opponents as the leadoff man, No. 2 hitter Andrew Benintendi is now getting hot also.The 1-2 punch supported a strong pitching
BOSTON -- Perhaps Mookie Betts will cool off at some point this season. But it hasn't happened yet. As if Betts doesn't prevent enough of a problem to Boston's opponents as the leadoff man, No. 2 hitter Andrew Benintendi is now getting hot also.
The 1-2 punch supported a strong pitching performance by Rick Porcello in leading the Red Sox to a 6-3 victory over the Orioles on Saturday night at Fenway Park.
Betts and Benintendi changed the momentum of the game by smashing back-to-back homers in the bottom of the fifth to snap a 1-1 tie. For Betts, it was his MLB-leading 15th homer of the season, passing Baltimore's Manny Machado.
"It's incredible," Porcello said of what Betts is doing. "It's a lot of fun to watch. I don't even know what to say. It's pretty incredible. When he gets his pitch, he's not missing it. When he doesn't get his pitch, he's not missing it. I'm sure as hell glad I don't have to face him."
And when the Orioles drew close again on Pedro Alvarez's two-run homer in the sixth, Benintendi opened up breathing room again with a two-run single up the middle.
The Killer B's at the top of the order provided the Red Sox with five of their six RBIs in the game. This was what Red Sox manager Alex Cora envisioned when he decided well in advance of Spring Training that the lineup would start with Betts-Benintendi.
After an unspectacular start, Benintendi has eight hits in his last 18 at-bats with a double, two homers and six RBIs.
"I'm starting to feel a little better," said Benintendi. "I wouldn't call it a groove or anything, but I'm starting to make contact -- harder contact more often."
Hard contact is what it seems like Betts does in just about every at-bat. Benintendi knows better than anyone from watching him from the on-deck circle.
"It's awesome," Benintendi said. "He's always on the basepaths scoring runs. He's doing everything to help the team win. He's in a groove right now, but it's not like he's hot-hot. I feel like he can get hotter than he is right now. It seems like he squares up the ball every at-bat. He's doing everything right."
For the season, Betts is slashing .368/.439/.767 and has 18 doubles and 32 RBIs to go with all the homers.
"We like everything about the player," said Cora. "What he brings on a daily basis and him hunting pitches in the strike zone, that's the key."
While Betts and Benintendi made most of the impact at the plate, Rafael Devers was responsible for the other run by belting an opposite-field solo shot over the Green Monster to tie it at 1 in the fourth.
Betts got all of his homer to untie it, ripping his blast a projected distance of 406 feet, according to Statcast™, against Orioles righty Dylan Bundy.
"I think about how I'd pitch him, and I have no idea," Porcello said. "A lot of times, you get power hitters that, if you make a mistake, they're going to hurt you, but there's holes. I don't see a hole."
Other than the blast by Alvarez, Porcello (6-1) turned in an effective start. The righty went six innings and scattered six hits while striking out nine.
The setup crew of Joe Kelly and Matt Barnes provided a clean handoff to closer Craig Kimbrel, who earned his 13th save of the season.
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Bradley's hustle pays off: Though Jackie Bradley Jr. (0-for-2, .161 average) continues to be mired in one of the worst slumps of his career, he worked a key walk against lefty Tanner Scott in the seventh and made a heads-up play tagging up from first on a fly ball by Betts that didn't even reach the warning track in right. That set up runners at second and third with one out, enabling Bradley to score on Benintendi's single up the middle.
"Outstanding job," said Cora. "I mean, he walks against a tough lefty. Then he's able to read the outfielder [Mark Trumbo]. He was flat-footed and actually kind of like, drifting back, and he took advantage of it. Second and third, he did a good job."
After ranking last in the American League with 168 homers last season, the Red Sox are second so far this season with 65, and are tied with the 1977 squad with the most long balls through the first 46 games in team history.
HE SAID IT
"Not really. His hands are so quick, and he makes good contact it seems like every at-bat, so it doesn't really surprise me." -- Benintendi, asked if he is surprised by the power Betts is displaying
Lefty Eduardo Rodriguez will try to get the Red Sox a win in the finale of this seven-game homestand when he pitches Sunday against the franchise he was originally signed by as an international free agent -- the Orioles. Rodriguez has struggled to be consistent this season, and last time out in a loss to the Athletics, his main issue was the inability to put hitters away with two strikes. David Hess starts for Baltimore, and first pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET.
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.