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Porcello puts 1 in W column for Red Sox

Lineup tweak pays dividends; rookie Chavis continues to rake
@IanMBrowne
April 25, 2019

BOSTON -- For the Red Sox, snapping out of a sluggish start has basically consisted of checking items off a fix-it list. They can put the checkmark next to Rick Porcello’s name. In one solid evening of pitching on Thursday night at Fenway Park, the veteran earned his first win

BOSTON -- For the Red Sox, snapping out of a sluggish start has basically consisted of checking items off a fix-it list.

They can put the checkmark next to Rick Porcello’s name.

In one solid evening of pitching on Thursday night at Fenway Park, the veteran earned his first win and quality start of 2019, leading the Red Sox to a 7-3 victory over the Tigers.

Over six innings, Porcello scattered six hits and three runs while walking two and striking out five. Two of the runs came on what can best be described as a Fenway home run, a 320-foot poke from Nicholas Castellanos that clanged off Pesky’s Pole in right as part of Detroit’s three-run third.

Other than that, Porcello did his job. Of his 91 pitches, the righty generated 14 swings and misses. He had his two-seamer going, and he also was effective with his slider and four-seamer.

“It’s all about winning ballgames, and we won tonight, and that’s really all that matters,” Porcello said. “We swung the bats great, Sandy [Leon] called a great game, I was able to manage the damage that was done in the third inning and we were able to get the win, and that’s what it’s all about.”

To say Porcello had problems earlier in the season would be an understatement. Even after doing the job in his past two starts, Porcello (1-3) has a 7.43 ERA.

But he is trending in the right direction, and you can say the same about the Red Sox, who have won five of their past seven games after starting the season 6-13. Heading into a three-game series against the American League East-leading Rays that starts on Friday night at Fenway Park, the Red Sox are 5 1/2 games back.

“That’s baseball,” Porcello said. “You go through peaks and valleys, and what’s important when you’re in those valleys [is to] grind your way out, not give in and not get too mentally frustrated. And hopefully, the team and myself, we’re on the ascent and getting out of this valley, and [we] continue to play good baseball and keep things in the win column.”

There were a couple of other developments Thursday that could help the Red Sox stay in that win column.

Order restored at the top
Not many managers would flip-flop the top of the batting order after a World Series-winning season. But Alex Cora will never be accused of being conventional. When the Sox were struggling at the plate, it was easy to second-guess his decision to have Andrew Benintendi bat first this season and Mookie Betts bat second when it worked so well the other way last year.

Now, Cora is seeing the benefits of what he envisioned. Benintendi is spraying the ball around the park and grinding out at-bats, and Betts is starting to get hot.

“It took a little time. It was a little weird initially, but I think we’re kind of settling in now,” Betts said. “Now it’s a lot of fun. Hitting with somebody on base is obviously a lot more fun than hitting with nobody on. Benny can run, too, so you hit a ball in the gap, you know he’ll score from first and it’ll be 1-0 or whatever the score is at that point. I’ve been able to do that a couple times here lately."

Benintendi and Betts both had two doubles to pace Thursday’s win. Benintendi is hitting .306 and has a .384 on-base percentage. Betts, after a start that he termed "unacceptable," has a sturdy OPS of .827.

“It’s cool to see Benny and Mookie making me look good,” Cora said. “That’s the plan. There’s going to be traffic for Mookie. There’s going to be traffic for Mitch [Moreland], and so on and so on. We know we’re a good offensive club. We know it. It’s just a matter of keep controlling the strike zone and putting good swings on pitches in the zone.”

The kid parks another one
Michael Chavis, Boston’s top prospect per MLB Pipeline, continues to look like a man who is ready to compete at the Major League level.

Two nights after he belted his first MLB homer over everything in left, Chavis again cleared the Monster, this time with a two-run blast in the bottom of the second inning.

“I caught the first one a little bit better, but I mean, I still got barrel on this one,” Chavis said. “Not downplaying it at all. But I enjoy all my home runs, honestly. I might try and act like I'm cool and everything is fine, but inside I'm doing jumping jacks and cartwheels."

It will be interesting to see what the Red Sox do with Chavis once they get healthy. Three veteran infielders are currently on the injured list in Brock Holt, Eduardo Nunez and Dustin Pedroia. The thought when Chavis got called up last week was that he would get most of his playing time at the corners. But of late, he has settled in at second base, a position he was just starting to learn in the Minor Leagues.

The bottom line is that if Chavis hits, the Red Sox will find somewhere to play him.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.