BALTIMORE -- Rick Porcello watched a 10th All-Star week go by without his name included in the festivities, but he'll accept that repeated reality if it means he can turn in more outings like his bounce-back performance in the Red Sox's 5-3 win over the Orioles on Monday.The midseason break
BALTIMORE -- Rick Porcello watched a 10th All-Star week go by without his name included in the festivities, but he'll accept that repeated reality if it means he can turn in more outings like his bounce-back performance in the Red Sox's 5-3 win over the Orioles on Monday.
The midseason break presented Porcello with the perfect chance to reset and leave his first half behind him. Despite an 11-4 record, it ended with his worst outing of the season -- a two-plus-inning debacle, where the Blue Jays lit him up for eight runs -- and a 4.13 ERA two years removed from his American League Cy Young Award season.
"It's the hard part about baseball," Porcello said. "Everything is going great and you feel like you're where you want to be and then next thing you know you kind of get punched in the face a little bit and have the game that I had right before the All-Star break. … It's not like I am a different person or anything, it was just a bad outing."
Ten days later, even after two rain delays and less-than-ideal conditions, Porcello turned in the kind of bounce-back start he and the Red Sox need as they chase down a third consecutive AL East title. Porcello mustered six innings of scoreless baseball as the Boston tallied its league-leading 71st win of the season -- the first Sox team 40 games above .500 since 1949.
"I had a lot of time off, so the biggest thing was to ... start slow with my tempo, and then if you need to speed up we can always speed up, but it's a lot harder to go in there guns blazing and get back under control," Porcello said. "With the time off, I knew I was going to be pretty fresh and that was it."
"I felt comfortable with the conditions that he was on the mound," Red Sox manager Alex Cora added. "This is a guy we trust. Last one was just a bad one. That's it."
But while Porcello excelled, his offense lagged behind. With only one hit against Orioles starter Kevin Gausman through four innings -- albeit Mitch Moreland's first home run since June 24 -- the lethal Red Sox lineup needed a second to refocus. In one inning, it more than compensated.
Two rain delays had stymied the Boston offense from trying to get into rhythm, but a double from Xander Bogaerts that had a one percent hit probability according to Statcast™ was all that was needed to start the rally. Three consecutive walks scored Bogaerts as the second run of the day, and Andrew Benintendi capitalized with a two-run ground-rule double to break the game open.
Save for a two-run shot from Jonathan Schoop in the eighth inning, the Boston bullpen picked up the rest of the slack, and Craig Kimbrel, despite conceding his first extra-base hit and run since June 12, notched his 32nd save of the season.
Monday's win marked Porcello's only second outing since May 4 where he gave up less than two runs, but it came at an important time. The Yankees fell to the Rays, 7-6, on the road, thus boosting the Red Sox's AL East lead to six games. What's more, the Red Sox remain on pace for a 113-win season, which would be fourth-most all time.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Porcello punches out two to avoid jam: Only once with Porcello on the mound Monday did an Oriole advance past second base, and it came on a balk call that confused the Red Sox dugout. Nevertheless, with a 1-0 lead and Adam Jones on third with one out in the fourth, Porcello didn't get fazed by the balk call and proceeded to strike out Chris Davis and Trey Mancini to end the inning. The first of which was after a 3-0 count, the second on a 3-1 count.
"I actually didn't reset until I fell behind 2-0 to Davis," Porcello said. "Made some pitches to get back in the count and was able to strike him out. … Just tried to get back into a groove and throw strikes."
Clean relay keeps Orioles off the board: Before the Red Sox's breakout inning, the Orioles had the chance to even the score on a double from Schoop. But a crisp relay from Benintendi to Bogaerts to Sandy Leon resulted in Jace Peterson being out by a country mile.
"A good one, too, because the throw was going to second and he was in line there and got rid of it," Cora said of Bogaerts on the relay. "He's been playing good defense for us and that one he let it fly there, which was good to see."
Devers' misread forces Sox to use Kimbrel: With Mookie Betts up and the bases loaded, the Red Sox had a chance to make it a non-save situation and avoid using Kimbrel. But Betts lined out sharply to center, and a misread by Rafael Devers left him getting doubled up at second. Instead of saving Kimbrel in a rainy ninth inning, he was needed.
"We'll address that," Cora said. "Where we are at and where we are going, we can't play that way. It's not only the baserunning mistake, but we had to bring Craig in that situation while [Matt] Barnes was hot, too. He doesn't have to manage the team, but he needs to understand that you have to play better baseball. He knows it. I just saw him in the clubhouse with his head down."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Hit a ball in the general vicinity of Jackie Bradley Jr., and he'll make you pay. In the seventh inning, Trey Mancini clobbered the fifth pitch he saw to straightaway center, but Bradley made the over-the-shoulder catch to rob Mancini of extra bases. According to Statcast™, Mancini had a 98 percent chance of that ball being a hit while Bradley had a 51 percent chance of making the catch after covering 76 feet in 4.7 seconds -- a three star catch, per Statcast™.
"It gives the team confidence knowing they can make a pitch and have the defense behind them playing well and they don't have to worry about trying to make the perfect pitch all the time," Bradley said about the defense backing up the pitching.
Cora was mightily impressed with Bradley's snag.
"I throw my hands in the air like, 'Wow,'" Cora said. "I keep saying he's the best defensive center fielder in the big leagues, and playing at Fenway doesn't help him as far as metrics and all that, but when you see him on a daily basis, the plays he makes and cutting the balls in the gaps and keeping guys at first when they should have doubles, they should have some points for that."
HE SAID IT
"We've built a nice foundation for ourselves so far in the season. We still have a lot of baseball to play and we have to keep going. It's not like we are winning this division by 15 games. The Yankees are right there, so we have to keep playing good baseball to try and win the division and get the playoffs." -- Porcello
Thomas Pomeranz will make his first start since May 31 after being sidelined with left biceps tendinitis. In four career games (two starts) at Camden Yards, the lefty is 0-2 with a 1.80 ERA and 16 strikeouts. Pomeranz will be opposed by rookie Yefry Ramirez, with first pitch set for 7:05 p.m. ET.
Zachary Silver is a reporter for MLB.com based in Baltimore. Follow him on Twitter at @zachsilver.