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Porcello delivers much-needed strong start

MLB.com @IanMBrowne

ST. PETERSBURG -- The mission couldn't have been any clearer for the Red Sox on Tuesday night at Tropicana Field. They needed a strong pitching performance from Rick Porcello, and it had to start from the outset.

With determination, the sinkerballer went out and did his job en route to an 8-2 victory over the Rays. At least for one night, Porcello quieted all the noise about the recent struggles of Boston's rotation.

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ST. PETERSBURG -- The mission couldn't have been any clearer for the Red Sox on Tuesday night at Tropicana Field. They needed a strong pitching performance from Rick Porcello, and it had to start from the outset.

With determination, the sinkerballer went out and did his job en route to an 8-2 victory over the Rays. At least for one night, Porcello quieted all the noise about the recent struggles of Boston's rotation.

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"We take a lot of pride as a starting rotation in being effective and setting the tone for our team, but more important is for our team as a whole," said Porcello, who allowed five hits and a run while striking out eight over six innings. "We need to get wins, need to get back on the right page, and that's the biggest thing, just getting wins however we can get them right now until we start rolling."

The pileup of first-inning deficits -- Boston had been outscored, 22-0 in the first inning of the previous 15 games -- had been an annoyance of the highest order. In the first four games of the road trip, four starting pitchers had combined on just 15 innings while allowing 37 hits and 27 runs.

Manager John Farrell finally boiled over with frustration and called a team meeting after Monday's 13-7 loss to a Rays team that had lost 11 in a row.

And the Red Sox, backed by Porcello, looked focused throughout Tuesday's win, which snapped a three-game losing streak and a 2-6 skid.

There was a "here-we-go-again" situation unfolding in the bottom of the fourth, when Porcello walked three and threw 39 pitches and seemed on the verge of blowing a 2-0 lead.

But the righty didn't blink. Porcello got out of the inning with just one run across, and he punched out Brad Miller looking on a 92-mph two-seamer to end the inning.

Catcher Christian Vazquez hopped out from his spot behind the dish and wildly pumped his fist, as he ran off the field with the rest of his teammates.

"The fourth inning was a grind," said Porcello. "I dug myself a hole and had to find my way out of it, but we were able to survive and guys swung the bats well and we were able to get a win. It was a good."

Video: BOS@TB: Porcello gets Miller looking to escape jam

Perhaps it was fitting that Porcello was the pitcher who stopped the bleeding.

"You look at three other no-decisions consecutively when he's left with low-run games," said Farrell. "He's been everything we could've hoped. You look at a starting pitcher that can go out and be consistent every fifth day, he's been a model of that for us."

The righty improved to 9-2 with a 3.78 ERA, continuing a rebound from his tough first season in Boston.

"Just doing a lot better job of controlling the game," said Porcello. "Last season, there was a lot of starts where I felt like it was an inning that would absolutely explode on me, and I really struggled keeping that under control. That's been the biggest thing. Some of my bad outings this year have been four or five runs instead of six, seven or eight runs. With our offense, that's a big difference."

The offense also had a strong game, as the 3-6 spots combined to go 9-for-16. Hanley Ramirez reached base in all five plate appearances, and he roared home from first on a double by Jackie Bradley Jr.

It was clear how much the Red Sox wanted this one.

"We've played with a lot of energy. There are multiple games through this stretch where we fight our way back into it, even if we've come up short," said Farrell. "I can't say enough about the way our position players have continued to grind away, not give at-bats away, find a way to build an inning late when we've been down multiple runs. Tonight was just another example of that."

And also an example of how much better a strong performance from a starting pitcher can make everything look.

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

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Boston Red Sox, Rick Porcello