BOSTON -- To escape the depths of their longest losing streak in four years, the Red Sox got exactly what they so desperately needed: A quality start.
Perhaps it was fitting that it was Rick Porcello who provided it, holding the Royals to four hits and one run over six innings in a 7-5 victory.
“That’s what we need and they know it,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “I believe in these guys and we believe in the group. They’ve done it before so [with] 15 days of good pitching, like I said, the narrative will be different. Or seven days of good pitching and our team will be different. Everything starts with them. It’s not that they’re putting pressure on [themselves]. They’re just working hard to get it right and today was a good beginning.”
The climb back to contention will need to start, quite literally, with the starters.
Porcello got the Red Sox back in the win column after eight straight losses. There were no quality starts during that losing streak.
“We need it,” Porcello said. “Eight-game skid and we needed to stop the bleeding and turn it around. So it was nice to go out there and have a positive start and contribute to a win.”
How much of a difference does it make when the defending World Series champions can get a quality start?
Consider this: The Sox are 31-11 when they get a quality start this season, and 14-1 in the last 15 games they’ve gotten one. When Boston doesn’t get a quality start, the club’s record is 29-44.
When the starter can hold off the opposition early, it buys the offense time to produce. And that’s what happened Monday, as Sam Travis smashed a two-run missile (with a projected distance of 429 feet, according to Statcast) over the Green Monster in left-center as part of a three-run third inning that gave Porcello a lead to work with.
Rafael Devers lofted a solo shot that just made it over the Monster in the fifth to give Porcello an even more comfortable cushion.
“Yeah, it’s just a part of the game,” Devers said of the recent struggles of his team. “I mean, obviously we had a rough week but we still believe in ourselves. We know what we’re capable of, so it was good to get on the right foot and get a win because we know we have the talent to get it so it’s just a matter of playing good baseball and moving forward.”
As bleak as things felt last week, the Sox still have 47 games left in the season. They trail the Rays by 5 1/2 games for the second Wild Card spot after Tampa Bay dropped Monday’s matchup against the Blue Jays.
Though it’s just one win -- and the Red Sox need a lot more where that came from -- the atmosphere in the home clubhouse was loose after the game. Brock Holt playfully spoke into the microphone connected to J.D. Martinez's boom box, playing the role of DJ. Third-base coach Carlos Febles got a laugh out of Devers when he asked a mock question during his interview.
“That’s kind of where we need to be in general,” said Porcello. “Obviously there’s some pressure, especially when you start losing with the talented team that we have. That’s kind of how we have to carry ourselves every day. We have to be relaxed and understand [we need] to focus on the task at hand and go out and execute it and that’s it. And block out whatever pressure and whatever else is going on, play the game and take it one pitch at a time.”
As for Porcello, he’s spent the last several days working out some mechanical flaws that he felt led directly to giving up six runs in four of his previous six starts.
“I’ve been working on it all week,” said Porcello. “I’ve been working on it all year and I finally got some things I feel like are sticking and working well.”
Given that he is one of the most respected players on the team, it has been hard for the Red Sox to watch Porcello struggle so much. It would make his resurgence that much sweeter.
“This guy, he keeps working,” said Cora. “Probably he’ll find something he needs to work on this week and try to get better. There’s no pressure on them. They understand we’ve got to do better. That’s the bottom line and for us to do this it starts with pitching and today was the first step.”