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Porcello K's 8, bullpen solid in shutout

@IanMBrowne
June 18, 2019

MINNEAPOLIS -- After a taxing few days in the bullpen, the Red Sox needed a big performance from their starter on Monday night at Target Field to kick off an important three-game series against one of the top teams in Major League Baseball. It was the perfect circumstance for Rick

MINNEAPOLIS -- After a taxing few days in the bullpen, the Red Sox needed a big performance from their starter on Monday night at Target Field to kick off an important three-game series against one of the top teams in Major League Baseball.

It was the perfect circumstance for Rick Porcello, the dependable and professional who has thrived in such circumstances throughout his career.

Porcello dotted the corners throughout a magnificent performance, leading the Red Sox to a 2-0 victory over the Twins that extended their winning streak to a season-high of six games.

Box score

It was a strong start to the series against the team that entered the night with the best winning percentage in the Majors.

“It had a big-game feel,” said Red Sox assistant pitching coach Brian Bannister. “He came out and he was poised, he was executing. I thought his fastballs up were perfectly located. He was getting a lot of his pitches to the first-base side of the plate consistently with depth, and I thought he just really established that he was going to be aggressive but he was also really executing up and to the first-base side of the plate.”

Porcello ever-so slightly out-dueled Twins righty Jose Berrios, allowing four hits while walking one and striking out eight over seven innings.

“It was a lot of fun,” said Porcello. “[Berrios] threw the ball great. Absolutely exceptional tonight and Sandy [Leon] and I were able to counter and it was nice. It was a big win for us. Tight ballgame against a great ballclub, they’re having a hell of a year and it’s a good way to start the series off.”

With Porcello at 94 pitches, manager Alex Cora opted to go to a bullpen that was without multiple high-leverage relievers due to recent usage. Colten Brewer responded to a pressurized situation, getting out of a first-and-second, nobody-out jam in the eighth. And Ryan Brasier, fresh off being activated from the bereavement/family medical emergency list, got his first save since April 21.

Brasier made sure to get his throwing in during a near week-long stay at his home in Texas.

“For everything that he went through, he actually took time to work on his craft,” said Cora. “That shows you how professional he is. He understands he’s got a job to do. At the same time obviously his family situation is more important, but he took time to stay in shape, to keep his arm in good shape, and today he did an outstanding job.”

In a game where scoring opportunities were scarce for both sides, the Red Sox actually started the night with three straight hits off Berrios (eight innings, five hits, one run, 0 BBs, 10 K’s), including an RBI single by J.D. Martinez to make it 1-0.

That was all the scoring for either side until the top of the ninth, when Xander Bogaerts came through with a clutch, two-out, RBI double to right-center to bring home Martinez.

Martinez leads DH All-Star voting

“J.D. came up big there in the first inning, and honestly I felt like the biggest hit of the night was Bogey’s double,” said Porcello. “It was a fastball painted, chalk line away, and he hit a rocket into the right-center gap. That was extremely impressive, and in a situation when we really needed it most to get ourselves a two-run cushion late.”

Without question, Porcello was the tone-setter in a gratifying win for his team.

“You could see the emotion in Berrios out there and Porcello was matching him blow for blow and personally, that was my favorite game of the year to watch from a pitching perspective,” said Bannister. “It just felt like it was tense the whole time. It just had this drama to it. It was two good teams. They’ve been good all year and we’re hot right now. It was a fun game to watch.”

Porcello’s impressive mix included 42 four seamers, 11 two seamers, 23 sliders, 16 cutters and two changeups.

“It’s what I have to do. I don’t throw 98. I don’t throw that wipeout slider that’s almost automatic sometimes for guys,” Porcello said. “That’s what we’ve got to do, for me and Sandy and [Christian Vazquez], when we’re attacking lineups, we’ve got to be able to execute pitches and hit corners and change speeds and be precise because I’m not featuring overpowering stuff that other starters are featuring and that’s how I pitch.”

To demonstrate how impressive Porcello was, consider the Twins had been shut out just twice this season.

“He did an amazing job mixing up his pitches, using the fastball in certain spots,” said Cora. “That’s the best lineup in baseball. He kept them off balance, weak contact, he was in control. It was what we needed. We were limited coming into today in the bullpen. We needed him to get deep into the game. He did more than that. He dominated for seven and gave us a chance to win.”

If Berrios was the more aesthetically-pleasing pitcher to watch, Porcello matched him with his guile and his smarts.

“I don’t think he left very many pitches in the middle of the zone or any spot where guys were looking to do damage,” said Twins manager Rocco Baldelli. “I think he pitched around the peripheral edges of the zone very well. I’ve seen him pitch many, many times and have efforts kind of like the one we saw. This is a guy, he hasn’t had the success that he’s had in his career by mistake. He’s an exceptional pitcher and he was in his highest form tonight.”

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