BOSTON -- Tempers flared early. Steve Pearce homered yet again. Mookie Betts played second base for the first time in four years. There were storylines galore in the latest chapter of Red Sox-Yankees on Friday night at Fenway Park. But Red Sox manager Alex Cora wanted to emphasize the story
BOSTON -- Tempers flared early. Steve Pearce homered yet again. Mookie Betts played second base for the first time in four years. There were storylines galore in the latest chapter of Red Sox-Yankees on Friday night at Fenway Park. But Red Sox manager Alex Cora wanted to emphasize the story from his red-hot team's 4-1 victory.
"I think the story is Rick Porcello," said Cora. "He was outstanding today. Forget me getting thrown out, or them throwing at Mookie. I think the story has to be Rick."
The case can be made that the 297th start of Porcello's career was his best.
"Yeah, I think so, given the circumstances against that ballclub," Porcello said. "Can't think of the games that I've pitched that have been more important than division-rival games right now. So yeah, it came at a good time."
Porcello fired a complete-game one-hitter, striking out nine, walking none and throwing just 86 pitches, 68 of them for strikes.
His only blemish was the solo homer he allowed to Miguel Andujar to open the top of the third.
From there, he was simply masterful, retiring the final 21 batters he faced. Porcello faced just 28 batters for the game, one over the minimum. He joined Pedro Martinez (Sept. 10, 1999) as the only Red Sox pitchers in the last 50 years to pitch a one-hitter against the Yankees. In fact, those are the only two performances since 1908 in which a pitcher hurled a complete game with one hit, no walks and nine-plus strikeouts against the Bronx Bombers.
The surging Red Sox (77-34) have taken the first two games of this four-game series against the Yankees in statement fashion, opening up a whopping 7 1/2-game lead over their rivals in the American League East. To get to this point, Boston has won 21 of its last 26 games and 47 of its last 66.
"We're playing good ball," said Porcello. "If we're not pitching well, we swing the bats well that night, or vice versa, or both. It's just been a good run so far. Again, we have a lot of baseball to play. We have to keep it going."
The night got off to an eventful start. After Porcello hit Brett Gardner on an 0-2 fastball to open the game, Yankees ace Luis Severino buzzed Betts up and in on the first pitch of the bottom of the first. At that point, warnings were issued to both sides by home-plate umpire Adam Hamari, and Cora became incensed. Cora was ejected for the first time in his career as either a manager or a player. He was ejected once last season as Houston's bench coach.
"I didn't appreciate them throwing at my leadoff guy," said Cora. "I didn't like the fact they gave a warning. If they felt that way, that pitch had intent, just throw him out of the game. So, that's it."
"That was the first pitch of the game. I'm not going to hit anybody," said Severino. "If I'm going to hit somebody, I'm not gonna miss. So I'm not trying to hit anybody. That was first pitch of the game, trying to throw a pitch inside, but nothing else."
With Cora watching on television, Pearce helped the Sox respond to the commotion in the best way possible just two batters later by belting yet another homer over the Green Monster. The two-run shot was the fourth homer by Pearce in the first two games of the series.
"It definitely got emotional, but I think more than anything it probably fired us up," Porcello said. "It might have gotten us locked in, I'm not really sure. We definitely didn't take it lightly, didn't like it and were fortunate enough to play hard and come away with the win tonight."
Eduardo Nunez made it a three-run first with an RBI single, in which Ian Kinsler scored from second. However, Kinsler felt tightness in his left hamstring and was removed from the game in the top of the second. That led to a bunch of position switches, including Betts playing second base for the first time since 2014.
Betts had two chances while playing his old position again, and handled both of them cleanly.
"It was like a dream come true," said Betts. "I think it's been since 2014 since I've been in the infield, but that's why I take my ground balls and do all that early work, just in case."
For all the various subplots, the one constant throughout the night was Porcello.
His masterpiece led to a game time of two hours and 15 minutes, the shortest nine-inning game between the Red Sox and Yankees since May 6, 1994.
"Outstanding," Cora said. "Throwing strikes, mixing up pitches, in control -- that was fun to watch."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
JBJ makes another gem:Jackie Bradley Jr. kept Porcello's one-hitter intact by perfectly timing his leap on a fly ball by Neil Walker for the second out in the ninth. Bradley flagged it down just before it could scrape off the wall in center.
"They definitely hit some balls hard and our guys made some great plays," said Porcello. "Mookie made a great play up the middle. Jack made some great catches in the outfield. Sandy [Leon] did a really good job of calling the game."
The last Red Sox pitcher to allow one or zero hits and zero walks in a complete game was Jonathan Lester on May 10, 2013, against the Blue Jays. It was the most efficient complete game by a Boston pitcher since Aaron Cook's 81-pitch performance to defeat the Mariners on June 29, 2012. The last pitcher in the Majors to toss a complete game in fewer than 90 pitches was also Porcello, who threw 89 in a win over the Orioles on Sept. 19, 2016.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
It didn't take long for Betts to see action in his return to second base. Aaron Hicks hit a crisp shot toward the middle leading off the second inning, and Betts went to one knee, smothered it and fired to first to get the out. It was hardly a spectacular play, but it was pretty impressive for someone who hadn't played the position in four years.
"Excellent," said Cora. "He did an excellent job. It was a nice tackle on a ground ball. He went to his knees and threw the ball there. He's a great athlete. He works at it."
HE SAID IT
"I don't know, we scored four runs in less than six innings. Is that a quality start?" -- Cora, taking a thinly veiled shot at Severino, whom he was furious with for the pitch that went up and in on Betts
Righty Nathan Eovaldi will try to build on his magnificent first start for the Red Sox (seven shutout innings) when he faces the Yankees in the third game of this four-game rivalry showdown on Saturday at Fenway Park. Eovaldi, who pitched for the Yankees in 2015-16, faced them once when he was with the Rays earlier this season, allowing eight hits and five runs in 7 1/3 innings in a loss on June 15. For the Yankees, right-hander Chance Adams will be making his Major League debut. First pitch is scheduled for 4:05 p.m. ET.
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.