Momentum over after another ugly one from Rick Porcello
Six batters into Saturday afternoon’s game, a pair of struggling veterans opposed one another.
Rick Porcello, the 2016 Cy Young winner who entered 0-2 with a 13.50 ERA, had loaded the bases with two outs. He was facing Chris Davis, the former MLB home run champion and, in that moment, owner of an 0-for-54 hitless streak dating to last season. Something had to give.
Unfortunately for the host Red Sox, it was Porcello, who presented a four-seam fastball belt high to Davis, who singled to right to score two runs. And though the Red Sox remained within striking distance until their relief pitching fell apart in the sixth inning, it was the beginning of a 9-5 defeat to the Baltimore Orioles and a failure to build on the momentum of Friday’s win.
“I’m battling right now,” said Porcello, now 0-3 with an 11.12 ERA. “I’m definitely not where I want to be, so I’ve got to keep working and get there and get there quick. I can’t keep going out there and rolling these starts out like this.”
Porcello struggled with command and didn’t make it out of the fifth inning, but it was relief pitcher Colten Brewer who gave up four runs in the sixth.
Brewer faced five batters and did not record an out, giving up two walks and three singles. He was done after a two-run single by Rio Ruiz, though the second run might not have scored without questionable defensive decision making.
Xander Bogaerts and Dustin Pedroia were playing the shift, which allowed Ruiz’s grounder to sneak between them into right field. There, J.D. Martinez made an ill-advised decision to throw to third base, where he had little chance of recording an out. Both manager Alex Cora and Bogaerts said that, because the shift was on and they were playing for a double play, both infielders had to react instantly. There wasn’t much that could have been done differently.
“If we were playing back, I would have had it,” Bogaerts said.
“As an infielder, you can’t just wait for the other guy,” Cora said. “You just react to the ball. He got a good jump, Xander, and it was a tough hop for him. It just went through.”
While it was Brewer who fell off the tightrope, Porcello never looked on solid ground. He loaded the bases again in the second inning and had runners on first and third in the fourth, but both times got out unscathed.
He left the game after allowing back-to-back singles to start the fifth, and was charged for 6 hits, 3 earned runs, and 5 walks on 90 pitches, 48 of them strikes.
Porcello, who had particular trouble locating his secondary pitches, said he’s struggling with command in part because he’s rushing his delivery.
“Sometimes your body just gets caught in a pattern and you have to fight through that,” he said.
Davis drove in another run in the fifth, one of two Baltimore runs in the seventh, and finished 3 for 5 with four RBIs. Those final two runs were aided by errors from first baseman Steve Pearce and reliever Marcus Walden on an overall sloppy day.
The bulk of the Red Sox offense came from catcher Christian Vasquez, who finished with a career high four RBIs. He sent a 3-and-1 pitch from Baltimore starter Andrew Cashner (3-1) off the light tower above the Green Monster in the third inning, then added a two-run double off the Wall in the seventh.
“Bottom line, I’m just frustrated we lost today,” Vasquez said.
The only other Red Sox run came inconveniently, when Andrew Benintendi scored on Mitch Moreland’s 4-6-3 double play in the sixth. Boston (5-10) mustered just three hits against Cashner in the first five. For a while, it seemed the Red Sox’ entire lineup might be outhit by Davis alone.
The Red Sox have two more home games against the Orioles before a series in New York against the Yankees. They’re still hoping that better starting pitching will spark a turnaround.
They didn’t get that Saturday, though it was far from the only problem.