Rick Porcello still searching for answers and results
BALTIMORE — This can’t happen during this next stretch of upcoming games for the Red Sox. It particularly can’t happen after Sunday’s 5-0 loss to the Baltimore Orioles.
Rick Porcello escaped Saturday night’s game with a win, thanks to a 17-run, 17-hit barrage. But for him, individually, it was anything but productive. Porcello went five innings and gave up six runs while also allowing two home runs.
This has become a trend of late for the Sox righthander. In his last five starts, he’s posted a 3-1 record, but has allowed 41 hits, 27 earned runs, and six home runs, with a 10.57 ERA over that stretch of 23 innings.
“Trust me, I want the results more than anybody,” Porcello said after Saturday’s 17-6 victory over the Orioles at Camden Yards. “They’re just not coming right now.”
Frankly, results haven’t been there for the Red Sox pitching staff as a whole. But Porcello’s struggles of late are significant.
“It’s one of those [things] where they score big and he settles down,” said manager Alex Cora prior to Sunday’s setback. “We have to find it. One thing about Rick is that he doesn’t stop. He keeps working at it and has the same demeanor in between starts. We feel the stuff is pretty similar to what he had last year.”
Cora added that Porcello has had issues avoiding the big inning. Had it not been for the team’s offensive thumping of the Orioles, Porcello’s underwhelming start would have almost certainly resulted in another loss.
Porcello hasn’t been a power pitcher since coming over to the Red Sox in 2015 as he’s implemented a two-seamer into his arsenal more. But many of his pitches aren’t competitive and the velocity isn’t there, mostly registering in the high 80s on both his two-seam and four-seam fastballs. Even on pitches out of the zone, hitters have managed to put a barrel on it. Teams have put together a 75.2 percent contact percentage on balls not within the strike zone. It’s the highest such clip of his career.
“We’ll keep talking to him and looking for answers,” Cora said. “We need him.”
Mitch Moreland doesn’t have a hit in any of his four rehab assignment games so far. But Cora doesn’t see it as an issue.
“He has at-bats,” Cora said. “That’s the most important thing. Track pitches, see the ball. You see a lot of guys that go 0 for 20 down there and come up here and start raking. The quality of at-bats are important and so far he’s faced a lot of lefties.”
Cora noted that he spoke with Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski and the two are in the process of devising a plan for Moreland’s return. If he needs more time, they will give it to him. If not, Cora said he could join the team for their next series against the Tampa Bay Rays. Michael Chavis, who left the game with back spasms Saturday, said he’s uncertain if he’ll be able to play Monday against Tampa, which, according to Cora, made Moreland’s return a necessity.
Andrew Benintendi was a huge part of what the Red Sox accomplished last season. This year, though, it’s been a grind — for the left fielder and the team. He was given some mental rest just recently to find his swing again and appeared to have come out of his lull just ahead of the All-Star break against Detroit.
But once again, Benintendi is back into another funk. He was 0 for 3 Sunday and was hitless in the two games he played against the Orioles. Cora wanted to be smart about giving his guys some rest because of the heat during this series, so some players — such as Mookie Betts on Friday — were given days off from playing in the field.
However, in an effort to keep Christian Vazquez’s bat in the lineup for the series opener in Baltimore, Betts led off as the designated hitter, J.D. Martinez played right field and hit cleanup, and Sandy Leon was behind the plate. With Orioles lefthander John Means on the mound, Cora elected to sit Benintendi for the righthanded-hitting Sam Travis, who played in left.
After Sunday’s game, Benintendi was 1 for his last 12 and batting .261.
“If you look, there are a lot of strikeouts,” Cora said, referring to the 94 strikeouts by Benintendi, who had 106 all last season. “That’s something that wasn’t on the radar. He’s still walking. It seems like he’s not going straight to the ball. He hasn’t been able to hit the ball to opposite field a lot.
“He’s hitting a lot of empty fly balls, too. Early in the season he was down in the zone chasing, now he’s up. We just have to stick with him,’’ Cora added. “He’s been frustrated. You see it. He’s been working hard for the whole season trying to get it, but it hasn’t happened.”
The game-time temperature at first pitch was 96 degrees. Just one degree “cooler” than Saturday evening. Translation: it was really hot this entire weekend, and there was no escape.
But if the Red Sox had any fun or positive vibes it might be their beach-themed attire Sunday afternoon. Each of the players dressed in their best beach attire after the game and wore it on their flight to Tampa, Fla.
Jackie Bradley Jr. didn’t waste any time getting into the spirit as he came to the ballpark decked out in flip-flops, a gray tank-top, and swimming trunks. Betts changed into his beach clothes after the game, and, of course, it was all Nike Jordan brand.