Por­cello pitches in

Starter’s re­bound ben­e­fits Sox

Boston Herald - - SPORTS - By JA­SON MASTRODONATO Twit­ter: @JMas­trodonato

ST. PETERS­BURG, Fla. — Rick Por­cello did not look like a pitcher who had a chance at be­com­ing just the sec­ond since 1980 to lose 20 games in a sea­son.

No, Por­cello looked much more like the Cy Young Award win­ner who went 22-4 a year ago.

Por­cello put on a clinic in last night’s 3-1 Red Sox win at Trop­i­cana Field, where he carved up the Tampa Bay Rays for 71⁄3 in­nings, al­low­ing just one un­earned run, which came in his fi­nal frame. The starter threw an ef­fi­cient 94 pitches (63 for strikes), then turned things over to the bullpen.

“Story of the game was Por­cello,” Rays man­ager Kevin Cash said. “Ob­vi­ously, he was pretty tough on us.”

Ad­di­son Reed and Craig Kim­brel (save No. 33) fin­ished up, as­sur­ing the first-place Sox would keep their three-game lead over the New York Yankees in the AL East.

Por­cello (10-17) was running out of time to prove wor­thy of mak­ing a post­sea­son start. Now, with two starts re­main­ing, he has a chance to fin­ish the sea­son with a dozen wins.

“When we score runs for him, he’s as good of a pitcher as we’ve seen all of last year,” man­ager John Far­rell said. “And I know the ERA is a lit­tle in­flated this year (4.46), but we score three or more runs for him and we’re in pretty good shape with him on the mound.”

The num­bers were all lop­sided head­ing into this start. Por­cello led the ma­jors in losses and had a chance to become the first pitcher since Mike Maroth, for the Detroit Tigers in 2003, to lose 20 games. He led the ma­jors in home runs al­lowed (35) but rarely gave up hard con­tact in this one. He led the ma­jors in hits al­lowed (220) but gave up just five to Tampa Bay.

And this start was against a Rays team that knocked Chris Sale around for four runs the pre­vi­ous night in the se­ries opener, when the Sox needed 15 in­nings to score a 13-6 vic­tory.

This was not the same Por­cello who took the mound against the Rays at Fen­way Park last Sun­day, the one who gave up only two runs in five in­nings but in­spired such lit­tle con­fi­dence that Far­rell yanked him be­fore the sixth. This time, Por­cello was much more ef­fi­cient, and he didn’t walk a bat­ter un­til the eighth in­ning.

“My last start, I needed to be bet­ter,” Por­cello said. “I hit a wall, and I didn’t have enough of a mix to keep them off-bal­ance. They were pretty much on to me.

“The fo­cus tonight was to change eye lev­els, use the break­ing ball more be­low the zone and ex­pand to use their ag­gres­sive­ness to our ad­van­tage and try not to get into these mid­count foul-ball bat­tles by el­e­vat­ing fast­balls.”

It was in­ter­est­ing to note, how­ever, that as dom­i­nant as Por­cello was in this start, as soon as he ran into some trou­ble in the eighth with the Red Sox up three runs, giv­ing up a dou­ble to Adeiny Hechavar­ria and walk­ing Mallex Smith, Far­rell gave him the hook.

Reed came on and in­duced a grounder, but first base­man Mitch More­land threw a ball into Smith’s back at sec­ond base, the er­ror al­low­ing Hechavar­ria to score an un­earned run.

“That’s why he’s here,” Far­rell said of Reed. “And there’s been a cou­ple hic­cups along the way, but I like the way his ball cuts and a slider, can in­duce some soft con­tact on the ground with late­ness to the slider. That was a spot for him.”

Mookie Betts has been any­thing but hot, en­ter­ing the mid­dle game of the se­ries with a .239 av­er­age and .738 OPS since the start of Au­gust.

And when Tampa Bay starter Alex Cobb tried go­ing in­side on Betts in his first plate ap­pear­ance in the sec­ond in­ning, he took the first pitch for a strike. But not the sec­ond one. This in­side of­fer­ing was sent a over the left field wall for a home run, a no-doubter for his 22nd of the sea­son.

It was Betts again who stepped up in the sixth in­ning, driv­ing in a run with a sin­gle and then scor­ing when Rafael Dev­ers cranked a dou­ble.

AP PHOTOS

GOOD START: Rick Por­cello pats catcher Chris­tian Vazquez on the back af­ter be­ing taken out by John Far­rell in the eighth in­ning of last night’s Red Sox win against the Rays.

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