It’s the start of the season, so it’s easy to read too much into what you see. At the same time, it’s foolish to underestimate the importance of each game, particularly against a tough division rival.
After a hobbled start to the season thanks to Mother Nature, the Red Sox headed north on Friday to Toronto for guaranteed playing time under the dome. That was the good news. The bad was the reality of playing the offensive powerhouse that is the Blue Jays.
Here this afternoon, with an assured series win after decisive victories on Friday and Saturday, you’d be forgiven for wondering what was the worry after all?
Friday Night Lights
Diehard fans understand this best. You stick by your team even when things are rough, even when victory seems unlikely, if not impossible. And then, sometimes, you’re rewarded handsomely for your loyalty. Friday night was one of those times.
The game had disaster written all over it with the Sox down 7-2 in the 4th inning after Joe Kelly imploded, allowing three straight singles and a hit batsman before a mammoth grand slam blast off the bat of Josh Donaldson.
But the Sox bounced back with a line drive grand slam of their own by Brock Holt and a three-hit performance by Xander Bogaerts. It was the first time the Sox and their opponent had a grand slam in the same game since June 26, 2001 against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
The Red Sox bullpen, already clearly critical to the club’s success, combined for 6.0 innings allowing two hits but no runs and just one walk. When the smoke cleared, the Sox had managed an 8-7 win over the Jays.
Overcoming a 5-run deficit is no small matter, particularly for the Red Sox, who never came back from being down more than four runs all of last season. Elias Sports Bureau noted that Friday’s was the 170th Red Sox victory in a game in which they had trailed by five-or-more runs, the most such wins by any American League franchise.
Saturday in the park
Rick Porcello, he who allowed the most home runs of the 2015 Sox pitching staff (25), opened his season Saturday and, true to form, promptly allowed twin, two-run home runs by Jose Bautista. It was Bautista’s 29th career multi-home run game, Porcello’s 32nd game to allow multiple home runs, including nine of his 28 appearances for the Sox in 2015.
But these are not your 2015 Sox. As they did Friday, Boston battled back with doubles by Bogaerts, Dustin Pedroia, and Travis Shaw and a triple by Hanley Ramirez, each play resulting in the Red Sox scoring.
To his credit, Porcello settled down and managed to collect the win after going 6.0 innings, allowing seven hits and four runs, with seven strikeouts and a walk. The six Porcello innings gave the Sox bullpen some relief of its own, with the manager using just Koji Uehara for an inning and Robbie Ross for two with neither pitcher allowed a hit or a walk.
After the game Manager John Farrell acknowledged the relief crew, but also the significance of the starter’s six innings of work.
“We’re leaning on our guys in the bullpen,” Farrell said, “and they’re doing an outstanding job.” Despite that strong performance, however, “we have to be realistic about how many times we can go to that group,” Farrell said. On Porcello, the manager said “he did bend, but he did not break,” noting that after settling in, Porcello went long enough so as to limit taxing the bullpen further.
The Red Sox go for the series sweep on Sunday.