Three things we learned from Red Sox' 7-3 win over Rays
1) A year ago, lots of strikeouts weren't a good sign for Rick Porcello. But it's different this season
Last year, Porcello's strikeout totals were higher than normal in the first month. He struck out nearly a batter per innings (29 in 32 innings). But that was the result of trying to become more of a power pitcher up in the strike zone, attempting to throw his four-seamer past hitters.
Eventually, that approach caught up to Porcello and by early July, his ERA was at 6.08.
In the final two months of 2015, Porcello went back to throwing his two-seam fastball and saw much improved results. This year, through three starts, it's been more of the same.
More than half of the pitches he threw Wednesday night were two-seamers, but he still registered nine strikeouts over seven innings.
This season, he's getting swings-and-misses down in the zone with his sinker and his changeup. And he isn't trying to be something he's not.
"I'm getting good results with my weapons,'' said Porcello, "and doing what I know how to do in a comfortable fashion. It's definitely a good sign. I'm not trying to get the strikeouts. If we get to two strikes, we're taking our shots. But I'm just really trying to execute pitches.''
"I think he figured some things out late in spring training,'' added John Farrell, "from an arm-slot standpoint. He's been much more consistent down in the strike zone. You look at the strikeout totals and it's not the high four-seam fastballs that he was going to. THat has been more location and the changeup.''
2) As good as he was in 2015, Mookie Betts experienced some inconsistency. This year, he's trying to make sure the slumps don't last quite as long
Betts was just 6-for-30 coming into Wednesday, but broke out some with a two-run homer, a single and, importantly, two walks.
Manager John Farrell had seen him expanding the strike zone some, and not getting on base.
But that changed Wednesday, right from the first at-bat when he drew only his second walk in 60 plate appearances this season.
"Maybe just getting on base gave him a chance to exhale a little bit,'' said Farrell of the first-inning walk, "given when he's gone through of late. Even when he's squared some balls up, he hasn't had much to show for it. But in the second at-bat, he got a fastball over the middle of the plate and really squared it up very well. He really settled in and let the game unfold for him.''
What Betts is really trying to do is minimize his downturns. Wednesday night looked like the first step toward achieving that.
"That two month span I went through last year was tough,'' said Betts, "so I'm trying to really condense it down. When the little valleys do happen, I'm trying to minimize them as fast as possible.''
3) Xander Bogaerts came out of the game with a tight left quad, but it doesn't appear serious
Bogaerts, who had two hits -- snapped an 0-for-14 funk -- and twice scored from first base on doubles by David Ortiz.
On the first one, he felt the quad grab a bit; on the second one, it tightened up again, and the Sox decided to do the prudent thing and remove him from the game.
"If I feel the same way I feel right now,'' said Bogaerts, "and John wants to put me in the lineup, I'll definitely be ready to go. It was a really cold night and I never really felt loose, I guess, rounding the bases.''
"It was more precautionary than anything,'' said Farrell. "We're hopeful he'll be good to go tomorrow. We'll go through a number of tests when he reports.''