'What we learned': Red Sox' 8-2 win over Rays
ST. PETERSBURG, FL. -- Three things we learned from the Boston Red Sox' 8-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays. . .
1) Rick Porcello wouldn't give in when it meant the most
Porcello ordinarily displays great control. Before Tuesday night, he had gone 19 straight starts without issuing more than two walks in a game.
But in the fourth inning Tuesday, for reasons neither Porcello himself nor manager John Farrell could quite explain, he lost command, walking three of the first four Rays hitters he faced, the last of which forced in a run.
He had the bases loaded and no out before righting himself with two strikeouts sandwiched around a shallow flyout to right.
It could have been the kind of inning that saw things roll downhill quickly for the Red Sox. But Porcello remained resolute.
"Even when he lost the strike zone,'' recounted John Farrell, "he didn't give in. He didn't make a mistake on the plate where it might have cost him multiple runs on a base hit. He made big pitches when he had to.''
It took 39 pitches to get out of the jam, but given what was at stake, it was entirely worth it.
2) Travis Shaw needed his big night
Shaw was benched Monday night in the series opener. He hadn't hit a homer in the month of June. And in his previous 27 games, he had knocked in just four runs.
But Shaw broke out with three hits and five RBI, powering the Red Sox' 11-hit attack as the lineup looked a bit more like it had in April and May, when things were going far better.
Shaw had just one hit in 12 at-bats in the series at Texas last weekend, though he was feeling better about his swing. He just wasn't getting rewarded.
That changed Tuesday with a solo homer off Chris Archer in the second. That run gave the Red Sox the first run of the game, a big marker for a team so accustomed to playing from behind of late.
Later, he had two more hits -- both off lefites, against whom he had struggled mightily -- and knocked in four more runs.
"My confidence hadn't really swayed,'' said Shaw, "but it's nice to have some results.''
3) The middle of the order was re-awakened
Since the offense began to cool off in the last two weeks, it's been rare for the Red Sox to get contributions from the meat of the batting order.
That changed in a big way Tuesday. Mookie Betts hit the ball hard to the warning track, though he had just one hit. Dustin Pedroia reached three times, but had just one hit.
But the foursome of David Ortiz, Hanley Ramirez, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Travis Shaw combined to go 9-for-16 with four walks and eight RBI.
It's especially necessary for the big boppers in the middle of the order to produce now that the Sox are dealing with injuries and a depleted bottom third of the order.
Indeed, with Xander Bogaerts sitting in favor of Marco Hernandez, Bryce Brentz filling it in left and Christian Vazquez scuffling at the plate, the bottom third of the order was hitless in 13 at-bats.
That didn't matter much, however, as the Big 4 on this night took care of the offensive fireworks.