'What we learned': Red Sox’ 9-4 win over Rays
BOSTON - Three things we learned from the Red Sox' 9-4 win over the Tampa Bay Rays. . .
1) The Red Sox always seem to score a lot of runs in support of Rick Porcello. Maybe that's not an accident
Run support is sometimes a hard thing to figure. Every year, it seems, some good starting pitcher is deprived of solid backing from his teammates and his won-loss record reflects that.
But the Sox have averaged a little under eight runs for Porcello in his starts this season and John Farrell suggested there might be a link.
"I truly believe that our (hitters) feel relaxed, confident...however you want to describe it,'' said the manager, "knowing that Rick's on the mound. And whether that allows us to go out and have more quality at-bats and maybe not press to get something done, knowing that Rick is going to keep us in the ballgame and likely (limit the opposition) to low runs.''
That support has helped Porcello win 18 of his first 21 decisions. But Porcello has had a hand in that, too, with an ERA in the low-to-mid 3's much of the season, and especially in the second half, the ability to routinely take the Red Sox deep into games.
He's pitched at least seven innings in each of last seven outings.
2) Games like Monday are precisely the kind of games the Red Sox need at this point of the season
Of course, a team in a playoff race will take any sort of victory it can - low-scoring, high-scoring, whatever it takes.
But the formula last night was virtually fool-proof:
Score early: check
Score often: check
Build a big lead and don't play from behind: check
Have your starter go deep enough that you're not taxing your bullpen: check
Provide plenty of cushion for your relievers: check.
The Sox got contributions from nearly everyone in the lineup. Five different players had multi-hit games. Every starter but one (Xander Bogaerts) had at least one hit. Five different hitters knocked in runs, with four collecting multiple RBI.
As for the pitching Porcello survived a rocky third inning in which he gave back the two runs the Sox scored for him, but then allowed just one run -- and, in fact, one baserunner -- in his final four innings of work.
3) Blowout games provide an opportunity to do some experimenting with the relievers
Leading 9-3 after seven, and with Porcello at 102 pitches after needing a career-high 123 the last time out, it was time to go to the bullpen.
Clay Buchholz, who is transitioning back to a relief role after three spot starts, got the eighth inning and though he loaded the bases and gave up a run, there was enough margin for error on the scoreboard that it didn't matter.
But if the Sox are sometimes going to turn to Buchholz in the eighth in a high-leverage spot, this was something of a dress rehearsal for those nights.
Finally, in the ninth, Farrell turned to Fernando Abad, to get him some work in order to rebuild his confidence. Abad has now made four straight scoreless appearances, totaling five innings.
It would help if Abad regained his footing and the Sox could turn to him as their top lefty late in games. Outings like last night help build to that point.