Red Sox

Rick Porcello's three-run double lifts Red Sox over Nationals, 4-3

Rick Porcello's three-run double lifts Red Sox over Nationals, 4-3

WASHINGTON -- Just stepping into the batter's box to face good friend and former teammate Max Scherzer was a special occasion for Rick Porcello.

A career American League pitcher with 35 plate appearances on his resume going up against a three-time Cy Young Award-winner had mismatch written all over it. Instead, Porcello hit a three-run double off Scherzer that set the stage for the Boston Red Sox beating the Washington Nationals 4-3 in the opener of their three-game interleague series Monday night.

"I got lucky," Porcello said. "He got to the top of his windup and I told myself, `Start swinging.' Then I hit it."

Porcello's first major league extra-base hit came in the second inning on an 0-2 pitch after the Nationals intentionally walked Jackie Bradley Jr. to pitch to him. His .156 batting average and limited hitting experience made it appear to be the right calculation, but Porcello drove Scherzer's 96 mph fastball over the head of Juan Soto in left center for his first RBIs since 2009.

"You don't hit for an entire year," said Porcello, who came in with five hits and two RBIs in his career. "You don't even know what it's going to look like once you step in there. I was thinking swing the bat and be competitive up there. You just never know what's going to happen because you don't do it very often."

Scherzer and Porcello were teammates for five seasons with the Detroit Tigers and are still close. Because of that, Scherzer wasn't surprised by Porcello's hitting stroke.

"I know he can hit," Scherzer said. "Give him a couple sliders to keep him off balance and then was trying to get a fastball up and away and it ran back middle-in. Anybody can hit middle-in. He can do that. I've seen him do it."

On the mound, Porcello (10-3) struck out five and limited the damage to solo home runs by Anthony Rendon and Daniel Murphy. Scherzer (10-5) struck out nine and kept the Red Sox off the board except for Porcello's bases-clearing double and became the 11th pitcher to reach 1,000 strikeouts with two different teams.

When Scherzer exited the game after 108 pitches, Mookie Betts provided the Red Sox with their insurance run with a solo shot off Brandon Kintzler in the seventh, his 21st home run of the season. Bryce Harper hit his 21st in the eighth, but Boston's bullpen held on to hand the Nationals their 16th loss in 24 one-run games.

"Go out there and try to win ballgames and they all feel the same to me," Harper said as Washington fell to 42-41, seven games back of NL East-leading Atlanta. "I mean we lose the game, you're a loser. Win the game, you're a winner."

Craig Kimbrel got into some trouble but picked up four outs for his 25th save in 27 chances.

FIRST-BASE HARPER?

Harper is doing just fine in center field but on Monday fielded some grounders at first base. It's just experimental for now but could help the Nationals out down the line.

"I don't ever know if he'll ever start a game there, but I believe that if we're in a pinch and we've got to make some kind of decisions in-game, he probably could play there," manager Davey Martinez said.

PUERTO RICO PRIDE

Martinez and Red Sox manager Alex Cora were never on the same team but knew each other well from their playing days. They exchanged lineup cards as two managers of Puerto Rican descent in the series opener, a special moment and occasion for them and their country.

"It's good for Puerto Rico," Martinez said. "We feel blessed and we're happy we got the opportunity to do what we do."

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: RHP Steven Wright (left knee inflammation) received a PRP (platelet-rich plasma) injection, a day after throwing a short bullpen session. Cora said Wright could return before the All-Star break. . 2B Dustin Pedroia (left knee inflammation) will remain in New York all week. . Cora said RHP Tyler Thornburg (shoulder surgery) will most likely be activated from the disabled list during this series.

Nationals: 1B Ryan Zimmerman (right oblique strain) took part in a simulated game as he prepares to try to play in a game for the first time since May. ... Martinez said C Matt Wieters (left hamstring strain) will go on a minor-league rehab assignment Tuesday at Double-A Harrisburg after reporting significant progress in the simulated game and could be activated as soon as Wednesday.

UP NEXT

Boston LHP Brian Johnson (1-2, 4.28 ERA), who is 1-0 with a 3.18 ERA in three career interleague appearances, faces Washington for the first time. RHP Tanner Roark(3-9, 4.10 ERA) pitches for the Nationals in his first career start against the Red Sox.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Is there time for Red Sox to trade Mookie Betts before spring training?

Is there time for Red Sox to trade Mookie Betts before spring training?

February arrives this weekend, spring training begins in two weeks, and Mookie Betts remains on the Red Sox roster.

This leads to an obvious question: with rumors swirling about interest from the Padres and Dodgers, is there still time for the Red Sox to swing a trade?

According to chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, the answer is yes.

"Sometimes the action happens early, some years it happens late," Bloom said recently. "Obviously, closer to spring training there are practical hurdles. You want to feel like you have time for the impact of anything to settle. But I've been around deals that happened very late and there's certainly still time. But I don't say that to indicate anything one way or the other, just to answer your question."

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It turns out that history is with him, though blockbuster trades this late in the offseason certainly aren't common.

Examine 20 years' worth of transactions and you'll find a handful of impact deals that occurred between Jan. 27 and Opening Day. Most don't involve the kind of money — $27 million — the Red Sox are trying to move with Betts, but it's worth noting how tricky they are to consummate this close to the start of the season.

Since 2000, five deals generally fit Boston's current parameters: trading an All-Star caliber player this close to the season, when most clubs have settled their budgets and rosters. (For the sake of this exercise, we're not including the monster free agent deals Manny Machado and Bryce Harper signed last February/March with the Padres and Phillies, respectively).

Two of the five deals don't realistically compare to Betts, though. On this date in 2006, the Red Sox acquired center fielder Coco Crisp from the Indians for a package that included top prospect Andy Marte and catcher Kelly Shoppach. Crisp was good, but not great, and the Red Sox acquired him while he still had arbitration eligibility remaining.

Likewise, the everything-must-go Marlins shipped All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto to the Phillies last Feb. 7 for a pair of prospects, a fringe big leaguer, and international bonus money. Realmuto had two years of team control remaining when the Phillies acquired him.

That leaves three deals involving players the caliber of Betts — trades of former MVPs Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez, as well as Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana.

Let's break down each to try gain some insight into what the Red Sox face.

Feb. 10, 2000: Mariners trade Ken Griffey Jr. to Reds

When owner John Henry told reporters in September that the team wanted to drop below the $208 million luxury tax threshold, he effectively put his next GM in a box, but it's nothing compared to the one Seattle's Pat Gillick found himself in during the winter of 1999-2000.

He entered that offseason knowing he needed to trade  the former MVP and all-around best player in baseball before his contract expired in a year, but Griffey's 10-5 rights meant he could dictate his destination, and he provided the M's with only four options: the Reds, Mets, Astros, and Braves.

Gillick negotiated all winter before finally striking the February deal that sent Griffey to his hometown Reds for a package that included future Gold Glover Mike Cameron and right-hander Brett Tomko.

Cameron ended up making as many All-Star games (1) as Griffey over the next four years, winning two Gold Gloves to Junior's zero. He also played an integral role in the 116-win behemoth of 2001, while Griffey never made the postseason over his nine years in Cincinnati.

Here's where the Betts comparison falters, though. Griffey arrived in Cincinnati at age 30, while Betts only just turned 27. Betts should be that much further from his decline, buying his next team some more leeway if it signs him to a long-term deal.

Feb. 16, 2004: Rangers trade Alex Rodriguez to Yankees

Red Sox fans need no reminder of how this deal went down.

Boston spent half of that offseason trying to acquire the defending MVP, striking a complicated deal involving Manny Ramirez, Nomar Garciaparra, Magglio Ordonez, and others. It would've pulled it off, too, except the MLBPA balked at Rodriguez reducing his salary.

So in swooped the Yankees at the 11th hour by dangling slugging infielder Alfonso Soriano, completing the trade that put Rodriguez in pinstripes and made him villain No. 1 in Boston for the next decade.

While Rodriguez imported more than his share of controversy to the Yankees clubhouse before retiring in disgrace, he also delivered, winning a pair of MVP awards and the only World Series title of his career in 2009.

If there's a tie to Betts, it's the idea that the Red Sox could move down the road with one club — let's say the Padres — before a division rival with massive resources springs into action, in this case the Dodgers.

Feb. 2, 2008: Twins trade Johan Santana to Mets

Sometimes, there are no right answers.

Take the 2008 trade that sent the two-time Cy Young Award winner to New York before he played out the final year and $13.25 million on his contract.

Minnesota's rookie GM, Bill Smith, knew he couldn't afford Santana long-term (sound familiar?), so he jettisoned him for a pile of prospects, virtually all of whom missed. The best player in the deal was outfielder Carlos Gomez, not that the Twins benefited; he didn't blossom into an All-Star and Gold Glover until 2013 with the Brewers.

Meanwhile, the Mets didn't receive an adequate return on their six-year, $137.5 million investment, either. Santana delivered three good-to-great seasons before injuries effectively ended his career in 2010.

The real what-if in this scenario is how different the deal would look if the Twins had traded Santana to a Red Sox team that boasted Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Justin Masterson, and Jed Lowrie in a loaded farm system.

It's a cautionary tale for Bloom as he evaluates competing prospect packages from the Padres and Dodgers, because making the right deal for the wrong players accomplishes nothing.

MLB Rumors: Red Sox' Mookie Betts trade talks with Padres at this sticking point

MLB Rumors: Red Sox' Mookie Betts trade talks with Padres at this sticking point

The Boston Red Sox are at a franchise-altering fork in the road.

The Red Sox reportedly are in negotiations with the San Diego Padres regarding a trade for star outfielder Mookie Betts, who becomes a free agent in 2021.

According to Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune, though, those negotiations have hit a snag.

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The Padres are willing to send outfielder Wil Myers, "two young major leaguers and at least one prospect" to the Red Sox in exchange for Betts, Acee reported Monday.

Betts is set to earn $27 million on the final year of his contract, however, so in return for taking on his contract, San Diego wants Boston to take on more of Myers' hefty deal, per Acee:

Myers is owed $61 million over the next three seasons, and the Red Sox are offering to assume about half that. Sources said the Padres would prefer to eat only about a quarter of the money owed Myers in order to take on Betts’ salary.

Acee also listed several major league-level players the Padres are willing to send to Boston, per his sources: outfielders Manuel Margot (a former Red Sox prospect) and Josh Naylor as well as starting pitchers Cal Quantrill and Joey Lucchesi.

A haul of Myers, Margot or Naylor, Quantrill or Lucchessi and a prospect would be a solid return for Betts. If the Red Sox are serious about getting under the $208 luxury tax threshold, though, they may need to keep negotiating.

As The Boston Globe's Alex Speier points out, Chaim Bloom and Co. would be able to get under the luxury tax if they assume about $30 million (half) of Myers' salary but would need to make additional moves if they take on any more of his remaining deal.

Boston reportedly is also discussing a Betts deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, so it has some leverage. But whether Betts is on the roster this spring may come down to the money.