For the third straight game, Mookie Betts was absent from the lineup with the word from the Red Sox being that he'll miss two more games as a precaution. I'm hoping that they're just being overly cautious and that it's not something more serious because losing him for any extended time would be a huge blow to the team. I was able to tune into the game about halfway through after getting back home from my oldest daughter's game. With the always tough Blue Jays at Fenway Park for two more games, I was hoping the Sox could take one more in order to win the series. As if hearing my thoughts, they didn't disappoint.
Rick Porcello got the start for the Sox and he was very good, pitching 6.2 strong innings. He struck out five against two walks and gave up five hits and three runs (two of them earned). He did give up a home run, something he's had trouble with over the last few seasons, but in all it was a solid effort as he ran his record to 7-2 and his ERA to 3.65. Given his rather poor previous starts in the last week or two, this was a welcome sight. It was the offensive explosion in this game, though, that paced the Sox and propelled them to the win. Mitch Moreland got things started in the bottom of the first with an RBI double; this was promptly followed by JD Martinez driving Moreland in with an RBI double of his own. In keeping with the theme, Andrew Benintendi continued to stay red hot with an RBI double in the second to make it 3-0 Boston. Porcello gave up the aforementioned homer to Justin Smoak in the fourth, but the Sox got that run back in the bottom of the inning when Jackie Bradley hit an RBI single. Bradley's emergence from his slump is so nice to see and a reminder than baseball is a long season with peaks and valleys, some more pronounced than others. For everyone who wanted to give up on him a few weeks ago, I hope there's been a change of heart, however slight. Sandy Leon chipped in with an RBI single in the sixth and also smacked a two-run homer via a line drive in the eighth, while Xander Bogaerts added a solo shot of his own in the bottom of the seventh. Those eight runs were all the Sox were need...even two runs given up due to a Porcello throwing error in the seventh didn't hurt. The Sox won by the same score as the previous night, 8-3, although it got a bit hairy in the top of the ninth when Hector Velazquez let the Jays load the bases with no outs. That was a shame as the Sox had warmed Kimbrel up in the eighth before sitting him down after Leon hit his home run. With Velazquez getting into that jam, the Sox needed Kimbrel to bail them out and he promptly retired the side without allowing any runs to score, earning his 17th save of the season in the process.
With the win, the Sox take yet another series with the chance to sweep. Lately, they've had trouble closing out a series with a sweep so it'll be interesting to see how they fare with Eduardo Rodriguez on the mound in the finale (which is a rare midweek day game). Boston also looked well on their way to adding a game to their division lead last night with the Yankees down 5-3 to the Astros in the ninth inning, but unfortunately New York came back to win and keep the division lead at two games. It's a tough situation for Red Sox fans to be in with a four game series against Houston coming up next: would we rather have the Astros help us out by beating the Yankees, or have the Yankees help us out by beating up on the Astros? It's just another reminder that in sports, just as in life, you can only control what you can control, so it doesn't work to sweat what anyone else is doing.