Game 91: Red Sox at Kansas City Royals (July 8, 2018)

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This beautiful Sunday afternoon, it was all about sitting on the couch watching the Sox after a busy morning of playing in the yard with the kids and running errands (and sneaking out on a date lunch!) with my wife. With Rick Porcello on the mound, I was fully expecting the Sox to sweep the Royals before heading home to Fenway Park. However, the Royals have been a lot peskier this season than their record would suggest; this is a team that won back to back pennants in 2014 and 2015, winning the latter World Series in the process. Still, with as good as the Red Sox are I was looking for a victory as well as a shutdown performance from Porcello.

Unlike the previous game, the Sox got on the board first in this one when Steve Pearce drove Mookie in with a sacrifice fly in the top of the third inning. Shockingly, Kansas City got that run back and more in the bottom of the third when Jorge Bonafacio doubled to drive in two. Porcello looked good but not great at this point and didn't seem to have his best stuff, but he powered through. Eduardo Nunez tied the game in the fourth with an RBI single to drive in Xander Bogaerts, but once again KC went up in the bottom of the inning when Adalberto Mondesi singled to push Alex Gordon across. Porcello kept grinding which would eventually pay off as the Sox went up for good in the fifth. First, Mitch Moreland drew a walk with the bases loaded and then Xander drove Andrew Benintendi in with a sacrifice fly. Even though the Sox had the bases loaded with one out and only managed to plate two runs, they'd finally taken the lead by more than one. Moreland helped add to it with an RBI single in the seventh; Xander answered as well with a two-RBI double and Eduardo Nunez finished off the scoring for Boston by knocking Moreland in. The Sox were up 7-3 and seemingly in great shape. Porcello got into a big jam in the seventh, allowing runners to get to second and third with no outs. Alex Cora was all set to bring Heath Hembree in, but upon reaching the mound Porcello shook him off and insisted on staying. Having already thrown close to 100 pitches, it was a gutsy move and he made the manager's faith in him pay off. He got two huge strikeouts followed by an inning-ending flyout to center field to strand those two runners and escape unharmed. That scrappy bulldog mentality is one of the things I love about Porcello and stands in stark contrast to the way David Price comports himself in those situations. The final twist in this game was when Tyler Thornburg made his second-ever appearance for the Sox in the bottom of the ninth. I have to say, I wasn't impressed at all. I realize he's coming back from major arm surgery and that this was only his second appearance at the major league level since 2016, but his stuff didn't look good out there and he got hit and hit hard. After giving up a couple of hits and a run of an RBI single from Whit Merrifield (who had a terrific 5-5 day), Cora had to bring in Kimbrel to preserve the win. Craig earned his 27th save of the season by allowing one hit and striking out two. With that, the Sox swept their second consecutive series and finished this grueling road trip at a sparkling 7-2.

What else can I say about Porcello? On a day where he wasn't at his top notch best, he still went seven strong innings and struck out nine batters against only one walk. He gave up three runs on nine hits and earned his 11th win the hard way, by grinding it out over 111 pitches and using his guile as much as his stuff. Every Boston hitter except for Sandy Leon had at least one hit and Andrew Benintendi ran his streak of getting on base to ten at bats over the last two games before finally striking out in his last plate appearance of the day. Even so, he went 4-5 in this one and scored two runs. Another weird thing about this game was that the Sox outhit the Royals 14-12 and didn't hit a single home run, but the 7-4 score wasn't really indicative of how close this game wasn't once Boston took the lead for good. I will tip my cap to Kansas City, though...even in the midst of a miserable season, they were scrappy and tough and made the Sox work for these three wins. Now Boston gets to head home to play three against the last place Texas Rangers followed by four against the fourth place Blue Jays before getting some rest at the All Star Break. I'd love to see their lead over the Yankees grow before then...there's still work to be done!