BOSTON — The Red Sox needed a quality start from Rick Porcello on Wednesday night against the Toronto Blue Jays after Boston’s bullpen was forced into extra work in two of the previous three games.

Porcello responded with his best outing of the season.

He pitched seven innings, giving up one earned run, two hits, two walks and striking out six on 99 pitches. He had retired 13 straight batters entering the seventh inning.

“He gave us exactly what we needed,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “Went seven strong innings, turns it over to the bullpen with (Junichi Tazawa) and (Koji Uehara) doing their jobs. But as much as we talk about starters setting the tone, Rick did that tonight.”

Porcello got into a bases loaded jam in the second inning, but he only surrendered one run and avoided the big inning that has plagued Sox starters this season. In the bottom of the third, Boston scored three runs, two of which came on Hanley Ramirez’s 10th home run of the season. Porcello came out for the top of the fourth and produced a shutdown inning on just nine pitches, something Clay Buchholz wasn’t able to do Tuesday night.

“A quick inning and getting back in the dugout is huge to keep the momentum and keep our offense on their pitcher,” Porcello said. “That’s kind of one of those things where you know we just scored some runs and you want to throw up zeros. You don’t want to think too much about it, but it’s an important part of the game. We were able to do that (Wednesday night).”

Another positive from Porcello’s start was his pitch location. He was able to hit all areas of the strike zone and use his breaking ball to keep hitters off balance.

“He got a number of outs with his fastball,” Farrell said. “He made some hitters uncomfortable in the box. Had a very good curveball tonight. Was in command. He dictated to the hitters what he would hope to do and kind of the game plan flowed off of that.”

Red Sox starters entered Wednesday night with a 6.05 earned run average and a .260 batting average against, which rank 30th and 16th, respectively, among all major league clubs. Porcello’s outing was a good bounce back for him after giving up eight runs over five innings in his last start. Now it’s Justin Masterson’s turn to take another step forward Friday night against the New York Yankees.

“I think we’re all going out there trying to pitch our game,” Porcello said. “For me, I want to go out there and pitch deep in the game and be consistent.

“You got to take it one game at a time. Obviously, we’ve had some struggles. Those are behind us. We need to get better and get better fast. Hopefully, (Wednesday) was a step in the right direction and we can build some momentum off of it.”

Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images