Red Sox Notes: Blake Swihart Earns Rick Porcello’s Praise Behind Plate

BOSTON — You could say the Red Sox’s 2-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday was a big win.

Maybe it won’t mean much in the grand scheme of things. And maybe it’ll be forgotten by most before long. But the Red Sox needed something positive after dropping four straight and losing their left fielder, Hanley Ramirez, in Monday’s defeat, and Rick Porcello stepped up for Boston in the face of adversity.

This isn’t to suggest Porcello suddenly should be referred to as Boston’s “ace.” That term needs to go away — like, now — because there are so few aces across all of Major League Baseball. But he sure looks like Boston’s stopper and de facto No. 1 starter at the moment.

Let’s dive into some notes from Tuesday’s skid-snapping win.

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— Porcello, who tossed seven shutout innings, has allowed only one run over his last two starts, a span of 14 frames. He has earned the win in each of Boston’s last two victories.

“I just want to go out there and win,” Porcello said. “That’s all I really think about — executing pitches and trying to get us W’s.”

Porcello’s performance and emphasis on compiling victories certainly is refreshing for a team in search of a staff leader.

— While Porcello is the one who tosses the win on his résumé, catcher Blake Swihart earned plenty of praise from his battery mate.

“We talked a lot. He did a great job back there,” Porcello said. “I had not thrown to him once. I didn’t even throw a bullpen to him in spring training. So we definitely talked a lot about our game plan and what we wanted to do to guys. He really did an outstanding job, especially not catching me before.

“Hats off to him.”

— The win was really special for Swihart because it marked his first as a major league catcher.

Swihart, who was called up when Ryan Hanigan went down with a fractured hand, lost his first two big league starts Saturday and Sunday. Sandy Leon started Monday’s game, which the Red Sox also lost.

“First one, after the game I was stressed out just because I wanted it so bad, and that is what it’s all about here is winning,” Swihart said. “I almost took it like it was my fault because I was back there catching because I want to do everything we can to win.”

— Mookie Betts provided all of the offense. The 22-year-old crushed two solo homers — one in the sixth inning and one in the eighth — for the first multihomer game of his young career.

Betts had hit a rough patch after his highlight-filled start to the season. He looks to be on the right track now, though, which could be a huge development for the Red Sox’s offense.

“It’s different because, I’m not saying that there’s not guys on the mound in the minors that aren’t good, but you just have the best here (in the majors),” Betts said of his early season adjustments. “And it’s hard competing against the best every night and you might not be feeling that great, but being (Dustin) Pedroia’s locker mate, he’s taught me a lot and always being positive and confident in your ability and just going out and not caring who’s throwing.”

— Tuesday marked the first time in 75 years that the Red Sox won a 2-0 game in which the only runs came from a pair of solo homers by the same player.

It last occurred June 23, 1940, when Jim Tabor spanked two homers against the Cleveland Indians.

— Alexi Ogando worked a 1-2-3 eighth inning. The 31-year-old has had some hiccups along the way this season — all four runs he’s allowed have been on home runs by New York Yankees outfielder Chris Young — but his skill set still makes him a potentially dangerous late-inning weapon for the Red Sox.

“The power to his fastball, the lateness to his slider,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “He gave us a big inning, particularly where we were in the lineup. Rick had done his job, but Alexi, you know you’re going to get strikes from him and usually above-average velocity, which he’s been doing.”

— Koji Uehara’s 52nd save as a member of the Red Sox moved him into sole possession of 10th place on Boston’s all-time saves list.

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

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