Much of Rick Porcello’s success is rooted in the effectiveness of his sinker.
But his sinker wasn’t there Thursday night, and the results showed. The righty was hit all over the park en route to a 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.
And it wasn’t just his sinker that was underwhelming. He struggled to throw any of his pitches with tremendous command, and nothing he did seemed to fool Tampa hitters. In total, he lasted just 3 2/3 innings, allowing six runs (four earned) on eight hits with two walks, one hit batter and a pair of strikeouts.
“Lot of three-ball counts, one extra base hit, a lot of ground balls, soft contact, it happens. But he wasn’t efficient and we saw what happened,” Sox manager Alex Cora said following the game, as seen on NESN’s postgame coverage.
“We know they’re going to put the ball in play, besides that he knows that he has to work ahead in the count, (and) he didn’t,” Cora continued. “It was a tough one, but we’ll go back, like I always say, take a look at it, make some adjustments and he’ll be okay the next one.”
Given how Porcello has pitched this season, it’s probably safe to say Thursday’s outing was more the exception than the rule in the context of his 11 starts this season.
The reality, however, is it was just one of those nights where he didn’t have it. And with the Red Sox offense not exactly lighting the world on fire (Thursday or the whole series in general), Porcello dearly paid the price.
Still, three of his last four starts have been a little dicey, so Cora and his staff have some material to work with before the 29-year-old is on the mound again.
Here are some other notes from Red Sox-Rays:
— The Red Sox bullpen had a solid series against the Rays, not allowing a single run over the three-game set.
Whether it was the long guys such as Brian Johnson, or the higher leverage pitchers like Joe Kelly and Craig Kimbrel, all found a way to mitigate damage. In the first two contests of the series, the games were tight and the bullpen was called upon to give the offense an opportunity to work with peace of mind that a lead would be preserved. The relievers provided that.
On Thursday, the grouping of Johnson, Hector Velazquez and Steven Wright all held the Rays scoreless over the final 4 1/3 innings of the game.
— Sandy Leon caught two of the three games, and on top of having a better catcher’s ERA than primary starter Christian Vazquez this season, he also has been hitting the ball much better, especially lately.
In the month of May, Leon has posted a .320 average (8-for-25) with a .894 OPS. In that stretch he has one double, one homer, three RBIs, four walks and six strikeouts.
In Thursday’s loss, Leon was one of two hitters to a post a multi-hit game, smacking a pair of singles as he went 2-for-4.
— Mitch Moreland got an opportunity to start Thursday night, and though his bat was quiet most of the game, he ignited a ninth-inning rally with a monster solo home run to right field, his seventh of the season.
As well as Moreland has hit this season, he has struggled to find regular at-bats, but following the game, Cora indicated that he is going to find at-bats for the first baseman. Once upon a time, that meant benching Jackie Bradley Jr., moving Andrew Benintendi to center field and J.D. Martinez to left, then having Hanley Ramirez and Moreland DH/play first base.
But with Ramirez in the midst of a bad slump and Bradley finally finding his stroke at the plate, Ramirez presumably would be the one to get some time off to regroup, while Moreland would get some regular starts.
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