Red Sox: If Buchholz Prevails, Porcello Gets A Rematch
It’s gut-check time for the Boston Red Sox. If they win Game 3 of the ALDS vs. the Cleveland Indians, Rick Porcello will try to redeem himself in Game 4.
If needed, the official Red Sox website has Game 4 featuring Game 1’s pitching matchup of Trevor Bauer for Cleveland against Porcello. That’s a big if, judging by how the first two games have gone in this playoff series.
However, it’s not as big a stretch to see the Red Sox tying the series up and heading back to Cleveland for a Game 5 rubber match. The rubber boots and the tarp that had to cover Boston’s cathedral of baseball were possible signs of that miracle. By the raining falling from the heavens yesterday, Clay Buchholz‘s first playoff game since 2013 was postponed to tonight. Not only do the Red Sox seem to save their best performances for night games in Fenway Park, the rain also saved Buchholz from the distractions.
Much of the media was reporting about the fact that Tom Brady, the beloved football quarterback of the New England Patriots, was returning from his suspension to play the Cleveland Browns in Cleveland. The NFL game was to take place just before the Red Sox playoff game in Boston, splitting Bostonians’ attentions on a day that Buchholz would have to concentrate more than ever. With much of his game being a mental one, Buchholz could ill-afford any distraction, let alone a monumental one to the fans, who would be buzzing to talk to each other about Brady’s prodigal return.
The other saving grace is the fact that Porcello, a 2016 Cy Young Award candidate, would have another opportunity to show why he won 22 regular season games and was considered one of the best comeback stories of the year.
The chances that Porcello redeems himself to the good graces of Red Sox Nation are pretty high. When reflecting back on Game 1, Porcello did get hit around Cleveland’s field, but only for a bit. It was enough to lose the game, killing any momentum that the Red Sox would have in the game; however, most of the damage came in one bad frame: the bottom of the third inning.
The Red Sox actually had the lead after the first inning, 1-0. Porcello, after hitting leadoff man Carlos Santana with the second pitch of the game, struck out the next three batters on only 11 pitches. The Indians scored in the second inning off of a double and a single, but the side was quickly retired after that, by some stellar defense. The same defense that will be behind Buchholz tonight. Three bad pitch placements in the third inning was all that it took for Cleveland to take a 4-2 lead, but it’s not like it was some insurmountable lead, especially against the Red Sox, the MLB leaders in offense for the year.
Porcello’s fourth and fifth frames were also not the disaster people may remember, either. The fourth inning was a quick one, retiring the side in order. The fifth inning saw a run recorded on Porcello’s final line only because Drew Pomeranz, who came in relief, had some troubles of his own and couldn’t keep Porcello’s last base runner from being cashed into home plate.
Each time Cleveland scored, Boston did respond with a score of its own; it just wasn’t enough to dig Porcello out of the hole. Yet, the hole itself was not as deep as some dejected fans have felt that it was. Cleveland only had three runners in scoring position the entire game, leaving five men on base. The Red Sox had nine runners in scoring position, but they could only cash in two of them, the same as their opponents.
The Red Sox left six men on base, suggesting that the timely hitting that the team had in the same situations in the regular season was the real let-down. Boston hit .283 with runners in scoring position, ranking them second in the major leagues while scoring the most runs in that category: 639.
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The heart of Cleveland’s order did get some hits, but most of the damage was done by Jason Kipnis, going 3-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored from his solo home run. The three home runs in the third inning can be prevented, if Porcello learned from his mistakes well enough to pitch better in Game 4. That is, if there’s going to be a Game 4. If Buchholz can keep himself in check mentally, the Red Sox bats will have to feel it in their guts that it’s their turn to step up to the plate and help the team. If that happens, Porcello will have the chance to do what he’s done all year: win baseball games.