ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- First impressions from the Red Sox' 8-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays:
Rick Porcello gave the Red Sox everything they needed - except for that fourth inning.
On the current road trip, the Red Sox starters had been knocked around regularly, getting knocked out of the box early. The bullpen was overworked and the offense demoralized from being down early, night after night.
Beyond allowing a two-out double to Evan Longoria, Porcello pitched a virtually incident-free first inning and really wasn't pressured through the first three innings.
In the fourth, his command essentially disappeared, as he issued three walks, the last of which came with the bases loaded, forcing in a run. But with the bases loaded and just one out, Porcello toughened, retiring Logan Forsythe on a flyout to shallow right, then slipping a called third strike past Brad Miller.
The inning took its toll as far as elevating Porcello's pitch count, with 39 pitches needed. That eventually cost him an inning, but he got through six frames and allowed just one run.
All things considered, it was one of the most important starts of the season for a Red Sox pitcher.
Even on nights when he's not contributing at the plate, Bryce Brentz helps out with his glove.
Brentz has been a nice surprise at the plate since being called up last week when the Red Sox ran out of left fielders, with seven hits in his first four games.
On Tuesday, he was hitless with three stirkeouts, but he made a terrific sliding catch in the sixth, coming on to make a sliding grab on a sinking liner from Nick Franklin.
Brentz has always been well thought of as a defender in the outfield with a strong arm, and for past week, he's shown that with a number of fine plays in left.
There was an obvious sense of urgency to the Red Sox
You could sense it as Hanley Ramirez scored from first on a double by Jackie Bradley Jr. in the fifth. Or the hustle shown by Bradley in the seventh, going first-to-home with a slide to score on a double by Travis Shaw.
You could see it -- and hear it -- when Porcello pitched out of his bases-loaded, one-out jam in the fourth. Porcello let loose with a primal scream as he got Brad Miller on a called third strike, stranding three baserunners.
It's hard to label a game in late June as a "must win'' but given how the first four games of this road trip have played out, this was close. And the Red Sox responded.