ARLINGTON, Texas – Mookie Betts hit his MLB-best 13th homer and Rick Porcello struck out eight in six innings while matching the AL lead with his fifth victory to help the Boston Red Sox beat the Texas Rangers, 5-1, on Friday night.
Rafael Devers hit two of the four solo homers off 44-year-old right-hander Bartolo Colon (1-1). J.D. Martinez also went deep for the Red Sox, whose 23-9 record is the best in the majors.
Betts homered for the fifth time in three games, putting Boston up 3-1 with his leadoff shot in the sixth. He has gone deep in each of the first two games at Texas after his three-homer game Wednesday at Fenway Park against Kansas City.
Nomar Mazara homered in his fourth consecutive game for Texas, a career-best streak for the 23-year-old slugger who has seven homers this season. That was the lone run, and one of only three hits off Porcello (5-0) in his six innings. Mazara also had a double.
After winning his first four starts, Porcello was coming off consecutive no-decisions in which he went at least seven innings both times. He won each of his first five starts in 2016 on way to 22 wins and the AL Cy Young Award.
Colon struck out four without a walk in seven innings with the only runs coming on the four homers. He threw 91 pitches, with only 22 balls while facing 26 batters.
The portly right-hander, who turns 45 on May 24, has 241 career wins, two short of matching Juan Marichal for the most by a pitcher born in the Dominican Republic.
Martinez led off the second with a towering flyball that ricocheted off the top of the 14-foot wall in left and into the seats. Devers broke a 1-1 tie leading off the fifth, and homered again in the seventh.
Runs for Rick
The Red Sox have won 26 consecutive games when scoring at least three runs for Porcello, a streak that dates back to 2016. In his last 37 starts receiving that much run support, Porcello is 31-0; the Red Sox are 36-1.
Red Sox: INF Brock Holt (left hamstring) will remain with the team through the weekend before a short rehab stint. He has been on the disabled list since April 27.
Rangers: 2B Rougned Odor, out since April 10 because of a left hamstring, is set to start a rehab assignment Saturday at Double-A Frisco. He will be the DH in his first game for the RoughRiders.
A fresh start for Rangers lefty Cole Hamels (1-4), who had four losses by the end of April for the first time in his career. The Red Sox counter in the third game of the four-game series with lefty Eduardo Rodriguez (3-0), who is expected to return from the family medical leave list without missing a start.
After opening the season with three consecutive historically bad starts, Perez found his groove Sunday. He worked out of two major jams and gave up only two runs in six innings during a 7-4 win over Seattle at Globe Life Park.
Perez even had a perfect inning for the first time this season.
“Sometimes in a year, there are good things coming,” Perez said. “That’s what happened.”
Perez began play with a 13.14 ERA, the sixth-worst since 1900 through three starts. Manager Jeff Banister insisted Perez was not pitching for his spot, but the Rangers’ rotation is about to get over-crowded with Doug Fister’s expected return from the disabled list Wednesday.
Another poor start probably would have sparked internal conversation about Perez’s future. That subject has been tabled.
“We’re always looking to put our best out there,” Banister said. “Martin’s one of our best. … He’s got some equity with us.”
Perez made delivery changes that involved getting his hand out of the glove quicker and getting his hands higher above his head. That produced a more effective sinker and curveball.
The Mariners went 5 for 18 when putting the sinker in play, an improvement for Perez over the 14 for 36 teams had against him in his previous three starts. Perez also got three outs with the curveball, something he had not done this season.
The more significant point is that Perez did not let innings get out of hand as has happened to him before. He retired the side in order only once, in the first. There were chances to lose control.
In the second, the Mariners loaded the bases with none out and did not score. Perez got one out on a curveball and two on the sinker.
The Rangers went ahead 4-0 in the fourth on homers by Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo. Seattle responded in the fifth by cutting the lead in half and putting a runner at second with none out for the middle of the order.
Perez defused the inning by getting Robinson Cano to ground out on a sinker, Nelson Cruz to line a curveball to second baseman Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Kyle Seager to fly out on a sinker.
“I was aggressive,” Perez said. “When you have conviction, that’s what happens.”
There was something different to those innings.
When Perez got into trouble in the past, Banister or pitching coach Doug Brocail invariably made a mount visit in an attempt to get him back on track. They stayed in the dugout this time, a sign of faith in an embattled pitcher.
“I feel comfortable with how Martin has been coached,” Banister said. “There comes a time when these guys are on their own on the field.
“That’s the beauty of an experienced player. It wasn’t like anything we felt like he was doing incorrectly. Talk about body language. He was still in command. We felt it was a situation that he was in charge of what he needed to do.”
Perez said being able to concentrate on the task at hand was helpful.
“That was good,” Perez said. “You have to make adjustments by yourself. Back up and think and anticipate what you’re going to do. You have to make the pitches.”
Perez’s lead was in danger in two of the final three innings. Jake Diekman got the Rangers out of the toughest spot by stopping the Mariners after they had come within 5-4 and had the bases loaded with one out in the seventh.
“Don’t let anyone score,” Diekman said. “That’s basically it.”
Martin Perez earned the win but appreciated the help.
Jake Diekman received a hold, preserved save opportunity, for his work in the Rangers’ win against Seattle on Sunday. A look at how Diekman compares to other set-up relievers for success rate in holds and saves combined since opening day 2016: