When the chance came for Mookie Betts to put his struggles behind him Friday, he didn't miss.
Now his team, the Boston Red Sox, must follow suit.
Fresh off a rare series-opening victory, the Red Sox will look to make it two straight against the first-place Tampa Bay Rays in the second contest of their three-game set Saturday at St. Petersburg, Fla.
Powered by back-to-back, eighth-inning home runs by Betts and Mitch Moreland to pull away from a 4-4 tie Friday, Boston won 6-4, its second triumph in a series opener in seven tries this season. Saturday represents a chance for the Red Sox to pick up their first series win of the season.
"We know where we are in the standings," Boston manager Alex Cora said. "But it's more about that we have two shots to win the series. Step by step. Let's not get ahead of ourselves. But we have a chance to win the series. That feels good."
For Boston, the key is Betts, the reigning American League MVP. After calling his play "unacceptable" earlier this week as he hovered around the Mendoza Line, Betts broke out of a seven-game stretch without an extra-base hit by doubling in addition to his homer Friday.
"I think everybody in here, except for maybe him, knows it's coming," Moreland said of a Betts hot streak. "Nobody in here is as worried about him as he is. He's the best player in the game in our eyes. It's only a matter of time before he gets it rolling."
Though it seemed as if the weight of the world were on Betts, he wasn't alone in burying Boston in the cellar of the American League East. Porcello has also been a source of disappointment, giving up 19 runs (14 earned) on 22 hits and 12 walks in 11 1/3 innings across his first three starts this season.
Saturday, however, could be a turning point for Porcello, who has more career wins (14) against the Rays than against any other major league team. He is 14-10 with a 3.42 ERA in 28 starts vs. Tampa Bay.
Porcello has pitched even better at Tropicana Field, where he is 8-5 with a 2.86 ERA in 15 starts.
Morton, meanwhile, will look to continue his strong start to the season for his new team. In four starts with Tampa Bay, he has allowed no more than two runs, though walks (10 in 20 2/3 innings) have been a problem.
Last time out, Morton gave up one run on four hits and three walks against the Toronto Blue Jays. His control issues cost him a win as he was pulled after throwing only 53 of his 92 pitches for strikes in 4 2/3 innings during a game the Rays won 8-4.
Though the Friday loss was just the Rays' third in their past 11 games, they know opening the door for the Red Sox in the division is a bad idea.
"We've done a good job finding ways to win series," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "We still want to put ourselves in position, and the only way we can do that is come out and play good and win (Saturday)."
--Field Level Media