On Thursday night, Hanley Ramirez took a Red Sox team that was on the verge of losing three straight at a crucial time and capped off a huge ninth-inning comeback against the Yankees to get them back headed in the right direction. Three days later, he finished the job, blasting two huge homers to help the Sox complete their sweep of the Yankees and leaving them three up on the Orioles and four on the Jays with the season entering the final two weeks.
What’s crazy about this sweep is that, aside from Saturday’s game, the Red Sox have mostly had to play from behind. Unfortunately for the rotation, Sunday was no different. For the second straight start, Drew Pomeranz proved unimpressive. Brett Gardner got the Yankees on the board in the first, with Didi Gregorius producing a two-out single to turn Gardner’s leadoff double into a run. Then, after a 1-2-3 second and two quick outs in the third, Gary Sanchez homered to make it 2-0. Pomeranz returned for the fourth, but proceeded to load the bases with no outs on two hits and a walk, with two of those baserunners scoring before Heath Hembree could end the inning.
In fairness to Pomeranz, it wasn’t all bad tonight. He did have his swing-and-miss stuff, Gary Sanchez seems guaranteed to hit homers off of just about anyone, and at the end of the day it wouldn’t have taken much going differently to see him into the fifth with only a couple earned runs. But there’s reason to be concerned at this point that Pomeranz is wearing down as he traverses unexplored territory in terms of innings. The Sox rotation seemed to be in great shape a couple weeks ago. Now the arms after Price and Porcello up top (in any order) seem far less certain.
As the rotation has stumbled, though, the once disastrous bullpen has stepped up in impressive fashion. Today was another great example of that. Hembree pitched through the end of the fifth after finishing off the fourth, then handed the ball off to Junichi Tazawa, who turned in a clean sixth. Bradd Ziegler, Robby Scott, and Joe Kelly all turned in strong work, leaving the Yankees looking at the same four runs they had after four. That’s hardly the result you hope for when you chase a starter so early, but it’s all the Sox have allowed of late even when things go horribly awry for the rotation.
And when the bullpen has given the Sox the opportunity to win, they’ve started jumping on it. More specifically, in this series, Hanley Ramirez has jumped on it. Trailing 4-0 in the fifth with Bryan Holaday and Xander Bogaerts on base, Hanley jumped on a 3-1 slider from CC Sabathia and rocketed it into and out of the Monster seats, cutting New York’s lead to one with one big swing.
Unfortunately, Ramirez can’t bat every inning, so the guys after him had to step up in the sixth. Travis Shaw, Aaron Hill, and Jackie Bradley Jr. all singled to start the inning, scoring the tying run and putting the Red Sox in great position to take the lead, particularly with David Ortiz coming in to pinch hit. But Ortiz went down on just three pitches from Blake Parker, Dustin Pedroia grounded out, and Xander Bogaerts whiffed on a splitter to end the threat.
But if Hanley couldn’t bat in the sixth, he was due up in the seventh. And sure enough, this time on a changeup, Hanley Ramirez once again absolutely destroyed a baseball. High and deep to left, up over everything, gone into the Boston night, and taking the tie with it.
With the bullpen holding strong, the Sox got into the ninth, where Koji Uehara had to take the mound with Kimbrel unavailable. Brett Gardner gave him some trouble, hitting a line drive to right, but for the second time on the night, Mookie Betts got on his horse, chased the ball down, and made a spectacular diving catch to rob the Yankees of a hit. Austin Romine went down easily enough on strikes, leaving Uehara with none other than Gary Sanchez. Uehara wanted no part of him early, but gave in on a 2-0 pitch and was lucky to see it simply lined into left for a single. But after Sanchez, the dropoff to Mark Teixeira was dramatic. The first baseman popped out to Jackie Bradley Jr. in center, and the sweep was complete.