It’s hard not to feel like the Red Sox are in a really bad position after the first game of the ALDS against the Astros. Of course, it’s just one loss and while winning three of the next four against this incredibly talented Houston team is going to be tough, it’s far from impossible. Still, with the amount of things that went wrong in Game One — Eduardo Nuñez’ injury, Chris Sale’s performance, John Farrell’s awful managing, the offense disappearing for seven of the nine innings, etc — it certainly felt like it was more than a simple loss. It felt like a nail in the coffin, and it’s hard to avoid that feeling even when I know it’s probably an overreaction.
The real result of this game is that they have turned Game Two into something close to a must-win. Again, it’s not over until the Astros have won three games and the 2004 Red Sox taught us that any lead is insurmountable, but it sure would be nice if the Red Sox could get a win on Friday to tie this thing up as they head back to Fenway. The good news on that front is that they have Drew Pomeranz on the mound as they try to pick up this all-important victory. Not only is that a good thing because he’s been so good at pitching baseballs this year, but he’s also made a habit out of proving us wrong all year long. Why should he stop now?
While Sale was certainly the most important player on this Red Sox team and the biggest reason they won the division in the first place, Pomeranz was arguably second on that list. The lefty was outstanding over 32 starts in 2017, pitching to a 3.32 ERA (the second consecutive year in which he finished with that exact ERA, oddly enough). His peripherals came close to matching that, too, as he finished with a 3.81 FIP and a 3.86 DRA. If the overall numbers aren’t impressive enough, there was a remarkable run of consistency from June through the end of the year, with just a random blip here and there.
The numbers aren’t even as impressive as his ability to go against the grain and surprise us at every turn. Just the other day, I was looking back at a bold(ish) predictions column I did before the season, and one of them was that Pomeranz would simply stay in the rotation all year. Think about that. The perception around Pomeranz was so low at the time that it seemed bold(ish) to think he wouldn’t be moved to the bullpen. He wasn’t great all year, either. Things got off to a rocky start, and the low point came on May 20. The lefty would only allow two runs (one earned) in that start, but he also only made it through four innings. When he was pulled, he and John Farrell had an argument in the dugout for all to see. It seemed like it could only go downhill. Instead, he finally found some efficiency for the rest of the year and pitched to a 2.85 ERA from that point forward. Then there was his last start of the year, when it seemed as if Pomeranz was tiring and the Red Sox needed a big start from their lefty, he came through.
They’ll need him to do it again on Friday. Luckily, there are some signs that he can do it again. If he’s using all of his pitches -- particularly if his fastball velocity remains down as it did for so much of the stretch run — he’ll be in good shape. If he’s able to command the edges of the strike zone and keep his efficiency while avoiding the big hits, he’ll be elite. Pomeranz has had success against the Astros in his career, including two big starts this year. Houston’s lineup is good enough that no amount of past success will make anyone completely comfortable, especially after watching what they did on Thursday. Everything seems to be set against the Red Sox right now. Fortunately, they have Drew Pomeranz on the mound as they look to bounce back and win this series, and he’s made a nasty habit of bucking trends and surprising all year long. Why would he stop now?