It took a few innings, but the Red Sox were able to string some hits together and help out Drew Pomeranz. The Red Sox starter had a rough first inning and was up-and-down all day, but his team still pulled out the win.
As I alluded to, things got off to a rocky start for Pomeranz, although it wasn’t entirely his fault. He immediately allowed two batters to start the game, both on walks. To be fair, both walks involved some close calls on pitches that could’ve gone either way. While it didn’t stay quite like this all day, the umpire had something of a small zone to start the game. With Steven Souza and Kevin Kiermaier on base, Pomeranz got his first strikeout of the day against Evan Longoria.
After that, Brad Miller hit a fly ball to left-center field, and Andrew Benintendi drifted out towards the ball. Except, he couldn’t make the play. It’s hard to be sure, but he looked like he both took a bad route to the ball and then wasn’t sure where the wall was. Whatever the reason, it should’ve been caught and was a play in which the Red Sox missed Jackie Bradley. Miller got a triple on the play, and the Rays put two on the board. In the next at bat, Pomeranz threw a pitch down and in against Rickie Weeks. Rather than putting his body in front of it, Christian Vazquez made an uncharacteristic mistake and just stabbed at it with his glove. That did not work as the ball got by him and Miller came in to score the Rays’ third run of the game. Pomeranz would allow one more base runner in the inning, but also struck out two more.
The Red Sox would come right back in the bottom half of the inning against Rays starter Alex Cobb. After Dustin Pedroia grounded out to start the frame, Andrew Benintendi came back with a double and Boston had something cookin’. Mookie Betts didn’t let it go to waste, hitting a pop up to right field down the line that would take a bounce into the seats for an RBI ground-rule double. After a Hanley Ramirez single moved Betts over to third, Mitch Moreland came through with a single through the shift and all of a sudden the Red Sox were within one. Unfortunately, Xander Bogaerts would follow that up with a double play to the shortstop and the inning was over with a 3-2 score.
From there, things started to settle down. Pomeranz sent down all three batters he faced by way of the K (I miss Don Orsillo), giving him six strikeouts through two innings. In other words, he was on a 27-strikeout pace. The Red Sox got one on in the bottom half of the inning on a single from Vazquez, but couldn’t get anything going.
To start the third, Pomeranz would get one more strikeout to give him seven overall and five in a row. That was it for strikeouts in the inning, but he still got the Rays to go down in a relatively easy 1-2-3 inning. In the bottom half of the inning, the Red Sox once again got a base runner on a single — this time from Betts — but still only had three batters come to the plate after the outfielder was picked off at first base.
It was the fourth inning when the action started to pick up once again. Pomeranz got yet another strikeout to start the inning, but then he left a fastball over the heart of the plate to Corey Dickerson, and the former Rockie smashed one to straightaway center that landed in the first row of the seats and extending the Rays lead to two. To me, it looked like a flyout off the bat, but Pomeranz looked as if he knew it was gone off the bat so maybe I just need to eat more carrots. The southpaw would get two more strikeouts to end the inning.
In the bottom half of the frame, the Red Sox were looking to get something going to get out of the hole and make sure Tampa couldn’t run away with this game. With one out, Bogaerts got things started with a double down the third base line before Pablo Sandoval came through with a big home run to the Monster seats to tie the game. It was the third baseman’s third homer of the year, and it was a big one. They’d get two more on with back-to-back singles after the dinger, but neither Pedroia nor Benintendi could come through with a hit to knock them in, keeping the score tied after four.
The tie game wouldn’t last long, as Tim Beckham led off the next inning by taking a Pomeranz curveball and putting it into the batter’s eye in center field. It wasn’t a horrible pitch by Pomeranz, but it didn’t move enough and stayed just high enough for Beckham to square it up. After allowing a one-out single to Evan Longoria, the day was over for Pomeranz with 10 strikeouts in only 4 1⁄3 innings. It was a very, very strange outing. Joe Kelly came in to relieve him, and induced a double play to end the inning and keep the deficit to one.
The Red Sox were still trying to get something going against Cobb, and it looked like they may be able to do some damage in the bottom of the fifth. With one out, Ramirez hit an absolute rocket to left field for a single, and Moreland drew a walk to put two on with one out for Bogaerts. Once again, though, the shortstop hit a rally-killing double play to end the inning.
After Kelly did his job for two more innings and only allowed one base runner, the Red Sox found themselves in the bottom of the seventh still trailing by one. At this point, Danny Farquhar was in for the Rays for his second inning of work. He got a quick first out on Pedroia with a deep fly ball, but then allowed singles to both Benintendi and Betts along with a walk to Ramirez and just like that the bases were loaded for Moreland. With left Xavier Cedeno now in the game, the first baseman came through with a huge hit to the opposite field, scoring Betts and Benintendi and giving Boston the one-run lead. Unfortunately, Ramirez also hurt himself rounding second base and had to leave the game. Good things cannot happen on their own, apparently.
That was all the damage that would be done in the inning, with Bogaerts and Sandoval both lining out and both being casualties of fine defense by Tampa’s outfield. So, we headed to the bottom of the eighth with Matt Barnes taking the hill. He immediately gave up a single to Kiermaier, who then stole second base to put a runner in scoring position with nobody out. On replay, it looked like Pedroia may have gotten his leg before he touched the bag, but John Farrell decided against challenging it. Barnes started to storm back after that, though, getting both Longoria and Miller to chase breaking balls in the dirt for strike three. After walking Logan Morrison to put runners on first and second, Barnes’ day was done. Robby Scott would be called up to get the final out against Dickerson and did so by inducing a pop up.
The Red Sox got an insurance run in the top of the ninth on an RBI double from Vazquez, who has been on fire at the plate. That gave Craig Kimbrel a two-run lead to work with in the ninth. He got out number one with a little assistance from his catcher, who made a catch leaping into the netting behind home plate. From there, the closer took matters into his own hand striking out the next two batters and taking shutting the door for another save.
Overall, it was a very positive day for the Red Sox, although it didn’t start that way. Pomeranz had that rough first inning that wasn’t entirely his fault, and showed off both his best and worst qualities throughout his start. Kelly, Scott and Kimbrel were great out of the bullpen, and Barnes was mostly fine. The offense let some big opportunities go early, but came through with some big hits late. Vazquez was the star of this game, and he just looks unstoppable right now. Who knows how long this will last, but it’s fun to watch in the meantime.
- Ramirez appears to have avoided anything serious, with the injury being called a hamstring cramp and he is reportedly day-to-day.
- Farrell picked up his 500th win as a manager in this game.
- Betts once again did not strikeout in this game, pushing his streak to 119 plate appearances.