When the game was getting started, it seemed like things were lining up for Drew Pomeranz, who really needed a strong start just in terms of public perception. Rain had been coming down in Boston for most of the day, but the team announced that Thursday’s game would start on time. That appeared to be the case right up until it was just about time for first pitch. After Pomeranz had already thrown his warmup pitches, everyone conferred and decided to delay the game shortly to let the current wave of rain pass.
The game would get started about a half-hour late and Pomeranz had to warm up twice. That didn’t have any sort of effect on the lefty, though, as he put together his best outing of the year. The two biggest criticisms of him have been the fact that he only throws two pitches and his inefficiency. To be clear, these were totally fair criticisms, but he addressed them in a big way in this start.
For one thing, he had all three pitches working. Pomeranz was commanding his fastball as well as he did all night long, setting up hitters for the offspeed stuff later in counts and even getting it up and by some hitters to finish off strikeouts when need be. The velocity wasn’t anything spectacular, but the command made it work.
The curveball was the money pitch to start the night. The first four strikeouts Pomeranz recorded were on the breaking ball, and while those were the only strikeouts he’d record with the pitch on the night (by my unofficial count) it was effective all night long. The star of the show, however, was his cutter. It’s been lacking in his repertoire in 2017 after contributing to his breakout in 2016, but he brought it back in this one. He saved it for later in the game, but once it came out it was here to stay. Four of his final seven strikeouts came on the pitch, including a couple of perfect backdoor varieties that just caught the corner of the plate.
Pomeranz started to run into a little trouble later in the game, but was able to avoid complete disaster. In the fourth, he made a mistake with one of those cutters, leaving one up in the zone to Elvis Andrus. The Rangers shortstop hit it on a line just over the top of the Monster to give Texas their first run off the Red Sox starter. The other run came in Pomeranz’ sixth and final inning, when he started to look a little gassed. Things started with a walk — his first and only of the outing — and then Delino DeShields was able to get to second on a botched pickoff attempt. Pomeranz took too long to get the ball to first and DeShields took off for second and used his plus speed to beat the throw from Moreland. That baserunning would pay off when Nomar Mazara singles to knock in the run.
Despite those two marks, it was a dominant night for Pomeranz. One start will not completely shut out the critics, but it’s certainly impossible not to be encouraged by the outing. In all, he threw six innings with fewer than 100 pitches in the process. He also struck out eleven batters while walking just one. If he can give the Red Sox more of that, he’s more than simply a fifth starter.
The offense, meanwhile, looked like it was going to explode early in the game. It was clear from the start that Rangers starter Nick Martinez had nothing early, and the Red Sox took advantage to an extent. They’d lead off the scoring in the first with a two-out rally that included two runs, three singles, a walk and two stolen bases. They could have scored more, but a 2-0 lead after one was good enough.
After only three came to the plate in the second inning, the Red Sox got back to it in the third. After Dustin Pedroia led things off with a walk, Xander Bogaerts finally got off the schnide. He took an inside fastball and hit it on a line into the Monster Seats for his first home run of the year. His teammates celebrated by giving him the silent treatment in the dugout.
After that, the bats started to go cold out of nowhere. They went down 1-2-3 in both the fourth and the fifth. In the sixth, with the Rangers bullpen now handling duties on the mound, Boston got their first two runners on before a double play and a strikeout killed a potential rally. They finally got going again when Deven Marrero — yes, Deven Marrero — hit a two-run home run in the eighth.
It was okay, though. Just like the offense had picked up the pitching in the first couple games of this series, the bullpen was here to take over for Pomeranz on Thursday. The seventh started with Heath Hembree, who got two strikeouts to start the frame before handing it off the Robby Scott, who finished it off with another strikeout. Matt Barnes handled a laborious 1-2-3 eighth before Craig Kimbrel came in to shut things down once again in the ninth with a four-strikeout inning.*
*I think it was a four strikeout inning. The first strikeout might be ruled a hit by pitch even though Nomar Mazara clearly swung and missed? I don’t know. You had to be there. Assuming they call it a strikeout, it was also the 20th strikeout for Red Sox pitchers on the night.
Unfortunately, there was a piece of bad news in this game as well. Before the sixth inning got underway, Pedroia was pulled and Josh Rutledge entered in his place. The team would later announce that Farrell pulled the second baseman for precautionary reasons after he felt soreness in his knee. As of this writing, that’s all we know.
As long as Pedroia isn’t seriously injured, this was an all-around positive night for the Red Sox. Pomeranz was lights out, the bullpen didn’t blink and even on a quiet night the offense did enough. That Bogaerts’ first home run came on Thursday also helped. Boston got a much-needed sweep and will look to carry the momentum into the weekend series against Seattle.