This one felt good for most of the day. With the Red Sox in need of a long and strong outing from Drew Pomeranz, the lefty came through with exactly that. He got into a little bit of trouble on a couple of occasions, but always came through with the pitch he needed in the face of a rally. The offense certainly wasn’t great, though, and they still need to be more consistently threatening if this team is going to get where they want to be. On the plus side from the offensive side of things, Rafael Devers went deep for the first time at Fenway and both Hanley Ramirez and Mitch Moreland came through with a couple of hits each.
Then, the bullpen happened. Specifically, Matt Barnes happened. I’ll get into the specifics below, but it’s hard to say the righty was quite as bad as his line made him out to be. The Royals just happened to reach on a bunch of grounders and that got him into quick trouble. On the other hand, there were situations when Barnes really needed a strikeout and he just couldn’t get it.
Either way, the Red Sox fumbled their chance to finally get a series win and do so against one of the hottest teams in baseball. Instead, they enter the trade deadline with a reminder that they could probably use some help on this roster, whether that be in the bullpen, the lineup or both.
Pomeranz coming through with a good start was undoubtedly big for the Red Sox, and it was even better that he was able to do so in a relatively efficient fashion. Boston has obviously burned through a lot of pitchers on late, and in particular was taxed on Saturday when Eduardo Rodriguez only made it through four innings and the game ended up going into extras. To make matters even worse, they are sending Doug Fister to the mound on Monday so there appears to be a decent chance they’ll need to dive into the ‘pen early once again. Efficiency hasn’t been the name of Pomeranz’ game all year — though he did have a nice stretch in that department leading up to the All-Star Game — so there was no guarantee they’d get this today. Instead, the southpaw pitched extremely well and kept his pitch count down in the process.
The first three innings were relatively breezy for Pomeranz as he saw very little trouble from the Royals offense. He did allow a couple of hits in that span, but they were in different innings. Only one runner got as far as second base, and no one advanced beyond that.
When he got into the fourth, the Royals started to figure Pomeranz out a bit. At this point he was pitching with a 2-0 lead, and he started that frame out by allowing consecutive singles. As he’s been able to do all year, he came through with the pitches he needed after getting into trouble, immediately following those singles with a double play ball to third base. Alcides Escobar did come through with an RBI double before Pomeranz escaped the inning, but things could have been much worse without the big ground ball.
The fifth also started with a single against Pomeranz, but once again he came through with a double play ball and managed to get out of the inning facing the minimum. The sixth also looked like it would give the Red Sox some trouble when Lorenzo Cain started things off with a triple off the wall in center field on a ball that Jackie Bradley almost caught with another absurd grab. Like clockwork, though, Pomeranz made the necessary pitches to get out of a jam and got a pop out, a strikeout and a line out to end the inning with Cain left at third base.
With just 92 pitches under his belt, Pomeranz came back out for the seventh and got two quick outs. After going up over 100 pitches and issuing his first walk of the game, he was lifted in favor of Brandon Workman. The righty did allow a double to put two men in scoring position with a 3-1 lead, but then came through with a massive strikeout to end the inning.
On offense, the lineup did generate a little bit of action, but as it’s been so often this year they could have and should have done more. Going up against Jason Hammel and coming off a big night on Saturday, it seemed like the lineup had a chance to really get some momentum with a big game. Instead, they singled their way to a mediocre day.
After a quiet first inning, they really got going in the second with a series of singles. Hanley Ramirez led things off with a base knock, and after the first out of the inning Xander Bogaerts, Moreland and Christian Vazquez hit three consecutive singles to give the Red Sox a 2-0 lead. They could have had more, but Devers ended the inning with a double play.
Boston would strand a runner at second base in each of the next two innings, but then Devers made up for his double play in the fifth with his team up 2-1. Leading off the inning, the rookie got a fastball up around the letters off the outside part of the plate and he smoked it out to left field. It wasn’t a majestic home run, but it just barely got over the top of the Monster for Devers’ first home run at Fenway. It also gave Boston a nice insurance run.
Now, we fast-forward the the top half of the eighth with the 3-1 lead still standing for the Red Sox. After Workman’s strong end to the seventh, John Farrell turned to Matt Barnes with the two-run lead. Things did not go well. He started off by inducing a ground ball to shortstop from Cain, but Bogaerts mishandled the transfer and allowed the leadoff batter to reach on an error. In the next at bat, Eric Hosmer laced a grounder back up the middle and it deflected off Barnes for an infield single. That was followed by another single and just like that the Royals had the bases loaded with nobody out. Barnes couldn’t pull off a Pomeranz impression by getting big outs and instead allowed yet another ground ball single to score two runs and tie the game. That would be the end of the day for Barnes, who allowed four runs without recording an out. His line was worse than his performance, as Hosmer’s grounder was the only one that was really hit well. Still, it was by no means a good day for the righty.
Next in line out of the ‘pen was Robby Scott, and he came in and immediately allowed a triple to Alex Gordon to score two more runs, both of which were charged to Barnes. Scott did get a strikeout and a ground out to record two quick outs after that while holding the runner on third. Heath Hembree would come on for the last out and the Red Sox entered the bottom of the eighth suddenly trailing 5-3.
Betts did lead that inning off with an infield single (that probably could have reasonably been ruled an error), but that was all the Red Sox would get there. Hembree came back out for a 1-2-3 ninth, giving Boston one more shot.
They certainly had their shot, too, as Boston made it very interesting in the ninth. Bradley led things off with a walk, and after Bogaerts flew out and Moreland struck out, Vazquez came through with a single. A double steal put both runners in scoring position for Devers, and the rookie drew a walk to load the bases for Betts. It would have been a perfect time for the outfielder to break out of his slump, but instead he hit a weak pop up to center field to end the game.
This was not a pretty game for the Red Sox. They just haven’t been able to put away series of late, and in this case they weren’t able to put away the game. If anything, this was just more evidence that they could use another bullpen arm. Barnes is a fine pitcher who has a role on this team, but he’s miscast as the number one option behind Craig Kimbrel. The bullpen will get the bulk of the headlines here, and it’s deserved. However, Bogaerts’ error loomed large in that inning and the overall performance from the offense needs to be better, too. The Red Sox will try to get this bad taste out of their mouth on Monday with Doug Fister on the mound against the Indians.