The last couple of games have been rough ones for the Red Sox offense, and despite the fact they were coming off a run of strong performances the little slump was enough to get just a little worried about the rest of this series in Tampa. Obviously, you can’t take too much from two bad games, but Boston’s lineup has had a tendency to fall asleep for days at a time throughout this season and it looked as if this could be another one of those runs.
On Friday night, they turned that trend around by beating up Rays starter Jake Odorizzi. This wasn’t just a one-sided effort from the offense, either, as they did it with small ball and the longball and got production from all areas of the lineup. In fact, Christian Vazquez was the only Red Sox hitter in this game without a hit or a walk.
Very early on, it kind of looked like it was going to be another rough one for the Red Sox lineup. They managed just one single in the first two innings and the first frame included the rare feat of striking out both Mookie Betts and Dustin Pedroia. Considering Odorizzi was able to do that, combined with what happened the last two days, was enough for some concern.
They put that concern to bed in the third, though, as Tzu-Wei Lin started a rally with yet another line-drive single. After a Deven Marrero bunt moved Lin into scoring position, the top three hitters in Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi and Dustin Pedroia went double, single, home run and just like that the Red Sox found themselves with a 4-0 lead. Pedroia’s dinger was his first in exactly two months and was a shot to left field.
You knew it, he knew it, everybody knew it. No. Doubt. #RedSox pic.twitter.com/wJUcu2V8Rd— Red Sox (@RedSox) July 8, 2017
That four-run third was the biggest inning of the day for the Red Sox, but they’d tack on a few more as the game went on. One came in the fourth when Jackie Bradley hit a leadoff solo shot out to left field. In the fifth, Odorizzi started to lose his control all at once and allowed a single followed by three consecutive walks to allow another. He was lifted for Chase Whitley, who allowed one of his three inherited runners to score. They’d grab one more on a solo shot from Hanley Ramirez.
In all, as I said, it was a well-balanced attack for the Red Sox. It has become clear that, in 2017, if this offense is going to work it is going to have to be a well-rounded effort. They no longer have that huge bat in the middle, and while they’ve gotten solid performances from a number of players this year they don’t have one dominant hitter. When the bottom-third gives a little something, it makes a world of difference for this group.
Drew Pomeranz, meanwhile, continued his fantastic run over the last couple of months with a six-inning, two-run performance. It was an overall strong night and he more than gave his team a chance to win, but it certainly wasn’t pretty all day long and he had some luck on his side. Or, more accurately, he had some bizarre Rays baserunning on his side.
That bit of hilariousness came in the bottom half of the second, when the game was still tied at zero. Over the first couple innings of this game, Pomeranz’ control was just a little bit off and he was slightly less efficient than he has been during this recent run. He certainly wasn’t bad by any means, and he showed off a huge fastball that he used to get plenty of swings and misses when he needed them.
However, he did get into a little bit of trouble in that second inning, starting things off with a walk to Wilson Ramos before giving up a double to Brad Miller to put two runners in scoring position. From there, he got a huge strikeout of Trevor Plouffe (on one of this big fastballs) before the weirdness started. Mallex Smith dropped a bunt down on the next play, and the only way I can describe what happened next is that the Rays forgot how to run the bases and all of a sudden the inning was over. You can watch it in all its glory here.
He’d get into some trouble later in the game, too, but only was taken advantage of in the fifth. The Rays scored twice in that inning, and they could have scored even more as they stranded two runners in scoring position to end that inning. That was a theme of the night for the Rays, as Pomeranz was able to get out of jam after jam thanks to help from his opponent, his defense and some great pitches when he needed them the most. This certainly wasn’t the cleanest start of this run by Pomeranz, but it was another strong one and he continues to look like the best non-Sale starter on the Red Sox.
After Pomeranz left, the Red Sox turned to Heath Hembree for the seventh and he simply didn’t have it going on in this one. The righty allowed a home run to Steven Souza, the first batter he faced, before allowing a double and a single. After getting a big strikeout of Logan Morrison to get the first out, John Farrell turned to Matt Barnes to escape the jam with a 7-3 lead in tact. It took just one pitch for Barnes to induce an inning-ending double play.
From there, Barnes came back out for a scoreless ninth before Craig Kimbrel came out in a blowout due to a lack of recent work. As one would expect, he had little trouble in the ninth to finish off the Red Sox victory.
It was a strong overall victory when the Red Sox needed it. They got good offense from all around their lineup that included the power that hasn’t been around for most of this season. Pomeranz wasn’t perfect but stepped up when they needed him to and finished with another strong start. Hembree wasn’t great in the ‘pen, but Barnes and Kimbrel picked him up. Boston will look for another game like this on Saturday with Rick Porcello on the bump.