The Red Sox are on some sort of roll against the American League Central right now winning their last five games. On Saturday, it was mostly thanks to yet another great performance from Drew Pomeranz. The southpaw had most everything working, and in particular he spun more than a few really impressive curveballs. It certainly didn’t hurt that he was facing one of the least intimidating offenses in all of baseball, but he earned his win regardless of who he was playing. Furthermore, he was efficient enough to make it into the seventh inning even if it didn’t always appear that would be the case.
On offense, the lineup didn’t quite have the same flair it’s had over the last week or so, and part of that was because it was a quiet day from Eduardo Nuñez and Rafael Devers. That being said, they did enough to get a win because of big swings from Andrew Benintendi and Jackie Bradley. It would’ve been nice to see a little more from the bats, but a win is a win is a win is a win.
On the one hand, Pomeranz was facing the White Sox, so we had to be expecting this kind of start. In fact, it would have been an issue if he not only didn’t pitch well, but also didn’t have some semblance of efficiency with his work too. Fortunately, he had both the performance and the longevity and cemented his place as the second-best pitcher on this staff. With various questions surrounding the other arms in the rotation, Pomeranz stepping up as a consistent Robin to Chris Sale’s Batman makes the near-future for this team look much brighter.
Oddly enough, it started out looking like it might be a rough night for the southpaw. Pomeranz served up a fastball right over the heart of the plate in the first at bat of the game and Tim Anderson smacked it over everything in left-center field. The White Sox had a 1-0 lead before an out was even recorded for either side and it looked like we might be looking at a repeat performance of Thursday night when they really needed the offense to do most of the work.
Instead, Pomeranz settled down in a big way after that long home run. He got through the rest of the inning with ease, and really he got through the rest of the game with ease. There weren’t many challenging innings for him, particularly early on. He retired three in a row after the home run in the first, and in the next two innings he allowed just one baserunner in each. Those came on an infield single and an error by Eduardo Nuñez at shortstop. In fact, it stands to reason that he could have made it even deeper in this game with a little better luck.
Things got just a little trickier in the fourth when he allowed two baserunners, but he worked around it with three strikeouts. In the fifth, things started with a leadoff bunt. At this point, it wasn’t too worrisome that he was about to implode, but there was a legitimate question if he’d even be able to make it through six with his pitch count slowly rising. Pomeranz shut those worries down with a popup and a double play to quickly end that inning and a 1-2-3 sixth.
On the other side of things, a frankly disappointing night at the plate was overshadowed by Pomeranz’ great start. Granted, they did score four runs and that’s not exactly being completely shut down, but considering who they were facing it could have and likely should have been more. James Shields is not nearly the man he used to be and has been extremely hittable for a few years now. That being said, he was actually kind of impressive. The Red Sox still should have done a little more, probably by being more aggressive earlier in counts on some occasions, but credit goes to Shields where it’s due.
As I said, and as the final score indicates, the Red Sox offense did do enough to get the win. That came on the back of a couple of big swings mentioned at the top from Benintendi and Bradley. The former followed up a big error from Tyler Saladino at third base by smacking one over the bullpens in right field on a cutter that spun right into the center of the zone. That was in the first inning, and immediately gave Boston the lead after they fell being 1-0 on Anderson’s leadoff dinger.
That score remained into the second when Mitch Moreland smashed a one-out double off the wall in center field. At this point, the Red Sox were rocking Shields and it looked like a crooked number was coming. That feeling kept coming two batters later when Bradley crushed another home run out to right field to extend Boston’s lead to 4-1.
From here, things quieted down in a big way. The Red Sox would get runners to second in the third and the fifth, but other than that there wasn’t much of a threat. All in all, the two big swings were enough for a win, but it was a strange performance for a Red Sox offense that usually gets wins with long rallies rather than long balls.
Out of the bullpen it was Blaine Boyer coming in after Pomeranz allowed two baserunners with just one out in the seventh. It was sort of a strange move calling upon Boyer in a relatively high-leveraged spot, but he got out of it thanks to his defense and awful baserunning from the White Sox. Boyer allowed a line drive to right field, but it hung up long enough for Mookie Betts to make the grab. Alen Hanson, who was at first, must have been sure it was falling in because he was way off the bag and was doubled up fairly easily to end the inning.
Boyer came back out for the eighth and got through it in three batters, once again partially thanks to defense and baserunning. The second out was a ball off the Monster that was well played by Benintendi and resulted in an out at second base because Jose Abreu slid off the base.
Kimbrel came in for the ninth and shut things down in an inning that included his first successful pickoff since April 10, 2011. Baseball is the weirdest.
The Red Sox maintain their lead in the division, but with a Yankee win in Cleveland they couldn’t build on it tonight. They did separate themselves a little more from the Rays, though, and now lead them by 5.5 games. It doesn’t matter what the other teams in the division do as long as Boston is playing like this, though. The team is still winning on pitching, as it’s always been built to do, but the offense has come around enough that they aren’t wasting those performances. They’ll try to complete the four-game sweep of Chicago tomorrow afternoon with Doug Fister on the bump.