This season has been something else, and this month in particular has been wild. The Red Sox played yet another extra inning game on Tuesday, though this one was the complete opposite of Monday’s aside from the end result. In this game, pitchers dominated the day. In particular, Kevin Gausman came out and dominated the Red Sox through the early portions of this game. They had almost nothing going at the plate all day long, but fortunately Drew Pomeranz got over some lackluster stuff to keep Baltimore off the board altogether as well. As a fan, these games are taking years off our lives but the Red Sox just keep winning these extra inning affairs. Once again, the story in this particular win was the bullpen, who just continues to own these situations.
This game was a pitcher’s duel, and at least one half of that performance was somewhat unexpected. The Red Sox couldn’t get anything going off Gausman in the early going, and just looking at the righty’s ERA it would seem to be another example of the Red Sox lineup making a subpar pitcher look much better than he actually is. I’m not entirely unsure that this is an entirely inaccurate description of Tuesday’s game, but I do know that it would be underplaying how good Gausman was.
The Orioles starter is a former top prospect who has a ton of talent in his arm. His issue this year has been control and command, but when he’s locating his pitches he is extremely hard to hit, and the Red Sox found that out the hard way in this game. Gausman was locating everything and had his best stuff working all night long, and that resulted in a lot of Red Sox hitters looking foolish. In fact, the 14 men that came to the plate were set down, and there was nothing that even threatened to be a hit.
Boston finally got their first baserunner of the day with two outs in the fifth when Rafael Devers smacked a ball off the right field wall for a single, but of course Gausman came back with a strikeout to end the inning. The Red Sox offense actually got a legitimate scoring chance in the next inning when Xander Bogaerts came through with a two-out single and Andrew Benintendi followed it up with a walk. It put a runner in scoring position for Mookie Betts, but he couldn’t come through and grounded out to end the inning.
While all of this was going on, the score remained tied at zero because Pomeranz was also doing his part. As I said above, he didn’t have his best stuff in this game and looked like a guy who could probably benefit from a skipped turn before the postseason starts. His velocity was consistently in the high 80s with his fastball and he had some real trouble locating that curveball. Despite all that, he managed to get through six shutout innings thanks to solid location on his fastball that led to weak contact, big pitches when he needed it and a little help from his friends behind him.
The Orioles had their first real chance in the third inning when they put forth a solid little two out rally. Manny Machado started things off with a double down the left field line to become the first player in the game to go beyond first base, and Jonathan Schoop followed that up with a single of his own. Machado tried to score on the ball to left field, a decision that made sense with two outs. It didn’t work out, though, as Benintendi threw a perfect strike into Christian Vazquez to gun down Machado for the third out of the inning.
Baltimore would come back out a couple innings later in the fifth and start to really put some good swings on the ball. Chris Davis started things off with a big fly ball out to center field but Jackie Bradley did Jackie Bradley things and perfectly timed a jump to rob the slugger of a home run. These plays are so damn routine at this point it’s ridiculous. Austin Hays followed that up with a big fly ball of his own, this one bouncing off the wall in center field for a double. From there, though, Pomeranz came through with some big pitches and got out of the inning unscathed. He’d come back for the sixth and put two runners on with two outs after a walk and an infield single. Once again, Pomeranz got the big strikeout to end the inning without allowing a run.
The lefty ended up coming back for one more batter in the seventh, retiring Davis before calling it a night. In the end he tossed 6 1⁄3 innings of scoreless baseball with five strikeouts and two walks. It certainly wasn’t the best version of Pomeranz we’ve seen in 2017, but it was damn impressive all the same. Carson Smith came out the finish the inning for his first time appearing in back-to-back days since returning from Tommy John rehab. He looked outstanding picking up a couple of strikeouts.
The score stayed tied at nothing in the top half of the eighth and the Red Sox got a big leadoff single from Sam Travis. At that point they inserted Rajai Davis in as a pinch runner, in a move that made sense. Rather than having their pinch runner steal a base, they decided to try to bunt him over in a move that did not make sense. Brock Holt couldn’t get the bunt down and ended up striking out. That brought up Bradley, and Davis started to go for a steal but put on the brakes for some reason. As it turns out, Bradley hit a double play ball while that was happening and the inning was over in the blink of an eye. It was not a good inning, and to make matters worse it seemed as if Gausman was finally starting to lose some of that command.
After Addison Reed put forth another impressive outing in the bottom half of the eighth, the Red Sox finally got a chance against a pitcher other than Gausman. Darren O’Day came in for Baltimore, and after a quick first out he allowed a double to Benintendi. Once again, though, the Red Sox couldn’t come through with Betts and Mitch Moreland stranding the runner in scoring position.
That brought in Craig Kimbrel to try and send it into extras, and he got into some trouble early hitting Adam Jones to lead off the ninth. He’d get things together from there, though, picking up a strikeout and a couple fly outs to get out of the inning and force yet another extra inning game for the Red Sox.
After the Red Sox failed to do anything in the tenth and Joe Kelly struck out the side in the bottom half, Boston got some momentum going against Brad Brach and the Orioles. Things got started on an infield single that Holt just barely beat out on a chopper to the first base bag. After a fielder’s choice put Bradley on first and cut down Holt at second, Bogaerts had a chance for an infield single of his own but inexplicably slid head first into the bag and was just barely out. If he ran through there’s a good chance he’s safe. Fortunately, Brach would lose his control and walk both Benintendi and Betts to load the bases for Moreland. The Red Sox first baseman wouldn’t have to do the work, though, as Brach threw a pitch in the dirt and it allowed Bradley to score the go-ahead run.
That led to Matt Barnes coming in to face the heart of the Orioles lineup to preserve the one-run lead and complete the victory for the Red Sox. Barnes did his job, though it got difficult thanks to his defense. After inducing pop outs to the first two batters, he got Adam Jones to hit a routine grounder to third base. Rafael Devers had plenty of time, but he couldn’t make a strong throw and Moreland couldn’t make the pick. Instead of the game being over, Barnes had to pitch with a runner in scoring position. No worries, though, as he induced another grounder to end the game.
So, the Red Sox have clinched yet another series victory, this time against a team that has had their number all year long. It hasn’t been the easiest string of two wins we’ve ever seen, but it’s worked. This gives Boston five consecutive series victories. The win also pushes their magic number to clinch the division down to nine, and that number has a chance to go down to eight if the Yankees lose to Minnesota. Unfortunately, they are currently leading by two in the sixth inning. If that score stands, the magic number will stay at nine and the division lead will stay at three. In the meantime, they’ll prepare to go for a sweep of the Orioles with Chris Sale on the bump Wednesday night.