Early offense has obviously been a problem for the Red Sox this year. Even in a lot of their wins it’s been an issue, as there’s been countless contests in which Boston got off to a slow start only to get hot late in the game. Obviously, those wins count just as much as any other and we certainly won’t complain about them, but every once in a while it’s nice for the lineup to get rolling early and never really slow down. Sometimes, we just want to enjoy a stress-free victory. The Red Sox were nice enough to give that to us on Friday. They did so with some of that mythical early offense — a strong attack that was a true group effort, though Rafael Devers’ (who reached base four times) and Mookie Betts’ (who homered and made a few impressive plays in right field) days stood out from the pack — and yet another strong performance from Drew Pomeranz. Oh, and Jerry Remy made a surprise return to the booth to make things even better.
As I said, the offense got rolling early in this one against Chris Archer. The Rays ace is somewhat hit or miss, though the Red Sox have had his number over the course of his career. While his stuff can be dominating — and he showed flashes of that even in his subpar outing on Friday — Boston has the strategy to overcome in and put runs on the board in bunches. They were relentless in the first inning against the righty, with Dustin Pedroia and Andrew Benintendi starting things off with a single and a double to put two in scoring position right off the bat. Then, Mookie Betts got a slider that stayed up in the zone and he hit it on a line out towards right field for a home run. It wasn’t a majestic home run, but rather a Fenway homer that just barely snuck by Pesky’s Pole. To be fair, he did smoke it, but whether it was a pretty dinger or not it counted just the same and the Red Sox had a 3-0 lead before recording an out. They’d get a couple more hits and make Archer throw about 30 pitches in the inning, but only scored the three runs.
From there, things actually slowed down for a couple innings as Archer settled into a groove and allowed just one walk in the second and third combined. The fourth would be another big one for the Red Sox, though, and by the end of it they had essentially put things away. That one, like the first, started with a double and a single to put two in scoring position with nobody out. They didn’t homer this time, but they just kept getting hits. With the top of the order now up at the plate, the Red Sox got three singles, drew a walk and reached on an error all without recording an out. In the blink of an eye, they had an 7-0 lead with the bases loaded, nobody out and Archer out of the game. They’d only get one more in the inning as Mitch Moreland grounded into a double play with no one out, but an 8-0 lead was feeling pretty comfortable at that point. The Red Sox would add on another run in the seventh when Devers drew a two-out walk (his fourth time on base) and Christian Vazquez drove him in with a double.
Meanwhile, Pomeranz did exactly what he needed to with that run support and made sure the Rays never quite felt as if they were in this game while he was on the mound. He wasn’t as sharp as we’ve seen him this year, and over the first few innings in particular his control was off. He was consistently starting with 2-0 and 3-0 counts, and while he did a great job of battling back in just about every at bat it’s an easy way to drive a pitch count up and it’s really just flirting with disaster.
Either way, it worked for the most part as he kept runs off the board. In fact, through four innings he had kept hits off the board. To be honest, it didn’t really feel like a no-hitter and in fact I didn’t even realize he had one going until it was broken up. He was giving up some baserunners with a couple walks and a hit batsman over that four-inning stretch. Even with the runners, though, only one made it into scoring position and they were stranded at second.
The one bit of trouble the Red Sox lefty got himself into was in the fifth after his team had stormed out to an 8-0 lead. In that inning, after a quick first out, his no-hitter was broken up on a single from Brad Miller. Then, in the next at bat, he left a fastball middle-in to Jesus Sucre and the Rays catcher smashed it into the Monster Seats to give Tampa their first two runs of the game. Pomeranz would settle down after that and got through the rest of the fifth and the entirety of the sixth without allowing another run. In all, he allowed just the two runs over six innings of work on two hits, two walks and seven strikeouts. It was undoubtedly a positive start, even if it wasn’t perfect at all times.
The Red Sox turned things over to their bullpen in the seventh, and it didn’t really go so well from the jump. Joe Kelly came on first, and he promptly loaded the bases on a pair of singles and a walk while recording just one out. That led John Farrell to turn to Addison Reed, who induced a pop up in his first at bat. Unfortunately, it found no man’s land in right field and fell in to give the Rays another run, though the Red Sox did get a force out on the play. It was a pop up that Pedroia probably could have caught — and he did get some glove on it — but those pop ups going back into the outfield are always harder than they look. In the next at bat, Pedroia made up for it by snagging a ripped line drive that looked destined for center field to end the inning with the score still 8-3.
Reed came back out to record one out in the eight before giving way to Austin Maddox. The young righty continued to impress in this September stint and got two quick outs including one strikeout to end the frame. Maddox would come back out for the ninth and toss a scoreless frame.
The Red Sox continue to try and look past that rough stretch of games and picked up their third straight victory. As of this writing, the Red Sox have an even four game lead in the American League East, though that could move up to 4.5 if the Rangers can hold on to their current two-run lead over the Yankees. The Red Sox are doing their job, at least, and they’ll look to keep doing so with Chris Sale on the mound Saturday night.