This one ended up being closer than it seemed it would be early on, but ultimately the Red Sox couldn’t come back from an awful first half of the night. Drew Pomeranz’ line doesn’t look horrible, but there was very little encouraging in his second outing of this season. His velocity was way down for virtually the entire night, his pitches were fat and he had trouble locating. That led to three home runs, though good sequencing helped limit the damage. Blake Snell, meanwhile, got the start for Tampa and continued to look like the breakout pitcher he’s appeared to be all year long. The Red Sox offense — mostly Mookie Betts, the returning Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez — would get going a bit later and Hector Velazquez kept it a game in the later innings, but ultimately it was too little too late. The Red Sox will have to take the next two to take this series.
For a while, it felt like it didn’t really matter how bad Pomeranz looked for this game considering that Snell just completely owned the Red Sox hitters early on. Still, in my mind the long-term takeaway from Friday night was the Red Sox starter. While Boston has gotten great starting pitching from up and down the depth chart this year, they could really use the best version of Pomeranz if they are to go where they want to go. Obviously, it’s still April and he has time to get there, but the early signs are not good. In this game, his fastball was sitting consistently in the high-80s — he got it up to 91-92 here and there, but it was far too rare — and the command of all of his pitches were off.
It was clear from the beginning that the Rays were not being fooled by the Red Sox lefty. To be fair to Pomeranz and his opponent, Tampa has been crushing it at the plate lately, so they are certainly locked in. Still, the first two batters he faced smoked balls towards third base, but Pomeranz lucked out as one found Eduardo Nuñez’ glove. Then, after a strikeout, Wilson Ramos got an 87 mph fastball down and in and he didn’t miss it. The pitch ended up over everything in left field, and just like that it was 2-0.
After a second that featured a little more hard contact but no runs, the third started with another 87 mph fastball down and in. This time it was to Rob Refsnyder, but it was the same result as the one to Ramos to give Tampa a 3-0 lead. They’d get another baserunner and a couple more bits of hard contact there, too, but once again there were no more runs scored.
The fourth would go very similarly, though this time it was a changeup on the outer half that did him in. Pomeranz threw it to Daniel Robertson and got almost no movement on the offering, and the Rays righty blasted it way out to left field for the third home run off the Red Sox starter in just four innings of work. Honestly, the fact that Pomeranz had only allowed four runs to this point was pretty amazing.
In fact, that was all he’d allow for his entire outing. Neither the command nor the stuff really picked up to a tremendous degree but to his credit the southpaw was getting into the 90s with his fastball a bit more consistently and the Rays were struggling to do a ton. They drew a couple of walks in the fifth — their first two of the night — but Pomeranz pitched around it. He’d leave after those five innings with four runs allowed on six hits, four strikeouts and two walks. He needs to be better, and his outing was more concerning than that line lets on.
On the other side, the Red Sox ran into a pitcher on fire in Snell. The Rays lefty was been electric to start this season as he’s harnessed his command and is realizing his full potential. The stuff has always been there, and Boston has now learned that twice in 2018. The young southpaw mowed through this Red Sox lineup the first time through, setting all nine batters down with ease in the first two innings with a run that included five consecutive strikeouts.
Boston would finally get a little something going when the top of the order came back up, though they still couldn’t muster a hit. Instead, Betts drew a leadoff walk and stole second with Martinez up and just one out. The slugger would benefit from an error to put runners on the corners, but Mitch Moreland couldn’t come through. Instead, he hit a routine double play ball to end the inning.
They’d finally get their first hit in the fifth on a single from Bogaerts, but it was quickly cancelled out by a fielder’s choice and a double play. The sixth, however, would be better. There, Christian Vazquez started things off with a double, then Betts came through with an RBI double that just missed leaving the yard to cut the deficit to 4-1. After Hanley Ramirez struck out, Martinez came up with two outs but he didn’t miss his chance. He got a fastball up and away and drove it into the right field corner for the team’s third double of the inning to cut the lead in half.
So Hector Velazquez, who took over for Pomeranz in the sixth, came out for the seventh looking for an ol’ shutdown inning. Things looked bleak after a one-out single was followed up with a double play ball that ricocheted off the pitcher’s foot into right field to put two runners on. Velazquez came through in the next at bat, getting another double play ball to end the inning with the deficit still at two.
The Red Sox looked to have a chance to do more damage in the bottom of the seventh when Bogaerts led things off with a double, but they couldn’t take advantage. After the Rays stranded two more against Velazquez in the eighth, Boston had six more outs to try and at least tie the game.
Once again, they’d have a chance with some production from the top of the lineup. A quick first out from Blake Swihart, who came in as a pinch hitter, mercifully ended Snell’s night, and Betts came up against Chaz Roe. He’d smash a double off the right-handed reliever, and after Ramirez continued to struggle for this game Martinez came through with a big two-out, two-strike single to cut the deficit to one. Unfortunately, that was all they’d get and we were off to the ninth.
Velazquez came back out for the top half and got a quick out before issuing a walk and getting taken from the game. The righty was quietly phenomenal in this game, keeping his team in it after they were put into an early hole and allowing Cora to go pretty much the entire game without having to go deep into his shortened bullpen. Heath Hembree would come on to finish the inning, and the Red Sox had one more chance.
Rays closer Alex Colomé came on to finish it off, and the Red Sox had already gotten to him twice this year. Bogaerts came through again to start, kicking things off with an infield single. Nuñez and Jackie Bradley Jr. made two outs after that to bring up Andrew Benintendi to pinch hit with the game on the line. He couldn’t come through, instead going down looking to end the game. A tough loss, but more interesting than it seemed it would be.
Boston will look to recover quickly from this loss on Saturday afternoon. They’ll have David Price on the mound as the Rays counter with Yonny Chirinos, and first pitch will be at 4:05 PM ET.