The Red Sox finished off a series victory on Sunday afternoon in Toronto, and while it wasn’t as easy as it could have been they’ll take what they can get. Once again the offensive production came almost entirely from the top of the order, with Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi and J.D. Martinez doing almost all of the damage. To be fair, Jackie Bradley Jr. had a nice game as well with a hit (his first since May 4) and a walk along with good defense in center field. On the mound, Drew Pomeranz was shaky for pretty much his entire outing, but he was able to keep runs off the board until the fifth. the bullpen was able to lock things down, however, and Boston finishes off their ten-game trip with a 6-4 record. That’ll do.
Before we get into Pomeranz’ typical Pomeranz outing, we’ll start with what the offense was able to do against Blue Jays starter Joe Biagini. They did take an early lead and were generally active for most of the early parts of this game, but it also sort of felt as if they could have done more. Biagini is not a regular starter for Toronto, spending some time in the past in their bullpen and much of this season in Triple-A. The righty was just recently placed in the rotation when Marcus Stroman hit the disabled list immediately ahead of this series. In other words, he’s the type of pitcher a team as talented as the Red Sox should be able to do some damage against. And, again, to be fair, they did.
In fact, they got started almost right away against the righty when Andrew Benintendi hit a one-out single the top half of the first. That brought J.D. Martinez up to the dish, and he didn’t waste any time. Boston’s slugger took the first pitch he saw — a fastball down a bit and towards the bottom half of the zone, and he smashed it the other way into the right-field bullpen for one of his patented opposite-field home runs. Martinez hasn’t really been flashy this year, but that’s more the nature of his game than his skills, because the dude has been mashing. He continued it with this early home run to give Boston a 2-0 lead just three batters into the game.
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That was all they would get in that first inning, and then they proceeded to be set down in order in the second before getting back to action in the third. Not coincidentally, this was when the top of the order came back up but it did start with the number nine hitter. Jackie Bradley Jr. kicked off the rally with a walk, and on a hit-and-run play he got to third on a Mookie Betts single. After a flyout, Betts would steal second base with Martinez at the plate, and the slugger drew a walk to load the bases. It was a big chance to start towards breaking this game open, but it didn’t happen that way. Mitch Moreland did draw another walk to get one run home, but Xander Bogaerts followed that up with a double play to end the inning and the rally. It wasn’t the outcome they were looking for, but they were up 3-0 after their third trip to the plate.
The 6-7-8 hitter (Rafael Devers, Brock Holt, Christian Vazquez) went down 1-2-3 yet again in the fourth, and yet again the top of the order got a little more damage in the fifth. This time it started with a one-out single from Betts, and he would steal second before moving on to third on a fly out from Benintendi. That brought up Martinez in a scoring chance yet again, and he delivered with his third RBI of the day on a single to bring Betts home. This was another instance in which they couldn’t get an extended rally, but it was 4-0 at this point.
Here is where we get to the Pomeranz part of the story, and he had some of the good and bad we’ve come to expect from the lefty in this outing. A lot of it was frustrating even as he was keeping runs off the board in the way he usually is frustrating. That is to say, he was throwing a whole lot of pitches and he was walking too many guys. He found himself in trouble in most of his innings, which is often a sign that things are going to take a turn for the worse at some point or another.
The first inning, for examples, didn’t start with a run but Pomeranz did allow a double and a walk with just one out. It was a scoring chance, but the Blue Jays got a couple of ground outs to spoil the opportunity. The second went similarly when Toronto led things off with a single and a walk before Pomeranz came back with a couple of strikeouts and a ground out.
The third may have been the southpaw’s easiest inning of the day, and even that wasn’t really a cakewalk. There, he issued a one-out walk and then quickly allowed the runner to get to second on what was a clear balk. Fortunately, he’d get out of it again with a strikeout and a fly out. The fourth was fairly similar to that one as he allowed just one baserunner on a walk, and the runner got to second (this time on a wild pitch), but he escaped this one as well.
It was the fifth, as Pomeranz’ pitch count was starting to get up towards triple digits and his team had just extended their lead to four, when the trouble started to catch up to him at once. The inning started with back-to-back singles, and the he gave up a two-run double to Justin Smoak, cutting the lead in half. After walking the next batter he’d face, Pomeranz was removed from the game. In all, he lasted just four-plus innings, allowing five hits and five walks with six strikeouts.
Alex Cora called upon Hector Velazquez to try and escape the two-on, nobody out jam left by his starter. The long reliever mostly did his job, though it wasn’t perfect. He did get a strikeout to kick things off but then the allowed a single to score Toronto’s third run of the game. It was the final run to be charged to Pomeranz, as Kendrys Morales followed that up with an inning-ending double play. After a scoreless top half of the sixth for the Sox, Velazquez came back out and worked around a one-out single for a scoreless bottom half.
The Red Sox went down 1-2-3 in the seventh, their second straight time being retired in order and the fourth time in the game to that point, and that brought Matt Barnes out for a big spot in the seventh. The righty, of course, has traditionally had some trouble in high-leverage spots on the road, but he got some help from his defense to preserve the lead here. After allowing a one-out single, he got a strikeout before allowing Russell Martin to rip a liner into the left field corner. Yangervis Solarte tried to score from first, but a perfect relay from Benintendi to Bogaerts to Vazquez got the runner at the plate to end the inning. It was a huge play.
In the eighth, the Red Sox got a bit of important insurance against the Blue Jays bullpen. Benintendi kicked things off with a leadoff walk, then moved to second on a stolen base and to third on a one-out single from Moreland. That brought Toronto’s interim closer Tyler Clippard in with runners on the corners and one out, and Bogaerts hit what may have been a double play ball but Clippard bobbled it. He got the out at first, but Benintendi came across to extend the lead to two.
With the two-run lead, Cora called upon Heath Hembree for the eighth due to a short-handed back end of the bullpen that has been worked a ton in recent games. The righty allowed a leadoff single to make things interesting, but came back with two strikeouts that sandwiched a ground out to get out of it without too much of a sweat.
Boston had a chance to add on more insurance in the ninth when Brock Holt kicked things off with a double, but with one out he was caught stealing third base — a bad decision despite the team’s success on the bases to that point. That was followed by a single from Bradley that would have scored a run, but instead the Red Sox headed to the bottom of the ninth with just the two-run lead.
Craig Kimbrel was unavailable for this game, which brought Joe Kelly out for the save in the ninth. He didn’t have any trouble at all, shutting Toronto down in order to finish this one off.
With the road trip behind him, the Red Sox look to get some real momentum going with a nice week-long stay back at Fenway. That’ll kick off Monday against the A’s, with Rick Porcello taking on Sean Manaea, who of course no-hit the Sox earlier in the year. First pitch is at 7:10 PM ET.