The Red Sox are rolling right now, and a good sign of that is the fact that they managed to take this game despite yet another disappointing outing from Drew Pomeranz. The lefty looked very similar to how he’s looked all year to this point, and that is very much not a compliment. Despite that, Boston’s lineup moved past a frustrating first couple of innings to beat up on Braves pitching for most of this afternoon. They didn’t pick up a lead until the second half of the game, but once they got it they never relented. The Sox also got a big three-inning performance from Steven Wright in the middle of this game to give the offense the chance to take the lead in the first place. Make that eight wins in ten games for the Red Sox, three straight series victories and four wins in their last five series. All pretty good!
Well, the story from the first part of that game was clearly Pomeranz. Heading into this game, it seemed as if we were reaching a tipping point for how much longer they could just keep sending him out to the mound. His velocity has been down in the 80’s all year long, his command has been spotty at best and he’s not trusting any secondaries beyond his curveball. All of that combined is a perfect storm, and it’s shown in spades through the early parts of his season. If he pitched similarly on Saturday, one had to wonder if he’d be sent to the disabled list for a short time.
He pitched similarly, and we’re just waiting for the other shoe to drop. There actually were some encouraging signs very early on in this game, as Pomeranz was sitting in the low 90s with his fastball (not quite 2017 levels, but better than he had been) and his pace was notably faster. He retired the first two batters he faced and looked poised for an easy inning. Instead, that was followed by a Freddie Freeman single and then a Nick Markakis double. All of a sudden, there were two runners in scoring position for Kurt Suzuki. Pomeranz came through with a huge strikeout, but the cracks were starting to show.
The cracks broke open in the second when he lost the zone — with his velocity creeping back down into the 80s — and he led off the frame with a walk. After a couple of outs to almost escape, he left an 88 mph fastball middle-in to Dansby Swanson. At Pomeranz’ velocity, the command has to be perfect. It wasn’t on this pitch, and the Braves shortstop sent it to the final row of Monster Seats to give Atlanta a 2-0 lead.
The southpaw got out of it after that, but then the third only brought more trouble. Once again he had a chance at a relatively easy inning as he got the first two batters out, but then the Braves pounced on some bad pitching. Markakis and Suzuki came through with back-to-back two-out doubles, and the Braves extended their lead to three. Pomeranz did walk the next batter to give Atlanta a chance at an extended rally, but he’d leave the inning with only three runs on the board, which seemed like a gift at the time.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox were going up against Massachusetts native Sean Newcomb and having a frustrating start to their afternoon. It was just one of those days where they couldn’t get the sequencing right and runners were left all over. In the first, they loaded the bases on an infield single and a couple walks, but nobody was able to cross the plate. In the second, their first two batters reached on an infield single and another walk, but then the next three batters went down in order to strand them both.
Finally, in the third, Boston’s offense was able to start come through with runners on base. The rally started with Mitch Moreland as he tagged a ball into the triangle to give himself a one-out, stand-up triple. It was his first three-bagger since 2014. Xander Bogaerts immediately followed that up with a line drive through the middle and just like that the Red Sox had their first run of the day. Bogaerts would move to second on a passed ball and Pedroia would join him on base with a walk. That would eventually bring Blake Swihart to the plate with two outs and a couple of runners on base, and he was able to get a blooper to land in front of the outfielders for another run. Christian Vazquez followed that up with a single of his own, and the game was tied heading into the fourth.
Despite struggling through the first three innings, Pomeranz was allowed to head back out for the fourth, and that proved to be a mistake. He’d get a quick first out, but followed that up with a hard-hit single and a four-pitch walk, and his day was over. Hector Velazquez had to come in and try to get out of some serious trouble. He couldn’t quite do it, allowing back-to-back singles and a deep fly ball that resulted in two more runs for the Braves before the Red Sox were able to get out of it.
So, Boston was trailing by two heading into the bottom of the fourth, but that deficit wouldn’t stay so large for very long at all. Andrew Benintendi led that inning off against left-handed reliever Jesse Biddle, and he took a high fastball and sent it just over the wall in straightaway center field to cut the deficit to one with a single swing of the bat.
After Wright came in for a couple of scoreless innings, the Red Sox still trailed by one heading into the bottom of the sixth. There, Mookie Betts started a rally with a one-out single, and after Benintendi was hit by a pitch the Sox had two on with one out. J.D. Martinez moved Betts to third on a fly out, and that was followed with another huge swing from Moreland. This time, he ripped a double into the right field corner, scoring both runners and giving the Red Sox a 6-5 lead. He’d end up stranded at third, but Boston had their first lead of the day.
Wright came back out for a third inning of work and did allow a walk but other than that kept it clean and was able to hold on to the lead through the seventh. In the bottom half, the Red Sox just kept pounding away against the Braves pitching, putting that frustrating start further out of mind. Eduardo Núñez was able to reach on an error to kick things off, and two batters later Betts drew a walk to put two on with one out for Benintendi. The left fielder continued his great day, smacking a triple into the right field corner, and the Red Sox had an 8-5 lead with six outs left to record.
The first half of those outs were on the shoulders of Joe Kelly, and he did his job easily. The righty set the side down in order with a pop out, a strikeout and a grounder back to the mound.
The ninth belonged to Craig Kimbre against his old team, and things didn’t get off to a great start. Rookie sensation Ronald Acuña took an outside fastball and sent it into the bullpen for a solo shot, cutting Boston’s lead down to two. The closer would retired the next three batters he faced, though, and the win was safe.
The Red Sox will look to finish off the sweep over Atlanta and keep their roll going on Sunday afternoon. They’ll be sending Chris Sale to the mound to take on Mike Foltynewicz, and first pitch will be at 1:05 PM ET. If you’re going to the game, don’t forget about the Alumni Game that morning.