Well, we knew this was going to be a wildcard of a game with a wildcard of a starter on the mound. Drew Pomeranz was horrible to start the year, then hit the disabled list at the end of May, then was mostly horrible in his rehab. There was little reason to expect much from him on Baltimore on Tuesday, and he didn’t impress. One could look at the outing as just two bad pitches leading to a less-than-stellar line, but the truth is that he looked very similarly to how he looked early in the year. That’s....not a good thing. A good power display from the Red Sox offense did keep things close, but Joe Kelly continued what’s been a brutal two-month stretch of baseball and put the game out of reach. Losses happen, of course, but there’s some concern with both of these guys moving forward.
This one was always going to be about Pomeranz, for whom the expectations were almost impossibly low heading into the contest. The lefty was horrible for the early parts of the season and most of his rehab outings didn’t inspire much confidence. The results weren’t terrible in this game, but they also weren’t overly impressive against the worst team in the game. In terms of stuff, it was a little strange. His curveball was, for the most part, working for him. The majority of the offerings were breaking sharply and inducing whiffs. The fastballs were working when located properly, but also sitting 87-88 and topping out at 89. Despite that, it was the curveball that did him in, as two bad breaking balls led to the runs he put on the board.
The first inning was probably the best for the lefty, and not coincidentally it also featured his best curveball. He got a pair of strikeouts with the pitch and worked around a two-out walk for a scoreless frame. Pomeranz would have a solid second, too, allowing a leadoff single but nothing more. The runner did move on to third with two outs, though, before the southpaw ended the inning with a big strikeout.
In the third, things took a turn for the worse. Caleb Joseph started that inning off with a single, and after getting the first out of the inning he stepped up to face Jonathan Schoop. The Orioles second baseman got a curveball that broke right into the center of the zone and he smashed it out to left field for a no-doubt, two-run homer. Just like that, what was a 1-0 Red Sox lead turned into a 2-1 deficit.
Pomeranz recovered from that with another solid inning in the fourth where he once again worked around a leadoff single, and from here we’ll go back to what the offense was up to at this point. Going up against Yefry Ramirez, who they had seen about a month ago for his major-league debut, was much more impressive this time around. Boston had some trouble getting consistent rallies going, instead relying on some long balls to do their damage.
It didn’t take too long for the first of those long balls to appear, as J.D. Martinez came through in the third at bat of the game. After a couple of quick outs from the Orioles rookie, the Red Sox slugger got a fastball up in the zone and he does what he does best. That is to say he crushed it out the other way for an opposite field homer. Boston had themselves an early 1-0 lead.
Of course, that wouldn’t last too long as Pomeranz gave it up in the third. The other side of that coin is the Red Sox not being able to do much of anything between Martinez’ home run and the fifth. In fact, in that span they managed just a walk. Then, with two outs in the fifth, Boston got an unexpected spark. That came from Blake Swihart, who got a middle-middle fastball and he put it just over the wall in right-center field. All of a sudden, the game was tied at two. That brought Mookie Betts up, and he snapped out of the mini funk he’s been in since the break. Ramirez threw a pitch (unintentionally) over Betts’ head, and the Red Sox star clearly didn’t appreciate it. He let Ramirez know, and then on the next pitch he crushed one out to left field for a go-ahead homer.
With rain starting to fall, it seemed Boston may need just one strong inning from the pitching for this to become an official win. With 70 pitches, Pomeranz came back out, and that proved to be a mistake. He walked Joseph (the nine hitter) to start the inning, and then Tim Beckham came up. Once again, Pomeranz left a curveball up in the zone and once again an Orioles infielder sent it out for a two-run homer. In the blink of an eye, the lead was back in Baltimore’s hands. After a couple of outs, the lefty gave up another single and his unimpressive night was done. The results weren’t terrible (given the expectations), but watching him didn’t inspire much confidence. Tyler Thornburg came on next and got a big strikeout to end the inning and keep the deficit at one.
Mike Wright would come out for Ramirez to start the sixth, and after a short delay that began in the middle of a leadoff at bat from Martinez the Orioles righty got through a 1-2-3 frame against the heard of Boston’s lineup.
Joe Kelly then came on for the bottom of the sixth, and his issues continued. The righty did get a quick first out, but then he walked Chris Davis (the worst player in baseball this year) before inexplicably allowing him to steal second base. He’d follow that up by walking Renato Núñez to put two on with just one out. Joseph then reached on an infield single (where Eduardo Núñez failed to cover second base) to load the bases for the top of the lineup. That brought Beckham back up, and he worked a tough at bat that ended with a sacrifice fly to extend Baltimore’s lead to two. A single from Schoop pushed the lead to three and that was Kelly’s night as he failed to get out of the inning.
Hector Velazquez got the call to try and escape the inning with two on and two out, but he started off by allowing a bloop single to give Baltimore yet another run. He would get a line out to end the inning after that, but the damage was done. Baltimore carried a 7-3 lead into the seventh.
The Red Sox couldn’t get more than a two-out single in the seventh, but Velazquez was able to come back with a short, scoreless seventh of his own. That brought us to the eighth with the top of the order coming up for Boston. Betts kicked things off with a single, and after Andrew Benintendi hit into a fielder’s choice Martinez did it again. For the second time on the night he slugged one out to right field and Baltimore’s lead was cut down to two. That was all they’d get, but it was a game.
After Velazquez got yet another scoreless inning in the eighth, the Red Sox had one more shot against the Orioles. Baltimore just dealt Zach Britton to the Yankees, too, so they didn’t have their closer. Jackie Bradley Jr. got things started as the skies began to open up, and he hit a chopper to the right side. Beckham tried to come in and flip it to first with his glove, but it ended up in the dugout to put Boston’s leadoff man in scoring position. Brock Holt came in next as a pinch hitter, grounding out to first and moving Bradley to third. That would bring Devers to the plate, and he’d reach base as well with a slow roller to third base, scoring Bradley with the infield single and cutting the deficit to one. Swihart then drew a four-pitch walk, putting two on with one out for Betts. It seemed everything was trending in the right direction, but he hit into a 4-6-3 double play and the game was suddenly over.
The Red Sox will look to bounce back from this rough one and salvage a series victory on Wednesday night in Baltimore. David Price will take the mound for the Sox taking on Dylan Bundy of the Orioles. First pitch is at 7:05 PM ET.
Also, the Yankees got a victory on Tuesday thanks to a complete game shutout from Masahiro Tanaka. That gets Boston’s lead back down to five games.