The Red Sox are feeling some fatigue in the bullpen thanks to this doubleheader and a couple of short outings from their starting pitchers in recent games. They were able to make their way through that on Saturday thanks to some good performances and key pitches from unlikely faces — Drew Pomeranz being the biggest factor in today’s group — while also getting some big swings from the offense. Specifically, it was J.D. Martine carrying the load as the slugger hit two very important home runs to push the Red Sox into the lead and eventually into the win column. He’s good at this hitting thing, folks.
In the top halves of the innings during the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader, things were pretty similar to the first game. Just like in the afternoon, Boston was going up against a rookie starting pitcher who, while pitching admirably, certainly could have been punished. Instead, they seemed baffled and failed to get much going early on. This one was a little more confusing because they were going against Yefry Ramirez, who they’ve already seen a couple times over his short career. Still, it was quiet early on before they started to get going as they saw him more.
It took them three innings to even threaten to get anything going, as the Red Sox only sent seven batters to the plate over the first two frames, with J.D. Martinez reaching on a walk. Finally, they made their presence known even slightly in the second when Mookie Betts smacked a two-out single and quickly stole second to put himself into scoring position. Unfortunately, Brock Holt was batting second tonight with Andrew Benintendi getting the game off, and the utility man struck out to spoil the chance.
In the fourth, things would finally start to break in the Red Sox favor, and that was because Martinez is an absolute machine at the plate. The slugger quickly fell behind 0-2 in his at bat that inning, and it seemed as if Ramirez could keep cruising. Martinez worked the count, though, eventually getting to a 3-2 situation. On the tenth pitch, Ramirez hung a slider down the middle of the zone and Martinez demolished one out to straightaway center field to give Boston their first run of the night. It was the only run they’d get in that fourth inning, but it was something.
Unfortunately, the Red Sox pitching staff couldn’t get the same kind of magic from their cobbled together group in the nightcap as they got from David Price in the afternoon set, though that’s to be expected. Hector Velazquez got the start, but he was never going to last that long since he’s not really stretched out, having thrown at least 40 pitches just twice since the end of April. It also didn’t help that he wasn’t super effective.
The first inning was actually solid for the right as he got three ground balls for a relatively easy 1-2-3 frame to start things off. Things did not stay as easy in the second. There, he immediately allowed a single, hit a batter then gave up a double, allowing Baltimore to take an early 1-0 lead and giving them runners on second and third with nobody out. Fortunately for Velazquez and the Red Sox, Chris Davis was the runner on third. The next at bat ended with a ground ball to second base, and although Holt was playing back Davis stayed home at third. Then, Mookie Betts ran down a fly ball in foul territory, but again Davis stayed home for some reason. Thanks to that turn of events, Velazquez escaped the inning when Rafael Devers made a nice stop in the hole on the left side and Steve Pearce made a great play keeping his foot on the bag to save a rough and rushed throw from the third baseman. Baltimore was up 1-0, but it should have been much worse.
In the third, Velazquez walked the leadoff man and after two ground outs he left the game with his pitch count over 40. Brandon Workman came in trying to quickly get out of the inning and hopefully provide some length out of the bullpen. Unfortunately, his command was rough and he immediately allowed an RBI single before walking two batters to load the bases. He’d escape the jam, but it wasn’t pretty.
After the Red Sox got the run on Martinez’ homer in the fourth, Drew Pomeranz came on for the bottom half. He continued to look solid with a 1-2-3 inning in relief. That would be important because the Red Sox came charging back in the fifth. There, it was Eduardo Núñez (who had a big home run in the afternoon game) who started things off with a big leadoff triple out to center field. He’d quickly come in to score on a sacrifice fly, and the score was tied at two.
That was all they’d get there, but after another scoreless inning from Pomeranz the Red Sox went out and got themselves a lead in the sixth. With Ramirez out of the game, Baltimore turned to Cody Carroll, and the righty had some control issues. He walked the first two batters he faced, and while he did get a big double play after that it still put a runner 90 feet away from home. That would be important because Carroll threw a bad wild pitch and Steve Pearce easily made his way to the plate to give the Red Sox a 3-2 lead.
With the lead in hand, the Red Sox turned to Heath Hembree for the seventh, and the righty continued to struggle as he is going through a big rough patch at an inopportune time. After getting a couple of quick outs, he got to a 1-2 count against Joey Rickard. It would eventually reach 3-2 and then Hembree left a slider right down the heart of the zone. It led to solo homer to tie the game. Hembree did get out of the inning after that, but it was too late at the point.
After both teams failed to score in the seventh — Joe Kelly allowed a couple runners to reach but escaped the trouble — it was Martinez again in the eighth. This time he came up with Pearce on first base, and on the second pitch of the at bat he got a fastball middle-in and did what he does. The slugger launched one into the left-field seats, giving Boston a 5-3 lead.
With the bullpen being incredibly overworked in recent days, Alex Cora turned to William Cuevas — the 26th man on the roster for the doubleheader — for the eighth. He did get two outs in his first three batters, but he also walked one then walked another with two outs. After a wild pitch, Baltimore had two in scoring position with two outs. Cuevas was able to bear down, though, and thanks to some help from the umpire got a huge strikeout to end the inning without a run crossing the plate.
The Red Sox added one more on an RBI single from Brock Holt in the ninth, giving Craig Kimbrel a three-run lead to protect in the bottom half. The closer did allow a solo homer to Trey Mancini with two outs, but that was it and the Red Sox went home with yet another win.
The Red Sox will be going for a sweep Sunday afternoon back in Baltimore in Chris Sale’s first game off the disabled list. The lefty will take on Alex Cobb, with first pitch scheduled for 1:05 PM ET.
As for the division, the Yankees did end up winning against the Rangers this afternoon, but the Red Sox still picked up a half-game in the standings on the day with both of their victories. They now lead New York by 9.5 games.