This team is something special. We already knew this and didn’t really need more evidence, but we also won’t complain about getting it. The Red Sox twice looked like they could lose this game. Early on, it was because Marcus Stroman was as good as I’ve ever seen him, and the Red Sox offense had no answer. Drew Pomeranz did keep the score close despite not looking very good at all, but that proved to be important. J.D. Martinez gave the Red Sox a late lead with a big home run. Unfortunately, Matt Barnes and Craig Kimbrel allowed a run each to push the game to extras. Of course, with this team it doesn’t matter. They went out and hit two dingers and scored five runs in the tenth and went home with a win.
Pomeranz getting another start made this game a little shaky before it even started, and if they lost the game the expectation was that it would be because of his presence on the mound. The Red Sox lefty certainly wasn’t great and didn’t win himself a whole lot more fans with this outing, but the offense was even more frustrating. This is still one of the best units in baseball, but they’ve had some trouble getting going at some points in this second half, and Marcus Stroman held them back again. To be fair, Stroman has a ton of talent and has looked better than his numbers indicate of late, and in this game he had as much movement on his pitches as I’ve seen. When he’s doing this it can be tough to make any contact, and when you do it sure as hell is tough to make good contact.
This was one of those games where it was clear from the very beginning that Stroman was going to give the Red Sox a bunch of trouble. He cruised through an easy first inning and featured all of his pitches, with all of them looking their best. He tossed a 1-2-3 first with a pair of strikeouts, and while he allowed his first baserunner in the second, the walk was quickly eliminated with a double play. The third was more of the same as he had another 1-2-3, maintaining the no-hitter, facing the minimum through three and not allowing a single ball to leave the infield. Not great!
In the fourth, with Boston trailing 2-0, they finally got a little going at the plate, at least. It started with a break, as Andrew Benintendi hit a routine ground ball that was simply botched by second baseman Devon Travis. After Mitch Moreland drew a walk, J.D. Martinez came through with a base hit to knock in Benintendi, giving him 94 RBI on the year. Are RBI a true indicator of talent? Of course not. Is having 94 RBI on August 7 absolutely absurd? You betcha! Unfortunately, the Red Sox couldn’t keep the rally going after that. Stroman got back to his ground ball stuff and induced a big double play from Xander Bogaerts to end the inning with a 2-1 score.
As for Pomeranz, well, he certainly didn’t earn himself another start. I actually thought his stuff looked as good as it has all year in this outing, but that says more about the rest of his season than it does about this start. Stuff also isn’t everything, and his command and control were both rough. The fastball was up in the low 90s, which can work for him with good command. His curveball was also pretty nasty when it was spotted, but that got rarer as the inning went on.
In true Pomeranz fashion, he didn’t get through a clean inning of work in his shaky outing, though the damage was mostly limited. He almost got through a quick 1-2-3 first, but let Justin Smoak reach on a smoked (no pun intended) single into left field before walking Teoscar Hernandez. Fortunately he escaped the two-out jam with a shallow pop up from Kendrys Morales. The second was the closest thing to a clean inning, as Pomeranz did allow a leadoff walk but quickly got a double play and only faced three batters in the inning.
In the third, Pomeranz started losing his command even more and it came back to bite him. After a quick first out the lefty walked Randal Grichuk, bringing Travis to the plate. The second baseman got a 90 mph fastball belt-high on the outer half of the plate, and he crushed it way out to left field for a two-run homer. That gave Toronto their 2-0 lead. Pomeranz did come back with three grounders (one was an infield single) after that and kept the deficit at two.
Pomeranz had another good one in the fourth, when he got the first out with some crazy reflexes to snag a liner up the middle before getting an inning-ending double play following yet another walk. The fifth wasn’t so fortunate, though, and it marked the end of his outing. That inning started with a double into the left-field corner from catcher Luke Maile, and after a couple of quick outs Pomeranz couldn’t get out of the inning. He walked Smoak — his fifth walk of the night — and his night was over. Heath Hembree came on to clean up a two-on and two-out mess, and he did just that just as he’s done all year.
After the Red Sox failed to score in the fifth and sixth, Brandon Workman came on to try and keep the deficit to one. It did not appear he was going to be able to do that, as he quickly loaded the bases without recording an out. Fortunately for him, the lead runner was Kendrys Morales, one of the slowest players in all of baseball. Workman gave up a fly ball for out number one, but it wasn’t deep enough to score the run. After that, he allowed a dribbler down the third base line. Instead of letting it roll foul, Sandy León made a great, heads-up play to pick it up and tag Morales, recording a crucial second out. With a weak ground ball back to the mound, Workman somehow got out of the jam without allowing a single run.
In the top of the seventh, the Red Sox were looking to break through against Stroman and at least tie the game. They got off to a good start when Martinez smoked a ground-rule double to left field, but a couple of ground balls later they were left with Martinez at third with two outs for Eduardo Núñez. He hit a weak chopper to the mound, and the leadoff double was squandered.
Joe Kelly would then come in for the bottom half of the inning, and some bad defense got in the way. That frame started with what looked to be a single into left field for Travis, but Benintendi’s throw in sailed over the second base bag and Travis read it well, making it to second base on the error. Then, after getting the first out, Kelly became entirely too focused on the runner and eventually had a pickoff attempt sail into center field, putting Travis 90 feet away. That was costly when Hernandez hit a fly ball to center field for a sacrifice fly, extending Toronto’s lead back to two.
That would be all they’d get, giving the Red Sox six more outs to score at least two runs. They caught a bit of a break when Stroman had to leave with injury while warming up before the eighth, bringing Ryan Tepera into the game. Brock Holt would quickly make the first out, but León followed that up with a one-out double ahead of the top of the order. After Mookie Betts walked and Benintendi singled, the bases were loaded with one out for Moreland. He didn’t get a big swing, but he knocked in one run with a ground out to second that resulted in one out at second base, bringing Martinez up with runners on the corners. Martinez then did the damn thing, hitting an absolute laser off the foul pole in left field, driving in three runs and putting Boston up 5-3.
So, now it was all about protecting the two-run lead, and Matt Barnes was up first on that quest. He did not have his typical sharp outing, allowing a leadoff single and then a two-out double to let Toronto get within one. He’d escape from there, though, getting a pop up in foul ground to strand the tying run at second base.
After a quick top of the ninth, it was up to Craig Kimbrel to protect the one-run lead. After starting the inning with a strikeout, he fell behind 3-0 on Smoak. The Blue Jays slugger had the green light, and he crushed one to right field to tie the game at five. Kimbrel did come back with two more strikeouts, but this one was heading to extras.
In the tenth, the Red Sox had a chance to get their lead right back. Betts started the rally with a one-out triple (that was almost an incredible diving grab by Kevin Pillar), and a Benintendi walk gave Moreland a chance with runners on the corners with just one out. He only needed a ball in the air, and he did that and then some. The first baseman send one flying into the right-field seats, and the Red Sox had another three-run lead. Bradley eventually hit a two-run homer, and all of a sudden it was a five-run lead.
With the big lead, it was Tyler Thornburg looking to close it out. He couldn’t make it easy, allowing a leadoff single before leaving a fastball up in the zone to Pillar. The outfielder doesn’t have big power, but he got ahold of this one for a two-run shot to cut Boston’s lead to three. Thornburg would give up another single, but that was it. Finally, the game was over and Boston got the win. Number 80 (!!) on the year.
The Red Sox will look to keep the good times rolling on Wednesday with their sixth straight victory. They’ll send Brian Johnson to the mound to take on Mike Hauschild, with first pitch coming at 7:07 PM ET.
As for the standings, well, the Yankees are currently tied with the White Sox in the eighth inning. If Chicago can pull out an improbable victory, Boston will go to bed with an ten-game lead. If not, they’ll have to settle for nine games.