Coming off a sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays in Boston, the Red Sox headed down to Houston to kick off a four-game series last night. Although it is still decently early in the season, I had this series circled in my calendar. The Astros are coming off their first World Series championship in franchise history last fall, and they just so happened to beat the Red Sox in the ALDS to get there. With both teams improving over the offseason, I was excited for this matchup.
In his eighth start of the season on Thursday, Drew Pomeranz did not have the best of first innings. After walking Alex Bregman on five pitches in between getting the first two outs, the lefty got taken deep to left by Astros shortstop Carlos Correa.
That 389 foot shot put the Astros up by two runs early and, despite some close moments, they would not have to look back.
After the Red Sox got those two runs back in their half of the third, the Astros struck for another two runs in the bottom of the fourth. Thanks in part to giving up two hits to the first three batters he faced to leadoff the inning, Tony Kemp drove in JD Davis from third to make it a one run game. That was followed by a bunt off the bat of outfielder Jake Marisnick which allowed Davis to score from third.
After Sandy Leon caught Marisnick trying to steal second to end the fourth, Pomeranz would go on to pitch one more inning, a 1-2-3 fifth to end his night.
So far this season, the lefty has only been able to pitch past the fifth inning twice in eight starts, and those came in back to back outings against the Royals and Yankees in early May. All and all, four runs in five innings against a juggernaut like the Houston Astros is not too shabby, so at the very least, he has earned himself another start.
In relief of Pomeranz, Alex Cora only needed to turn to one pitcher, and that pitcher was Steven Wright. The knuckleballer kept the Red Sox in this game while scattering one hit and three walks over three shutout innings pitched thanks to some help from Rafael Devers in the eighth.
With this most recent performance, Wright now owns a 2.25 ERA in 16 innings pitched since being activated from the restricted list on May 14th. Over that stretch, opponents are only hitting .167 off the California native. If Pomeranz’s struggles were to continue, Wright would be my first choise to take over his spot in the rotation.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox were without Mookie Betts for the fifth game in a row due to that left side tightness he has been dealing with. The Red Sox were also without Dustin Pedroia, who was scratched from the original lineup because of soreness in his surgically repaired knee.
So that all happened quickly before the game started. Then in the second inning, it looked like Rafael Devers was going to have to leave the game after colliding with Astros starter Lance McCullers at first base, but he was fine.
An inning later, the Red Sox scored their only two runs of the night off the bat of Xander Bogaerts on an RBI double that scored both Jackie Bradley Jr. and Andrew Benintendi on a close play at the plate.
Fast forward to the ninth, trailing by two runs, and the Red Sox made things a little interesting. With Astros closer Ken Giles on the mound, a two out single from Sandy Leon and a walk drawn by Jackie Bradley Jr. brought the go-ahead run to the plate in Blake Swihart. Unfortunately, as was the theme for the Red Sox last night, Swihart appeared to make solid contact with a 88 MPH slider from Giles, but it was hit right at Jake Marisnick in center field. That killed any shot at a rally and ended the winning streak at three games.
Some notes from this one:
According to Statcast, the eight hardest hit balls last night all belonged to the Red Sox. Four of them went for hits, while the other four went for outs.
Andrew Benintendi finished the month with a 2-for-3 day at the plate. In May, he slashed .349/.411/.633 with 6 HR and 23 RBIs.
JD Martinez finished the month with a 0-for-3 day at the plate. In May, he slashed .299/.370/.729 with 13 HR and 25 RBIs. American League Player of the Month right there.
With the series opener out of the way, the Red Sox will look to rebound in the second of four games later tonight. Chris Sale will be getting the start in this one, and he is coming off one of his more disappointing starts of the season last time out against Atlanta. He will be matched up against former Pittsburgh Pirate Gerrit Cole. In his first season in Houston, Cole currently leads the AL in strikeouts with 109 of them on the season. Who is in second you ask? Well, that would be the other starter in tonight’s game, the aforementioned Chris Sale, who has 104 K’s in 2018.
A primetime pitching matchup to kick off the weekend. Couldn’t ask for anything better on a Friday night. First pitch is scheduled for 8:10 PM ET, time to even this series up.