Coming off a weekend in which they swept the New York Yankees in four games, the Red Sox headed north of the border to Toronto on the first leg of a three-city, nine game road trip looking to become the first team in the majors to reach 80 wins, which is exactly what happened on Tuesday.
Drew Pomeranz made his third start since returning from the 10-day disabled list on July 24th, and despite what the numbers say, was far from proficient in this one.
Pitching into the fifth inning, the lefty surrendered two earned runs on four hits, yet walked FIVE and only struck out one.
Those two runs came on swing of the bat from Blue Jays second baseman Devon Travis, a one out, two-run home run in the third inning that put Toronto on the board first.
That may have been the only real damage Pomeranz sustained on the night, but it truly goes deeper than that.
The pitch count, velocity, and what appears to be a lack of motivation or confidence while on the mound all seem to be prevalent in Pomeranz’s case. Bottom line: it does not look like he wants to be there and he rarely ever gives his team a chance to win.
In total, the Tennessee native found himself behind in EIGHT three-ball counts, including the five free passes, which came at a pace of one per inning ending in the fifth.
All and all, it’s difficult to say Pomeranz did not give the Red Sox a chance to win this game, because he left with them trailing by just one run, but how he performed last night was far from encouraging.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 84 (44 strikes), the 29 year-old hurler induced three total swings and misses. That is far from ideal, especially when you’re topping out at 91.8 MPH with your four-seam fastball in a game against big league hitters. Makes for an ugly outing, and Pomeranz may as well consider himself lucky for only giving up two runs.
With Chris Sale set to return from the disabled list this weekend in Baltimore, it will be interesting to see what becomes of the Red Sox rotation. Sale, Porcello, Price, and Eovaldi are all obvious locks. Then it comes down to two lefties: Brian Johnson, who starts on Wednesday, or Pomeranz? Who would you rather have as the fifth starter? My money is on BJ.
In relief of Pomeranz, the Red Sox bullpen certainly had themselves a night to forget starting in the middle of the seventh.
Heath Hembree rebounded from a rough appearance on Sunday night by retiring the only batter he faced in the fifth to make way for Brandon Workman in the sixth.
Despite loading the bases on the first three batters he faced, Workman escaped the frame scot-free with the help of some clutch defensive play from Sandy Leon to keep the Red Sox within one run.
From that point on, a combination of Joe Kelly, Matt Barnes, Craig Kimbrel, and Tyler Thornburg surrendered five runs over the final four innings of last night’s contest.
Kelly’s run put Toronto up 3-1, Barnes’ run cut the Red Sox lead to 5-4, Kimbrel’s run, a Justin Smoak solo home run, resulted in a blown save and a 5-5 game heading into the tenth, and Thornburg’s two runs broke up the reliever’s streak of six straight scoreless appearances.
Fortunately, the ex-Brewer held things together, recorded the third and final out of the tenth, and locked down his team’s 80th win of the season with the 10-7 victory. Oddly enough, Craig Kimbrel was credited with the winning decision.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against Toronto’s “ace” in right-hander Marcus Stroman.
Although he has not pitched much like an ace for the majority of this season, Stroman had his way with Boston on Tuesday.
Tossing seven innings of one run ball, with that lone run coming on a JD Martinez RBI single in the fourth, the thing that really killed the Red Sox while Stroman was on the mound had to be ground ball outs.
The Duke product induced 14 of them on the night, which also resulted in two double plays early on.
With his pitch count at 92, it looked like Stroman was ready for another frame of work in the eighth, but a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand forced his night to come to a close, and that’s where this game turned around in the right direction for Boston.
Blue Jays reliever Ryan Tepera took over for Stroman in the eighth with a two run lead to protect.
After Bruck Holt struck out to lead off the inning, a Sandy Leon double, Mookie Betts walk, and Andrew Benintendi single loaded the bases with Mitch Moreland due up.
On the second pitch he saw from Tepera, grounded a ball sharply to second base for the force out there, but Leon managed to score without a throw home to make it a 3-2 game with two outs for JD Martinez.
In a 2-0 hitter’s count with Betts at third and Moreland at first, Martinez launched a 95 MPH fastball over the wall in the left field corner for his league-leading 34th big fly and 97th RBI of the year. 5-3 game.
Unfortunately for the Red Sox, that clutch home run would not amount to much a few minutes later when the Blue Jays stormed back to send this thing into extras tied at five runs a piece.
Starting the tenth with the 9-1-2 hitters due up and former Astros closer Ken Giles on the hill for the Blue Jays, Mookie Betts got a five-run rally started with a one out triple.
Two batters and one Andrew Benintendi walk later, Mitch Moreland came through with his 14th homer of the season, another three-run bomb sent 381 feet into the seats in right field to give the Red Sox a 8-5 lead.
After JD Martinez grounded out to short for the second out and Xander Bogaerts reached first on a single up the middle, Jackie Bradley Jr. really put this game out of reach with his ninth long ball of 2018 to put his team up 10-5, which, despite a last-ditch two run rally from the Jays in their half of the tenth, is all they would need to secure this series opening win.
Some notes from this win:
Over his last five appearances, Craig Kimbrel has allowed five runs to score in 5.1 innings pitched. According to @RedSoxStats: Kimbrel’s 3.32 FIP (fielding independent pitching) ranks 64th/157 qualified relievers this year.
From @SoxNotes: The Red Sox are 80-34 (.702), their most wins ever through 114 games.
This is the first time since 2007 the Red Sox are MLB’s first team to reach 80 wins.
Since going 13-13 from April 21-May 18, the Sox are 50-19 (.725).
Boston is 24-5 (.828) in its last 29 games.
As is mentioned above, the Red Sox are 80-34 and the first team in baseball to reach that mark this season. Both statements are insane.
With a potential series win at hand later tonight, it will be a pitching matchup featuring Brian Johnson for Boston and rookie Mike Hauschild for Toronto.
Johnson is coming off an outing in which he got roughed up for five runs in five innings against the Yankees this past Thursday and owns a lifetime 7.47 ERA in five career appearances against the Blue Jays.
Hauschild, 28 and a right-hander, will be making his first career start in the majors after five career relief appearances between Houston and Toronto the past two seasons. As you may have guessed, he has never faced the Red Sox in his short stint in the big leagues.
Rafael Devers is expected to be activated from the 10-day disabled list today while infielder Tony Renda, who scored the game-winning run against the Yankees on Monday morning, will be optioned back down to Pawtucket.
Chris Sale, Ian Kinsler, and Blake Swihart are also expected to be activated from the DL in the coming days.
First pitch of the second game of the series in Toronto is scheduled for 7:07 PM ET Tuesday.