RECAP: Chris Sale, #RedSox bullpen surrender nine runs as division lead shrinks.

Remember that great road trip the Red Sox just had in Tampa Bay, Baltimore and Cincinnati? The one where they won 8 out of 9 and 6 in a row? Well, they have looked like a different team since returning to Fenway Park on Monday. Drew Pomeranz looked bad in the first game and the ace was not much better last night. Chris Sale got the start in this one, and I really hope this was his last start of the regular season. The strikeouts were there, but so were the home runs. Yup, the Blue Jays took Sale deep FOUR times. The lefty simply did not have it going on as he usually does against Toronto. He pitched five full innings, allowing eight hits, five runs, two walks, and eight strikeouts. Josh Donaldson greeted him with a solo shot in the first, then hit another one in the third. Dude is just unreal back in his MVP form. He’s going to be 32 by Opening Day next season, but there are not too many third baseman that can do what Donaldson can. He wasn’t the only player to go deep twice though, as outfielder Teoscar Hernandez, former Astros prospect, hit his sixth and seventh home runs of the season as well. Sandwiched in between those two was Kendrys Morales’ two-run blast in the fifth. Like I said, four of those belong to Sale, but the bullpen gave up runs for the second night in a row. Matt Barnes pitched a scoreless sixth while Joe Kelly and Heath Hembree surrendered four runs in a combined two innings of work. Hector Velazquez made his first appearance in three weeks and pitched a 1-2-3 ninth, but the game was already out of reach. With all the talk about how great this bullpen is, we’ve seen Addison Reed and Joe Kelly, arguably the two most important guys not named Craig Kimbrel, give up runs in consecutive nights.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox offense did not fare well against Blue Jays veteran JA Happ. One run and four hits is all they could get off of the lefty and they also whiffed nine times. Chris Young tied the game in the first with an RBI double, but that’s all the bats could do until the eighth inning. Having just gone down by eight runs, it looked like this one was out of reach. Sandy Leon led the inning off with his seventh home run of the year, and that was followed by a Rajai Davis RBI double. Next man up, Hanley Ramirez, shrunk the deficit to five runs with his two-out RBI single, but the lineup could do no more.

Having lost the first two games of the series, this will mark the first time since September 3rd that the Red Sox have failed to win a series. With each team having five games remaining, the Yankees trail the Red Sox in the division by three games. In order to give the division away, the Red Sox would have to lose four of their next five games while the Yankees win all five. If both teams finish with the same record, a play-in game will be hosted by the Yankees to determine who faces the Astros in the ALDS and who faces Minnesota in the Wild Card game. If the Red Sox do blow this three game lead, and Chris Sale had to pitch in the Wild Card game, that is a very bad scenario. Yeah, the one game thing is exciting, but it would be very hard to watch if my team was in it. One mistake and the season is over. I know the ALDS has a tendency to go quick, but at least you have multiple chances.

Anyway…Rick Porcello gets the ball tonight against Marco Estrada, hopefully the Red Sox can salvage something from this series with a win tonight.

91 down, 3 to go. 

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RECAP: Drew Pomeranz allows five runs; #RedSox fall short of comeback in 6-4 loss.

Coming off an amazing road trip, the Red Sox got the final homestand of the regular season off to a below average start. The Blue Jays made their last stop at Fenway this season, and they currently have one of the hottest hitters in the game in The Bringer of Rain, Josh Donaldson. Donaldson made his presence felt early, taking last night’s starter, Drew Pomeranz, deep in the first inning. Since the All-Star break, Donaldson has now hit 21 home runs, making it 31 total in only 109 games this season. Don’t get it twisted, I like Rafael Devers at third, but I would have LOVED Donaldson at third a few years ago, one of my favorite players in baseball.

Back to Pomeranz, he was clearly not at the top of his game last night. Failing to record an out in the third inning, the lefty allowed five runs on seven hits to go along with three walks and three strikeouts. I bet John Farrell would have stuck with him longer earlier in the season, but I agree with pulling him so soon in this game. The bullpen was doing a great job in relief of Pomeranz up until the ninth. Austin Maddox, Blaine Boyer, and Carson Smith were all solid, combining to pitch six shutout innings, scattering only three hits and two walks. As this was happening, the Red Sox bats were attempting to stage a comeback. They came almost all the way back to make it a one run game going into the ninth, but Addison Reed gave that away. Ryan Goins took the righty deep, giving the Blue Jays the two-run lead. Not a great look giving up a run the same day the bullpen wins Bullpen of the Week, but I’m not too worried.

On the other side of things, Brett Anderson did a good job in limiting what the Red Sox could have done off of him. Mookie Betts got the scoring started in the first with an RBI ground out, scoring Xander Bogaerts from first. That RBI marks 100 on the year for Mookie, the second year in a row he has accomplished that feat. Hanley Ramirez did the same later in the inning, scoring Eduardo Nunez from third on another RBI ground out. Taking the lead going into the second looked good, but that was the only time they would have the lead. Betts would drive in another run in the fifth, but would not remain in the game after injuring his left wrist. It’s nothing serious, and taking him out was only precautionary. The same can be said about Eduardo Nunez, who reinjured his knee on a swing in the third. Not great when two of the most impactful players on the team have to leave, hopefully they’ll at least be ready for Houston. Andrew Benintendi, who did not start the game, gave the Red Sox some hope in the eighth with his 20th long ball of the season, but the offense could not do anything against Roberto Osuna in the ninth.

With the Yankees beating the Royals, the Red Sox magic number to clinch the division stays at three. Chris Sale gets the start tonight, though, and he’s coming off a start where he recorded his 300th strikeout of the season.

91 down, 4 to go. 

RECAP: In a game they had no business winning, Mookie Betts delivers clutch performance for #RedSox in 5-4 win.

Going into the eighth inning of today’s game, the Red Sox had only scored one time, on a Rafael Devers home run in the fifth. Jackson Stephens, the starter for the Reds, looked good in the six innings he pitched, but the Reds bullpen has been a different story this season. With an ERA of 4.62 going into this game, they proved again just how unreliable they are. Christian Vazquez got the eighth started with a walk, and that was followed by a Xander Bogaerts single. After a pitching change and a Dustin Pedroia ground out, Andrew Benintendi drew another walk. That set up a one out, bases loaded situation for Mookie Betts, and he pounced on it. On a 2-2 slider, Betts ripped a game-tying, 3 RBI double to center field.

Vazquez, Bogaerts and Benintendi all scored, and we had a tied game, but not for long. The very next batter, Rafael Devers, reached on an infield single, all while Mookie Betts was hauling from second to home, and he reached with ease.

That was the go-ahead run and the winning run, as Craig Kimbrel ended the game with a scoreless ninth.

Doug Fister got the start in this one, and although he was not particularly bad, I still think Eduardo Rodriguez is the frontrunner for the third spot in the playoff rotation right now.

Coming off a great 8-1 road trip, Drew Pomeranz gets the ball tomorrow against the Blue Jays back at Fenway Park. The Patriots also won today in comeback fashion, so it was a pretty good day in Boston and New England.

91 down, 4 to go. Magic number is down to 3.

Happy Sunday!

RECAP: Eduardo Rodriguez’s best start of the season is key for #RedSox in 5-0 win.

Over the past few weeks, any starter not named Chris Sale or Drew Pomeranz has pretty much been auditioning for a third or fourth spot in a postseason rotation. Today, Eduardo Rodriguez got his chance to shine, and shine he did. The lefty pitched into the eighth inning, scattering three hits, two walks, and six strikeouts over that span. That first hit didn’t come until the fourth, and it didn’t even matter thanks to Andrew Benintendi’s arm.

At no point did it appear that ERod was struggling. However, I wasn’t too excited about him coming back out for the eighth inning with 101 pitches. If he’s gonna be the third guy in the ALDS rotation, then you probably don’t want him throwing 112 pitches in a game the Red Sox had a grip on. He exited with two outs in the inning, and Carson Smith came on to finish it with a strikeout. To wrap things up, Joe Kelly pitched a scoreless ninth, striking out the side along with two walks. Nothing to complain about in the pitching department.

Similar to last night, the Red Sox scored five runs, four of those came against another inexperienced starting pitcher. Robert Stephenson, 24, made his tenth start for the Reds, and like Sal Ramano, he got off to a pretty good start. The Red Sox scored once in the first on a Brock Holt sac fly, but couldn’t score again until the sixth, where they scored three times. That rally was also started by Holt, who reached on an E1 to start the inning. Andrew Benintendi walked, and that set up a great situation for Mitch Moreland. 0 for his last 19, Mitchy Four Bags blasted his 20th long ball of the season over the center field wall, giving his team a 4-0 lead.

That was a thing of beauty, but the scoring didn’t stop there. With two outs and two on in the seventh, Andrew Benintendi put the exclamation point on a great day with an RBI single that scored Xander Bogaerts from second. That RBI gives Benintendi a grand total of 88 on the year. I don’t know how it’s possible, but Ted Williams holds the Red Sox rookie for RBIs with 145. Obviously, he’s not going to get there, but ending your first full year in the bigs with 90+ RBIs is still pretty nice.

Doug Fister gets the ball tomorrow afternoon, and he’ll have to be much better than he was against the Orioles if he wants to start in the ALDS.

90 down, 5 to go. 

Also, second straight year with 90+ wins calls for this:

RECAP: Rafael Devers’ go-ahead, three-run blast in fourth gives #RedSox 5-4 win over the Reds.

For the first time in more than three years, the Red Sox made a visit to Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Reds have been a last place team for the better part of this season but they are not a team anyone should overlook. If you compare their everyday lineup to that of the Red Sox, you’d see just how many more home runs the Reds have hit this year. Not surprisingly, the only runs the Reds scored last night came on a home run, a grand slam to be more specific. That was served up by last night’s starter, Rick Porcello. The righty was not too sharp in this one, making his shortest outing of the month so far by only making it through four full innings. Porcello was pretty much in trouble right from the start, loading the bases with no outs in the first inning. The very next batter he faced, Scooter Gennett, capitalized on this by mashing his FOURTH grand slam of the year. Note that the Red Sox have hit ZERO grand slams all year.

Despite Porcello’s struggles, the pitching staff actually put together a pretty solid performance from the fifth inning on. Making his first appearance since last Sunday, David Price made his second appearance out of the bullpen, and he looked solid in the 2.2 innings he pitched. Over that span, the lefty scattered three hits and a walk while striking out four. Since pitchers bat in NL ballparks, Price also got his third career hit on a single last night, and he was excited about it.

Addison Reed came on with two outs in the seventh, ended the inning, and went on to pitch a scoreless eighth as well. This all paved way for Craig Kimbrel to come on, do his thing, and pick up his 34th save of 2017. I’m gonna have a blog out soon previewing what I think the ALDS roster should look like, and I think last night’s start pretty much took Rick Porcello off the board, David Price on the other hand, well, his stock is rising.

On the other side of things, I heard a lot about how Reds starter, Sal Romano, was looking forward to facing the Red Sox since he grew up a Yankees fan. Unfortunately, his performance was one that he’d probably like to forget. The Red Sox drew first blood, though that did not last long and they should have scored more. Xander Bogaerts, Dustin Pedroia, and hometown hero Andrew Benintendi all reached base to lead off the first. Only one run managed to cross the plate, and that came on a Mitch Moreland sacrifice fly. The bats went silent for the next two innings, then scored all their other runs in the fourth. Mookie Betts started the inning with a double, and that was followed by a Moreland walk. Next up was Christian Vazquez, and on a 1-2 slider, he ripped a double to right, scoring Betts. Rafael Devers then decided he wanted to join in and make up for his base running blunder by hitting an absolute moonshot to right field, giving the Red Sox a 5-4 lead, which is all they needed.

With the Yankees loss last night, the Red Sox move to four games up in the division, and the magic number to clinch is down to six. Eduardo Rodriguez gets the start tomorrow, and he should be at the top of his game vying for a spot in the playoff rotation.

89 down, 5 to go. 

RECAP: Chris Sale records 300th strikeout, Betts and Marrero go deep, and the #RedSox leave Baltimore with a sweep.

Chris Sale is a machine, plain and simple. Yeah, he’s had his ups and downs in the second half, but he’s still the most valuable pitcher on this staff, and he proved that last night. Needing 13 strikeouts to reach 300, it was going to take quite the effort to reach that milestone. Lo and behold, he got it done, striking out the last batter he faced in the eighth inning.

With those 300 K’s, Sale joins Pedro Martinez as the only Red Sox pitchers to record 300 or more strikeouts in a single season. Pedro did it back in 1999, and here we have Sale doing it 18 years later. I’m sure there were plenty of people who did not agree with bringing Sale back out for the eighth inning given his pitch count, but I can understand it based off the fact he would have been stuck at #299 had he left after seven innings. Sale is one who will definitely benefit from the off day today, and I think the Red Sox should consider giving him even more rest in preparation for the playoffs. Since he went eight innings, the bullpen was not tasked with too much work, and Austin Maddox ended the game by throwing a shaky, but scoreless ninth inning. He still hasn’t given up a run in his big league career.

On the other side of things, old friend Wade Miley got the ball for the O’s, and he was far from impressive. The Red Sox failed to score in the first three innings despite loading the bases with one out in the third. The fourth inning was a different story, in a good way. Mookie Betts and Deven Marrero, who are the best of friends, both hit two-run jacks, giving the Red Sox a 4-0 lead. Hanley Ramirez tacked on two more runs in the fifth, doubling for the second time while also driving in Andrew Benintendi and Mookie Betts. A Dustin Pedroia double scored two more runs in the eighth, and Hanley capped things off in the ninth with an RBI single, scoring Betts from third.

Last night was all about Chris Sale, but it was good to see the offense put up this type of performance the night after failing to record a single RBI.

Let’s talk about what the Red Sox have done this month real quick. Since dropping three out of four to the Yankees, they have won 11 out of their past 15 games. Unfortunately, the Yankees have also been playing really good baseball over that stretch so no ground in the division has been gained. They did clinch a playoff spot last night, though.

88 down, 6 to go but I think they might win more than 6.

Also…suh dude.

 

RECAP: The #RedSox defeated the Orioles 1-0 in 11 innings last night without an RBI.

First things first, the Red Sox have got to stop making a habit out of these games. I know they’re 15-3 in extra inning games, but you have to attribute at least a handful of those, like last night, to luck. Imagine if they were only 10-8 in extras this year? That’s not bad but they would be in second place behind the Yankees right now. Honestly, I was lucky to be able to watch that whole game. Drew Pomeranz and Kevin Gausman really picked up the pace, and they’re the main reason this eleven inning game only took three hours and twenty-seven minutes. A good way to avoid these long games would be to have a game-changing power bat available. Hanley Ramirez was supposed to be that guy, Mookie Betts isn’t going to hit 31 ding dongs like he did last year, and David Ortiz is no longer here. Those were your three biggest power threats last year, and two-thirds of them have not lived up to the expectations they had going into the year. Bryce Brentz hit 31 HR with the PawSox this season, but he wasn’t added to the 40-man roster for whatever reason. What I think this all boils down to is the acquisition of a power bat this offseason. Giancarlo Stanton would be nice, but you’re not going to meet the Marlins asking price, hopefully. I’m really talking myself into JD Martinez of the Diamondbacks. He’s a free agent after this season, he has a history with Dave Dombrowski, and he has hit 40 home runs this year. Sure, he’s thirty and can probably get a deal worth more than $20 million a year, but the Red Sox are going to need a game changing type of bat, and he fits that need. I know I’m getting too far ahead of myself, but it’s something to think about.

Okay, I got that off my chest, let’s talk about the game that was played last night. Like I said above, Drew Pomeranz was matched up against Kevin Gausman in this one, two SEC guys. Gausman outpitched Pomeranz, but not by much. The lefty put up six and a third solid innings, scattering five hits, two walks, and five strikeouts over that span. He got hit pretty hard, but managed to keep the Orioles off the scoreboard with the help of his outfielders. In the third, Andrew Benintendi ended the inning by picking off old friend Manny Machado at the plate with this great throw:

Later on in the fifth, Jackie Bradley Jr. robbed Chris Davis of a solo shot with this very casual catch:

I was hoping Mookie Betts would rob the Orioles of a run, since the other two outfielders made great plays. That didn’t happen though, and Pomeranz couldn’t pick up his 17th win of the year either, despite the great effort. It was surprising to see him come back out for the seventh, but I actually like how John Farrell only had him face Chris Davis, a lefty. He got Davis to fly out, thus ending his day on a positive note.

For the second night in a row, the bullpen was relied on heavily, and they came through yet again. Carson Smith, Addison Reed, Craig Kimbrel, Joe Kelly, and Matt Barnes combined to pitch nearly five innings of perfect baseball. No hits, no walks, nothing for the Orioles, a real shut down. It was a bit nerve-racking watching Road Matt Barnes try and close out the game, but he did it to perfection and picked up his first save of the season. With all the use the bullpen has been dealing with lately, the off day on Thursday will be a good opportunity for rest.

Offensively, Kevin Gausman held the Red Sox in check. It took until the fifth inning for them to get their first hit, a Rafael Devers single, and they could only reach base three other times while facing Gausman. Once he left though, more scoring chances came, but they couldn’t capitalize right away. A leadoff single from Sam Travis in the eighth turned to nothing, a one out double from Andrew Benintendi could not turn into a run, and a one out Rafael Devers single couldn’t be turned into a run. I forgot to mention this earlier, but Devers had a really rough night at third with his throwing error in the eleventh that could have led to the tying run scoring for the Orioles. Anyway, it wasn’t until the eleventh when the Red Sox finally capitalized on a scoring chance. A leadoff single from Brock Holt was cancelled out by JBJ grounding into a fielder’s choice, putting him at first with one out. After Xander Bogaerts advanced him to second, two straight walks loaded the bases. With Mitch Moreland at the plate, a wild pitch from Brad Brach allowed the runners to advance, scoring JBJ from third. Moreland grounded out after that and that was the inning.

The win marks five straight series wins, and keeps them three games above the Yankees. Chris Sale, who owns a 4.25 ERA since the start of August, gets the start in this pretty important series finale later tonight.

87 down, 7 to go.