No Mookie, no Pedroia, no problem? That was the big news last night before the game started. Mookie Betts was held out for a fifth straight game with the "side tightness" the team keeps mentioning, while Pedroia was a late scratch with knee soreness. Seeing as the soreness is in the same knee he had surgery on and rehabbed all spring, that's not good news. Losing two of your best players and going up the defending champion Astros on the road made it seem even more daunting. Add in the maddening Drew Pomeranz as the Sox starter, and this had all the makings of a disappointing game...and it was.
I was coaching my son's travel team but because of the game's 8:00pm start, I was able to watch most of it when I got home. Things looked grim when the Astros went up 2-0 in the bottom of the first on Carlos Correa's two run homer, but the Sox tied it on Xander Bogaerts' two RBI double in the top of the third and it looked like we had a ballgame. They couldn't hold the lead, however, as in the bottom of the fourth the Astros pushed two more runs across on an RBI single by Tony Kemp and RBI bunt from Jake Marisnick. Things got a bit tense in the bottom of the eighth when Sox reliever Steven Wright had the bases loaded, but they got the force out at home and then Wright struck out Marwin Gonzalez after going down 3-0 in the count to escape. The Sox threatened in the top of the ninth when they had two on and two outs thanks to walks to Jackie Bradley and Brock Holt, but Blake Swihart lined out to end the game and the Sox went down 4-2. With the Yankees idle, the Sox only lost a half game in the standings and are still ahead by 1.5 games.
It was a pretty light hitting night for the Sox overall, with the team only getting six: two from Andrew Benintendi and one each from Bradley, Bogaerts, Devers, and Leon. This is where Mookie is sorely missed...in addition to his stellar production, he's the sparkplug and energy at the top of the order that the team feeds off of. This team is still dangerous when he's out, but it's not the same. He's a special player and any time he's out of the lineup, it completely changes the tenor of the game. The pitching was also weak, with Pomeranz giving up those four runs in five innings of work. He struck out five and walked two while giving up six hits, and surprisingly did it all in less than 100 pitches (he threw 87 in this one). Still, he continued to nibble and just didn't look sharp at all. I'm not sure how much longer the team can keep sending him out there every fifth game when it puts them in such a hole each time. Unless he starts rounding into form soon (one more start? two? three?), it might be time (as I've said countless times before) to send him to the bullpen or the DL so they can figure out what his issue is and whether it's mental or physical. Whatever the problem, it's just hurting the team at this point.
Chris Sale will be on the mound for the Sox tonight so hopefully this skid ends at one game and the Sox can get that winning momentum back after sweeping the Blue Jays. I'd be happy with a split this series, especially on the road. It should be a good one tonight!