Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Game 114: Red Sox at Toronto Blue Jays (August 7, 2018)

After a sweep of the Yankees and a day off, the big question in my mind was how the Red Sox would come back to begin their latest road trip in Toronto. There was definitely a chance for a letdown after the emotional high of this past weekend. Speaking of letdowns, did I mention Drew Pomeranz got the start for game one against the Blue Jays? Uninspiring to watch when he's at his best, it's been borderline torture to watch him pitch this season. After his less than impressive previous start (and that's being kind), I was bracing myself for the latest chapter of the Drew Pomeranz experience. Lucky for him, there's a hell of team behind him because they needed every bit of that talent against the pesky Jays.

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The typical Pomeranz slog was in full effect, complete with poor control and high pitch counts. When he gave up a two run bomb to Devon Travis in the third, you just knew that the Sox would be playing catch-up for the rest of the game. JD Martinez added to his league leading RBI total with a single in the fourth to drive in Andrew Benintendi, but otherwise Marcus Stroman (seven innings, two hits, one run, four strikeouts, three walks) kept the Sox off balance and quiet all night. Pomeranz was mercifully lifted after 4.2 innings and his pitching line is about as ugly as you'd expect given his recent history: four hits, two runs, one strikeout, and five walks. Those are not the numbers of a legitimate number four starter in your rotation and at this point, I have to believe (hope?) that the Red Sox do something with him. Whether that "something" as in demote him to the bullpen or put him back on the DL with some phantom injury I don't care, because what he's doing right now simply is not working at all. Scoreless innings from Heath Hembree (for real!) and Brandon Workman (who was actually put in a game that wasn't a blowout) led to Joe Kelly giving up a run on Teoscar Hernandez' sacrifice fly in the seventh to extend Toronto's lead to 3-1. As we've seen all season, though, this Red Sox team has no quit in them. They started to claw their way back in the eighth when Mitch Moreland hit into a fielder's choice with the bases loaded to drive in Sandy Leon. JD then crushed his 34th home run of the year to plate three runs and put the Red Sox ahead for the first time all night at 5-3. Even Luke Maile's RBI double in the bottom of the inning to cut the lead to a run didn't seem to hurt, especially with Craig Kimbrel coming on in the ninth. While he's been shaky lately, it looked like he was well on his way to an easy save when he quickly struck out Travis for the first out. However, the next batter (Justin Smoak) ripped a solo shot to center field to tie the game and blow the save for Kimbrel. He got the next two batters to strike out, but I'm going to say it again: he's been very good this season, but something is a bit off. His control is just not as sharp as it's been in years past, his walks and home runs are up a bit, and I don't know why. Between this and the Yankees game he almost blew over the weekend, it's not feeling as automatic as it typically does when he comes in games. As with Pomeranz, though, he had an amazing team behind him and they lifted him back up in a big way. Mitch Moreland continued to (hopefully) bust out of his recent slump with a huge three run homer in the top of the tenth which was followed later in the inning by Jackie Bradley hitting a two run blast of his own. Just like that, Boston doubled their run total and were up 10-5. It's a good thing, too, because Toronto didn't go quietly. In the bottom of the inning Kevin Pillar hit a two run homer to make it 10-7, but it was too little too late as the Sox hung on for the win.

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There was so much to both like and dislike in this game. The good: the ability of the Red Sox to seemingly always come back from any deficit, Moreland seeming to break out of his slump, JD Martinez going 3-5 with four RBI and basically putting the team on his back, the Red Sox becoming the first team in MLB to hit eighty wins, and this win keeping the division lead at nine games. The bad: Drew Pomeranz (enough said), Kimbrel's continuing inconsistency, two Red Sox errors, and...too damn many home runs. I bet you didn't see that last one coming, but if you've been reading me all season you'll know that I think there are too many being hit across the league this season. It's a subject best left to a future post so I can really dive deep into it, but while they're exciting (and in the case of this game, very impactful), the over proliferation of them this season cheapens them a bit. As I've said before, too much of a good thing can be too much. For now, though, it's time to savor this win, hope we don't see Drew Pomeranz pitch again for a long time (ever?), and get ready for game two of the series. Brian Johnson gets the ball for the Red Sox and all I'm hoping for is that he can pitch as well as he did against the Yankees to help keep this team rolling. With the way they're playing right now (five wins in a row, 12-4 since the All Star break), I fully expect it. 

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