Game 52: Atlanta Braves at Red Sox (May 26, 2018)

In its own strange way, thank goodness for Drew Pomeranz and the terminal slogs that are his starts. Let me explain: from 9am until about 1:00pm I was out of the house coaching my son at a tournament for his travel team. After the last game, we went and got some lunch before we drove home. And yet, when I sat on the couch and turned the game on, it was only the fourth inning so I didn't miss much of the game at all! I guess Drew's struggles were good for one thing at least, because they sure weren't good for his team.

The biggest story of the day was the return of Dustin Pedroia to the Red Sox lineup, playing second base and batting sixth, which briefly pushed the Hanley Ramirez release from yesterday off of centerstage. Otherwise, while this game got somewhat exciting toward the end it was what I'll call "The Battle of the Bullpens" as both starters were abysmal. Pomeranz only lasted 3.1 innings even though he threw 89 pitches (!). He struck out three, walked three, gave up a homer and five earned runs on six hits. Just awful. I know he didn't have a full spring training and is coming back from injury, but by now he should be rounding into form. Whether it's physical or mental with this guy, I don't know but whatever it is it's clearly not happening. If that means putting him on the DL or moving him to the bullpen until he figures it out, so be it but he is absolutely killing this rotation right now.  Luckily, Steven Wright was fantastic in long relief, going three innings and only giving up two hits. Braves starter Sean Newcomb was just as bad, only lasting three innings on 88 pitches while giving up three earned runs on six hits against four walks and four strikeouts. A pitcher's duel, ithis game wasn't.

The Braves got on the board first when Dansby Swanson hit a two run homer in the second inning. Kurt Suzuki ripped an RBI double to centerfield in the third to put the Braves up 3-0, but Xander Bogaerts got one back in the bottom of the inning when he drove in Mitch Moreland. Blake Swihart, who suprisingly started at DH the day after Hanley Ramirez was DFA'd drove in Xander which was followed later in the inning by Christian Vazquez driving in Pedroia (who walked earlier) to tie the game up at three runs apiece. The Braves got two back to go up 5-3 in the fourth when Freddie Freeman drove Swanson in followed by a sacrifice fly from Nick Markakis. Andrew Benintendi, who was red hot all day (more on this later) hit a solo homer in the bottom of the fourth to cut it to a one run lead and the Red Sox finally took the lead when Moreland smacked a two-RBI double in the sixth to drive in Mookie Betts (who had singled) and Benintendi (who was hit by a pitch). The Sox got a couple more runs in the bottom of the seventh when Benintendi hit a triple to drive in Betts and Eduardo Nunez, and it's a good thing he did because Craig Kimbrel gave up a solo homer in the top of the ninth. Due to the cushion of Benintendi's final two RBI, though, it didn't do any damage and the Sox held on to win 8-6.

The stars of this game for the Sox were Benintendi and Moreland. Andrew went 3-4 with a homer, a triple, a single, two runs scored, and three RBI while Mitch went 2-5 with two RBI and a run scored. It was a quiet day for Mookie although he did score two runs and walk once to go with his 1-4 day. The Sox also continued to get some bonus production from the catcher spot in the lineup with Vazquez' hit. While still trying to process the bizarre Hanley move from yesterday, it got even weirder with Swihart, who has been buried on the bench all season, suddenly starting this game. I have no idea what the Sox are trying to do here with all of this, but whatever it is it doesn't make a modicum of sense. I can only think they're trying to boost Blake's trade value by getting him some playing time because I really don't see anywhere else for him to fit into the lineup other than some spot DH starts. We have two catchers (his primary position) ahead of him and he's a distant fifth (or sixth if you include Brock Holt) in the outfield  rotation (his secondary position) behind Betts, Benintendi, Jackie Bradley, and JD Martinez. This whole saga bears watching as the season continues to unfold.

With the win and the Yankees not playing until tonight, the Sox picked up a half game and sit 1.5 ahead in the division. Just once or twice, I'd like the Yankees to lose on the days we win so that the lead can grow a bit. As the season rolls into June this coming week, though, the race should heat up...this is where the season is going to get really fun.