Game 103: Red Sox at Baltimore Orioles (July 24, 2018)

In a way, I've been thankful for the rain delays the Red Sox have had to endure so far in Baltimore. They've allowed me to watch the games without missing anything even though I've been busy. It was because of the rain delays that I was able to coach my son's practice and still get home to watch the entire game, although after seeing what I saw I almost wish I hadn't. This middle game of the series was the return of Drew Pomeranz to the rotation and it reminded me of the old adage "the more things change, the more they stay the same."

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Pomeranz had looked awful in his rehab starts apart from the final one before he was recalled to the big league club. All I was hoping going into this game was that he could keep it close so the Red Sox could win, and I was also thankful he was easing back in against a bad team like the Orioles. Unfortunately neither of those things came to matter in the end. Things got off to a good start when JD Martinez hit home run number 30 in the top of the first to give the Sox the early lead, but Pomeranz gave it right back when Jonathan Schoop hit his second two run homer in as many days against the Sox in the third inning to put Baltimore ahead. The Sox tied it on Blake Swihart's solo home run in the fifth and Mookie Betts put the Sox ahead when he hit a solo shot of his own (number 24 for him) later in the inning. In what seemed like deja vu, Pomeranz coughed it up again when he gave up another two run blast, this time to Tim Beckham in the bottom of the inning. That was it for Drew whose final line looked as bad as I'm trying to make it seem: 4.2 innings pitched, six hits, four runs, four strike outs, two walks, and two home runs given up. Unfortunately, the bullpen wasn't any better. The ever-struggling Joe Kelly really put the game out of reach for the Sox in his 0.2 innings of work: 2 hits, three runs, two walks, and no strikeouts. He gave up a sacrifice fly to Beckham and an RBI single to Schoop which gave the O's a 6-3 lead. The coup de grace to the Sox was later in the sixth when Hector Velazquez allowed an RBI single to Adam Jones. It was 7-4 Baltimore and looked like an utter trainwreck of a game for the Sox, but to their credit they didn't give up. JD hit another homer in the eighth with Andrew Benintendi on base to cut the lead to two runs and Rafael Devers drove in Jackie Bradley with an RBI single in the ninth. However, it was a case of coming up just short as they couldn't get anything else and lost to the final score of 7-6.

This loss was so frustrating on multiple levels. Pomeranz was as maddening and shaky as he's been his entire time in Boston apart from last season (which now looks like a real outlier, and let's be honest: his record in '17 was deceptive as he wasn't nearly as dominant as it makes him seem). Even worse, the middle relief continued it's trend of letting games get away from them; they couldn't even keep this game close for an inning. It's a real shame because had they even only allowed a couple of runs the Sox would have won, but four runs was too big a hole to dig out of on this night. Finally, with the Yankees winning, the division lead was shaved down a game and sits at five as of today. On the plus side, the bats never quit and the Sox fought back to the very end. The power was good to see as Boston clubbed four homers and even got one from Swihart (his first of the season). However, heading into the trade deadline there are areas of real concern for this team: the middle relief is putrid and needs an upgrade, and second base is an offensive and defensive black hole that needs shoring up. I wouldn't mind a veteran upgrade at third base on the cheap if possible, either. I like Devers a lot, but his defense hasn't improved as much as it should have and he's been slumping badly the last month or more (although he did go 2-4 in this one). The problem is the Red Sox have almost no one of value in the minors to offer in return and they're right up against the biggest luxury tax threshold. It will be interesting to see what Dave Dombrowski does (if he does anything) between now and the 31st.  David Price will take the ball for the rubber match and all I'm hoping for is that he'll pitch well and the Sox will continue to dominate in series ending games so that they can take this one before heading back to Fenway Park for their next homestand.