Sunday, May 20, 2018

Game 46: Baltimore Orioles at Red Sox (May 19, 2018)

After having one of the most exhausting (yet incredibly fun) "relaxing" Saturdays in recent memory, by the time the Red Sox game started at 7pm I was pretty tired. My morning started when I woke up at 6:30am to prep for the day. Three of my kids had team photos in the morning, followed by my coaching my youngest daughter's team in our thrilling comeback win. I then dashed over to the other side of town to help coach the final inning and a half of my son's rec game. This was followed by getting in some work in the batting cages with my oldest daughter. I finally got home around 5pm and promptly fell asleep on the couch, waking up just in time to catch the start of the Sox game. Phew!

At least it was hot and sunny where I was Boston, it was cold and drizzly. Having sat through a few games like that at Fenway Park in the past, I was for once happy to be in my living room instead. Rick Porcello took the mound for the Sox hoping to help the team bounce back after the previous night's disappointing loss. For the most part, he was great, pitching six innings while striking out nine against three walks. He did give up three earned runs on six hits, but he kept the game within striking distance until the Sox finally broke through with some runs. The Orioles got on the board first in the top of the third when Chance Sisco doubled, advanced to third, and was driven in by a sacrifice fly from Jonathon Schoop. In the bottom of the fourth, though, Rafael Devers muscled a ball over the Green Monster to tie the game at 1. The real excitement came in the bottom of the fifth when Sandy Leon doubled, followed two batters later by Mookie Betts crushing a pitch over the Monster to make it 3-1 Sox. Andrew Benintendi immediately followed Mookie's blast with a solo shot to rightfield to make it 4-1. The Orioles made it interested when Pedro Alvarez hit a two-run shot to cut the Sox lead to 4-3, but Benintendi put it out of reach when, with Leon and Jackie Bradley on base in the seventh, he drilled a single up the middle to drive both in and make it 6-3. That's where it stayed as Joe Kelly, Matt Barnes, and Craig Kimbrel (who got the save) held serve and kept the Orioles off the board.

We've run out of things to say about Mookie this season, but I'll try. He only went 1-4 in this game, but that one hit was huge as he broke the 1-1 tie and started the momentum that resulted in the Sox pulling away for good. His average dipped a bit during the .368. He's leading the league in just about every offensive category (including a ridiculous OPS of 1.205)...and oh yeah, he plays Gold Glove defense, too. Benintendi continues to stay hot...he went 2-3 with 3 RBI and a walk. It was a quiet night at the plate for pretty much everyone else, though; the team only had six hits total, with the other three coming from Leon, Eduardo Nunez, and Rafael Devers (who all had a hit apiece). And while Jackie Bradley got on base twice via walks, he also struck out twice and looked so bad it was almost painful. It was even depressing hearing Dave O'Brien and Dennis Eckersley calls his at bats on the broadcast. He was getting blown away by straight fastballs down the middle and went down on four pitches once and three pitches the other time. They weren't even at bats where he battled...when he fought off pitches in his other at bats, he eventually walked. His average is down to .161, yet Alex Cora and the rest of us in Red Sox Nation hope he can figure it out soon because his defense is just that good.

Since the Yankees also won, the Sox remained tied with them atop the division. They've got Eduardo Rodrigeuz on the mound for the series finale and then a day off Monday before they begin the next road trip on Tuesday. One final thought from this game and on the modern game in general: the prevalence of home runs (in this game specifically, but also across the entire league in general) has really made baseball a bit boring and one dimensional, taking away a bit of the enjoyment for me. I had an interesting discussion with like-minded longtime baseball fans about it during the game which will be the basis of a separate post, but in a nutshell we all agreed that it gets a bit tiresome seeing almost every RBI in a game being due to a home run. Homers are fun and they're exciting, but they're not the be all/end all when it comes to hitting. That's why Benintendi's two-RBI single late in the game and the perfectly executed hit-and-run they had in the earlier innings were so exciting to me: in combination with home runs, THAT is real baseball. Home runs are a part of the offensive game, but there's so much more that's being pushed aside with this focus on power and "launch angle" and "exit velocity." Batters would rather take a strikeout if they can't hit a home run, and to me there's zero interest in an approach like that. As I said, this will be the focus of a standalone post later on, but I wanted to just get that off my chest a little bit.

In closing to book on this game, it's been an up and down month for the Sox since the 17-2 start, but one thing we can all say with certainty is that it hasn't been boring!

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Game 45: Baltimore Orioles at Red Sox (May 18, 2018)

So much for my hope of Drew Pomeranz bouncing back with a good start this game! What a way to kick off the baseball weekend...the weather rained out a workout my oldest daughter had scheduled with a new travel team, so after a nice family dinner around the table I sat down to watch the game with visions of another drubbing in my head. That's exactly what happened...but it was the wrong team doing it.

When Drew Pomeranz walked the first batter of the game on four straight pitches, I knew it wasn't going to be good and I was proven correct. He lived dangerously for the first few innings, giving up what seemed like a ton of doubles and allowing baserunners into scoring position with either one or no outs. He was able to escape relatively unscathed for a little bit...he gave up a run on a Mark Trumbo fielder's choice with the bases loaded in the first to make it 1-0, a run the Sox quickly got back when Mookie Betts smacked a solo shot over the Green Monster in the third to tie it at 1. However, the wheels fell completely off the cart for Pomeranz in the fourth when he gave up four runs, first on a two-RBI double from Adam Jones, which was followed shortly by a two-RBI single from Manny Machado.  Just like that, it was 5-1 Orioles. At that point, I still wasn't too worried because Orioles starter Alex Cobb was 0-5 on the season and the Red Sox smacked him around last time they faced him...surely the Sox could get those runs back quickly, right? Wrong. They picked up a run on Mookie's RBI double in the bottom of the fifth and another later in the inning on an Andrew Benintendi RBI single, but as has been typical this season, as soon as they started pulling closer the bullpen gave up more runs. This time it was Stephen Wright who gave up a solo shot to Jonathon Schoop in the seventh to push the Baltimore lead back to three runs, 6-3. This was repeated again as Eduardo Nunez drove in Xander Bogaerts in the eighth to cut it to 6-4, but in the ninth Trumbo drove in another run to make it 7-4 Baltimore. That's where it ended as the Sox dropped an entirely winnable game to an awful, awful team. Luckily the Yankees lost so the two teams remain tied atop the AL East.

I think it's safe to say that Pomeranz is not going to have a season like last year and that any concerns over his performance are completely valid (and warranted). He's always had a maddening tendency to nibble around the plate and throw very inefficiently, but his command looked even more suspect than usual tonight. Even Dennis Eckersley was commenting on how bad he looked during the broadcast. He once again only went four innings and forced the Sox to use the bullpen a lot's a good thing David Price went the distance last night. Hell, what we saw tonight was the complete antithesis of what Price did last night. Pomeranz only struck out two and walked three, giving up seven hits (all of them hit HARD) and five runs. It was another forgettable outing in a season full of them for Drew so far. Stephen Wright did well in long relief, pitching 4.2 innings (more innings than Pomeranz!), striking out five and giving up two runs. Unfortunately, the hole Pomeranz put them in was too much to climb out of. As far as the offense, for whatever reason, Cobb stymied them and while the Sox piled up the hits, they couldn't get them when it mattered.  Mookie continued to rake going 3-5, while JD Martinez, Eduardo Nunez, and even Christian Vazquez all chipped in with two hits a apiece. Unfortunately, the tendency of the Red Sox making stupid outs on the basepaths continued tonight: Mookie was doubled up off second base on an embarrassing play straight out of Little League, while Bogaerts was easily thrown out trying to steal second base. The combination of bad baserunning to kill scoring chances combined with shaky starting pitching was too much to overcome. Also, Jackie Bradley looked as hopeless as ever, going 0-2 with two strikeouts on very short at bats. I don't know what his deal is this season, but it's starting to look more and more like he may not ever snap out of it. He's got 117 more games to figure it out, assuming they give him that many more chances.

All in all, a forgettable game and another in a month-long string of bad performances against bad teams. The Sox are 13-13 since their 17-2 start and are 2-3 on this homestand when in all honestly they should be 5-0 or close to it based on the quality of their two opponents. The trend of playing down to the level of their competition has  to be as frustrating for them as it is for me. I confess that I'm not sure that I have faith in them snapping out of it for these last two games against the Orioles...we'll see how it pans out this weekend.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Game 44: Baltimore Orioles at Red Sox (May 17, 2018)

Wow, I did not see that coming! If you had told me before this game that David Price would pitch an absolute gem, even against a struggling team like Baltimore, I wouldn't have believed you yet that's exactly what he did. After the disappointing way the Red Sox opened up this homestand by dropping two of three to Oakland, I had no idea what to expect when the Orioles came to town. Given Price's recent struggles and the ridiculousness of the whole video games/carpal tunnel story from last week, nothing would have surprised me...except for what ended up happening.

After a long day at work and then coaching my son's travel baseball team, I got home to see the Red Sox take an early lead off of JD Martinez' two-run homer in the bottom of the first. He has been absolutely scorching with the bat over the last few weeks...this is the guy we were hoping to get during the offseason and he hasn't disappointed. He did have to leave the game later with what was described as "an illness," but after the game Alex Cora said it was precautionary and that he should be back in the lineup for the next game. Andrew Benintendi drove in Jackie Bradley with a sacrifice fly in the fifth to make it 3-0, and then Xander Bogaerts gave a repeat of last night's performance by crushing a three-run homer over the Green Monster later in the inning to open it up to 6-0. Three-run homers on back-to-back nights...I think Xander is back to where he was before he injured his ankle in April. That was all the offense David Price would need as he absolutely cruised through the game. It was one of the most efficient and dominant performances he's had in a Red Sox uniform. Price went the distance, throwing a complete game without walking anyone, striking out eight and only surrendering five hits (two of which were in the top of the ninth). He did it all on only 95 pitches and was this close to tossing a shutout. After giving up a double in the ninth, he had two outs and two strikes on Manny Machado before Manny belted a homer over the Monster to make it 6-2. Price got the next batter to fly out to centerfield and the game was over. I was hoping to see him get the shutout, but the win was the most important thing. Additionally, by going the distance Price gave the bullpen a much needed night off, which is something they needed with all of the 4-6 inning starts the starters have been turning in lately. Since Drew Pomeranz is due to start the next game, it's good that they'll be well-rested since anything more than five innings from him is a bonus.

The Red Sox offense was solid in this one...besides the homers from JD and Xander, Mookie Betts went 3-4 (raising his average to .364), Hanley Ramirez and Xander both went 2-4, and we even got some production from the catcher spot thanks to Sandy Leon's 2-4 night. Jackie Bradley continued to struggle, going 0-3 with a walk and a run scored, but his defense in centerfield was a joy to watch as usual. If he could finally get on one of his hot streaks at the plate, this offense would be even better than it is. Due to the Yankees being idle again last night, the Sox pulled into a tie for first place in the division with this win. With three more home games against the O's before they hit the road, the Sox should be able to keep pace with or vault over the Yankees in the standings. The main things I'll be looking in the next game are whether Pomeranz bounces back after his disappointing previous start and if the offense continues to heat up. Could the next hot stretch of baseball be right around the corner for these Red Sox? We shall see...

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Game 43: Oakland Athletics at Red Sox (May 16, 2018)

Heading into this game, I wanted to see two things: A) Chris Sale have another dominant pitching performance and B) the Red Sox avoid getting swept at home. Thankfully, the Sox won and avoided what would have been an embarrassing sweep at home, but Sale didn't look great (by his standards). It looked as though he was going to be the recipient of poor run support again before the team finally opened up a lead for him in the middle of the game. It was a rare night off for me, with no practices or games to coach, so after spending some time with my oldest at the cages getting some work in we got home and settled in to relax and watch the game.

On what was another cold and damp night at Fenway Park, Chris Sale pitched only five innings and really seemed to labor just to make it that far. He struck out nine, but also walked four and gave up a couple of runs. Nothing looked like it came easy for him and whether his control issues were caused by the weather or whether he was purposely nibbling around the plate the way Drew Pomeranz frustratingly does, Sale racked up a lot of pitches (80+ after four innings) and only went five. I know I hammer the Sox bullpen for their poor performance, and rightfully so as they've been maddeningly inconsistent, but at the same time I'll acknowledge that with the starters routinely only going 4-6 innings, the relievers are logging a lot of innings. Gone are the days of my youth (and before) when pitchers almost always went 6-8 innings and the relievers only had to pitch an inning or two. I'm not even that old (not quite 40) and pitching has changed so much since I was growing up. Guys throw fewer pitches, fewer innings, and yet they still seem to get hurt more often (and more seriously) than they used to. But I digress...after Sale left the game, Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, and Joe Kelly came on in relief. One of these pitchers gave up a run on a solo homer...can you guess who? (Hint: his initials are H. H.). Given his track record, I'm not sure why Cora continues to put Hembree out there, but the fact of the matter is that he's an unreliable and mostly ineffective pitcher who I'd like to see a lot less of as the season goes on. No lead is safe from him, not even four runs. Craig Kimbrel came in for the ninth inning and picked up his 12th save, although he too gave up a solo homer. At least the Sox had built a large enough lead by then to withstand the two runs the bullpen gave up.

As for the offense, Hanley Ramirez started off the scoring for the Sox in the bottom of the first by driving Mookie Betts in, which was promptly followed by JD Martinez blasting a two-run homer to give the Sox an early 3-0 lead after one inning. JD has been red hot the last couple of weeks and I hope this is a sign of things to come as we head into the summer. If the Sox can get the kind of production out of him that he had last season, that would be a huge help. The A's got a couple of those runs back when Marcus Semien hit a two-run shot of his own in the third and it was starting to look like the Sox were just snakebitten against Oakland this season. Xander Bogaerts thankfully gave the Sox some much needed breathing room when he crushed a three-run homer over the Green Monster in the bottom of the sixth to open up the lead to 6-2. It was a good thing, since Matt Joyce hit the aforementioned solo shot off of Hembree in the seventh and Matt Olson hit his in the ninth off of Kimbrel. The Sox held on to win 6-4, but personally it never felt like a comfortable win until the final out. For whatever reason, the A's have played the Red Sox incredibly tough this season, winning both series against them and finishing the season with a 4-2 record.

It certainly wasn't the way I'd hoped or expected the Red Sox to start off this homestand and it seems like a huge missed opportunity to pick up some games in the standings with the Yankees being constantly rained out this week (their game last night against Washington was suspended due to weather). As it stands right now, the Sox are a half game out of first and begin a four game series with the dreadful Orioles tonight (tonight was originally an off-day, but they're making up a rained out game from April). I know I've been saying it all season, but these games against the cellar dwellers are the ones the Sox need to win. Teams like the O's are the ones you should feast on to pad your record with wins so that you can go head to head with other contenders without needing to sweep every series just to stay in the race. After this four game set against Baltimore, the Sox play a series against Tampa Bay (again? This will be the fourth series against the Rays already this season!) who always play them tough, followed by three more series against very good teams in the Astros, Braves (I hate interleague play), and Blue Jays. Now that they've gone 12-12 since the 17-2 start, I'm hoping the Sox can shake out of this recent rut and get back to playing winning baseball on a consistent basis. There's no time better to start than tonight against Baltimore.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Game 42: Oakland Athletics at Red Sox (May 15, 2018)

On a night when the Celtics played up to the level of their competition and won a thrilling Game 2 in their Eastern Conference Finals series, the Red Sox played down to the level of their competition and lost yet again to the sub-.500 A's. The game was delayed ninety minutes due to rain so the first pitch wasn't until 8:30pm, the same time that the Celtics and Cavaliers tipped off across town at the Boston Garden. I spent most of the night flipping between the two, although I confess I watched mainly the Celtics game before switching for good to the Sox in the seventh inning after the C's were finished. From what I was seeing early in the Sox game, though, I didn't miss anything worth watching.

What this game was from the beginning was ugly. Eduardo Rodriguez started for the Sox and only got through five innings on 98 pitches. He struck out four and didn't walk anybody, but gave up three earned runs and made everything look like a real chore. He gave up a two-RBI double to Matt Chapman in the first and a solo home run to Stephen Piscotty in the second, and that 3-0 lead just felt insurmountable all night (and it was). JD Martinez scored in the fourth and Andrew Benintendi hit a solo homer in the fifth to cut it to 3-2, but as has been this team's bane of late, they let the lead get away from them shortly after. Stephen Wright made his return from the DL and pitched 2.1 innings of effective relief, although he left the game after giving up two consecutive singles in the eighth. Bobby Poyner, also back from the DL, came in and promptly gave up a two-RBI double to Mark Canha to make it 5-2 A's. Mookie Betts drove in Rafael Devers on a groundout in the ninth, but the Red Sox again went quietly and dropped this game 5-3. With the loss, the Sox have lost the series and fall another half game behind the idle Yankees (who were rained out). The Yankees now have a one game lead in the division and they didn't even have to play a game.

It's officially time to be concerned with this team. Since the 17-2 start, they've now played sub-.500 baseball, going 11-12. They continue to play down to the level of their competition...coming into this series, Oakland was 19-21 yet they're now a .500 team thanks to these two wins. The fact that the Red Sox have lost two very winnable games at home is enough of a cause for concern, but how they've looked doing it has been even worse. The starting pitching has been bad, the bullpen continues to quickly let games get away from them, and there are still too many mental lapses. In this one, it was Andrew Benintendi making yet another out on the basepaths when he overran third base, got caught in a pickle, and was easily picked off to end the first inning. It's a shame, too, because in addition to his homer he had a 3-5 night and has been swinging a hot bat lately. Mookie Betts, though, went 0-5, which is not going to help, especially when he's the leadoff hitter. Xander Bogaerts and Mitch Moreland both had two hit nights, but the team's situational hitting has been non-existent lately and the aggressive-but-smart approach at the plate that scored so many runs in April has morphed back into the long (and unproductive) at bats of previous seasons.

As if all of this wasn't bad enough, word came through before the game that Carson Smith suffered what could be a "significant" injury to his throwing shoulder last game when he...threw his glove down in the dugout. Folks, you just cannot make this stuff up and as I've said for my entire life, this type of stuff could only happen to the Red Sox. I guess one way of looking at it is that it's just another way in which the bullpen is letting this team down as Smith was one of the few (relatively) consistently effective relief pitchers the team has. Now we'll have to hope Wright can take his place for the near future. With Chris Sale pitching tonight, I hope they can avoid the series sweep, but given how they supported him in his last start, I don't have any idea of what to expect. One thing is for sure: we'll see how different of a manager Alex Cora really is from John Farrell by how he navigates the team through this stretch. Losing the first two games of a homestand to Oakland is inexcusable, but getting swept would be even worse. We'll know a lot more about the 2018 Red Sox tomorrow, that's for sure. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Game 41: Oakland Athletics at Red Sox (May 14, 2018)

After coaching my son's baseball game in sweltering heat and humidity (and it's only mid-May!), it was time to relax and catch the Sox as they opened a new series against the A's. I got home and turned the game on in the fourth inning after following the game via phone updates from the ballfield. This was a prime opportunity to start off the short homestand with a win against a mediocre opponent and to get some revenge on A's starter Sean Manaea for no-hitting the Sox back in April. However, by the time I turned the game on in the fourth, the Sox were already trailing 4-2 and the lead would remain just out of their grasp for the rest of the game.

Undefeated 2018 Rick Porcello looked more like 2017 Rick Porcello in this game when he gave up a first inning home run to Matt Joyce, but thankfully Andrew Benintendi tied it in the the third with an RBI single to drive in Mookie Betts. The Sox even took the lead when Hanley Ramirez drove in Benintendi with an RBI single of his own. Unfortunately, the 2-1 Red Sox lead was short lived and would be their only one of the night. A's catcher Jonathan Lucroy smacked a two-RBI double the next inning to put the A's ahead for good and Dustin Fowler then hit a triple to drive in Lucroy. This was the moment I got home and turned the game was 4-2 Oakland and they'd never trail again. The Sox kept chipping away, but every time they pulled within a run Oakland would add another to increase the lead back to two. Hanley drove in a run in the fifth to make it 4-3, but Matt Olson hit a solo homer the next inning to make it 5-3. Rafael Devers hit a solo homer in the seventh to make it 5-4, but the next inning Khris Davis hit a solo homer (on the very first pitch Carson Smith threw) to make it 6-4. Can you see where this is going? In the bottom of the eighth JD Martinez hit a solo homer to make it 6-5, but the Sox couldn't do anything after that and went very quickly to finish that inning and the ninth. The final score was 6-5 and with the Yankees idle, the Sox now sit a half game out of first place.

Rick Porcello was handed his first loss of the season and didn't look particularly sharp. He pitched six innings and struck out five without walking any, but he also gave up nine hits and five earned runs which is just dismal. He was due for a bad start after his hot start and this was it. As for the always shaky bullpen, the script was flipped this game with Heath Hembree and Brian Johnson surprisingly effective while but Carson Smith was not. Smith's very first pitch Khris Davis was belted over the fence for a homer that ended up being the difference in the game, once again showing how this bullpen has cost them games and will continue to do so until something drastically changes. As for the offense, while scoring five runs is fine, the aggressiveness at the plate that has served them so well thus far seemed to be detrimental this game. They gave Oakland a lot of easy 1-2-3 innings by hacking away at the first pitch or when they were early in the count. It was just one game so it's nothing to be concerned overly about, but it was definitely noticeable. Everyone got at least one hit except for Xander Bogaerts (who has definitely cooled down after coming back from his injury) and Blake Swihart who started at DH. What to make of Swihart? He went 0-4 and looked bad each and every at bat. Going back a few years, I've never been particularly high on the guy...he was never good enough defensively as a catcher to play in the big leagues and his bat was never enough to compensate. The reason he's even on the team taking up a roster spot this season has been confusing as it's apparent Cora has zero confidence in him as a catcher or even as a substitute outfielder. He's also not really needed at DH with Hanley and JD flip-flopping in that spot. So why is he even on the team? If it's simply because he's out of options, that seems a pretty poor reason given that it's a spot that could be better used for another legitimate bat off the bench (or even a serviceable reliever). I don't know the reasons but I hope we don't see him in the lineup  unless he's our absolute last resort.

After the 17-2 start, the Sox seem to be settling into the same kind of aggravating ball they've played the last two seasons: stretches where they look unbeatable alternating with stretches where they seem to sleepwalk. Realizing that it's a long season and you can't win them all, it's still unacceptable to me that they would open a homestand against a middling team (Oakland was 19-21 before the game) with such a flat performance. The Yankees have been beating up on good teams (albeit while playing the most home games in the majors so far) while the Sox have been struggling with the middle and lower tier teams. I've no doubt they'll bounce back (hopefully starting tonight), but it sure is frustrating seeing a team this talented sstruggling to play consistent baseball after that hot start. Since the no-hitter in Oakland that stopped their 17-2 start, the Sox have played .500 ball with an 11-11 record. We now know they weren't really as good as 17-2, but they're also not as bad as 11-11. We're a quarter of the way through the season, so it's time for them to put it all together on a daily basis and play up to the level of their talent, not down to the level of their competition.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Game 40: Red Sox at Toronto Blue Jays (May 13, 2018)

First of all, a very Happy Mother's Day yesterday to all of the moms out there, including the special ones in my life. The kids and I had a relaxing day around the house and took care of Mrs. Chemist, making her lunch and dinner, some cupcakes, and letting her relax however she wanted to. I had time to watch the Sox game in the afternoon and as I sat down on the couch, I was hoping that they could continue their solid play and leave Toronto with a series win.

Drew Pomeranz started for the Sox and even though he didn't get the win his last start in the Bronx, he pitched very well so I was hoping he would carry that over against this less fearsome Blue Jays lineup. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. I used to complain about how Jon Lester used to labor just to get through five or six innings, but Pomeranz makes Lester look like Chris Sale. EVERY INNING of this start was an absolute slog, with Pom only pitching four full innings and topping 100 pitches. He pitched into the fifth before being lifted having not recorded an out so he wasn't eligible for the win and while he struck out six, he also walked five and was responsible for three earned runs. That was a shame because to that point the Sox had built a 4-0 lead for him. JD Martinez continued to swing a hot bat by crushing a two-run homer to rightfield in the first, and he added an RBI single in the fifth to drive in Mookie Betts. Combined with Mitch Moreland walking with the bases loaded after an epic battle of an at bat, the Sox were sitting pretty at 4-0 as the bottom of the fifth started. However, Toronto would pick up three on a Justin Smoak RBI double that drove in two runs followed by Russell Martin driving in Smoak. It remained that tight until Xander Bogaerts drove in Andrew Benintendi in the eighth for a much needed insurance run. The bullpen was surprisingly good in this game, with Hector Velazquez, Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree (no joke), and Joe Kelly combining to hold the Jays scoreless and preserve the 5-3 win. Unfortunately, the Yankees annoyingly won again, so the two teams remain tied atop the division.

What else can I say about Drew Pomeranz? When the Sox game started at 1pm, I figured it would be just about over when the Celtics game started at 3:30pm, but it still had another hour to go when the C's tipped off! The guy has some nasty stuff, but he works so slowly that it's almost enough to drive me crazy. I typically resist any efforts by MLB to change the game in order to speed up the pace of play unless it means reducing the commercial breaks (which is never going to happen), but maybe Rob Manfred could ban Pomeranz from pitching instead (I kid, I kid). He has a tendency to nibble around the plate which makes for long at bats and really runs up his pitch count. Any time he gets into the sixth inning is a shock. For his sake and the team's, I hope the coaches can somehow teach the guy to be more efficient and to attack hitters more. He's got the stuff to do it, especially with that incredible curveball he has...he just needs to harness it properly and efficiently. 

Offensively, the team continued to get the hits (mostly) when they needed them. Mookie Betts continued his torrid season with two hits and also made a spectacular diving catch to end an inning. JD Martinez drove in three of the five Red Sox runs and even Jackie Bradley got a hit and scored a run (no, seriously!). Bradley also made a couple of excellent plays in centerfield, showing us why he needs to get his hitting in order so that he can be back in the lineup on an everyday basis. One last note on this game...the Sox were VERY aggressive on the bases, stealing four times on Jays catcher Martin (two for Mookie, one for Benintendi, and one for Bradley). Brock Holt got caught stealing third which was a bit surprising because Martin's weak arm was the reason the Sox ran like crazy, but the replay showed Brock didn't even get a jump...he just took off from his standing lead. I hope to see more of this at long as it's done smartly (Holt's was not a good idea...he had hit a leadoff double and it ended up costing the Sox a chance for an easy run as Bradley hit a single right after). Overall, though, the baserunning has been better as of late so let's hope that continues.

Starting tonight is a seven game homestand (including a make-up game from earlier in the season) against two bad teams, Oakland and Baltimore. As I said yesterday, this is a good stretch for the Sox to feast on two bad teams and pile up some wins. It'd also be nice to get a little revenge on Athletic's pitcher Sean Manaea, who no-hit them in Oakland a few weeks should be a good game with Rick Porcello on the mound for the Sox. I can't wait!