By MyFM's Jake Archer - The Boston Red Sox keep on chugging along. With the National League East's young and talented Atlanta Braves coming to town for a 3-game series on Memorial Day weekend, the stage was set for a fun few days of baseball. Let's take a look at how the whole series shook out.
On Friday, things started weirdly for the Red Sox. They were designating Hanley Ramirez for assingment, which means they have a week to trade him or he will become a free agent. It wasn't a move I liked at all, but I'll get more into that in a seperate post. Anyway that night, Boston was sending Eduardo Rodriguez to the hill to face off with Braves "ace" Julio Teheran. I was actually in attendance for this one, up on the Green Monster, and it sure was a great night to be there.
E-Rod pitched around some trouble in the first and second innings, but in the third he allowed Atlanta to get to him. Highly-touted young outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. and All Star first baseman Freddie Freeman led off the frame with back-to-back singles. Nick Markakis, the former Baltimore Oriole having a resurgent season, then doubled them home to make it 2-0. Rodriguez got the next three batters in order to escape further trouble, and it was time for the Sox to respond.
Well, it took another inning but in the bottom of the fourth Boston's bats came out to play. JD Martinez rocketed a homerun just up and over the Monster to begin the inning and Xander Bogaerts followed with solo shot over the Monster of his own just a batter later. We were tied at three and Fenway was having fun. In the bottom half of the fifth, the struggling Jackie Bradley Jr. roped a ball to center for a one-out triple. After a Mookie Betts walk, Andrew Benintendi lifted a sac-fly to center to score the run and take the lead.
The top of the sixth saw Rodriguez exit with two outs and a runner on. Heath Hembree came in and to my surprise, got out of the inning with a strikeout. E-Rod's final line was five and two thirds innings pitched, two runs on six hits, three walks and seven strikeouts. The lefty has been solid for the Sox this year out of the fourth spot in the rotation and again, he had set his team up to win. On the other side, Teheran was done to start the seventh and replaced by Jesse Biddle. Julio had gone six innings while allowing three runs on four hits, three walks and four Ks. If his pitch count wasn't at 109, it might have been okay to leave him in there. The bullpen was about to have a rough time.
Brock Holt led off the seventh with a bunt single down to third, but after two outs were recorded Matt Wisler replaced Biddle in the ballgame. Holt swiped second on Wisler and then Betts took him deep into the Monster seats for his league leading 17th homer of the year and the third for the Sox in the game. In the eighth, they grabbed one more homer, a solo-bomb from Mitch Moreland, to make it 6-2. Craig Kimbrel closed it out and Boston had the win, largely due to the fact that they played a little home run derby. Rodriguez improved to 5-1 while Teheran dropped to 4-2. The teams would meet back up on Saturday afternoon for another round of action.
Saturday afternoon saw Dustin Pedroia make his season debut after being out due to offseason knee surgery. He'd get a rousing ovation from the home crowd despite having an unproductive, and unlikable 2017. It also saw Drew Pomeranz toe the rubber against Massachusetts native Sean Newcomb. Newcomb is a 24-year old lefty with great stuff, but on this day at Fenway he was not effective against his favorite team. Luckily for him, neither was Drew Pomeranz, who has really struggled so far this season. In the second inning, Pomeranz walked Ender Inciarte to lead it off and then allowed a two-out, two-run homer to Braves young shortstop and former top overall pick, Dansby Swanson. In the third, he gave up back-to-back two-out doubles to Markakis and Kurt Suzuki to make it 3-0 Atlanta.
Boston had threatened quite a bit early (loading the bases for Pedroia in the first only for him to pop out) but couldn't get any runs across. They finally broke through against Newcomb in the bottom of the third to tie it up. After Martinez struck out to begin the frame, Moreland tripled to center and scored on an RBI single by Bogaerts. Bogey advanced to second on a passed ball and then Pedroia drew a walk to keep the attack going. After a strikeout by Eduardo Nunez, Blake Swihart came through in his first start in a while and smacked and RBI single to center to cut the deficit to one. Christian Vazquez followed that up with a single to score Pedroia and knot it up at three.
Pomeranz still stunk though, and he gave two runs right back in the top of the fourth. After a groundout, Swanson singled and Ozzie Albies (the superstar of a rookie second baseman) walked. Cora decided to pull Pomeranz and replace him with Hector Velazquez. The long reliever loaded the bases with a single from Acuna and then allowed an RBI single to Freeman and a sac-fly to Markakis to push the Braves in front again. The book was closed on Pomeranz, who had another terrible outing and is in grave danger of losing his rotation spot. His final line was three and a third innings pitched, five runs on six hits, three walks and three punchouts. It was ugly and Boston had to battle back again.
Newcomb was done to start the fourth, so he had actually only done a bit better than Pomeranz. His final line was three innings pitched, three runs on six hits, four walks and four Ks. Biddle came on to replace him and Benintendi greeted him with a mammoth shot to center. Benny Baseball has been swinging an extremely hot bat of late and this homer was no cheapie. In the sixth, the Sox kept coming. Betts singled with one out and Benintendi got hit by a pitch to put two runners on. Moreland continued his torrid start with a double to right to score both and give Boston the 6-5 lead. At this point, it was tough to say he wasn't doing his job to make us forget about Hanley (although that will change, trust me).
In the seventh, Nunez reached on a bad throwing error by Albies on a routine play. After two outs, Betts walked and Benintendi tripled to bring the runners home. It was 8-5 and although Kimbrel would give up a solo homer to Acuna to start the ninth (please stop giving up homers Craig) he finished the job and picked up his 16th save of the season. The Sox had an 8-6 win and Steven Wright came on in relief to earn the win and move to 1-0. He could very well be a candidate to move into the starting rotation should Pomeranz struggle in his next time out. Sam Freeman was the reliever who took the L for Atlanta and he dropped to 1-2.
Now all Boston had to do to earn the sweep on Sunday was turn to Chris Sale and get one of his amazing starts. Seems easy enough right? Wrong. After a Friday and Saturday of great weather, the temperature dipped and things turned ominous at Fenway Park. Mookie Betts was scratched from the lineup due to "side tightness" and Martinez was getting a day off. During the Sox Alumni Game in the morning, Pedro Martinez was taken deep over the Monster by former Boston shortstop (who wasn't good at all) Julio Lugo. That should have been a sign of things to come.
Sale started the first with two strikeouts in a 1-2-3 inning. Everything was normal. Then in the second he walked Markakis to lead it off and gave up a single to Suzuki. After recording an out, Braves catcher Tyler Flowers launched a three-run bomb off of Sale and over the Monster. That's not something you see ever, because Sale simply does not allow runners to reach base. It was the first time he's given up a three-run shot this year and only the second of his Boston tenure. He's never given up a grand slam with the Red Sox and has only given up one two-run bomb this season. The walks are becoming a bit of an issue for him.
After striking out the next two Braves and then getting through the third and fourth rather easily, it was fair to think Sale had settled in. Nope! The fifth inning gave us another leadoff walk, this one to Swanson. The shortstop took second on a passed ball by Sandy Leon and then Charlie Culberson hit a ball to right that JBJ badly misplayed. For all the talk about how great JBJ is defensively, he's pretty overrated. At the very least, his defense doesn't warrant his bat being in the lineup. Anyway, the error allowed Swanson to score and Culberson to get to second. It probably should have been worse. Culberson advanced to third on a groundout and then Sale walked another batter, Acuna. Freddie Freeman launched a double to center to bring in both runners and chase Sale.
The Sox ace had been smacked around in four and a third innings pitched. He gave up six runs on five hits, three walks and eight strikeouts. The only good part about it is that with Sale, you know he beats himself up over it afterwards and he always takes accountability. He'll probably throw a gem next time out. On the other side, this guy Mike Foltynewicz had not allowed a hit to the Sox. He was dealing and it wasn't until Benintendi doubled with one down in the sixth that the no-hit bid came to an end. A batter later, the shutout ended as well when Moreland tripled to drive home the Sox first run. It was still a steep hole to climb out of though.
Foltynewicz ended up being done to start the eighth, but he had a fantastic day as he outdueled Chris Sale by a large margin. In seven innings, Foltynewicz gave up only one run on three hits, three walks and seven punchouts. In the top half of the seventh, a scary moment unfolded at first base. Acuna sprinted down the line to beat out an infield single to short, and after he hit the bag he took an awkward step that made his leg seem to bend backwards. He toppled to the ground and laid there for a few minutes in pain while trainers from both clubs tended to him. Luckily, he walked off under his own power but he did exit the game.
The Braves tacked on one more run in the ninth to really drive the nail into the coffin. Velazquez gave up a single to Preston Tucker and a walk to Freeman. Tucker went to third on a fielder's choice that saw Freeman out at second and Markakis safe at first and then Suzuki singled him home to make it 7-1. Boston had no answer, and they dropped the final game of the series in disappointing fashion. Sale took the loss and went to 5-2 while Foltynewicz got the win to improve to 4-3.
The Sox started up a series with the Blue Jays yesterday with an 8-3 win. I'll be back with a recap of that soon. For now, make sure you keep tuning in to all the action on MyFM 101.3!