Red Sox 7 – Rays 5: Mitch Moreland delivers again

Apr 15, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox first baseman Mitch Moreland is congratulated by teammates in the dugout after hitting a solo home run against the Tampa Bay Rays during the second inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 15, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox first baseman Mitch Moreland is congratulated by teammates in the dugout after hitting a solo home run against the Tampa Bay Rays during the second inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports /

The Boston Red Sox defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 7-5 to earn back-to-back wins for just the second time this season.

The final scored matched the Red Sox record as the team improved to 7-5 after beating the Rays at home. Joe Kelly picked up the win with 2.2 shutout innings in relief of starter Drew Pomeranz, the lineup exploded for 17 hits, Pablo Sandoval hit a two-run homer, and Mitch Moreland had three RBIs. With the win, the Red Sox remain 1.5 games back of the Orioles for first place in the American League East. Here are my three final thoughts.

Drew Pomeranz was the very definition of a mixed bag

In his first outing of the season, Pomeranz was nothing but stellar. He struck out six over six innings pitched, allowed just one run, gave up only four hits and walked one. It looked like he was set to rid himself of the demons that haunted him in Boston last season and turn it back to what worked so well for him in San Diego. For the most part, that meant mixing his rising fastball that is fueled by one of the highest spin rates in baseball with a sweeping curveball that he throws about 40% of the time.

With ten strikeouts today, his stuff was working. Except for when it wasn’t. He struck out the side in the first and second, then set down two more in the third to strike out five batters in a row at one point. But he also walked two in the first and gave up a two-run triple to Brad Miller who would later score on a passed ball. Pomeranz would strike out two more in the fourth to reach double digits for the first time in 2017, except the Ks came between solo shots from Corey Dickerson and Tim Beckham. His final line of 4.1 IP, 5 H, 5 ER, 10 SO, 2 BB, 2 HR paints a confusing picture.

In no world does five earned runs constitute a good start, but ten strikeouts in 4.1 innings is pretty unreal. This line is basically a microcosm of the Drew Pomeranz experience in Boston. It hasn’t worked out that well, but he’s shown flashes of brilliance and the ability to perform the way he did in San Diego. That brilliance is usually lost behind the volume of runs he allows, though. There’s obviously something from today’s game to build on, but we’ve been saying that after almost all of his starts.

Mitch Moreland keeps on racking up hits

I wrote about Mitch in the post-game article yesterday and talked about how he can’t stop hitting for extra bases. He picked up a home run and double in that one, mixing in a single later on just for good measure. The homer and double tied him for the major-league lead in extra base hits with Padres’ first baseman Wil Myers.

He didn’t add to his league-leading total today, going two-for-three instead with a pair of singles and three runs batted in. His two hits included a go-ahead knock in the bottom of the seventh that plated Andrew Benintendi and Mookie Betts to give the Red Sox a 6-5 lead that they wouldn’t relinquish. Moreland is now hitting .355 with nine doubles, a home run, and five runs batted in on the year. His one-year, $5.5 million contract didn’t garner much attention in the offseason, but he’s quickly becoming one of the team’s most valuable assets.

The offense is waking up

I guess that all it took for the Red Sox lineup to figure it out was my note on how bad they’ve been in yesterday’s post-game article. To be fair, they’ve dealt with injuries, bereavement, and a flu epidemic to start the year. We also had to expect an adjustment period for a young lineup that would be without David Ortiz for the first time in fourteen years. Nonetheless, the offensive production just hadn’t been there through the club’s first eleven games. They ranked 18th in runs scored and dead last in home runs following yesterday’s victory.

Well, they started to move in the right direction today. The lineup broke out for seven runs on sixteen hits and chased Rays’ starter Alex Cobb after just five innings. Pablo Sandoval even went deep for his third homer of the year and just his third hit in his last 28 at-bats. Been an up-and-down year for him so far, but the potential is still there for a comeback.

More importantly, though, their batters delivered when it mattered most. Batting with runners in scoring position has actually been a team strength thus far, they were fifth in the majors with a .309 average prior to today’s game. The problem is that they’ve only had 97 at-bats with runners on second or third. They kept that momentum moving today and went 5-for-13 in scoring situations. When they give themselves opportunities they know how to deliver.

Minor Notes

  • Not so minor but Christian Vazquez went 3-for-4 to raise his average to .667 on the year and made this web gem in the bottom of the ninth. Pretty nice having two catchers that are competing for a batting title
  • Andrew Benintendi and Mookie Betts both collected three hits and scored twice
  • Hanley Ramirez hit a 114.3 mph single (the hardest hit ball by a Red Sox player this year) for his second hit of the game. He left in the seventh with a hamstring cramp while running the bases but is expected to be day-to-day

Next: Chris Sale dominated to earn his first win with the Red Sox

The Red Sox 3-1 series win as they wrap up their four-game set with the Rays on Marathon Monday. We’ll see if Steven Wright can find his way back to Earth after compiling a 13.50 ERA through his first two starts. First pitch is set for 11:05 am.