Red Sox

Drellich: Red Sox bullpen must be ready to empty tank in Game 2

Drellich: Red Sox bullpen must be ready to empty tank in Game 2

HOUSTON — Let David Price loose. And Addison Reed and Craig Kimbrel.

The monster was built late in the season. It's operational. Now, to employ its full destructive force.

The silver lining for the Red Sox after the Jose Altuve show lies in what we have not yet seen.

Chris Sale flopped and the Red Sox floundered in Game 1 of the American League Division Series, 8-2. The score got out of hand, and manager John Farrell was wise in at least one way: he did not touch the prime pieces of a bullpen envisioned as a newly improved difference maker, a group of relievers who make for perhaps the team’s only clear advantage against Houston.

If Game 1 was about Sale — the perceived constant on a team of many question marks — Game 2 is about the bullpen. It has to be. Farrell needs to empty the tank to keep the score close all afternoon at Minute Maid Park.

Price is fresh for maybe 40 pitches and a couple innings, you figure. Reed and Kimbrel can get more than three outs, maybe as many as six.

Of course, the Sox need Pomeranz to keep the game close early. Two home runs in the first inning, a la Sale, would be a problem. But his start should be short no matter what, unless he’s really carving up the Astros. 

Then, whether Pomeranz leaves with a lead or not, the bullpen has to give an offense without much power a chance.

It’s not like Sale or Verlander carried it deep into the night in Game 1. Verlander made it six innings, and even that wasn’t guaranteed. Pomeranz isn't known for consistently long starts generally.

“The early part of the game showed us how difficult it is to conserve your pitches in a playoff atmosphere and against two playoff teams that are good because both guys had to exert a lot of energy and a lot of pitches in the first third of the game,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said of Sale and Justin Verlander. “I was proud of Verlander getting through the 6th inning because as the game was unfolding early, I didn't think either guy was going to last as deep as what we all anticipated. But our guy lasted a little longer.”

Enter the Sox bullpen, the meat of it. It’s a weapon that was assembled at the last minute and has had a couple test runs in the regular season, including Saturday when the Sox at last clinched the American League East. Now, for the real thing. 

There’s an off-day between Games 2 and 3, when any and all relievers used Friday can recuperate. At this point, there’d be only one time in this series Price could pitch on back-to-back days, if he throws in Games 3 and 4. That’s better for his arm. 

The Sox have to now ensure they get to a Game 4, and the best way to do that is arrive at Fenway Park with a split in Houston.

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Pomeranz says issue is 'clear-cut,' but mystery is unsolved

Pomeranz says issue is 'clear-cut,' but mystery is unsolved

PHILADELPHIA — Drew Pomeranz’s story at this point is less about the Red Sox and more about the individual, and it’s a minor mystery.

Theoretically, the free-agent-to-be can still find a way to help the Sox down the stretch. Eat some innings, look a little better. But barring a dramatic turnaround or a strange situation elsewhere on the pitching staff, he’s not sniffing the postseason roster.

The lefty's ERA rose to 6.34 on Wednesday night in a 7-4 Red Sox loss to the Phils, after he allowed three earned runs in an inning of work. He faced eight batters, allowed three hits and one walk with one strikeout.

Pomeranz has been so much better than this in past seasons. And he's too young, 29, for his stuff to just disappear. 

Alex Cora left Pomeranz in the game as trouble grew, the manager said, because he wanted to see how Pomeranz would fare in a late-inning relief role. The other part: Matt Barnes and Tyler Thornburg were both unavailable because of workload, per the manager. (Neither has pitched since the weekend, but Barnes did throw three straight days in Baltimore, while Thornburg — who briefly warmed up on Thursday, before Cora went a different direction — is coming back from surgery. The Sox have the division padding to be cautious.)

The most difficult thing to accept is that Pomeranz is healthy. His velocity this year is the lowest of his career, 89.59 mph entering Thursday night, per BrooksBaseball.net.

He was at 91.78 mph in 2017, at 91.93 in 2016 and had a career-high 93.08 in 2015. His stuff isn’t playing up in any notable way out of the ‘pen now, either.

“I feel fine, like I said it’s something that I started doing at the end of last year, started drifting this way,” Pomeranz reiterated to NBC Sports Boston. “I’ve just been kind of stuck in that. I’ve done a thousand things to try and get out of it. I don’t know what it is, but, you know it’s something I’m definitely focusing on every single day, catch. I don’t know, something’s going to click eventually. That’s what I’m waiting for. Other than that I feel healthy. Health-wise, I feel fine."

There wouldn’t be much logic in Pomeranz maintaining he is healthy if he is not. Any team interested in him this winter will get a chance to review his medicals. Were he to hypothetically hide something, there wouldn’t be much potential gain — not at this point in the year, when salvaging his season to the point of a major payday is unlikely.

Pomeranz said his impending free agency hasn’t weighed on him.

“I don’t think so,” Pomeranz said. "I’ve pretty much narrowed it down, that it’s the main reason. It’s pretty clear-cut. You talk to [Brian] Bannister and look at my data, my release point’s short of what it’s been the last two years. And that just goes along with me blocking myself off. Open up, then you can reach out and get better extension and that’s pretty much what’s happening so."

Perhaps Pomeranz really can’t get his mechanics right for a reason that has nothing to do with health. But to lose a couple miles per hour on his fastball the whole season just for mechanics is an uncommon situation. Whether and when and how he proves that to be the case will be interesting to watch, even if it’s not with the Sox. 

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Red Sox win streak ends at five with loss to Phillies, 7-4

Red Sox win streak ends at five with loss to Phillies, 7-4

PHILADELPHIA -- Wilson Ramos became an instant favorite with his new team.

Ramos had three extra-base hits and three RBI, helping the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Boston Red Sox 7-4 on Wednesday night in his first game wearing red pinstripes.

The Phillies, who remained two games behind first-place Atlanta in the NL East, split a two-game interleague series with the major league-leading Red Sox for the second time in three weeks.

Ramos, the two-time All-Star catcher acquired from Tampa Bay on July 31, made a big impact after missing a month because of a strained hamstring. He hit his second career triple and first in seven years leading off the bottom of the sixth inning, chugging around the bases after his liner off Joe Kelly (4-1) to right-center took an odd bounce off the wall.

Ramos scored on pinch-hitter Scott Kingery's sacrifice fly to give the Phillies a 4-3 lead. He hammered a two-run double with two outs in the seventh off Drew Pomeranz to extend the lead to 6-3 and scored on Maikel Franco's single.

"It is a special day for me," Ramos said. "I'll remember it like my MLB debut. I wanted to show everybody what I can do."

Ramos provided a huge spark for a struggling offense, and also threw out Brock Holt trying to steal second from his knees. He finished the night getting a cooler shower on the field.

"Tremendous performance," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. "He showed he fits into our style of offense. He was a calming influence for our bullpen."

Seven relievers combined to allow one unearned run in 6 2/3 innings for Philadelphia. Tommy Hunter (4-2) earned the win by getting one out in the sixth. Seranthony Dominguez got four outs for his 13th save in 16 chances.

"It was a collective group effort from the bullpen," Hunter said.

Down 3-0, the Phillies rallied in the fourth against Nathan Eovaldi. Ramos hit an RBI double off the top of the fence in right and Nick Williams scored on Odubel Herrera's RBI groundout. With two outs, pinch-hitter Carlos Santana ripped an RBI single past second baseman Holt positioned in shallow right to tie it at 3.

Eovaldi allowed three runs -- one earned -- and seven hits in five innings during his fourth start for the Red Sox.

"We'll take 7-2 on any road trip during the season," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. "We went through a tough stretch and to do what we did, I'm proud of them."

Phillies starter Vince Velasquez lasted only 2 1/3 innings, allowing three runs, four hits and four walks. Velasquez ran into trouble in the third when he walked Eovaldi with one out and hit Andrew Benintendi with a pitch. Holt reached on an infield single and Mitch Moreland lined a three-run double to left-center that skipped past Herrera and cleared the bases.

Velasquez was pulled after he walked J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts to load the bases again. Hector Neris entered and escaped the jam by retiring Jackie Bradley Jr.on a shallow fly to right and striking out Rafael Devers.

REPLAY HELP

Devers appeared to score the go-ahead run in the sixth when he came around from second base to cross the plate after pinch-hitter Steve Pearce was ruled safe on a close play at first following a grounder to second. But a video review showed first baseman Justin Bour stayed on the bag as he stretched to catch a wide throw from Cesar Hernandez.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez is slated for a rehab start Monday for Double-A Portland. Rodriguez has been on the disabled list since July 15 with a right ankle sprain. ... 2B Ian Kinsler is expected to return Friday from a strained left hamstring.

Phillies: C Andrew Knapp was sent to Triple-A Lehigh Valley to make room on the roster for Ramos after he came off the disabled list.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: After an off day, LHP Brian Johnson (3-3, 3.95 ERA) starts Friday night vs. Tampa Bay.

Phillies: Starters for Thursday's doubleheader against the New York Mets haven't been announced. Zach Eflin (8-4, 3.57) is expected to be recalled from Triple-A to start one of the games.

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