Raise your hand if you had Drew Pomeranz making his first start of the season at Fenway Park, where he’s winless, coming off an elbow injection in October, a tricep injury in spring, and a DL stint for a forearm flexor strain prior to the season, and then carving up an Orioles lineup with a bunch of right-handers who can mash left-handed pitching?
My hand’s not up. I think the most surprising part of Pomeranz’s 2017 debut was the fact that he didn’t give up a home run. Pomeranz made 13 starts after being acquired by the Red Sox last year, and gave up a home run in all but one of them. But when the Red Sox acquired Pomeranz on July 14 last summer, here’s a list of all the pitchers in the MLB who had a better ERA than him — Clayton Kershaw (1.79), and Madison Bumgarner (1.94). That was it. He was tied with Johnny Cueto for the third best ERA in all of baseball (2.47) when the Red Sox made the deal.
But in those 13 starts with Boston, he averaged 5.1 innings per start, allowed 35 earned runs in 67.1 innings for a 4.68 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP, allowing 1.87 home runs per nine innings. When you have a pitcher go from the NL West to the AL East, you obviously expect a little bit of a ballooning in some areas, but Pomeranz didn’t even come close to performing like the kind of pitcher that you’d give up your top pitching prospect for in order to acquire. Twice. Although, I think Dave Dombrowski deserves most of the blame for that, instead of Pomeranz. I mean, he didn’t choose to come to Boston, but Dombrowski chose to bring him here. Twice.
All that being said, you kind of almost feel for Pomeranz a little bit here. Like I said, he didn’t choose to come here, he didn’t have a hand in the Padres withholding medical information, and he had nothing to do with the Red Sox giving up their top pitching prospect in order to acquire him, which immediately sets the expectations for him pretty high. He was more or less a career-long reliever, who was in his first full year as a starting pitcher, had great success for half a season, and was plucked from a team that nobody pays attention to and dropped right in the middle of a pennant race.
But my question is — will Pomeranz adjust and come close to meeting the expectations that come along with being traded for an organization’s top pitching prospect? It’s a new year with a clean slate, and last night was certainly a step in the right direction. Pomeranz gave the Red Sox 6+ innings with six strikeouts, one walk, allowing just four hits and one earned run, which was a runner inherited by Heath Hembree.
The line looks pretty good, but you know what looks even better? The radar gun. We saw Pomeranz’s fastball register as high as 95 MPH on Tuesday night, and that was after concerns brought on during spring training when he was sitting in the high 80’s, low 90’s. At one point last night, Pomeranz retired 12 batters consecutively between the second and sixth inning, something Red Sox fans were not used to seeing last year. Can’t get too high over one start, but there are a lot of positives to take out of this one.
Then, you have the Red Sox offense, who came back from Detroit after dropping three of four to the Tigers and hit .235 with a .653 OPS as a team in that series. It looks like the Flu Crew is finally shaking the shits, because Hanley Ramirez returned to the lineup, Andrew Benintendi had three hits after puking his brains out in Detroit, and Mookie Betts had a pair of hits after missing the first half of that four-game set.
You also got Xander Bogaerts back from the bereavement list, and with Jackie Bradley Jr. on the disabled list, you got a two-hit night from Chris Young in his absence. Only one hit for Mitchy Two Bags Moreland, but it was obviously a double, his fifth straight game with a two-bagger. And finally, Dustin Pedroia had two more hits, as he’s opened the season with at least one hit in all seven games. The last Red Sox player to do that? My MAN, JD Drew in 2007, who had a hit in the first nine games that year.
And when Boston’s most productive hitter, Sandy Leon, needed a day off, you replaced him with Christian Vazquez, who’s batting 1.000 this year (5-for-5). Vazquez went 4-for-4 last night with a double, a triple and a pair of singles, which, according to Elias, made him the first Red Sox hitter since 1977 to start a season reaching base in their first seven plate appearances. Surprisingly, that wasn’t Vazquez’s first four-hit game, either. He went 4-for-4 with a double and a homer against the Rays back in September of 2014.
If you’re Chris Sale, you’ve gotta be sitting in the dugout last night watching that offensive outburst like, “What the fuck, man.”
One last thought — Did Fernando Abad die? We’re seven games into the season, and we still have’t seen him yet. Before the game, John Farrell named Matt Barnes as the official 8th inning guy, and Farrell used Hembree in the seventh of a 2-0 game, Barnes in the 8th of a 5-1 game, and Joe Kelly in the ninth of an 8-1 game. If we didn’t see Abad’s season debut in the 9th there, then when the hell is he ever getting into a game? Not complaining, either. Just curious.
Final score: Red Sox 8, Orioles 1