Again and again we’re seen that offensively speaking, the 2017 Red Sox aren’t like the Sox of last season. On Monday, we were reminded that neither are the 2017 Blue Jays.
For a fifth straight game a Sox opponent scored first and early in the game. Red Sox opponents have scored at least two runs before the third inning in every game since last Thursday.
But on Monday, the Red Sox knew that Jays pitching had a damning five-game streak of their own. Toronto had allowed five or more runs in five games and in seven of their last nine.
Despite a good outing from Jays starter Marcus Stroman (6.0 IP with two runs allowed, one earned, and no walks with four strikeouts), this was really a matter of getting into the Toronto pen. Once Stroman was gone, Boston struck for four quick runs against relievers Danny Barnes and Aaron Loup to take the lead and never look back.
Red Sox starter Drew Pomeranz wasn’t as sharp as in previous outings, allowing the leadoff batter to reach safely in five of his six innings. Still, Pomeranz lasted 6.0 IP to come away with the win, his 14th of the season. Pomeranz allowed three runs on seven hits but also walked five, tying for a third time his season high. Relievers Addison Reed and Brandon Workman each contributed a perfect inning apiece.
Craig Kimbrel, pitching with a three-run lead in the ninth, made things interesting when Justin Smoak cranked his 36th home run of the season. After a walk to José Bautista, Kendrys Morales stepped to the plate representing the winning run. It had been Morales who belted a HR against Kimbrel, the first of just four allowed by this season by the the gifted Sox closer. Morales popped out this time, however, and Kimbrel recorded his 30th save of the season.
Craig Kimbrel is now just the 6th MLB pitcher with at least 30 saves in as many as seven straight seasons. The others are Mariano Rivera (9 seasons), Trevor Hoffman (7), Jonathan Papelbon (7), Troy Percival (7), and Robb Nen (7).
Christian Vázquez Stays Hot
Boston catcher Christian Vázquez continued his torrid pace at the plate. On Monday Vázquez became just the second Boston catcher since at least 1913 with a stolen base and four hits, including a home run. The only other Sox catcher to do that was Hall of Famer Rick Ferrell on June 30, 1935.
Beside Vázquez, four other Red Sox had two hits in Monday’s game, including Hanley Ramírez, who was dropped to seventh in the batting order for just the 12th time in his career.
It was the 53rd game for the Sox with 10 or more hits, the most in the American League after the Astros (62) and Orioles (57).
Rafael Devers, hitless in four at-bats, made a pivotal play that underscores his remarkable maturity for so young a player. With the Sox down by a run in the fifth but with the bases loaded and just one out, Devers elected for the force play at home rather than an impulsive grasp at a tough double play. Pomeranz would work out of the jam to keep the game in check.
“These guys love to hit, so it’s always hitting, hitting, hitting,” Red Sox mental skills coach Laz Gutierrez told Rob Bradford of WEEI. “But [Devers] worked on all aspects of his game. And I think what you see now is all that work that he’s put in.”
With Cleveland beating the Yankees in New York, the Red Sox lead returned to 3½ games in the American League East. The Sox remain one of five major league teams this season not to lose five straight games.