BOSTON -- Given his recent run, this was probably similar to an out-of-body experience for Drew Pomeranz.
Since coming over to the Boston Red Sox from the San Diego Padres via trade on July 15, the All-Star left-hander has been one of Boston’s most consistent arms in its second-half pennant push. Headed into Tuesday's matchup with Baltimore, Pomeranz had surrendered three earned runs or fewer in seven straight starts, artfully weaving in a sophisticated knuckle-curveball with some mid-90s heat.
But it all blew up in his face, a steady burn over the course of 45 pitches, in an elongated second inning that left the heavy-hitting Baltimore Orioles with a 5-0 lead, having done enough damage to chase Pomeranz from the game a few at-bats into the third inning. With little help from his own bats -- the Red Sox were 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position -- Pomeranz took his third straight loss.
With Baltimore’s 6-3 win and Toronto’s loss to Tampa Bay, the Orioles moved into a tie for second place in the AL East with the Blue Jays. The teams also sit tied for the two AL wild-card spots, while Boston maintained a two-game lead for the division title.
There were some bright spots for Pomeranz, such as twice catching leadoff hitter Adam Jones chasing four-seamers up out of the zone, but this outing will be remembered for the two platters he served to the bottom of the Orioles’ order to give them all the cushion they needed.
After dropping a knuckle-curve in the dirt to bring up a full count on J.J. Hardy with two runners on, Pomeranz left a 93 mph four-seamer high over the middle of the plate, which the shortstop promptly turned on and launched to the top of a billboard over the Green Monster for a 3-0 lead.
Two at-bats and two more full counts later, Pomeranz came at Nolan Reimold with a knuckle-curve that flattened over the middle of the plate -- enough for the No. 9 hitter, who came into this contest hitting .223, to pull down the left-field line for his sixth homer of the season.
After attacking Manny Machado with a slew of cutters and knuckle-curves to lead off the third, only to surrender a 3-2 single to left field, Pomeranz was pulled from the game. The Red Sox used six different relievers to close out the game.
“With the number of pitches thrown by Drew, and the time he sat on the bench [in the bottom of the second], when he started the third inning it looked like his stuff was backing up a little bit,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “I felt like we needed to go to the bullpen at that point.”
Said Pomeranz: “That was pretty frustrating. I was trying to get in on some of those guys, and the ball would shoot over the middle of the plate. It’s really frustrating when you’re trying to locate to a certain spot and it goes to the other side of the plate. Not what I wanted up there.”
This was Pomeranz’s shortest outing (2 innings pitched, 63 pitches, 36 strikes) since moving from the bullpen to a starting spot at the beginning of this season with the Padres. He threw his fewest pitches since a 3-2 decision over Detroit on Aug. 15, when he tossed just 51 in 5 1/3 innings of work. It was his worst start since a July 30 loss to the Los Angeles Angels, in which he surrendered five earned runs on six hits over 5 1/3 innings.
Coming off of eight days rest, Farrell admitted to being a little surprised at how quickly things unraveled for Pomeranz.
“I thought he came out, even with the added days of rest, with increased power,” Farrell said. “First inning, gets through in good shape. Maybe the lack of consistent command was the difference in this one. And then they get some hitter counts. And so it was a little bit of a surprise. We certainly expected Drew, particularly with a couple of added days of rest, to maybe be a little more sharp.”