By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Heading into 2017, Drew Pomeranz was not supposed to be The Man™. But it’s late August, and the undisputed second-best starter in the rotation is being tasked with preventing the team from suffering its first five-game losing streak of the year.
And there’s reason for the Red Sox to feel good about it.
When Pomeranz gets the ball on Monday night in Toronto, he’ll be in a somewhat familiar position, as it will be the ninth time he’s taken the hill following a Red Sox loss. The Red Sox are 6-2 thus far in those games.
Pomeranz himself has been quite good, too. He’s 3-0 with a 3.33 ERA, 1.370 WHIP, and 2.29 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Those numbers are all a touch worse than his overall numbers on the year (3.18 ERA, 1.338 WHIP, 2.79 K/BB), but they show that Pomeranz has been reliably steady through those eight starts.
He’s pitched six or more innings in six of those eight starts, as well, with his shortest outing being a four-inning stint in Oakland — the one which led to his famous dugout showdown with John Farrell.
Though he wasn’t the starter tasked with stopping the team’s only other previous four-game losing streak, he has taken the mound five times following two or more straight losses. In those games, he’s posted a less-encouraging 4.00 ERA and 1.556 WHIP. Pomeranz is 1-0 in those five starts, but the team went 3-2.
While significant attention will be placed on Pomeranz (who kept the Indians scoreless through 5.2 innings in the Red Sox’ most recent victory), the offense as a whole will have its hands full with Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman (11-6, 3.17 ERA). The Red Sox tagged Stroman for six runs — all earned — on 11 hits and one walk back in April, chasing him from the game after just 4.2 innings. In the more recent matchup on July 17, the Sox plated three unearned runs in Stroman’s 6.1 innings of work in a 4-3 Toronto victory.
Xander Bogaerts (10-for-23, 2 doubles, HR) and Mookie Betts (7-for-23, 2B) have found some success vs. Stroman in the past. Betts is 3-for-7 against Stroman this year, while Andrew Benintendi is 3-for-5 with a double and a walk against the right-hander. Mitch Moreland has also been trouble for Stroman this year, going 4-for-6 with a double and three RBIs.
With their AL East lead tightening to just 2.5 games, a lot’s on the table on Monday night in Toronto. A win can at least steady the team in the midst of a 20-game-in-20-day stretch. A loss would give the Sox their longest losing streak of the year, and it would open the door to allow the Yankees to get as close to first place as they’ve been since Aug. 2.
“More than anything, we’ve got to go out and continue to stick together as we do, and we’ll get through this tough patch,” manager John Farrell said after Sunday’s 2-1 loss. “It’s a pitch at a time to turn this ship around.”
Betts — who struck out in a key spot with the bases loaded in Sunday’s loss, when the Red Sox went 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position — expressed no worry whatsoever with the Red Sox getting outscored 38-10 in their last four games.
“I don’t think we’re having trouble. A couple of days ago, we weren’t having this conversation. So, you know, just a couple rough days. And we gotta come get ’em tomorrow. … It’s the game of baseball. It’s over now. We’re still in first. And we have to worry about tomorrow,” Betts said. “There’s no reason. It’s just baseball. It happens. Tomorrow we may get 20 hits. So you never know what’s going to happen.”
Whether it’s with 20 hits or with one, the Red Sox won’t really care how they earn their next victory. They just hope it comes Monday night.