10:10 PM EST – Money Line: Red Sox -108, Run Line: 8.5 under 25
The race to the Postseason continues as the Boston Red Sox take their act out to the West Coast for a three-game set with the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field. Despite owning a healthy lead in the American League East, the Red Sox (55-46, 1st in AL East) have the appearance of a team that has yet to truly awaken since their return from the All-Star Break, losing seven out of their twelve games since the respite. Now losers of three straight contests, John Farrell’s side felt that they could widen their lead in the Division with their recent run on the West Coast but after dropping two out of three against the Los Angeles Angels, things did not improve in their series opener with the Mariners, who blanked them 4-0 in Monday Night’s affair. Falling behind early, the visitors simply couldn’t get anything going from the plate, where their potent offense was relegated to a mere four hits with, with a dozen of their number striking out. The collection of Mookie Betts (.277 BA, 17 HR, 61 RBI), Andrew Benintendi (.264 BA, 12 HR, 54 RBI), Dustin Pedroia (.307 BA, 6 HR, 52 RBI), and Hanley Ramirez (.256 BA, 16 HR, 39 RBI) proved particularly ineffective going a miserable 2-for-16 and accounting for seven of those strikeouts. For his part, Eduardo Rodriguez (4-3, 3.89 ERA) was far from sharp in his second start since returning from the Disabled List, yielding four earned runs on six hits over the course of 5.1 innings of work, with the brunt of the damage coming in the Second, where the Mariners tagged him for three runs, courtesy of a solo home run and an RBI Double. Taking the mound tonight for Farrell and Co. is Drew Pomeranz (10-4, 3.51 ERA), who has brought great fortune to the Red Sox, winners of five of consecutive starts courtesy of the Lefthander. A winner of four out his past five outings, Pomeranz has settled in nicely as a part of Boston’s Rotation behind his more celebrated contemporaries Chris Sale (12-4, 2.48 ERA) and David Price (5-3, 3.82 ERA). In his last start, the 28-year old permitted one lone run (none earned) in a 5-1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays, on just three hits, despite walking five batters opposed to three strikeouts. While it was far from the sharpest of performances, Pomeranz benefitted greatly from the defense provided by his teammates, who turned a trifecta of Double-Plays behind him. Thursday’s outing marked the fourth consecutive Quality Start from the Lefty, with a meeting with Seattle promising a potentially strong showing. Despite making just three starts against the Mariners, Pomeranz has faced them a total of twelve times in a various roles over the past three seasons, and needless to say, he’s found quite a bit of success; the seventh-year veteran has compiled a healthy 1.59 ERA against the M’s, yielding five earned runs on fifteen hits over 28.1 innings of labor, while striking out twenty-five opponents compared to just six walks. In his first full season in the Northeast, he looks far more settled than he did after being acquired midseason a year ago, lowering his ERA from 4.59 to a far more respectable 3.51, while averaging 9.5 Strikeouts per Nine Innings. As the aforementioned Price continues to recapture his form after his return form the Disabled List, Pomeranz’s positive play should prove invaluable for Farrell and his charges as they move forward to yet another Division Title.
Meanwhile, the Mariners (50-51, 2nd in AL West) continue to operate on the fringe of Playoffs, now sitting 2.5 games out of the final Wild Card in the American League. While they certainly have some way to go before surpassing the juggernaut that is the Houston Astros in their Division, Scott Servais and his charges have to be confident in their chances of ending their sixteen-year long Playoff Drought, their latest run (7-4 since the All-Star Break) has been thanks mostly to their pitching. In one word, Monday Night’s Starter James Paxton (10-3, 2.84 ERA) was simply dominant, shutting the powerful Red Sox down at every turn, rendering them scoreless over the duration of seven brilliant innings of labor. The young Lefthander struck out ten batters, while walking none and allowing just four hits to one of the more potent offensive teams in the Majors. Paxton has successfully separated himself from the rest of the Rotation, leading the group in a number of categories including Wins (ten), ERA (2.84), Strikeouts (117), WHIP (1.105), Strikeouts per Nine innings (10.4), and K/BB Ratio (3.77). As stated earlier, Seattle performed the lion’s share of their work during the Second Inning, beginning with a Kyle Seager (.255 BA, 14 HR, 53 RBI) Solo Homer (his fourteenth), followed by a Ben Gamel (.323 BA, 6 HR, 35 RBI) Triple to Righfield, who later score on a Fielder’s Choice, with Guillermo Heredia (.267 BA, 5 HR, 16 RBI) coming home for another score thanks to a Jean Segura (.329 BA, 6 HR, 31 RBI) Double. Heading to the mound for Servais is Felix Hernandez (5-4, 3.88 ERA), who looks to finally be showing signs of returning to the form that made him such a dominant arm over the past eight years. Only making eleven starts this season, King Felix has struggled with injuries throughout the 2017 campaign, missing the entire month of July on the Disabled List as a result. However, if his last few starts are any indication, he may be on the verge of putting the rest of the American League on notice, which is particularly good news for the Mariners, who remain 2.5 games out of the Wild Card. In his last start, a 4-1 loss against the New York Yankees, the thirteenth-year veteran allowed just one earned run on three hits over seven quality innings, which was huge, for it marked the first time that the Righthander had lasted that long on the bump since April 14th. Hernandez gave up a home run and a pair of walks, but struck out nine Yankees, the second time in his last three starts that he fanned at least eight batters. With that said, the former Cy Young winner must sort out his control, for despite the gaudy number of strikeouts he’s shown an alarming propensity for giving up hits, averaging a whopping 9.9 hits over Nine Innings, his highest mark since 2007. Fortunately, he’s dramatically reduced the number of free paths issued, bringing his dreadful 2016 rate of 3.8 down to a much more respectable 2.3, leading to a solid 3.75 K/BB Ratio, his highest since 2014. Tonight will provide a true to test as to where exactly his is in his climb back to stardom, for the Red Sox have remained a persistent thorn in his side over the course of his career, particularly over the past three years; four starts, Hernandez has registered a bloated 8.14 ERA, while getting rocked for nineteen runs (all earned) on thirty hits over the duration of twenty-one innings, serving up as many home runs (seven) as walks, in comparison to twenty strikeouts. Though he may hold the keys to the Mariners’ postseason fortunes, we’ll see if Felix is still a King, or yet another in a long line of pretenders.