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Sox can't overcome rough outing by Pomeranz

Veteran lefty searching for answers after sluggish first two starts
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

BOSTON -- It has been only two starts, but Drew Pomeranz hasn't looked like the 17-game winner from last season in either of them.

In Friday night's 4-3 loss to the Rays at Fenway Park, Pomeranz (0-1, 7.27 ERA) once again had a diminished fastball that averaged 88.8 mph. Two of the towering homers he allowed -- Wilson Ramos went deep in the first inning and Rob Refsnyder in the third -- were on fastballs between 87 and 88 mph. Daniel Robertson added a homer in the fourth off a Pomeranz changeup.

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BOSTON -- It has been only two starts, but Drew Pomeranz hasn't looked like the 17-game winner from last season in either of them.

In Friday night's 4-3 loss to the Rays at Fenway Park, Pomeranz (0-1, 7.27 ERA) once again had a diminished fastball that averaged 88.8 mph. Two of the towering homers he allowed -- Wilson Ramos went deep in the first inning and Rob Refsnyder in the third -- were on fastballs between 87 and 88 mph. Daniel Robertson added a homer in the fourth off a Pomeranz changeup.

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But manager Alex Cora isn't concerned about that. He sees an underlying problem that he hopes can be fixed when Pomeranz pitches next, which likely will be on Wednesday afternoon against the Royals.

"Obviously I knew what was going on here, and it's a big issue for a lot of people about his velocity. It's obviously a big topic," said Cora. "For me, actually, he's been able to pitch with his fastball. It's just a matter of his breaking ball [being] a non-factor right now."

Cora had data to prove his point.

"He threw 40 breaking balls, 21 of them for balls, 19 strikes, only two swings and misses," said Cora. "That's his pitch, and it's not there. You saw what happened with the A's [in his last start, when he allowed three earned runs in 3 2/3 innings], they stayed back and went the other way, and you saw what happened today."

Pomeranz and the coaches will head to the video room to diagnose the issue.

"I think I'm just waiting for one little piece to click, and that's that," Pomeranz said. "I feel [like I'm] right there. I felt good warming up. When I went out there on the mound, I kept kind of hanging it, and then I was spiking it. ... It's something I work on every day and something I'm going to keep working on. It's going to happen, just got to keep battling."

The key thing for Pomeranz is that he feels healthy after a mild flexor strain in his left elbow forced him to the disabled list to start the season. And you only have to go back to last season -- which Pomeranz also started on the DL -- to remember a time when he got off to a sluggish start and then got red-hot.

In 2017, Pomeranz went 3-3 with a 5.29 ERA in his first seven starts. The rest of the way, he was 14-3 with a 2.84 ERA.

"I've had two starts," Pomeranz said. "I'm not too worried about it. I'm putting in the work. This is definitely a step forward from my first outing."

The other issue for the Red Sox on Friday was their offense, which has been spotty in recent days. In this one, the Sox were stifled by Rays starter Blake Snell (7 1/3 innings, 5 hits, 2 earned runs, 9 K's) for most of the night, then tried to mount a comeback against Tampa Bay's bullpen, which fell short.

J.D. Martinez's single up the middle with two outs in the eighth slimmed a deficit that was once 4-0 to 4-3.

Video: TB@BOS: Martinez bounces an RBI single up the middle

But the Red Sox couldn't get the big hit after that, and Alex Colome, who had a couple of tough outings at Fenway earlier this month, came up with the save by working around a leadoff single by Xander Bogaerts.

After starting the season 17-2, the Sox have lost four of their last six games but still own the best record in the Majors at 19-6.

Video: TB@BOS: Cora on Pomeranz's tough start in 4-3 loss

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Bogaerts legs out infield hit: Though the single Bogaerts had in the ninth didn't end up leading the Red Sox to a comeback win, the fact he was able to beat out an infield hit was a strong sign that his right ankle is healthy again. In his first game back from the disabled list, Bogaerts went 3-for-4 and made a diving stop in the hole in the eighth and threw out Ramos.

Video: TB@BOS: Bogaerts makes an outstanding diving stop

SOUND SMART
Mookie Betts scored his 26th and 27th runs of the season and leads the Majors in that category. The last Red Sox hitter to score that many runs through the team's first 25 games? Johnny Pesky, who scored 31 in the first 25 games of the 1946 season.

Video: TB@BOS: Martinez plates Betts with an RBI double

HE SAID IT
"We've been striking out too much lately. It's becoming an issue. Earlier in the season, we were putting the ball in play with two strikes and using the big part of the field, and lately there's been a lot of strikeouts. A strikeout is an out, but there are certain situations we have to put the ball in play. We showed we could do that earlier when we were really, really hot, and now offensively it seems like we're expanding with two strikes. We've got to make adjustments." -- Cora

UP NEXT
Lefty David Price faces his former team, the Rays, for the third time this season on Saturday afternoon. Price was dominant in the first two outings, allowing no runs over 14 innings. First pitch at Fenway Park is scheduled for 4:05 p.m. ET. Yonny Chirinos is expected to start for the Rays.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Boston Red Sox, Drew Pomeranz