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Sox's 4-homer rally falls short in Baltimore

J.D. swats 2 to reclaim MLB lead (31); Swihart, Betts also go deep
MLB.com

BALTIMORE -- One of the more overlooked benefits of the Red Sox's historic first 103 games of the season has been the flexibility in toying around with the weak spots.

Weak spots such as the starting rotation, which has seen multiple members shelved with injury but saw Drew Pomeranz return Tuesday night, and the bullpen, which let the Orioles pull away to deal Boston a 7-6 loss -- while the Yankees simultaneously fortified their own relief corps with the trade acquisition of Zach Britton.

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BALTIMORE -- One of the more overlooked benefits of the Red Sox's historic first 103 games of the season has been the flexibility in toying around with the weak spots.

Weak spots such as the starting rotation, which has seen multiple members shelved with injury but saw Drew Pomeranz return Tuesday night, and the bullpen, which let the Orioles pull away to deal Boston a 7-6 loss -- while the Yankees simultaneously fortified their own relief corps with the trade acquisition of Zach Britton.

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But a strength of Boston -- the long ball -- also came out in full force, as five of the Red Sox's runs came via the home run. J.D. Martinez opened the scoring with a solo shot and added another in the eighth to take sole possession of the MLB lead with 31 homers. Blake Swihart and Mookie Betts went back-to-back in the fifth inning for the former's first home run since 2015.

Video: BOS@BAL: Swihart, Betts hit back-to-back homers

However, Pomeranz didn't give the first area of concern a reassuring outing, as he was tagged for four runs in 4 2/3 innings in his first start since May 31. None of his pitches reached 90 mph, while Jonathan Schoop and Tim Beckham took the lefty deep on two middle-of-the-plate curveballs.

"Made two mistakes and gave up two two-run home runs. The rest of it I thought was pretty good," Pomeranz said. "Really nothing to overanalyze here. Literally two bad pitches, so that's about it."

"Better breaking ball than earlier in the season. Just made two mistakes," manager Alex Cora agreed. "His stuff was better than what we saw earlier, and the breaking ball was a lot better, so that's a positive."

Video: BOS@BAL: Pomeranz fans Schoop for 1st K in his return

Joe Kelly also didn't provide much out of the bullpen as his disappointing two months continued. He entered the sixth with a one-run deficit, but by the time the inning ended, that grew to four. Since June 1, Kelly has allowed 17 runs in 15 1/3 innings. Had it not been for a 27-minute rain delay in the top of the sixth, Tyler Thornburg would have stayed in for the bottom of the inning, Cora said.

Meanwhile, the No. 1 bullpen in New York added the two-time All-Star Britton to its stacked band of cohorts.

"We need to get better. He needs to get better," Cora said of Kelly. "I don't know how we are going to do that, but that is a guy that is very important to what we are trying to accomplish and right now we don't have that guy. … His stuff is there, it's just a matter of trying to get it back to where it was."

Video: BOS@BAL: Jones bloops a 2-out RBI single

"It gets kind of frustrating," Kelly said. "It's not like they are hitting the ball out of the park and a lot of hard contact. [I've been] putting guys on base for free, it's more trying to fight myself."

The Red Sox threatened in the ninth inning as Jackie Bradley Jr. scored with one out to make it a one-run game. Boston had two on and one out, but Brad Brach -- pitching in a spot that surely would have been Britton's -- got a double-play ball from Betts to close it out.

Video: BOS@BAL: Devers hits an RBI infield single in the 9th

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Wild thing: Kelly has had a forgettable two months, with his ERA jumping from 1.73 on May 29 to 4.79. He loaded the bases on two walks and a single after a quick first out in the sixth, and a sac fly and two singles -- the last of which allowed by Hector Velazquez after Kelly exited -- put the Red Sox in a 7-3 hole.

"Can't walk people. When he was on, he wasn't walking people, getting swings and misses," Cora said. "He's not doing that right now."

"Obviously haven't been good for a while now," Kelly said. "Just trying to go out there and figure out a way to throw the ball where I want to again. ... I have all the confidence in the world in myself firing out there and doing whatever I can to get back to where I was."

SOUND SMART
Entering Tuesday, the Red Sox had lost just five games in 2018 when scoring first (now 48-6 overall).

HE SAID IT
"We knew that they were going to try and get better, so they did." -- Cora, on the Yankees acquiring Britton

UP NEXT
Lefty David Price will take the mound for the Red Sox on Wednesday in the series finale against the Orioles. Price, who will be opposed by righty Dylan Bundy, will look to build off a scoreless outing of 6 1/3 innings at Detroit. First pitch from Oriole Park is set for 7:05 p.m. ET.

Zachary Silver is a reporter for MLB.com based in Baltimore. Follow him on Twitter at @zachsilver .

Boston Red Sox, Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, Drew Pomeranz, Blake Swihart