Red Sox Notes: Why AL East Might Be The Toughest Division In Baseball

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BOSTON — Against another opponent in another ballpark, Drew Pomeranz might have sustained less damage.

But the Baltimore Orioles hang their hats on making opponents’ mistakes hurt, and Tuesday night at Fenway Park, they did just that.

Pomeranz lasted just two-plus innings against the Orioles, allowing five runs on four hits, two of which proved very costly: a three-run home run by J.J. Hardy in the second inning and a two-run shot by Nolan Reimold two batters later.

Those two blasts gave Baltimore an early five-run advantage — which they sustained in a 6-3 win over the Red Sox — during a brutal 45-pitch inning for Pomeranz that sent him to his shortest outing of the season.

“It was pretty frustrating,” Pomeranz said after the game. “I was trying to get in on some of those guys, and the ball was just shooting back over toward 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.”

That’s especially true against Baltimore, which hit another home run in the ninth inning and now has scored all eight of its runs in this series via the long ball. The Orioles easily lead the majors with a whopping 231 homers in 144 games.

“That’s how they’re winning games,” Red Sox catcher Ryan Hanigan said after the game. “It’s tough, man. You don’t have a lot of room for error. These guys are real aggressive — a bunch of power-hitting righties, and obviously with (Chris) Davis too in there, the lefty. They’ve just got a good, powerful lineup.”

Pomeranz found that out the hard way in his first start against the Orioles this season, which turned out to be a rude reminder of how tough it is to pitch in the American League East.

The silver lining for the 27-year-old left-hander: Assuming he continues to pitch on five days’ rest, Pomeranz will miss Baltimore in the teams’ four-game series next week, pitching in Sunday’s series finale against the New York Yankees and next Friday’s series opener against the Tampa Bay Rays.

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Let’s hit a few other notes from Red Sox-Orioles:

— Tuesday’s loss had a silver lining for Boston, as the Toronto Blue Jays’ loss to the Rays allowed the team to maintain its two-game lead atop the AL East.

But the Red Sox’s remaining 18 games all are against division opponents, and considering the AL East is the only division in Major League Baseball with four teams over .500, closing out the season strong will be no easy feat.

“It might be the toughest division in baseball, when you consider the strengths of the individual clubs (and) the ballparks in which we play,” manager John Farrell said after the game. ” … There’s no give-me’s in this division at all, and you kind of like the fact that everyone is back in division play, so the schedule kind of evens out to a certain extent.”

— The Red Sox’s bullpen delivered another admirable performance, holding Baltimore to one run over the final seven innings. Six different relievers saw action, as Farrell made full use of his expanded 40-man roster for the second time in three days.

“They’ve come in and done their job,” Farrell said. “The fact that you can add a couple of arms, you can rotate a couple people through — they’re getting proper rest. That’s probably the best way I can describe it.”

— Xander Bogaerts hit his 19th homer of the season in the fifth inning, which already marks a career high.

One more long ball would put him in elite company, as the Red Sox haven’t had a shortstop hit 20 homers since Nomar Garciaparra hit 28 in 2003.

— Tuesday marked a memorable milestone in David Ortiz’s storied career: On Sept. 13, 1996, the young first baseman, then known as David Arias, was revealed as the “player to be named later” in the Seattle Mariners’ trade with the Minnesota Twins.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images

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