With its starting pitching propelling Boston to its best start to a season in franchise history, another Red Sox starter, Drew Pomeranz, took a step toward rejoining the big-league club on Sunday. Pomeranz made a rehab start, as the Pawtucket Red Sox topped the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, 4-3, to grab their first win of the season on a cold afternoon at McCoy Stadium.
Pomeranz, who left his first spring training start March 2 with a left forearm flexor strain, allowed two hits and a pair of runs in 4.1 innings, while walking six and fanning one. The 29-year old left-hander, who was seventh in the American League in 2017 with a 3.32 ERA, threw 47 of his 85 pitches for strikes with temperatures in the low 40s and the wind chill in the high 30s.
"I was going out there working on stuff," Pomeranz said. "Generally I don't go out into big-league games working on things. But today I'm trying to get ready for the big leagues. Like I said, I was working a little more than I generally would, so I kept missing, missing, missing. But those last couple innings I felt like I locked it in and got to where I needed to be."
After walking four in a five-batter span across the second and third innings, the 2016 National League All-Star settled in and retired the next seven batters he faced before walking a man in the fifth and reaching his pitch limit.
"I felt good. Obviously still working on a few things," Pomeranz said. "Just working on stuff and trying to get the feel. For a couple innings there at some point I just relaxed and felt my release point a little better."
The PawSox (1-1) backed their big leaguer with a run in the first, two in the second and another in the third to split the weather-shortened, season-opening two-game series with the IronPigs (1-1). A trio of relievers - veteran right-hander Fernando Rodriguez Jr. (W, 1-0), righty Brandon Workman (2.2 IP, 0 ER) and left-hander Williams Jerez (S, 1) - combined to allow just one unearned run. Jerez, in particular, impressed by retiring all four men he faced on just 10 pitches (nine strikes).
Pawtucket center fielder Rusney Castillo (2-for-4, RBI), shortstop Tzu-Wei Lin (2-for-4) and first baseman Sam Travis (2-for-4) all notched multi-hit games, while Travis also made his mark defensively, picking three balls at first and making a diving play in the second.
With two outs in the top of the first inning, Lehigh Valley right fielder Colin Cowgill pulled a 2-2 fastball to left field for a two-run homer to lift Lehigh Valley in front.
In the bottom of the first, Pawtucket countered when second baseman Iván De Jesús Jr. smacked a sacrifice fly to center field to bring in Castillo, who started the frame with a base knock, and split the deficit to 2-1.
An inning later, Pawtucket tied the game on an RBI groundout from catcher Dan Butler and grabbed the 3-2 lead when Castillo stung an RBI single to left field to score third baseman Jantzen Witte.
The PawSox added to their lead in the bottom of the third when left fielder Ramon Flores clubbed a solo home run - Pawtucket's first big fly of the year - into the right-field bullpen to make it 4-2.
The IronPigs inched closer in the top of the sixth on an RBI groundout from catcher Nick Rickles, trimming the gap to 4-3.
Following their abbreviated series with Lehigh Valley, the PawSox welcome the Buffalo Bisons to town for a three-game series, beginning Monday at 6:15 p.m. Pawtucket left-hander Jalen Beeks (6-7, 3.86 in Pawtucket in 2017) is scheduled to make his season debut. Radio coverage on WHJJ (920 AM and 104.7 FM) and throughout the PawSox Radio Network begins with the PawSox Pre-Game Show at 5:45 p.m.
The homestand runs through Wednesday. Good seats are available, and fans can visit the McCoy Stadium box office, which is open Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. through 5 p.m., and during all home games. Fans can also call (401) 724-7300 or log on to PawSox.com for tickets.