Red Sox Bullpen Not Relieving The Situation

May 27, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Koji Uehara (19) delivers a pitch in the eighth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Jays won 7-5. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports
May 27, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Koji Uehara (19) delivers a pitch in the eighth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Jays won 7-5. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports /

There’s a lot of hate spreading around the Boston Red Sox starters, but it’s not like the relievers are doing much more to stem the tide washing over them.

In last night’s game, what did Red Sox Nation actually expect from one of their starting pitchers? David Price signed a very expensive deal with the Red Sox to be their ace in the offseason, but he was also pitching against one of the hottest teams in all of professional baseball. The Toronto Blue Jays, a division rival, were excited to play Boston and try to climb up the standings in their three-game series. The Jays were 7-2 in their last nine games, as their potent batting lineup has been finally clicking on all cylinders.

Price ended his night allowing three runs, only two were earned, on six hits in seven innings. If one takes away the two-run homer that Edwin Encarnacion drilled in the top of the first inning, one could say Price settled down nicely and gave a pretty decent performance.

The home run did hurt a great deal, especially for general morale; however, the holes that the Red Sox have continued to dig for themselves seem to only get bigger in the later frames, lately.

Koji Uehara is only one example of this ever-gaping issue. The 41-year-old looked as automatic as one could be as a closer for the Red Sox in 2013, the year that they desperately needed someone to shut the door on opposing sluggers for them to win the World Series. Even in 2015, Uehara had 25 saves in 27 opportunities, posting a 2.23 ERA in 40.1 innings of work. Fast-forward to today, Koji’s ERA has ballooned to 4.57, giving up one run more than he did all of last season in just 21.2 innings.

The Red Sox lost 5-2, not 3-2, last night. When the team looks up at the scoreboard and sees that the effort to regain ground is washed away, back into the depths by a sea of more runs by the opposition, the lineup grips their bats just that much tighter with tension and anxiety. The team cannot expect to simply outscore everyone every night in a shootout. The pressure will wear anyone down, including the best run-producing team in the majors.

With the eight Red Sox relievers to have pitched 11 or more innings this season, none of them have given up less than five earned runs. Uehara, Heath Hembree, and new closer Craig Kimbrel have combined for five blown saves already. Hembree’s 2.14 ERA is the lowest, with the others reaching between 2.81 and 6.55. They also combined to allow 16 home runs and have the ninth most walks by a bullpen, providing 74 free passes to first base.

The most telling statistic is one that, at first, doesn’t seem so bad until examined more closely. The Red Sox relievers have given up the most earned runs in the American League East division (72), one more than the Tampa Bay Rays. With many of the relief troubles widely reported about the other two A.L. East title contenders, the Blue Jays bullpen has given up only 59 earned runs and the Baltimore Orioles have given up a mere 54.

True that those runs have come up in situations that have cost those two teams some victories, but does that not then lead us to think of what it means for the Red Sox? The Blue Jays and Orioles have been recovering their form as of late while Boston has tried to score enough runs only to fall short.

The best, or worst, examples came just a few days ago, when the Red Sox fought back in the later innings of the last two games against the Orioles only for Baltimore to victimize Boston’s bullpen to take both victories. These games came after the same thing happened a week ago in Toronto, as the Blue Jays pulled two wins out of Boston’s grip at the games’ ends.

Next: Boston Red Sox At The One Third Mark

Nobody is disputing the fact that the starters, as a unit, need to play better, but so do the relievers. Between injuries and bad performances, the bullpen needs to stop worrying about relieving the starters as much as they need to relieve the batters that the damage is not going to get any worse. The Red Sox can’t keep digging themselves out of holes if the holes keep getting deeper.