Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell watched as his team squandered yet another lead against the depleted New York Yankees. Poor play or poor management?
Red Sox starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez threw a fantastic seven innings last night, allowing only one run on three hits, a walk, and six strikeouts. Granted, one of those hits was a home run blast by Austin Romine, a catcher-turned-first-baseman who’s hitting just .258 for the season; however, the 23-year-old lefty pitcher will take it, as 2016 has been filled with injury issues and a 5.43 ERA in 12 starts. Coming off of the field, after striking out two Yankees and inducing the third to fly out, Rodriguez must have been feeling on top of the world.
So did Red Sox Nation, as their team was ahead 2-1. Then, both Rodriguez and the fans’ hearts sank after disaster struck, once again, in the eighth inning.
Brad Ziegler, a former closer with the Arizona Diamondbacks, was asked to come into the game to start the top of the eighth inning. Farrell’s choice, on the surface, seems like a logical fit, since Ziegler is supposed to be the setup reliever for the preferred closer Craig Kimbrel. Especially with Koji Uehara out with injury.
More from Red Sox News
- 10 grievances against the Boston Red Sox in honor of Seinfeld holiday Festivus
- Red Sox risk repeating rookie mistake with Eric Hosmer release
- Former MLB All-Star slams Red Sox for ’embarrassing’ treatment of Rafael Devers
- Red Sox invited group of players you’ve probably never heard of to Spring Training
- Jeter Downs’ official departure will continue to haunt Red Sox
However, Kimbrel complained of soreness in his surgically-repaired knee on Tuesday night, when he walked four Yankees and allowed a run to score to almost cough up the victory. Matt Barnes came in for one out to mop up the mess that Kimbrel made, suggesting that Farrell should find a way to give Kimbrel’s knee the proper rest it needs. On Wednesday night, Barnes was again asked to play a big role in relief, but the results were not the same. Drew Pomeranz had a good night with a 4-0 lead, and was rewarded by being relieved by Clay Buchholz who looked great against two batters to finish off the top of the sixth frame. Instead of allowing Buchholz to continue, Farrell opted to use Barnes, who then proceeded to allow three runs on three hits and was only able to record one out before he needed some relief of his own. The Red Sox lost the lead and the game 9-4.
With Kimbrel resting and Barnes shelled the night before, Ziegler seemed to be the only available closer option, and yet Farrell brought him out in Thursday night’s eighth inning, not the ninth.
Fernando Abad sure wasn’t coming in, after he’s blown leads for the Red Sox in two out of the four games that he’s appeared for the club, including the two runs that he allowed the night before to take the loss. Junichi Tazawa also got touched for two runs in that game, while only recording one out. Even Robbie Ross Jr. allowed a run on one hit in that game. Ziegler was the only reliever, after the Buchholz switch, to not cough up a run.
Despite blanking the Yankees the night before, Ziegler gave up three singles, with only one out, to load the bases. Former Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, with his famous stern-looking eyes and his familiarity with Fenway Park, doubled off of the Green Monster to drive in two Yankee runs to take the lead. Instead of relieving Ziegler, Farrell had him intentionally walk Chase Headley, a struggling veteran who has only been hitting .255 for the last 30 games and .254 for the season.
The stage was set for Alex Rodriguez, the much-hated Yankee hitter.
The thought process for intentionally walking Headley must have been that first base was open, so a ground ball would help the Red Sox get out of the inning with a double play. It’s not like Headley had hurt them on the night, because he went 0-for-3. The 41-year-old A-Rod’s .203 batting average must have been making Farrell feel that the veteran would either strike out, like he did earlier in the game, or mishit a pitch off of the sidearming Ziegler for the double play.
A-Rod went 0-for-4 on the night. He did get out with a ground ball. Yet, the ball squeaked off of A-Rod’s bat just far enough to force Sandy Leon to have to field it, throwing to first base and allowing Brett Gardner to score the insurance run from third base.
Not that the Yankees needed it. Red Sox Nation could have, at least, had the satisfaction that A-Rod’s final at-bat could have been mired in mediocrity; however, it will be remembered as a successful last laugh, as Alex Speier of The Boston Globe tweeted:
In a recent interview with BoSox Injection, ESPN’s Rick Sutcliffe, the former Chicago Cubs starting pitcher, was asked why the Yankees look to be playing with so much fire against the Red Sox. He responded: “When you put that uniform on […] there’s only one reason to put it on, and that’s because you expect to win a ballgame. So, you’ll get a little heated […] A lot of things are magnified, including the importance of getting to the postseason. Sometimes it could come down to one game; sometimes it could come to one at-bat.” The Yankees may or may not be trying to play for a postseason spot, being 6.5 games back in the American League East division and 3.5 games back of the A.L. wildcard leaders. Yet, even with five teams ahead of them in the wildcard race, the Yankees look to be playing with more passion, offensively and defensively, than the Red Sox.
Boston owns one of the wildcard spots and is three games back of the A.L. East lead, but they just gave two out of three games away to their archrivals who were only playing .500 ball and had traded their key offensive player away, Carlos Beltran, and also let go of the back end of their All-Star bullpen. Farrell and the Red Sox are running out of excuses for losing to bad teams. If they are going to make the postseason, the last two nights can never happen again. Either that, or Farrell and his staff should be looking for new jobs come the fall.