The Boston Red Sox have had issues with their pitching all season long. One man that hasn’t caused any headaches is reliever Matt Barnes.
The Red Sox pitching staff has been anything but stellar this season. The starters have been giving up tons of runs and when there is a lead the relievers have been giving it away. One man that has stepped up and is carrying his weight among the staff is Matt Barnes.
Barnes came into this season has the co-favorite for the empty closer spot along with Ryan Brasier. Red Sox manager Alex Cora was coy all spring training about who would be the closer when the game was on the line. Early on they seemed to alternate in their opportunities to finish games. Since the beginning of the season, Brasier has become more the closer and Barnes the setup man, and it seems to be working.
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Matt Barnes has been a member of the Red Sox since they drafted him in the first round of the 2011 MLB Draft. He would eventually make his debut in 2014 where he finished with a 4.00 ERA in 9 IP striking out 8 while only walking 2. A bit of a glimpse into what the future may hold for the righthander.
The big story for Barnes this season has been his dominance. Has he been perfect? Not at all. But he’s been the most consistent pitcher the Red Sox have sent out to the mound in 2019. This weekend he gave up home runs that could have been very costly to the Red Sox but he never lost his confidence or composure. In fact, despite giving up a homer in Saturday afternoon’s matchup with the Rays he would still strike out the side.
That’s been the fun thing to watch so far this season when he is on the mound. He may give up a hit here or there and possibly a run, but he hasn’t lost his cool. Barnes has posted a stellar 2.89 ERA in 9.1 IP with an insane 19-2 K-BB ratio. He also has 2 wins on the board. Not bad for a guy who didn’t know what his role would be this season.
Seriously, Barnes is averaging at least 2 K’s per inning. At this point, it’s almost automatic that when you step into the batter’s box against him you’re going to be sent down in a hurry. He is relying on his curveball heavily this season using it an astounding 58.3% of the time while using his fastball only 38%. Barnes is using a masterful mix of the speed of the fastball and mystery of the curve to keep batters guessing. But as I mentioned above he isn’t perfect.
He’s given up two bombs this season while only giving up five all of last season and both came this past weekend against Tampa Bay. Both homers allowed the Rays to tie the game and squander a Red Sox lead. But again, Barnes stayed calm and worked out of the innings.
Though he may not get asked to eat a lot of innings like a starter would he is easily the most relied on pitcher on the staff. He has been the anchor that the Red Sox have tethered themselves to early on in the title defense. When the Sox went to Brasier against the Yankees the sentiment I saw all over social media was that it should’ve been Barnes, and they were right. Brasier was assaulted by the Yankee bats in a nightmare outing.
It’s still incredibly early in the season but Matt Barnes is doing everything he can to set himself apart from the rest of the Red Sox pitching staff. He’s going to be a key part of the machine if Boston wants to even come close to repeating as World Series champs. As long as he can stay healthy and keep his confidence this season could be the best he’s had in his career. For the Red Sox sake let’s hope that’s what happens.