Red Sox bullpen caves under the pressure in loss to Detroit
The Boston Red Sox kicked off a 10-game homestand against the Tigers today. After a strong start from Chris Sale, the bullpen collapsed under the pressure.
The Red Sox came into today’s doubleheader with the Detroit Tigers riding a massive wave of momentum after sweeping the division-leading Tampa Bay Rays. Boston ace Chris Sale got the call to take the mound in the afternoon tilt and looked impressive.
Sale was showing flashes of his former self but still didn’t seem totally back to normal. Though he was able to rack up 10 K’s today his pitch count skyrocketed early and led to his premature exit from the game. He would complete 5 IP for a total of 97 pitches and would give up 2 ER on 5 hits and 2 BB. When all was said and done it was Sale’s best start of the season and backed Alex Cora’s belief that he was close to his old self.
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With Sale out of the picture, it was up to the bullpen to finish what he started. That’s where the train went off the tracks and in a hurry. Heath Hembree got the opportunity first and quickly gave up the go-ahead homer to Ronny Rodriguez. In Hembree’s defense, Rodriguez had been on fire all day and nobody was going to stop him.
Hembree would last just 2/3 of an inning before AC would call on the arm of Tyler Thornburg. The Red Sox were able to get out of the inning when Thornburg struck out Jacoby Jones. Thornburg was the lone reliever today that carried his weight and gave the Red Sox a chance to win. He hasn’t been used much lately but made good use of his chance today. The Sox got back in it when Xander Bogaerts cranked his first of two Green Monster bombs.
The Red Sox kept it close for a couple of innings until Colten Brewer took to the mound and then the Tigers pounced. Detroit tacked on a lead-off walk followed by a pair of doubles and a single and before we knew it the score was 7-3.
Fenway Park was already pretty empty due to the short notice of last night’s game getting pushed to today and the big inning from the Tigers all but shut the park down. You could just feel the air escape as fans saw the game running away from the Red Sox.
The Red Sox would try and claw back as Bogey smacked the second of those Monstah bombs but it was too little too late. This has been an odd trend for the Red Sox pitching staff lately. The beginning of the season saw the starters look lost while the bullpen kept them in games and now the roles are reversed. As the starting rotation is finding their mojo the bullpen has seemingly lost it.
Even the more reliable relievers like Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier have shown cracks in the armor as of late. Brasier caved against the Yankees last week and Barnes gave up a pair of game-altering homers this past weekend. What was the only bright point when it came to the Red Sox pitching in 2019 is now one of the most stressful.
At the beginning of the season, we were all ripping our hair out when the starters would give up multitudes of runs while the bullpen was breaking their backs to keep the game in reach. The last few weeks though it’s been the bullpen that has given away games. That simply can’t happen if Boston wants an inkling of a chance to succeed this season.
With Boston trying to make a march towards the top of the division they can’t afford to have the relief pitching continue to drop the ball once the starter exits. The relief core for the Red Sox doesn’t get the attention that some other clubs receive as they don’t have any flashy names but they are a strong squad.
Much of Red Sox Nation seemed worried when it became clear that former closer Craig Kimbrel wouldn’t be returning to Fenway Park. Brasier has been a strong replacement in his absence and has earned 6 saves in 11.1 IP with a 1.59 ERA and 11-2 K-BB ratio. Pretty good for a guy that lived in obscurity until last season. Barnes has been a revelation as a setup man despite the setbacks in Tampa Bay. He’s carrying a 2.89 ERA through 9.1 IP and an astounding 19-2 K-BB ratio.
And Boston will need them to continue to have that confidence if they want to get close to retaining their championship. With the starting rotation finding their mojo and getting back their swag as of late they’ll need the bullpen to find it’s early season form again. The Red Sox have all the pieces to make it back to the Fall Classic they just need to put the puzzle pieces together.