The Red Sox bullpen better be prepared with Johnson on the mound
The Boston Red Sox will have Brian Johnson on the mound tonight, which usually means that the bullpen will be seeing a heavy workload.
Boston is in the fight of their lives right now with the Philadelphia Phillies coming to Fenway Park for a two-game stand. With the Red Sox still sitting 6.0 games back in the wild card standings, there is zero room for error as the season winds down. Getting the start for the Sox tonight is Brian Johnson and that likely means we’ll be seeing a bullpen game.
It’s no secret that the Red Sox are working without all of their parts as David Price is still working back from his stint on the IL and isn’t ready to return just yet. Then came the news yesterday that Chris Sale will be out of action for the rest of the regular season with a heavy doubt on any postseason work as well.
We also have the maybe starters/maybe relievers, in Nathan Eovaldi and Andrew Cashner. Neither of which has impressed much in either role that they’ve been given this season. 2019 just hasn’t been kind to the Red Sox starting rotation.
With all that said, Boston still has a small sliver of hope as far as the postseason is concerned since they’re within striking distance of the wild card. Unfortunately for the Sox, they won’t see the Rays again until the very last week of the season, and depending on the AL Central, their September clash with Minnesota may be pointless.
So for Boston to sneak in the back door of the postseason they’re going to need a lot of help from a lot of other teams, but most importantly they have to win. That task falls into the hands of Johnson and most likely the bullpen tonight.
BJ hasn’t been the most reliable of pitchers this season but then again not many have been for the Sox. The goal if I’m Alex Cora is to try and get 4-5 innings from Johnson while keeping the score close, which is easier said than done.
In his 22.1IP this season Johnson finds himself with a 1-1 record and a not so pretty 6.45 ERA. He’s also averaging a 2.0/4.0 split as far as HR9/BB9 is concerned. With Bryce Harper getting hot as of late, that doesn’t bode well for Johnson. He’ll have a hell of a task in front of him with a fired-up Phillies side that is also fighting for their postseason.
Johnson has made three starts in the month of August totaling just 8.1IP while having a 7R/2HR/4BB/4K slash line. If we’ve learned anything from the rest of the month it’s that the bullpen is going to need to be ready early on tonight.
The longest outing of those starts was a mere 3IP against the Yankees with a pair of 2.2IP starts to follow. Alex Cora needs to have a gameplan ready to go with his pen if Johnson stays true to his form.
If I were getting a strategy set for tonight in case the Red Sox needed to break the glass due to an emergency, I’d have Marcus Walden (8-2/62IP/3.34) and Josh Taylor (0-1/35IP/3.09) both ready to eat up some innings. Both have proven this season that they can be reliable despite hiccups here and there.
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Walden and Taylor have each been called upon in these bullpen game scenarios to clean up messes and get to the later innings of the game. Cora has shown trust in both pitchers despite their mix of successes and failures in 2019, and we should continue to see their workloads increase thanks to that trust. Tonight very well could be another opportunity to build upon that trust.
If Johnson can get through at least the fourth inning then the pairing of Walden/Taylor should be able to get the game to the seventh or so where Matt Barnes and Brandon Workman can become factors. But this all lives and dies with whether or not Johnson is able to get the game to a safe enough point for the reinforcements.
This season will come down to the wire for the Red Sox and with the pitching staff severely depleted they’re going to need guys like Brian Johnson to step up. That all starts tonight against the Phillies and will continue until the end of September. All Boston can do is play their game and play it to the best of their abilities. The rest will be up to the baseball gods and if they feel the Red Sox are worthy enough to see October once again.