Red Sox relying on the bullpen to keep their wild card hopes alive

MIAMI, FL - APRIL 02: Marcus Walden #64 of the Boston Red Sox pitches the ninth inning during the game against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on April 2, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - APRIL 02: Marcus Walden #64 of the Boston Red Sox pitches the ninth inning during the game against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on April 2, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

The Boston Red Sox have been successful in their final West Coast trip of the year and they’re relying on their bullpen to keep the wins coming.

We’re in the endgame now folks and much like Tony Stark in The Avengers, the bullpen may have to sacrifice themselves to save the rest of the team. And don’t go crying about spoilers, the movie came out in April, knock it off! Today is going to be a major moment for the Red Sox bullpen in 2019 and they have their chance to show what they’re made of.

With the starting rotation spent and a game just hours away, it’s the bullpen that will carry the load tonight against the Angels. This West Coast trip has been a shot of life in the arm of the Sox and it’s given them new life in the Wild Card race. Boston needs a lot of help from other teams if they want to get into the postseason but all they can is win the games they’re in.

Boston’s bullpen has been pretty damn good down the stretch, essentially bookending their 2019 campaign. When this championship defense started it was the bullpen that was giving the Red Sox their chances for victory and as we enter September, they’re stepping up once again. In the second half, the Boston pen has been some of the best in the business and they’re getting their opportunity to show why tonight.

I’m never a big fan of bullpen games and relying on an “opener.” I understand the methodology and gameplan behind it but I hate burning through so many pitchers in a single game. And with how this season has gone, the Sox can’t afford to tire out too many arms in just one outing. But nonetheless that’s where we’re at and we can’t do anything about it.

Alex Cora is going with Josh Taylor to kick things off tonight and I can’t think of a better choice. Taylor has been an absolute godsend this season and has had a phenomenal season. He’s carrying a 1-1 record into tonight’s game with a 3.15 ERA with a 51/13 K/BB ratio in 40IP this season. Taylor has shown great promise in some really tough innings in 2019 and has really earned the trust of Cora.

Once Taylor exits the game I’m not sure where Boston goes as far as the next arm is concerned. If I had to guess, and I do, I’d think Marcus Walden is the next in line. He’s another guy that has seemingly come out of nowhere to have a hell of a year. He made his debut with the Red Sox last year but this has been a breakout season for him and he’s another guy who Alex Cora is firmly behind.

Walden is a fantastic 8-2 out of the pen in 67.2IP and also carries a strong K/BB at 65/23. The big thing with Marcus is when you bring him into a game with runners on base, they very rarely find their way across the plate. He’s stranded 25 of the 35 runners he’s inherited for a 28.6 IRS%. If you need someone to come in and clean up a mess, more often than not Marcus is the guy.

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After those two it gets a little hairier as far as who can come out next, literally. I’m sure we’re going to get an appearance from Andrew Cashner at some point. Cashner quickly erased his 9-3 record when he came to Boston from Baltimore but has seen a resurgence since entering the relief corps. If Cora can limit him to an inning or two max, then I think he can be effective.

We all know that Brandon Workman is the closer and should enter the game if it’s close come the late eighth or ninth innings. Which usually means that Matt Barnes will be in to get the Angels primed and ready for Workman to close things out.

Much like Walden, Workman and Barnes don’t like to let inherited runners find their way home. Workman has stranded 14/16 and Barnes 18/24. Both have had really good years for the Red Sox and have fallen nicely into their roles as closer and set-up man respectively. In bullpen games like these, it’s important to have guys that can freeze the basepaths with the rapid rotation of pitchers.

I’m not sure who else we may see as with the pitchers I tossed out there we should have at least seven to eight innings covered without an issue. That is unless the Angels want to put up another fight tonight and that’s when things could get dicey for Cora and the Red Sox. If everyone is on their game tonight though and executes their game plans, this could be an incredibly successful outing for the strong Boston bullpen.

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The Yankees finally vanquished their biggest rival in Oakland today which allowed Boston to make up some ground. The Red Sox also need Cleveland to stage a comeback to knock off the Rays as they’re currently down to Tampa. Boston is also going to need a big game from their bullpen tonight to keep pace in the Wild Card. Everything seems to be firing on all cylinders right now for the Sox and this weekend could get their foot in the door of the postseason.