Red Sox reliever Garrett Whitlock’s first career loss wasn’t entirely his fault

Apr 23, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Garrett Whitlock (72) pitches against the Seattle Mariners during the sixth inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 23, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Garrett Whitlock (72) pitches against the Seattle Mariners during the sixth inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports /
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Boston Red Sox reliever Garrett Whitlock suffers his first career loss

Garrett Whitlock was as reliable as it gets to begin his tenure with the Boston Red Sox but a rare mistake resulted in his first career loss.

The right-hander was called upon to handle the 10th inning of Wednesday’s game against the Detroit Tigers. Few expected the first-place Red Sox to be in danger of losing at home to the lowly Tigers and Whitlock getting tagged with the loss was even more unexpected.

The damage was done on a three-run homer by Jeimer Candelario with nobody out in the 10th. The pitch was a sinker that stayed middle in that Candelario was able to turn on to crush 397 feet down the right field line. That was a mistake pitch that Whitlock left up too high into the batter’s wheelhouse.

However, we should note that this wasn’t your typical three-run homer that suggests a reliever in the midst of a meltdown.

First of all, only two of the runs were earned since one of them was the free runner that is allowed to begin each extra-inning frame on second base. This puts the pitcher in an uncomfortable spot from the start and naturally isn’t a scenario that Whitlock is accustomed to.

Jonathan Schoop led off the inning with a masterful 10-pitch at-bat. He fouled off four pitches to stay alive after falling behind in the count to eventually run the count full. The ninth pitch of the at-bat was a perfectly placed sinker at the bottom of the strike zone that was shockingly called ball three. Instead of striking out, Schoop lived to see another pitch which he slapped to right field for a bloop base hit.

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Whitlock had the strikeout that would have shifted momentum in his favor with one out and the runner remaining on second. The umpire simply blew the call. He didn’t give up hard contact but Schoop reached anyway on a lucky hit to put runners on first and third.

The home run was a no-doubter that can be pinned on Whitlock. After starting his major league career with 13 ⅓ scoreless innings, the right-hander has allowed home runs in consecutive appearances. That’s cause for mild concern but Whitlock has still exceeded anyone’s wildest expectations so far with a sparkling 1.76 ERA through eight appearances.

Under normal circumstances, without the extra-inning rule giving Detroit a free base runner and if the umpire hadn’t missed a clear strike three call, the home run would have been a solo shot that wouldn’t necessarily crush the team. Boston struck back in the bottom of the inning with a pair of runs to ultimately fall short by one. Granted, one of those runs was the free pass to second base they were rewarded due to the rule but they would have done enough to tie the game regardless if Schoop had struck out.

A first and third situation with nobody out is far more stressful than a man on second with one out. If not for being robbed of the strikeout, perhaps Whitlock approaches Candelario differently with the potential winning run on second instead of third.

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It certainly wasn’t his best outing but Whitlock wasn’t as bad as the result makes it appear. He made one mistake that happened to follow an umpire’s mistake, gifting the Tigers an extra run to flip a potential win into a loss.