What if Matt Barnes had been on the Red Sox ALCS roster?
This feels like the biggest ‘What If’ other than ‘What if the Red Sox offense hadn’t laid down and died for three straight games in the ALCS?’
Matt Barnes is supposed to be the Sox closer, so much so that they gave him a lucrative extension midway through the regular season. He won AL Reliever of the Month early in the season and was a first-time All-Star.
Barnes had an awful second half of the regular season, but it was still a shock when he was left off the ALDS and ALCS roster. He was ultimately added to the division series roster when Garrett Whitlock got hurt, and pitched a scoreless 9th inning in Game 2, allowing one hit and walking a pair of batters, but ultimately shutting down the potent Rays offense in a 14-6 win.
Despite his struggles down the regular-season stretch, Barnes still probably would’ve done as well, if not better in the ALCS than Darwinzon Hernandez and Hirokazu Sawamura, neither of whom had ever pitched in a postseason game prior to this series.
Barnes made his postseason debut in the 2016 ALDS and had 11 appearances worth of experience before this October, totaling a 0.87 ERA. Over 10 1/3 innings of postseason work between 2016-18, the righty held 42 batters to a .167/.286/.250 line and .536 OPS, and had only allowed one earned run.
Hernandez allowed two earned runs over 2/3 of an inning in his postseason debut in Game 2 of the ALCS, and followed it up with a scoreless 2/3 of an inning in Game 5.
Sawamura appeared in three ALCS games. Over two innings total, he only allowed one earned run, but it was in the eighth inning of Game 1, making it 5-3, Astros. The Red Sox answered back with a run in the top of the ninth that would have been a tying run, if not for Sawamura’s struggle the inning before.