Ryan Dempster gave the Red Sox everything they needed — except for a win.
Dempster, whose season has been a mixed bag thus far, allowed just two runs, and, more importantly, pitched into the eighth inning in a 2-0 loss to the Orioles on Friday. He was ultimately outpitched by Chris Tillman and three others in the losing effort, but we shouldn’t lose sight of his start’s importance.
At the end of the day, a loss is a loss. No one can dispute that, so don’t expect the Red Sox to do so. Given the current state of Boston’s pitching staff, though, the Red Sox couldn’t have asked for much more out of Dempster, whose record fell to 4-7 with the defeat.
The Red Sox entered Friday’s contest in an unsavory position. They suffered a 13-inning loss on Thursday, during which their bullpen pitched eight innings. If that’s not bad enough, it came just three days after a 14-inning affair at Tropicana Field, during which the ‘pen tossed 8 1/3 innings. Overall, Boston’s relievers combined to throw 22 2/3 innings over the first four games of the club’s seven-game road trip.
The unit performed admirably despite the heavy workload. Nine relievers combined for a 2.38 ERA and 23 strikeouts during the four-game stretch. The situation was still somewhat concerning, though, as the bullpen needs to stay fresh throughout the entire season if the Red Sox are going to hang onto their World Series aspirations.
Simply put, the Red Sox desperately needed a quality start on Friday, and Dempster provided just that. The 36-year-old left it all on the mound, tossing 122 pitches in his longest outing of the season before John Farrell turned to Koji Uehara — one of Boston’s few fresh relievers — with the bases loaded in the eighth inning. Uehara promptly struck out J.J. Hardy on three pitches to close the book on Dempster’s outing and keep the deficit manageable, but the Red Sox’ offense couldn’t rally against Orioles closer Jim Johnson in the ninth.
It was a tough defeat for the Red Sox. After all, Tillman, while very effective toward the tail end of his outing, walked four batters and gave the Red Sox’ offense a chance to chip away. But once you get past the missed opportunities, a few bad pitches and another game shaved off Boston’s divisional lead over Baltimore, you’ll see that there’s a silver lining, and it’s Dempster’s start.
The Red Sox must turn around their fortunes against the Orioles, who have taken four of the teams’ five contests this season, including the first two games of the current series. The Sox can at least attempt to do so with a full cavalry, now that Dempster gave the bullpen some much-needed rest.