BOSTON — Burke Badenhop leaned on a vacuum cleaner as he answered questions from reporters Monday following the Red Sox’s 1-0 win over the Minnesota Twins at Fenway Park. It was simply by chance that the cleaning apparatus was located where it was, but the sight was extremely fitting given the workmanlike season the veteran right-hander has had to this point.
Badenhop, who has been a key cog in the Red Sox’s very reliable bullpen, was thrust into a high-leverage situation in the eighth inning Monday because Junichi Tazawa was unavailable after working back-to-back games against the Cleveland Indians. Badenhop bent but didn’t break while preserving a 1-0 lead, and the result was a clean bridge to Koji Uehara, who shut the door with a perfect ninth inning.
“I value it a lot,” Badenhop said of being trusted in a critical spot. “That’s not necessarily why I’m here, but at the same point, when we’ve got Taz, who’s thrown a million innings out there and he wasn’t available today, a guy like myself needs to step in and be able to do things. That’s kind of the fluidity of a bullpen, that you have to have guys that can do that — guys that when we’re up big they can close games out, like I did a couple nights ago, and guys that can step in when other guys are unavailable.”
Badenhop, who entered after Andrew Miller struck out Oswaldo Arcia to begin the eighth inning, surrendered a one-out single to Kurt Suzuki and a two-out double to Sam Fuld before plunking Danny Santana to load the bases. The Twins were unable to scratch across a run, as Badenhop harnessed his emotions and struck out Brian Dozier with a good-looking slider to keep the Red Sox’s 1-0 lead intact.
“Just made some big pitches, got a righty back up there (in Dozier),” Badenhop said. “I wasn’t going to miss over the plate to Santana, end up hitting him knowing I’ve got a base open there, and getting to Dozier and kind of going toe-to-toe with him there and getting a good slider.”
Badenhop’s role in Boston’s bullpen continues to increase, and for good reason. He’s currently in the midst of a career-best 15 2/3-inning scoreless streak, and he’s gone 30 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run. The 30-inning stretch is the third-longest relief streak without an earned run in Red Sox history — trailing only Koji Uehara (33 2/3 innings in 2013) and Dick Radatz (33 innings in 1963).
“(Badenhop) has gained an awful lot of trust as the year has gone on,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said after the game. “We know that he’s got to be careful to some left-handers, and he makes a key pitch with the slider to punch out Dozier to end the bases-loaded threat.”
Badenhop’s run is incredible, especially when you consider he posted a 9.00 ERA (six earned runs in six innings) over his first four appearances of the season. Typically, his bread and butter is inducing ground balls — his 10 ground-ball double plays is tops among all major league relievers — but he showed Monday that he’s also able to punch guys out.
The Red Sox’s bullpen has plenty of formidable arms capable of recording big outs. Badenhop quickly has joined the list.