Heading into the season, the Boston Red Sox were poised to have one of the most dominant pitching staffs in Major League Baseball.
Reigning American League Cy Young Award Winner Rick Porcello would serve as the team’s ace, while Chris Sale and David Price followed for a trio of stellar starters. But aside from Sale, the Red Sox’s starting rotation hasn’t exactly lived up to the bill.
Conversely, there were a handful of question marks surrounding Boston’s bullpen entering 2017. Tyler Thornbug and Carson Smith’s returns remain unknown, as the two are sidelined with injury. But in a surprise to many, the Red Sox’s relievers have performed above and beyond expectations, and have been a key part of Boston’s early success.
This was manifested in Friday night’s 11-inning win over the Toronto Blue Jays. After starter Doug Fister lasted just five innings, Boston’s bullpen was called upon earlier than it would have liked. And aside from a solo homer off Heath Hembree in the sixth inning, the Red Sox’s relievers were flawless.
Matt Barnes tossed two perfect innings, as he didn’t allow a hit in either the seventh or eighth. Blaine Boyer was equally as impressive, scattering only one base knock in his two scoreless innings of work. And with a three-run lead to work with, Craig Kimbrel was his usual self in the 11th, overpowering Toronto to earn his 23rd save of the season.
Many have waited for Boston’s bullpen to come back to reality and implode, but judging from its work in the first half of the season, doubters probably should reconsider their skepticism.
Here are some other notes from Red Sox-Blue Jays.
— The Blue Jays pitching staff accounted for a remarkable 14 walks in the defeat.
— With the win, the Red Sox now are 10 games over .500 for the first time this season.
— The Red Sox decided to part ways with Allen Craig, whom they acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2014 John Lackey trade.
— Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts was scheduled to have the night off, but he was called upon for a pinch-hit opportunity in the 11th. The shortstop delivered, sending a go-ahead RBI single the opposite way.
— The Red Sox now are 6-1 in extra-inning games this season.
Thumbnail photo via Adam Hunger/USA TODAY Sports Images