On Tuesday, Mark Melancon surrendered three homers and allowed six men to reach base in the eighth. On Wednesday, Franklin Morales imploded, plunking Rangers catcher Craig Gentry with the bases loaded and yielding three runs in the outing.
While Morales was unavailable for comment after Boston's 6-3 defeat, Bobby Valentine explained his reasoning for sticking with the reliever.
"The battle with Gentry, who hasn't gotten a hit all year, was good until the hit batter," Valentine said. "I wanted to keep confidence. I wasn't going to pull the plug too soon on him. He's had four good outings for us. I was hoping to salvage that one. It didn't work."
The premise is certainly reasonable. Like Melancon's stint a day before, Valentine wanted to demonstrate faith in his pitchers and allow them to showcase personal growth by escaping jams.
Until this point, Morales didn't offer any reason to get yanked. Regardless, the bullpen woes are plaguing the Red Sox.
On both occasions, the plan backfired. In order to re-group, Valentine has been forced to rely on Matt Albers to steady the ship during back-to-back outings. To his credit, Albers has pitched scoreless frames.
Heading into the second game against the Rangers, the Red Sox' bullpen sported a 6.23 ERA, the second-worst in baseball. Despite Morales' rocky results, Valentine expressed satisfaction with his group.
"It's challenging, but I think we're OK," Valentine said. "I think we're in a good place in the bullpen."
The outcomes don't bode well, however, considering the Red Sox skipper nearly substituted Jason Repko –– an outfielder –– to pitch on Tuesday. Because he didn't want to use Vicente Padilla so soon, Valentine had Repko warm up in the bullpen.
Although Valentine thought better and inserted Padilla, the bleeding continued in the ninth. Padilla, who's been sharp in three outings before, gave up two runs.
"We have to play good baseball, try and win every inning," Josh Beckett said. "When we were successful last year coming out of this that's kind of what we did, we kind of just got back to the basics. It's 'Win this inning and then win the next inning' and not get too far ahead."
Last year, Alfredo Aceves emerged as a key piece to the bullpen puzzle. Now that Andrew Bailey is sidelined for the first half of the season, Aceves has been restricted to closing duties for the foreseeable future.
On the heels of the Rangers' series, the Red Sox bullpen will need to drastically improve with the Yankees coming up.
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