As he emerged from the dugout in the eighth inning, the 26-year-old didn't want the bullpen to bail him out. He wanted to alleviate the strain by carrying them to his first career complete game.
But inexperience late in games and exhaustion took over in Tuesday's 6-4 loss against the Royals.
While Bard still threw the longest start of the season, he ultimately couldn't finish the job. After walking two batters in the eighth, he exited before Matt Albers served up a devastating three-run home run to Billy Butler.
"There is a fatigue that sets in, and it's about learning how to pitch with that little bit of fatigue," Bard said. "That's kind of where I'm at right now — learning how to finish games and get through that 100 to 110 pitches strong all the way to the end, instead of tailing off late."
For Bard, it was an outing with mixed results. Before the eighth inning implosion, the right-hander exemplified perseverance for the Red Sox, overcoming a second inning that included two singles, two balks, a wild pitch and a walk.
Bard nearly unraveled under the pressure, allowing three runs in that frame as the Royals jumped out to a 3-2 lead.
"I chalked it up to being just a fluke thing," Bard said. "It sucks that they got three runs out of it. They probably get one or two there either way, even without them. I just tried to settle back in there. I knew I was making good pitches, and I wasn’t going to let that take me out of my game completely."
From that point on, he settled down and –– at one point –– retired 12 of the 13 batters he faced. Although he finished with just one strikeout, he savored success with his changeup, a pitch that induced grounders all night long.
"After his second inning, when he kind of gave away three runs, he was in complete control of that game with all his pitches," Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said. "I was very surprised to see him walk those hitters."
Valentine was justified in feeling those sentiments. Entering the eighth inning, Bard had thrown only 86 pitches –– his most efficient performance to date –– and was in prime position to close the deal.
But the free passes continued to be his Achilles' heel. Counting the two walks in the eighth frame, Bard issued four bases on balls, with the latter two ending up the difference-makers.
"I was just trying to do too much," Bard said. "I smelled the finish line and wanted to get that win for our team really bad. I was just trying to do too much with those pitches and maybe didn’t trust them to the middle of the zone like maybe I had been."
On a day when Bard displayed his longevity, he still showed an inability to deliver the dagger.
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