Admit it. You thought to yourself, “Here we go again.”
It’s OK. That was a natural response to have while watching Andrew Bailey struggle to begin the ninth inning on Wednesday. Yet despite any brief moans and groans, Bailey bounced back to close out a 2-1 victory over the Rays, silencing some doubters in the process.
It was a big save for Bailey, who has put together a solid season overall. Despite the success, though, Bailey still has some some critics who feel like he’s not equipped to handle the pressure-packed ninth inning in Boston. And those critics were out in full force following Monday’s blown save against Tampa.
Bailey entered Monday’s contest in the 10th inning with Boston leading 8-6, and he promptly surrendered a leadoff homer to Jose Lobaton. He then walked in a run after loading the bases with no outs, and it took a huge double play off the bat of Evan Longoria and a nifty play by Dustin Pedroia on a bunt bid to escape the inning with the game tied 8-8. The Red Sox ended up winning 10-8 in 14 innings, but not before some extra stress.
Flash forward to Wednesday. It looked as if Bailey, who walked three batters in Monday’s disappointing effort, was about to let another save slip through his fingertips. James Loney singled to lead off the ninth inning, and Bailey quickly fell behind Desmond Jennings 3-0. This time around, however, the righty found his touch before things got too hairy. He delivered a strike to Jennings to make the count 3-1, and he then got the Rays center fielder to fly out to his counterpart, which effectively turned Bailey’s outing around.
Bailey struck out Luke Scott for the second out of the ninth. It took three pitches, and Bailey grabbed the corner with a nice-looking slider to pick up the strikeout. Following the big K, Bailey showed tons of energy, pumping his fist and psyching himself up as he walked back toward the mound. It was a rare display of emotion from the usually mild-mannered Bailey, and it’s something that should be embraced every now and then when it comes to the ninth-inning man.
Sam Fuld, pinch-running for Loney, made life more difficult for Bailey by swiping second base with Lobaton at the plate. Bailey remained focused on the task at hand, though, and he struck out Lobaton with a nasty 2-2 pitch down and in to end the ballgame.
It was a gritty effort by Bailey in the wake of Monday’s implosion. And while it doesn’t ensure consistency the rest of the way, it does remind us that one shaky outing shouldn’t be weighed too heavily at this point in the season.
Bailey has consistently gotten the job done in the closer’s role, and Wednesday’s appearance — while far from perfect — required him to dig deep against a divisional rival. Bailey clearly turned the page on Monday’s blown save, and he showed why the Red Sox should continue to have the utmost confidence when turning to him with the game on the line.
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