The fifth inning almost became the new sixth inning.
The Red Sox dropped the second game of their series against the Royals on Friday in large part because the sixth inning spiraled out of control. Things started to unravel in an eerily similar fashion in the fifth inning of Saturday’s game, but this time, the Red Sox’ bullpen was up to the challenge.
The Royals struck for six runs in the sixth inning of Friday’s game to grab a 9-6 lead and eventually a victory. Kansas City started that inning with three straight singles against Boston starter Jake Peavy, and the Royals continued their assault on Drake Britton and Pedro Beato.
On Saturday, the Red Sox carried a 4-0 lead into the fifth inning, but Alcides Escobar walked, Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler each doubled and Alex Gordon singled to cut Boston’s lead in half. That spelled the end of Felix Doubront’s night, and John Farrell called upon a rookie — just as he did Friday.
This time it was Brandon Workman. And this time, things ended differently.
Workman, who entered with runners at the corners in a 4-2 game, struck out Justin Maxwell for the first out of the inning. Miguel Tejada then singled into center field to make the score 4-3, and Tejada and Gordon subsequently executed a double steal with Mike Moustakas batting to put the potential go-ahead run into scoring position. Workman buckled down even more at that point, retiring Moustakas on a popup for the second out and striking out Brett Hayes to end the threat.
“You’d like not to have to go the bullpen in the fifth or sixth inning, but you do what the game calls for and Workman has been thrust into some meaningful roles, whether it be in the rotation or coming in in a tight game like today and preserve it,” Farrell said. “A very good night for the bullpen.”
Workman has worn a number of hats for Boston, and he’s handled himself with a great deal of poise. It’s becoming clear that Farrell trusts the 24-year-old in big spots despite the right-hander’s lack of experience in high-stress situations.
“Yeah, that was the first time I’ve done that, so it was definitely different,” Workman said of being thrown into the fire Saturday. “A lot more high-pressure situation than being able to have my own inning. But it just kind of made me be a little more focused and execute my pitches a little better.”
Workman went on to record another out in the sixth inning and was relieved by Craig Breslow after giving up a single. Breslow came on and induced a double play to end the sixth, Junichi Tazawa tossed a couple of scoreless frames in the seventh and eighth, and Koji Uehara twirled a 1-2-3 ninth to nail down the 5-3 win.
“They did an outstanding job,” Farrell said. “You can point to any one guy and say they were the linchpin that kind of hand it over to the next guy. But Workman comes in in a really tight spot, gets a big strikeout to Maxwell. A cutter stays over the middle of the plate to Tejada, but he’s able to shut it off right there with a very good curveball to Moustakas to pop him up. Bres gets a huge ground ball double play on a guy that’s swinging the bat exceptionally well in Hosmer. And Taz and Koji, they’re so efficient and it’s easy to call their name. But we’ve got to be sure that we monitor their rest as well.”
The Red Sox’ bullpen continues to be an area of unpredictability given how fluid the situation has been all season. There are some stabilizing horses within the unit, though, and four of them took the ball in Saturday’s bounce-back effort.
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