While it may be early to classify the bullpen as a true problem, there have been some concerning trends for Boston Red Sox relievers.
For the second night in a row, the relief pitchers were unable to preserve a lead or tie, and both times it resulted in a loss to the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. In Wednesday’s case, a four-run eighth inning ended up yielding a 9-6 win for New York.
Matt Barnes and Craig Kimbrel were the culprits Wednesday, allowing a leadoff double to Neil Walker before walking Gleyber Torres with one out. Kimbrel then replaced Barnes, and surrendered a bases-clearing triple to Brett Gardner before giving up a two-run home run to Aaron Judge.
“We fell behind on most of the hitters there and we didn’t get the job done,” Sox manager Alex Cora said after the game, as seen on NESN’s postgame coverage. “Barnes fell behind with Walker and with Torres. Brought in Craig in that situation and it didn’t work out.”
“(Barnes has) been good for us,” Cora added later. “I did feel with his combination of breaking ball and fastball up in the zone he was going to be able to do the job — he’s been doing the job for us, just a bad night.”
Wednesday’s meltdown comes one day after Heath Hembree imploded nearly the same way Barnes did, allowing a double to Walker then walking Torres. In Tuesday’s case, however, Joe Kelly came in, but allowed New York to plate just one run.
So where does this leave the Red Sox?
The easy answer is that it makes the impending return of Tyler Thornburg more enticing, but at the same time it is unfair to thrust him into that situation when he hasn’t pitched at the big-league level since 2016.
The Red Sox have options, such as Kelly and Carson Smith, but they too have shown some inconsistency. Whatever the option ends up being, Boston does need to try and find a stable way to get to Kimbrel and give him a clean ninth inning.
Here are some other notes from Red Sox-Yankees:
— Rick Porcello has had a tremendous season to date, but he certainly hit a roadblock in his outing Wednesday night.
The righty fell behind quite a few batters and didn’t have his best stuff. And though he did give his team the opportunity to win, it was an underwhelming showing. He was tagged for five runs on eight hits over 5 1/3 innings with three walks and as many strikeouts.
— Mitch Moreland has been one of the Red Sox’s hottest bats this season, but the problem is he hasn’t played every day. Wednesday, however, Moreland got the start at first base while Jackie Bradley Jr. sat, which moved J.D. Martinez to right field and Mookie Betts to center.
Suffice to say Moreland took advantage of the opportunity, making Cora’s looming lineup decisions all the more challenging. Moreland went 1-for-4 with a two-run homer in the second inning that gave the Red Sox a 2-1 lead at that point. And though he did strike out twice, he also worked an eighth-inning walk.
Bradley Jr. has been slumping quite a bit this season, which clearly prompted the lineup shuffle. And is seems every time Moreland’s number gets called, he’s furthering the case to keep his bat in the lineup at all costs.
— Xander Bogaerts has struggled to get in a rhythm so far this month, but he turned in a solid performance Wednesday. The shortstop had a team-leading three hits in five at-bats, scoring two runs while striking out in his two other ABs.
Before getting injured on April 8, Bogaerts had been one of the Sox’s top hitters. In seven games this May entering Wednesday, however, Bogaerts tallied three no-hit games and four one-hit games. Given the success the Red Sox had while he was in the lineup early in the season, it certainly would be ideal for Boston if Bogaerts works his way back into a solid rhythm.
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