Let’s get this out of the way: the Boston Red Sox bullpen hardly is a major area of concern.
That said, the tandem of Heath Hembree and Matt Barnes were responsible for an ugly meltdown in a 7-6 loss to the Seattle Mariners on Friday night at Safeco Field.
The Red Sox erased a three-run deficit with a six-run third inning, but over the remainder of the game they squandered their advantage. Tasked with preserving a two-run lead, the bullpen allowed three runs in two innings, beginning with a Mike Zunino solo shot off Hembree in the seventh.
Then in the eighth, Denard Span laced a two-run double down the right-field line off Barnes to put the Mariners back ahead for good.
Seattle has been a tough team to put away this season, and due to that and Boston’s bullpen otherwise being stable, manager Alex Cora is not overly concerned.
“(The bullpen has) been good, nights like this are going to happen and you’ve got to tip your cap to (Seattle),” Cora said, as seen on NESN Sports Today. “They’ve been doing that the whole season, close games and coming back. I think the swing by Zunino changed the game right there.”
Although Friday’s game wasn’t exactly a series of sterling moments in Barnes or Hembree’s careers, Cora is right in that these moments are more the exception than the rule.
Entering Friday Barnes had held hitters to a .139 average in high-leverage situations. Hembree, meanwhile, hadn’t allowed a run since May 28th and a home run since May 16th.
So while the bullpen was responsible for blowing what would have been an impressive win for the Red Sox, for now there is little reason to be apprehensive about with Boston’s relief options.
Here are some other notes from Red Sox-Mariners:
— After a solid performance Thursday night in which he hit the go-ahead homer, Xander Bogaerts continued to rake in Friday’s game.
With the game tied at three in the third, the Sox shortstop smacked a three-run homer to give his team the advantage.
After his offensive numbers hit a bit of a lull upon his return from the disabled list earlier this season, he has bounced back in a big way this month and has become a potent bat in the middle of the order.
— While plenty can be hung on the implosion of the bullpen, the Red Sox left an egregious amount of runners on base in Friday’s loss.
The Sox stranded 10 runners as a team, with five different hitters leaving runners in scoring position with two outs. In total, Boston was 3-for-15 with runners in scoring position.
Boston had a chance to add insurance in the eighth, putting runners on first and second with no outs and later loading the bases with two down, but couldn’t come through in either opportunity. They put men in scoring position again in the ninth but fell short once more.
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