Things were trending in the right direction for Matt Barnes.
The Boston Red Sox high-leverage reliever, after a tough month of June, was stellar in July, posting 10 scoreless outings while holding opposing hitters to a .111 average.
But in his first appearance of August, things went off the rails.
With the game tied at four in the bottom of the seventh inning, Barnes had a disastrous inning, giving up two runs before getting pulled for Colten Brewer. The Red Sox ultimately lost, their seventh straight defeat, 6-4.
Barnes initially had replaced Josh Taylor in the sixth, getting Aaron Judge to ground out to first, stranding a runner. But when he returned for the seventh, the righty allowed a leadoff double to Gleyber Torres, then walked Aaron Hicks and Gio Urshela to load the bases. After getting Cameron Maybin to strike out, Barnes gave up a two-run single to Mike Tauchman. He walked Austin Romine the next at-bat to load the bases once more before Brewer replaced him.
“I had guys in kill counts and just wasn’t able to put them away,” Barnes said, as seen on NESN’s postgame coverage. “I mean, it sucks. Guys played great tonight, bullpen threw good except for me. We needed a win and I didn’t come through, so it’s tough.”
While some of the blame should fall on manager Alex Cora, who elected not to yank Barnes once he began to lead himself astray, the 29-year-old struggled to locate, which has been a trend when he’s in the midst of some struggles.
Barnes’ success is so, so important to the Red Sox, and Saturday’s meltdown wasn’t the best way to begin the month.
Here are some other notes from Saturday’s Red Sox-Yankees nightcap:
— It’s little surprise a team that’s lost seven straight games hasn’t had many bright spots, and that’s precisely the case for the Red Sox.
During their current skid, Boston’s offense is hitting .245, averaging 4.0 runs per game. As for the starters, they’ve posted a 9.70 ERA, while the bullpen owns a 3.86 ERA.
— Although he’s had a tough time during the series, Xander Bogaerts did climb up the Red Sox record books Saturday night.
Bogaerts was making his 800th start at shortstop, which is sixth most on the team. He now trails Joe Cronin (894) for fifth, and Everett Scott (1,081) for first. Given Bogaerts signed an extension earlier this season, there’s a chance that, so long as he stays healthy, he not only breaks that record, but crushes it by the time his career concludes.
— Rafael Devers got the Red Sox on the board first, crushing a two-run homer in the third inning. It was Devers’ 22nd homer of the season, which is a career high.
— Saturday’s loss was the Red Sox’s 54th loss of the season. That matches last season’s loss total.
Whether that is more representative of the 2018 team’s success or the 2019 squad’s shortcomings, well that’s up to you.
— To rub salt in the Red Sox’s proverbial wound, the Tampa Bay Rays’ two-run eighth inning gave them an 8-6 win over the Miami Marlins on Saturday night.
With the victory, the Rays now lead the Sox by 5 1/2 games for the second wild card spot. The Cleveland Indians, meanwhile, hold a 7 1/2-game advantage over Boston for the top wild card spot. There still are just under two months of baseball left (with four games still to play against Tampa), but the Red Sox are in a pretty bad spot.