Alex Cora Acknowledges Lift Matt Barnes Has Provided Red Sox Bullpen

Barnes has not allowed a hit with nine strikeouts in three appearances

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Matt Barnes put together his third dominant performance in his third consecutive appearance to start the 2021 campaign.

Sure, the Boston Red Sox held a five-run lead in their eventual 7-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles when Barnes came on for the ninth-inning save, but what he did nevertheless was impressive.

Barnes threw 12 pitches in the ninth inning with 11 going for strikes including each of the first 10. He struck out the side and came one pitch shy of an immaculate inning with a fourth-pitch ball to Baltimore’s Freddy Galvis.

“That was amazing, right?,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said on a postgame video conference Thursday. “Throwing a lot of strikes. Velocity. I do believe this is his best fastball at least of the last three years. The carry. It’s not only up in the zone it’s actually through the zone, and down. The breaking ball is good. He was one pitch away from whatever you guys call it (immaculate inning).”

Barnes now has pitched four innings this season without allowing a single hit. He has nine strikeouts and just one walk in three appearances. His ERA, rather obviously, is 0.00.

He pitched the eighth inning — 14 pitches, 10 strikes — during an 11-3 loss to the Orioles on Sunday, and both the ninth and 10th frames — 23 pitches, 19 strikes — during an extra-innings win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday.

“We?re very happy with him,” Cora said. “He has matured a lot. He?s going to be a big part of what we?re trying to accomplish.”

Barnes will look to continue that start as the 4-3 Red Sox, who have won four straight, face the Orioles again Saturday.

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