Matt Barnes was on top of the world through most of the first half of the season, claiming the closing job for the Boston Red Sox and earning his first Major League Baseball All-Star bid.
But since that halfway point things have been different. And a stint on the COVID-19 related injured list didn’t help his cause.
Barnes entered the All-Star break with a 2.68 ERA through 37 games and trust from his team in high-leverage situations. In 19 games since then he recorded a 7.07 ERA, before perhaps turning things around Friday in an inning against the New York Yankees.
“It was a good step,” Cora said of Barnes’ one inning of relief in which he gave up a hit with no runs and a strikeout, throwing 16 of his 23 pitches for strikes.
“I think the swings and misses were very important. The swing by (Anthony) Rizzo on a breaking ball — that it was down and he bounced it — we haven’t seen that in a while, so that was a good step. We’ll see how it goes, you know? We need everybody.”
Still, Barnes came in for the sixth inning on that occasion against New York, and not as the closer (though losing that game 8-3, there wasn’t necessarily anything for him to close out).
The Red Sox will need his best this week, though, with just two three-game series left in the regular season to clinch a playoff spot.
“We need everybody this week, that’s the reality of this and at one point I guarantee you he’ll be part of something important here,” Cora said of Barnes. “Like I’ve been saying all along, high-leverage is not only the eighth and the ninth.”