Why Red Sox Turned To Matt Barnes In Save Situation Vs. Rays

Barnes earned the save in the win


April 22, 2022

The Red Sox needed the bullpen to be at its best in the ninth inning Friday night against the Tampa Bay Rays, as Boston needed to hold its 4-3 lead and keep the home team from tying the game — or worse, walking it off — at Tropicana Field.

Garrett Whitlock, the team’s top bullpen arm, was nowhere to be found as he is slated to start Saturday. So the team went with left-hander Jake Diekman, who walked the bases loaded before Matt Barnes — who still is a question mark in 2022 — came in to settle things with three on and two out.

Luckily, it worked out for Barnes, who earned his first save of the season by forcing Wander Franco into a groundout that ended the game.

After the win, bench coach Will Venable — who served as acting manager as Alex Cora is sidelined with COVID-19 — explained the decision to turn to Barnes in that crucial situation.

“We talked about it early in the inning, just kind of as we were mapping things out that was kind of the matchup that we knew it was gonna be, a two-out, bases loaded opportunity,” Venable said, as seen on NESN’s postgame coverage. “If we got to that point we knew it might be some at-bats for Jake that were tougher, which they were. Ultimately, Barnes came in and did a great job.”

Barnes thus became the first Red Sox pitcher to earn a save after coming into the ninth inning with the bases loaded and two outs and just a one-run lead since Jeff Reardon on Aug. 25, 1992, via Red Sox senior manager of media relations and baseball information J.P. Long.

Barnes had a shaky end to 2021, when he went from an All-Star to a player who initially was left off of postseason rosters. His redemption arc didn’t get off to the hottest start either, as he began 2022 with a back injury that threatened to land him on the injured list.

He eventually made his season debut April 11 against the Detroit Tigers and tossed a scoreless sixth inning. But the situation he stepped into Friday would have been high-pressure for even the steadiest version of the closer.

Barnes said he felt good physically, and while he would like to regain his fastball velocity, he believes he is in a good place.

Venable believes the outing was a big step for Barnes as he looks to return to the level fans have grown accustomed to.

“It’s huge,” Venable said. “He’s been fighting to regain his form, and these opportunities are huge confidence-builders. He got the job done, we’ve got all the confidence in the world in him. It was nice that it worked out tonight.”

Thumbnail photo via Paul Rutherford/USA TODAY Sports Images
Boston Red Sox second baseman Trevor Story
Previous Article

Red Sox’s Trevor Story Shows Off Glove In Win Over Rays

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) and guard Marcus Smart (36) celebrate against the Brooklyn Nets
Next Article

Will Celtics Fans Take Over Nets Arena For Game 3? Ticket Prices Hint At Flood

Picked For You