It feels like this was something Boston Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes was waiting for.
And finally, the former All-Star, who experienced plenty of struggles since that honor, looked like his old self on the mound in a high-leverage situation Thursday night against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park.
Barnes stepped up in a big way in Boston’s 4-3 win by protecting a slim, one-run lead in the top of the seventh by pitching a scoreless frame. For the right-hander, who has yielded just one run over 3 1/3 innings of relief since coming off the injured list earlier this month, it was a deserving and positive moment back in the spotlight.
“It was a frustrating not only two months on the (IL), but couple months to start the season, and frankly at the end of last year,” Barnes said, as seen on NESN postgame coverage. “It’s kind of been a grind for a little while for me. But tonight was a really good step.”
Barnes added: “It was awesome to contribute and do my part to help these guys win tonight.”
The pressure of the situation Barnes faced didn’t faze him. Baltimore put the tying run at third base with two outs and top prospect Adley Rutschman coming to the plate.
Barnes showed off his experience against the talented young hitter, getting Rutschman to miss badly on a knuckle curve before freezing him with a 95 mph fastball on the inside corner to end the threat.
“Matt Barnes did amazing. He was amazing today,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora told reporters as seen on NESN postgame coverage. “He made some good pitches. Used his fastball. That’s what we need. To use his fastball to freeze somebody, that was huge.”
Cora added: “It looked like there was a lot of confidence there when he got the last strikeout.”
Barnes let his emotions pour out of him after punching out Rutschman, celebrating with a couple of yells of delight. In that instance, it almost felt like Barnes tried to signal he had turned a corner.
“That was a big moment, was able to execute the pitch and honestly got fired up,” Barnes said.
Barnes, who allowed the one hit and struck out two in his inning of work, isn’t resting on his performance in the win. The veteran doesn’t want to a step backward again and knows he needs to keep delivering to fully return to form.
“Felt really good out there,” Barnes said. “Just looking to continue and just really be more consistent, honestly. This is one game. This game doesn’t mean anything if I go out and revert back to not being competitive and contributing. We’ll take it tonight, but the work doesn’t stop.”