Garrett Whitlock has been the Boston Red Sox’s most reliable reliever — when he’s in that role — since last season.
That’s why his last two outings, including in Boston’s 5-3 win over the Texas Rangers on Saturday at Fenway Park, have been so uncharacteristic for the right-hander.
The Rangers roughed up Whitlock for three runs on four hits in two innings of work to make the Red Sox, who looked like they would cruise to a win, sweat things out in the late innings. Whitlock’s dismal showing against the Rangers followed up a tough appearance versus the Minnesota Twins, in which he yielded identical results by again allowing three runs on four hits over two frames.
Unlike when he faced the Twins, Whitlock served up two home runs in the eighth inning to allow the Rangers to climb back into the contest. They were the first round-trippers Whitlock surrendered since Nick Pratto hit a walk-off home run in a victory for the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium in early August.
Whitlock needs to find a way to reset and put these ugly performances well into the rearview mirror.
“Not many good pitches in that inning,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora told reporters, as seen on NESN postgame coverage. “Two backup sliders. The fastball command was OK. But the slider to (Marcus) Semien, it was just a bad slider. And the one to (Corey) Seager was a middle-middle didn’t do much. I think it was a changeup to (Nathaniel) Lowe and he stayed on it. It’s part of it, right?
“He struggled in Minnesota. He struggled today. We’ll get back to the drawing board and see what’s going on and he’ll be ready for Tampa.”
It’s definitely right to question if Whitlock’s workload since joining the Red Sox last year has simply just worn him down. He has thrown a career-high 77 1/3 innings already this season after tossing 73 1/3 inning in the regular season in 2021. Add on 8 1/3 frames in the playoffs from last October and there’s been a ton of stress put on Whitlock’s arm.
It wasn’t necessarily all bad in these last two outings for Whitlock. He still showcased his stellar command and ability to get swings and misses by fanning a combined six batters while walking one.
If the Red Sox do indeed make a last-ditch attempt for the third and final playoff spot in the American League Wild Card race though, they’ll need Whitlock performing at his very best out of the bullpen.