What more is left to say about the Red Sox assinine need for closer help? At this point, it’s like fans and reporters have been screaming into an empty void with no response.
It’s been written and reported countless times by this point as we sit here on June 11th after watching the Red Sox backend of the bullpen blow their 10th game of the season. For reasoning that is left up to only speculation, the Red Sox front office, Dave Dombrowski and presumably Alex Cora–unless he truly thought what the team had would work–believed that they did not need a bonified closer as they entered their 2019 campaign.
Over the winter it was a focal point of discussion that there was a distinct possibility that you would no longer have Craig Kimbrel in the bullpen. Kimbrel, who spent three years with Boston after the club traded for him ahead of the 2016 season, put up strong regular season numbers during that time with a 2.44 ERA, a 0.91 WHIP and 108 saves. And after waiting relatively deep into the season–as you would expect a closer of his caliber to be signed through the winter–he’s signed a 3-year deal worth $43 million with the Chicago Cubs eliminating any far fetched possibility that he could rejoin the Red Sox and patch up the sinking ship that is the club’s bullpen.
The Red Sox entered the season with a plan in place to supplement this role and fill this void. And as it turns out, it was to rotate Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier, two pitchers who saw success at the tail end of the 2018 championship run.
As we’ve come to find out though, this plan has fallen apart drastically and that was nothing but reaffirmed after another brutal loss by the Red Sox in the game’s final innings on Monday.
After another masterful performance by Chris Sale who struck out 10 over seven innings of work, it was the Red Sox bullpen who needed to close the door on the minuscule lead the team held in the series opener against the Texas Rangers. And for a moment, it appeared as though that would happen as Boston entered the top of the ninth inning clinging to a lead of 2-1.
One of this season’s current reliable bullpen weapons, Brandon Workman, relieved Sale in the eighth inning where he gave a strong, clean performance, not allowing a single runner to reach base. But it was the ninth inning where the bullpen reared its ugly head once again. We saw the same story that the month of June has told over, and over again. Matt Barnes struggled mightily.
After getting the first out in a quick manner, things fell apart. Barnes would proceed to let up three consecutive hits to left field which eventually drove in two runs giving Texas the 3-2 lead.
Heath Hembree–who has been one of the strongest aspects of the ‘pen as of late–would come in for relief and the damage would be halted there as it was now left up to the Red Sox offense to make up for the bullpen’s woes. And they did tie the game and looked to be in position to win until Brock Holt’s baserunning gaffe in the bottom half of the inning leaving the game locked at three.
After failing to capitalize on a bases-loaded situation in the 10th, Ryan Brasier–who has also been struggling mightily–entered the game and again, it was the same old story. Brasier failed to hold the lead, surrendering another run giving Texas the lead of 4-3 which would inevitably be the game’s final score.
Again, this would mark the club’s 10th blown save of the season. Now, the team has won five of those games, however. But the fact of the matter is, that’s five games that could make this race in the AL East, that much more competitive.
Having someone to call a reliable closer, who can actually manage to hold the title for more than a month at a time, would solve an immense amount of issues. By giving someone that consistent position in a tight game, you can take guys who clearly can’t thrive in that type of spotlight, and put them in a spot that they’ve clearly become more acclimated to and have seen success at. You could take Matt Barnes and perhaps slide him into the eighth inning role again. You could take Ryan Brasier and give him the seventh while still relying on Brandon Workman, Marcus Walden and Heath Hembree–who are three guys I trust at the moment–their deserved innings.
Last night’s late-inning meltdown should be the proverbial Batman symbol for Dombrowski to mend this closer situation. Because if it’s one thing, the blatant void is obvious. Frankly, I think that this bullpen actually has a chance to be reliable, competent and perhaps what they were last year if they did have a legitimate closer. The ninth inning is going to continue being a problem for this team until there is a move made.
This isn’t the only area of the team that is falling short as the offense continues to leave a copious amount of men on base every single night–for example, Monday night’s 10th inning–but if this team wants a chance at defending their crown into October and be considered real contenders again, something needs to be done and it has to be done quickly. Because if it isn’t, they’ll continue to drop winnable games late, causing the gap in the division to only widen.
Do they make a trade for somebody at the deadline or perhaps sooner? Or do they sit on their hands and wait for their 22-year-old prospect, Durbin Feltman, to develop? Again, whatever the decision is, it has to be made if not now, soon.
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