Three things we learned from the Red Sox’ 4-3 loss to the Tigers
Three things we learned from the Boston Red Sox’ 4-3 loss to the Detroit Tigers . . .
1) Keeping Buchholz was the right choice
Keeping Clay Buchholz at the trade deadline was the right decision, now he’s creating a good problem for the Red Sox. His first start in place of Steven Wright was okay -- good by 2016 Clay Buchholz standards. But Thursday’s effort is something Boston could use every day. His second turn in the bullpen has clearly made an impact on his approach, which has in turn left an impact on opposing hitters and Red Sox decision makers.
“He’s making a strong case for [starting again],” John Farrell said after his start. “I think that’s the most consistent quality strikes he’s thrown in any given outing all year -- particularly in the starting role . . . It was a very strong outing by Clay today.”
Buchholz once again went after hitters with his fastball aggressively and integrated his off-speed pitches minimally. Historically he’s tried to use his off-speed pitches more because he wasn’t confident his fastball mix -- two-seam, four-seam and cut-fastball -- but now his velocity is back up and he’s not missing over the middle of the plate.
Wright doesn’t deserve to lose his job because of these recent developments, but Buchholz gives Boston an option down the road, and they have to evaluate how they should use him going forward.
Because believe it or not, Buchholz has become a contributor to the Red Sox pitching staff.
2) The bullpen mess is out of control
Apparently, it wasn’t clear entering play Thursday that Junichi Tazawa is no longer a reliable option in tight contests.
Well now it is.
As much as no one player can lose a game on their own, with Boston squandering some great opportunities to break the game open, Tazawa did everything he could to help the Tigers win. He has nothing on his fastball -- velocity, movement or location -- and his off-speed pitches aren’t getting the job done either.
Then John Farrell was forced to use Brad Ziegler against left-handed bats -- a recipe for disaster -- because Matt Barnes was unavailable, Robbie Ross had already been used and Fernando Abad has become a filler on the roster.
A change needs to be made. Maybe even changes with the way Tazawa and Abad have pitched. Another left-handed arm would be great, but might not be possible. And if the Jon Papelbon experiment doesn’t work, Boston has to sincerely consider Joe Kelly again, or start using Heath Hembree in high leverage situations again. They at least have chance to be competitive.
3) The Red Sox have a competitive fire greater than they’ve shown all season
There’s no moral victory to be had from the loss. Those times have come and gone. But these last 24 hours have been a severe uphill battle. The Red Sox completed two games -- albeit one was shortened -- traveled with delays and had almost no sleep in less than 24 hours.
Those aren’t excuses, they’re facts.
Boston rallied around the ridiculous scenario and didn’t mail in Thursday’s game, even after Junichi Tazawa’s awful eighth.
“I thought we brought great energy give the circumstances coming into this ballgame. We fought hard.” Farrell said on his players.
The offense wasn’t at it’s best, but it did plenty to give the Red Sox a win.
Clay Buchholz rose to the occasion in his most important start of the season. He didn’t even crumble after the “ass-backwards” call -- as Farrell put it -- in the second inning that cost him a run. But in the end, the same problem reared its ugly head. That’s not in the offense’s control, nor the starting rotation’s.
As cliché as it sounds, the Red Sox beat themselves with this loss -- mainly their own bullpen beat them -- which means they should be capable of much more when they’re fully rested.