Trenni Kusnierek

Matt Barnes closes out Red Sox' win, but don't call him the closer

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Matt Barnes closes out Red Sox' win, but don't call him the closer

SEATTLE - Matt Barnes jogged out of the bullpen in the bottom of the ninth with the Red Sox clinging to a one-run lead. 

The reliever got the save. 

But Alex Cora still won’t call him the closer. 

When asked after the game if he is ready to name a closer, the Sox manager simply said, “No”. 

Cora talked with Barnes a month ago about his role, which appears to be one where they will use him in a similar fashion as they did Friday night. The Mariners had their Nos. 2, 3 and 4 hitters due up. 

“He already knows what it’s all about,” Cora said. “I talked to him about a month ago about how we’ll use him. Two-three-four in the ninth had a lot to do with it.”

Barnes said he didn’t know when he’d be called upon until the phone rang. 

“We kind of had an idea of where I was going to pitch,” Barnes said.  “I didn’t know it was going to be the ninth inning before tonight.”

With that said, the reliever said he felt ready.

“You just kind of prepare, mentally lock in for a few innings in a scenario in which you could possibly be used.”

Cora said Barnes will be available to pitch again if needed on Saturday. 

But that doesn’t mean Barnes will get the closing call and he’s OK with that.

"If it’s not me in the ninth inning on a given night then we have 100% faith in the other guy that’s going to take the ball and close a game out for us.”

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Red Sox rally in ninth to beat Mariners, 7-6, but about that starting pitching...

Red Sox rally in ninth to beat Mariners, 7-6, but about that starting pitching...

SEATTLE - It wasn’t pretty, but the Red Sox found a way to claw back and win their first game of the season on Friday night. 

They did it behind a lineup that saved them more than a few times in 2018 and a bullpen that was expected to be their downfall. 

After starter Nathan Eovaldi allowed six runs on six hits including three home runs, the bullpen shut out the Mariners over the final four frames.

“We know we can do it,” Alex Cora said. “When we stay in the zone we are very dangerous.”

Mitch Moreland’s pinch-hit, three-run home run helped propel the win.

“We gotta get that first one out of the way,” Moreland said. “Now we got that done, now we can roll.”

Oh, and we finally know who Alex Cora picked to close out games. At least for one night. 

Welcome to the ninth inning, Matt Barnes. 

“You don’t want to be the guy to give it up,” said Barnes. “So I was just locked in, trying to do my job and put up a zero.”

Still, for the better part of eight innings, the storyline wasn’t the comeback. 

For the second game in a row, the starting pitcher put the Sox in a hole. And for the second game in a row, commanding the strike zone was an issue. 

“I have to do a better job of executing when I’m ahead in the count,” said Eovaldi.

Manager Alex Cora appeared perplexed and searching for answers.

“It was strange," Cora said. "We’ll dig into it and go from there.”

Strange indeed.

In two games this season Red Sox pitchers have allowed 18 runs, 13 of those off starters Chris Sale and Eovaldi. 

Even more concerning than the run total is the number of home runs the Mariners have hit. Seattle has hit eight home runs in the first ten innings against the Red Sox. Six of those were off Sale and Eovaldi.

It took 11 games last year for the opposition to knock as many balls out of the park. The Red Sox didn’t give up eight home runs until the 11th of April.

Alex Cora has said from the start the team has a plan. They will bring pitchers along slowly, aiming for peak performance in September and October, not March and April. 

The problem? This was the same plan of attack last season and the team jumped out to a 9-1 start. 

The first loss of the 2018 season also came on Opening Day, but it wasn’t the fault of the Sale, who started that opener as well. The bullpen blew that one and then settled in. 

The poor early performances prompt a number of questions. 

Is Chris Sale healthy? 

(On Friday Cora repeatedly said the lefty is fine.)

Which Nathan Eovaldi did the Red Sox sign to a four year, $67.5 million dollar deal? The one who was nails in the postseason or the guy who has only finished two seasons with an ERA under 4.00? 

(My best guess is the latter.)

Is the slow start due to a slow build-up? Or did the Sox make a colossal mistake by choosing Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart over game-calling favorite Sandy Leon? 

(My best guess is the former.)

The offense saved the game on Friday and helped stave off the questions surrounding starting pitching, but that won’t last long. 
 

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Alex Cora, Eduardo Nunez explain 8th-inning double play

Alex Cora, Eduardo Nunez explain 8th-inning double play

SEATTLE - The Red Sox managed to come back, but in the 8th inning, it looked like Eduardo Nunez stopped the win cold with a puzzling move on the base paths. 

With the bases loaded and the Red Sox trailing by two runs, the second baseman grounded softly towards first base and pitcher Cory Gearin charged to make the play at home. Seeing Gearin in his path and thinking he would immediately throw to first, Nunez stopped running.

https://twitter.com/redsoxstats/status/1111855096336400384

“There’s nothing you can do there,” Alex Cora said. “You can run into it but it’s such a weird play that I think everybody in this room would have stopped too.”

Nunez said even looking back he’s not sure he could have done anything differently.

“He decided to go to first base,” Nunez said. “That was smart of him.”

Nunez added he is grateful for Mitch Moreland’s home run.

“That was very bad moment at the time. Good thing we have the ‘W’”.

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