Three things we learned from Red Sox' 7-5 win over Astros
1) Heath Hembree and most of the bullpen were a pleasant surprise
By Nick Friar
Let’s get it out of the way that Craig Kimbrel was disappointing Sunday night. He couldn’t seal the deal after getting two outs.
Matt Barnes came in with the pesky José Altuve on, but wasn’t phased by him, or Houston’s free-swinging George Springer. He made quick work of Springer and the batter after that, Carlos Correa.
And when Barnes couldn’t complete the sixth inning, Junichi Tazawa was there to do his job -- so was Koji Uehara after him.
Hembree was the greatest surprise emerging from the extra-inning contest, throwing up zeros in his three innings, striking out four and giving up two hits.
Since coming up to Boston he hasn’t allowed an earned run, and has struck out 11 over 7 2/3 innings while walking only one batter (zero against Houston).
So although there are frustrations surrounding the big-time closer, it was good to see Barnes come through and have Hembree deal for the third time in 2016.
2) The Red Sox will keep leaving runners on -- but that’s not always a bad sign
Boston left 13 runners on base Sunday, after leaving nine Saturday.
On the surface, yes, it is a concern. Leaving a lot of runners on is never good. However, when the Red Sox get 16 hits and score seven runs to get the win, how much of an issue is it?
Boston has logged 12, 15, 15, 9 and 16 hits since its one-hit performance Tuesday. So while it’s ideal to get every runner in, it’s not possible. The best way to read this is that the offense is continuously putting the Red Sox in a position to score.
So long as the Sox continue to move runners around efficiently and plate runs at the high rate they have of late, then the LOB stat will become less significant.
If that number maintains, but production drops, then Boston will be in trouble.
3) Craig Kimbrel is all too similar to Jonathan Papelbon
After getting two outs, Boston’s closer blew the lead when the Red Sox’ newest nemesis, Colby Rasmus, hit another long ball.
That bumps Kimbrel's earned-run average to a steep 5.00, a margin most wouldn’t expect from a pitcher with a career 1.67 ERA entering Sunday's game.
However, even if April ended Sunday night it wouldn’t be his worst April.
Last year he finished April with a 5.19 ERA, but still wound up with a 2.58 ERA.
After April wrapped up, he had a 2.13 ERA.
So will there be a lot of roller-coaster rides with the new closer in town? Yes.
Will he execute more often than not? His track record says yes.
No Boston closer, no Boston pitcher will ever hold standing like Koji Uehara did in 2013, but it seems like everyone’s expecting that from Kimbrel just because he makes a lot of money.
He will pan out. And although every win matters, it makes a lot more sense for Kimbrel to have struggles early in the year than later.