BOSTON -- The Red Sox are torching Matt Barnes and the rest of their bullpen and if Dave Dombrowski doesn't act soon, he's going to find himself a heck of a lot more than one reliever short.
That's certainly the feel emanating from a ragged Red Sox relief corps that blew yet another save -- its league-leading 16th -- in a demoralizing 8-7 loss to the White Sox on Wednesday. Barnes took the loss after ending a marathon 10-pitch at-bat by leaving a fastball in Jose Abreu's wheelhouse, and the White Sox slugger didn't miss, blasting it over everything in left for the game-winning two-run homer.
Attention will undoubtedly focus on Barnes blowing his sixth save of the season and the Red Sox losing their eighth game with a lead after seven innings, but at some point, the workload should enter the equation.
Right-hander Brandon Workman leads the American League in appearances with 40, and Barnes and teammate Ryan Brasier are both right behind him in the top 10 at 36 apiece. That kind of wear and tear is taking a toll, particularly on Barnes, who has seen his ERA skyrocket from 1.99 on June 1 to 4.19 today. The 14 appearances he has made this month probably aren't helping.
"No, I feel good," Barnes said, though not necessarily convincingly.
Barnes lost the game when he failed to elevate the 10th and final pitch of his battle with Abreu, leaving a 97 mph fastball at the belt, where Abreu pulverized it. He was asked how much this one stings, particularly in light of the three-run rally that had given the Red Sox a 7-6 lead in the eighth.
"A lot. A lot," he said. "I didn't do my job. Offense did a phenomenal job of coming back and scoring three in the eighth, and then to give it up like that is tough."
Such losses are starting to feel inevitable, as the bullpen sags under the dual strain of (a) needing to pick up an average of six innings every time the fifth spot in the rotation rolls around, and (b) lacking a closer to handle the ninth inning and provide some definition to the final frames. The return of knuckleballer Steven Wright adds an experienced arm, but the Red Sox need more than say, Heath Hembree coming off the IL to save them.
"I know the usage is there," allowed manager Alex Cora, "but everyone has been used a lot. We've just got to get the job done."
Finding rest has been a balancing act. Workman (7-1, 1.70 ERA, three saves) was not available on Wednesday because of his workload, but he probably would've been pressed into duty if the Red Sox had extended the game.
"We try to take care of everyone," pitching coach Dana LeVangie said. "We're in a situation trying to win baseball games, trying to protect guys. We went into the first game of the series against these guys with Barnsey down. We have a plan for the most part going in. At times, we have to erase that based on what happens with the starter or whatever.
"At times, you can win or lose a game at the risk of losing a guy for two or three weeks, a month, because of it. I think we're trying to do this better, as much as we can."
Without reinforcements, it's hard to imagine the situation improving.
"Fatigued? Sure. All of the above," LeVangie said. "That's where a lot of those guys are. That's where we're at. That's part of being a reliever. Unfortunately, that's part of being their job. We've got a couple of days rest here leading into the London series, we've got one leading into the Toronto series. Hopefully, we can catch our breath."
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