Red Sox

And it's Ryan Brasier's turn to spin the wheel of despair in another awful Red Sox loss

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And it's Ryan Brasier's turn to spin the wheel of despair in another awful Red Sox loss

NEW YORK -- Ryan Brasier had Brett Gardner right where he wanted him, and then all he could do was turn around and grimace.

Summoned with the bases loaded and the Red Sox clinging to a 3-1 lead in the seventh inning of what felt like a must-win game on Wednesday, Brasier raced to an 0-2 count on the slumping Yankees veteran with a pair of sliders before deciding to come back with a fastball.

In his 12-year career, Gardner had homered just twice on 0-2 counts. This time, though, he lashed Brasier's fat 96 mph offering over the right fence for a game-breaking grand slam that rallied the Yankees to a 5-3 victory that leaves the Red Sox once again wondering what hit them.

If it's not the starting pitching, it's the offense. If it's not the offense, it's the bullpen. If it's not the bullpen, it's the defense.

It's always something, and on Wednesday it was Brasier.

"Had a plan to go after him, got him right where I wanted to get him, and I didn't execute a pitch," said Brasier, who joined fellow reliever Brandon Workman in wasting an excellent start from Nathan Eovaldi. "Nate did a hell of a job tonight. Bullpen guys, it's our job to come in and get outs and hold the lead and I made a bad pitch on a good count for me and it bit me in the butt."

The Red Sox have no strengths so far this year, but the back of the bullpen had kind of been one of them. Brasier entered the game with three saves and a 1.17 ERA in eight outings, pairing with Matt Barnes (1.42 ERA, 17.1 K/9) to give the Red Sox some stability in the final innings, not that the Red Sox have found themselves protecting too many leads.

But it's one of the stories of this season that the reliable can suddenly become unreliable at the worst moments.

"We've still got to finish off games," said manager Alex Cora. "We didn't. it takes everybody to get out of this. Today, in the seventh inning, we didn't do a good job."

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Who are the best center fielders in Red Sox history? Ranking the Top 5

Who are the best center fielders in Red Sox history? Ranking the Top 5

The Red Sox have employed all manner of center fielders throughout their history.

Whereas left field has generally been home to run producers and right to all-around threats, the men in the middle have covered a wide range of styles. There are straight speedsters like Jacoby Ellsbury, defensive dynamos like Jackie Bradley Jr., fun-loving eccentric types like Johnny Damon, underappreciated standouts like Ellis Burks, and even plodding sluggers like Tony Armas.

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Only in recent years have the Red Sox consistently prioritized defense in the role, from Coco Crisp to Ellsbury to Bradley.

But that doesn't mean they haven't featured some talented players there, including a turn-of-century Hall of Famer, the younger brother of baseball royalty, and the one who fans over 50 still lament got away.

Click here for the Top 5 center fielders in Red Sox history.

MLB's Top 100 players for 2020 season: Numbers 100-76

MLB's Top 100 players for 2020 season: Numbers 100-76

There was once a time when a list of baseball's top 100 players would've been dominated by men in their 30s or even 40s. In 2004, for instance, the NL MVP was 39-year-old Barry Bonds and the Cy Young went to 41-year-old Roger Clemens. It was the seventh respective award for each.

We now can be almost certain that neither accomplishment was achieved without help, but if any good came from that era, it's that it forced baseball to address its PED problem, which means that a top 100 list now looks very different.

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Our list will reflect that shift. What it won't include are three pitchers guaranteed not to play in 2020 because of Tommy John surgery — Noah Syndergaard of the Mets, Luis Severino of the Yankees, and of course Chris Sale of the Red Sox.

Over the next four weeks, NBC Sports Boston will unveil its top 100 players, 25 at a time, and the list is dominated by youth. Never have young players been so essential to winning, whether it's 20-year-old Juan Soto helping lead the Nationals to last fall's shocking World Series title, or 23-year-old Cody Bellinger being named NL MVP.

Click here for Part 1: Players ranked 100th to 76th on our list.