For the first time in quite a while, the Boston Red Sox were able to get a quality outing from their fifth starter.
Against the Toronto Blue Jays in just his second start since returning from the IL, Sox starter Brian Johnson lasted five innings and gave up zero earned runs. He departed the ball game with a 6-1 lead and did exactly what Alex Cora wanted.
“That’s what we were looking for,” Cora said, per Julian McWilliams of The Boston Globe. “Go five innings, go six, and give us a chance to win and he did.”
While Johnson did give the team a chance to win, he ended up earning the no-decision as the bullpen blew the five-run advantage. The four pitchers the Red Sox used after Johnson combined to allow seven earned runs and walk five batters. Matt Barnes blew the team's 15th save, tied for most in the league with Oakland. The Red Sox ended up losing the game by a final score of 8-7.
The result was certainly one of the Red Sox' most disappointing losses of the season. Especially considering that Johnson stepped up, as Cora pointed out.
“It’s very important in the fifth spot to have someone step up and give us length,” Cora said, per McWilliams. “We’ve been going through this the whole season and it was good to see him go out there and compete at that level. He’s a good pitcher. We know the last [start] in Baltimore, he was coming from a rehab assignment and it’s not the same thing. You saw today he was a little bit better.”
Getting length from the team's fifth starter certainly has been an issue this season. Since Nathan Eovaldi went on the IL in late April with an elbow issue, Rex Sox spot starters including Johnson, Hector Velazquez, Ryan Weber, Josh Smith, and Darwinzon Hernandez have combined to start 13 games. Only three of their outings have lasted five innings or longer, and Johnson's start against the Blue Jays on Saturday was one of them.
Needless to say, it was frustrating to see the team's bullpen squander a quality outing from a fifth starter.
Still, Johnson's outing is a major positive for the Red Sox. Johnson was a solid spot starter last season and posted a 4-3 record and a 4.15 ERA in 13 starts. It looks like he's back on track to be that same kind of role player and lefthanded bullpen on for the squad. If he can keep pitching as he did on Saturday, he will certainly do a lot to lessen the blow of Eovaldi's absence.
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