Red Sox

Matt Barnes can be bullpen force Red Sox need

Matt Barnes can be bullpen force Red Sox need

BOSTON — Aside from actually winning Game 1, the good news for the Red Sox is that their bullpen probably can’t run into this much trouble every night.

What's also encouraging is that if the bullpen is to succeed beyond Friday, the pitcher the Sox need to step up in a huge way, Matt Barnes, seems up to the task.

Barnes made a little more work for himself than was necessary — a rite of passage for anyone leaving the Sox ‘pen, apparently — when he entered a jam in the seventh inning with the Sox ahead 5-2. He threw a wild pitch to his first batter, Brett Gardner, with two on and none out. Then he walked Gardner, which rendered the wild pitch irrelevant, but also brought up a fellow named Giancarlo Stanton.

“You’ve got to kind of slow it down and take it pitch by pitch,” Barnes said. “You can’t get caught up in what’s going on. That’s the hardest thing to do. With everything going on and how everything matters so much, is to be able to slow it down and do what you know how to do.”

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Now, Stanton didn’t have a good night. He struck out four times, in fact, including that match-up with Barnes, who allowed just one of his inherited runners to score in the inning. But Barnes was the man handed the mop, and he’s going to have to continue to be. The righty buried a nasty 1-2 curveball low and over the middle, too tantalizing for Stanton to take and too nasty for him to touch.

“I thought Barnes made a great pitch against him, and just seeing the replay, where he started a tough pitch — sometimes you know that goes with Giancarlo sometimes,” Yanks manager Aaron Boone said. “If you make pitches against him, his outs are a lot of times strikeouts.”

And a lot of Barnes’ outs are strikeouts, as well. He fanned 14 batters per nine innings in 2018, slightly better than Craig Kimbrel’s 13.9. Their walk rates were virtually identical as well at 4.5 per nine.

Barnes took a remarkable step forward in 2018, with his average fastball nearly a full 2 mph more than it was a year ago, from roughly 95 to 97.

Kimbrel, who allowed a home run, can’t go it alone. Maybe Brandon Workman, who threw a nasty curveball to Gleyber Torres in the sixth inning, can inject himself into the most dependable, high-leverage mix too. 

Pitching coach Dana LeVangie said he didn’t think he saw nerves from his guys with all the balls in the dirt, wild pitches and general inability to find the strike zone. (Sandy Leon was a saint behind the plate.) 

“If you asked him, he might tell you,” LeVangie said of Ryan Brasier, who allowed two inherited runners to score in the sixth. “But I expect him to be a lot better tomorrow than he was tonight.”

The Red Sox must hope that for all their relievers. With Steven Wright and his sub-2 ERA as a reliever this season now likely off the Sox roster due to a knee problem, one of their prime candidates to emerge out of the’ pen disappears.

Cora didn’t want to turn to Barnes so early on Friday. He didn't want to use scheduled Game 3 starter Rick Porcello in the eighth, either, but to Cora's credit, his moves worked with what amounted to a 24-man roster.

“In a perfect world it was going to be to be Barnes with two outs in the seventh,” Cora said. “That’s the game right there. We needed to shut it down and he did a good job.”

There will have to be more of the same.

“We’re all in, we’re all in to win this,” LeVangie said. “We expect our guys in the bullpen to be available every game this series. If we play five we expect them to be available five games. And our training room has become an emergency room, so we’re expecting — we’re asking a lot from these guys and it might be six outs. That’s the way it is.”

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Brock Holt describes game-winning homer from Red Sox' 5-4 win over Padres

Brock Holt describes game-winning homer from Red Sox' 5-4 win over Padres

Brock Holt was able to hit what turned out to be the game-winning homer for the Boston Red Sox in the ninth inning of their 5-4 victory over the San Diego Padres late on Saturday night. But at the time he hit it, he wasn't quite sure he hit the ball well enough to get it out.

"I knew I hit it good, but I kinda hit it high," Holt said to reporters after the game as recorded by NESN. "And I saw (Hunter) Renfroe drifting back kinda slow and it kinda scared me there for a little while. And then he jumped up and luckily it hit the top of the wall and had enough to get out."

Holt's homer came on the first pitch he saw from Padres closer Kirby Yates. The 31-year-old has been one of the best closers in baseball this season, logging an MLB-leading 36 saves and 1.24 ERA, and before last night's game against the Red Sox, he had only allowed one homer on the season. So, Holt's feat was unlikely, though he viewed his success as more of a function of general probability than anything else.

"I mean however many at-bats divided by two home runs,” Holt said of the likelihood of his homer, with a chuckle. "That’s it."

Holt was also quick to praise the bullpen for their efforts in the contest. Starter Nathan Eovaldi only lasted three innings for the Sox, but the bullpen was able to keep the Padres in check for most of the night, surrendering just 2 runs in 6 innings of action while striking out 9 batters.

"Our bullpen has been really good for us lately," Holt said. "Tonight, they were really good. Kept the game tied and gave us a chance. That's all you can ask."

The Red Sox will have a chance to go for the sweep of the Padres on Sunday afternoon. First pitch at Petco Park is scheduled for 4:10 p.m. ET and lefthander Brian Johnson will get the start for the Sox.

Click here to watch Holt's go-ahead homer>>>

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WATCH: Brock Holt clubs go-ahead solo homer to lead off 9th inning vs. Padres

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File Photo

WATCH: Brock Holt clubs go-ahead solo homer to lead off 9th inning vs. Padres

The Boston Red Sox found themselves in a tough spot late in their game against the San Diego Padres. After holding a 4-0 lead early in the game, the Padres gradually chipped away at the lead before tying the game at 4-4 in the seventh inning.

Heading into the ninth inning, the Sox found themselves still a tie game with one more chance to score before entering potential walk-off territory. And given that their bullpen had been in action for a good chunk of the night, they were running out of time to get on the board.

Luckily for them, Brock Holt delivered.

Holt was the first batter of the ninth inning for the Red Sox and he made his at-bat count. Holt was able to get ahold of the first pitch he saw and put it over the fence for the go-ahead solo homer. Here's a look at the blast via the Red Sox official Twitter account.

The homer was only Holt's third of the season, but it couldn't have come at a better time. Now, it will fall on Brandon Workman's shoulders to finish off the Padres and ensure that the Red Sox can notch their 70th win of the season.

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