RED SOX INSIDER

Matt Barnes explains dugout moment with J.D. Martinez

RED SOX INSIDER

The scene in the Boston Red Sox dugout after a demoralizing loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night was hard to parse. While it looked like J.D. Martinez was lending Matt Barnes a sympathetic ear after the closer's third loss in four games, we couldn't be sure.

But Barnes cleared that up in an interview with the Globe's Alex Speier, explaining that Martinez was indeed being supportive in a moment captured on film by NESN's Jahmai Webster.

"Even giving up one (run) doesn't kill us," Barnes told Speier. "For me, giving up two, three, four, that just demoralizes you. I just kind of sat down there for a minute and I was just like, 'This sucks.' We were just talking about the sequence of events and pretty much told him that it's just frustrating. That's probably the longest I've ever stayed in the dugout after an outing."

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It goes without saying that the Red Sox need to get their All-Star closer back on track. He admitted that he hasn't felt as sharp in recent outings as he had earlier in the season, which has affected both his tempo and his willingness to attack the strike zone.

Of particular concern is a fastball that is leaking middle, like the one that George Springer slammed last Saturday for a go-ahead three-run homer in Toronto.

"You're not trying to nibble, because nibbling has never done me any good in my career," he told Speier. "I've had the best year of my career because I'm attacking guys. But then when everything starts leaking middle, it's like, 'OK, well, how do I try and counteract that a little bit?' And then it just gets difficult.

 
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"I've lost the fastball command to the glove side, which is what allowed me to be so good for the first four months of the season. Now, it just feels like anytime I try to go glove side, it leaks middle, or anytime I'm trying to go arm side, it leaks off the plate.

"The biggest consensus, honestly, is just fatigue. While it hasn't been a huge workload over the last two weeks, the workload in a 72-hour span was enormous."

Manager Alex Cora said after Tuesday's loss that he needed to back off Barnes a bit and not overuse him. The right-hander hasn't pitched since, and the Red Sox can only hope that some encouraging words from both his manager and designated hitter help get Barnes back on track.