Red Sox

Red Sox have a Matt Barnes problem and they need to get their most important reliever right again

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Red Sox have a Matt Barnes problem and they need to get their most important reliever right again

BOSTON -- It might have been Matt Barnes' finest performance of the season.We remember it as the Chris Sale 17-strikeout game, but Barnes was pretty damn good that May 14 night against the Rockies, too. Summoned to face the heart of the order in relief of Brandon Workman, who had failed to protect a 3-2 lead, Barnes retired all six batters he faced in the ninth and 10th, striking out five. He threw 26 pitches in a 5-4 loss.At that point, Barnes could make a case for most impactful reliever in baseball. He owned a 1.56 ERA in 17.1 innings and .148 batting average against with 33 strikeouts, despite drawing the heart of the order in tight games night after night after night.

Something has happened since then, however. On Monday, needing three outs to preserve a 2-1 win for Sale, Barnes allowed two singles and a double that gave the upstart Rangers a 3-2 lead in the ninth. The Red Sox rallied before falling in extra innings, leaving Barnes to offer a blunt assessment."I just sucked tonight," he said. "Plain and simple."There's been more of that than anyone would like recently. One night after striking out five Rockies, Barnes was summoned into a brutal bases-loaded, no-out situation in relief of Eduardo Rodriguez. All three runners scored, giving Barnes a blown save and beginning a stretch that makes you wonder if the stress of being both the high-leverage guy and the last line of defense has taken a toll.Over his last 11 outings, Barnes owns an 8.00 ERA, with 10 hits and seven walks in nine innings. He has blown two saves and taken a loss while watching his ERA soar to 3.76, and the Red Sox will need to get him right if they want to compete for a playoff berth.

"He hasn't been as sharp, obviously," said manager Alex Cora. "We talked about it a few weeks ago, the way we were using him, using him against the middle of the lineup the whole time. We've been trying to give him a breather here and there, but he knows his job. He was in a situation here, three outs from winning the game, and we didn't complete the job."On Monday, Barnes' curveball failed him. He hung one to Danny Santana that the left fielder lined to center to start the one-out rally, and after Elvis Andrus doubled on a mislocated fastball, Barnes bounced a pair of curveballs to Nomar Mazara before leaving one center-cut that Mazara ripped to left for the go-ahead hit."Santana, I was just trying to throw a backdoor curveball and just left it middle," Barnes said. "A single to the left side. The pitch to Andrus, that was the pitch I was trying to execute. I was trying to throw a fastball up and in on his hands and unfortunately for me, he was able to squeak it down the line and hit a double. Then after that, I made a poor pitch on the 3-1 count. Just have to be smarter than that. Just didn't execute enough pitches."

With the bullpen coming under increased scrutiny -- only the woeful Orioles have allowed more runs in the ninth inning (43) than the Red Sox (36) -- the calls are only going to increase for president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski to find another arm, preferably one with closing experience.But unless and until Barnes figures out how to regain his mid-May form, it's not even clear a closer will matter.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Curt Schilling on Hall of Fame: 'If I'm outside the Hall of Fame with Luis Tiant, I'm all right'

Curt Schilling on Hall of Fame: 'If I'm outside the Hall of Fame with Luis Tiant, I'm all right'

Curt Schilling is in his eighth year of eligibility for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Is this the year that he'll finally get in?

The former pitcher spent 20 years in the major leagues with the Baltimore Orioles, Houston Astros, Philadelphia Phillies, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Boston Red Sox. He went 216-146 record, a 3.46 ERA, and 3,116 strikeouts (good for 15th most all-time) in his storied career. 

It's his postseason dominance (11-2, 2.23 ERA) that elevates Schilling's Hall candidacy. He's a three-time World Series winner, two of which came with the Red Sox, was a co-Series MVP with Randy Johnson in 2001 with the Diamondbacks and was named an All-Star six times.

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Despite his numbers, Schilling hasn't gotten into the Hall yet. While he may be inching closer to making the cut, he isn't counting on getting in with the 2020 class.

"I don't think I'm going to make it this year," Schilling told MLB Network's Bob Costas in a recent interview. "The trend has usually been that players will drop a certain amount of percentage between the public and the private ballots. And I don't think I'm high enough above that 75 [percent needed for election] for the tail-off not to get me."

Though Schilling doesn't think he'll get in, he's not worrying about it too much. And he's focusing on the fact that there are plenty of great players who never made the Hall of Fame, including another former Red Sox ace.

"There are also some pretty good people who aren't in the Hall of Fame," Schilling said. "If I'm outside the Hall of Fame with Luis Tiant, I'm all right."

Schilling does have a good point. There are plenty of great, deserving players that haven't made the cut for the Hall of Fame. He still has three more chances to get in, so perhaps his time will come.

And speaking of Tiant, there surely is a case for him to be a Hall of Famer. He went 229-172 with a 3.30 ERA in a 19-year career and also struck out 2,416 batters. Had the Red Sox gotten him a ring in 1975, perhaps he would've had a stronger case to get in.

Red Sox add LHP Matt Hall via trade with Tigers, designate Travis Lakins for assignment

Red Sox add LHP Matt Hall via trade with Tigers, designate Travis Lakins for assignment

The Boston Red Sox made their second trade of the week Friday.

The Sox acquired left-handed reliever Matt Hall from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for minor league catcher Jhon Nunez.

Hall appeared in 21 games for the Tigers the past two seasons. He was 0-1 with a 9.48 ERA, 32 strikeouts, 18 walks and a 2.07 WHIP in 31 1/3 innings in that span. Hall made his major league debut for Detroit in 2018.

To make room for Hall on the team's 40-man roster, the team designated right-handed pitcher Travis Lakins for assignment, per Jen McCaffrey of The Athletic.

Lakins, 25, made his major league debut in 2019 and logged 16 appearances for the Red Sox. He went 0-1 with a 3.86 ERA, 18 strikeouts, 10 walks and a 1.41 WHIP in 23 1/3 innings of work.

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On Wednesday, the Red Sox traded first baseman/outfielder Sam Travis to the Texas Rangers in exchange for left-handed reliever Jeffrey Springs, while also designating lefty pitcher Bobby Poyner for assignment.