Ryan Brasier

Red Sox place Chris Sale (elbow) on IL, call up Ryan Brasier to take his place

Red Sox place Chris Sale (elbow) on IL, call up Ryan Brasier to take his place

Chris Sale's frustrating season continued on Saturday evening.

The Boston Red Sox starter, who sports a 6-11 record and a career-worst 4.40 ERA, was placed on the 10-day IL with left elbow inflammation. The team confirmed this on Twitter and stated that Ryan Brasier would be called up to replace Sale.  

To make matters worse for Sale, Dave Dombrowski confirmed that Dr. James Andrews will be taking a look at Sale's MRI and Sale could even visit the renowned orthopedic surgeon. That could be a red flag that Sale has a bigger issue, as pitchers often visit Dr. Andrews to get second opinions about Tommy John surgery, per Jason Mastrodonato of The Boston Herald.

Dombrowski was noncommittal about Sale pitching again in 2019, so this situation will need to be monitored over the course of the coming week.

Sale joins teammate and fellow starter, David Price, on the IL. Price is dealing with a wrist injury caused by a cyst. Price may need surgery on the malady this offseason if the cortisone shot he received doesn't break up the cyst.

With both Sale and Price out, the Red Sox' starting rotation gets thinner, and that will make keeping pace in the Wild Card race a bit more difficult. With Andrew Cashner now pitching out of the bullpen, Eduardo Rodriguez and Rick Porcello are the only two true starters in the rotation. Guys like Brian Johnson, Cashner, and Nathan Eovaldi do have starting experience, but only Cashner is currently stretched out to take on a starter's workload. Still, members of that trio may be asked to start until either Sale or Price can return.

Meanwhile, Brasier will return to the big-league club for the first time since he lasted just 2/3 of an inning in a four-run appearance on July 15 against the Toronto Blue Jays. Brasier has a 2-3 record and 4.46 ERA in 44 appearances with the Red Sox, but struggles with consistency prompted his demotion.

Brasier seems to be back on the right track now. In 10 appearances for Pawtucket, he is 2-0 with a minuscule 0.96 ERA and 13 strikeouts. The Red Sox will hope that he can return to the form he held last year when he was a key late-inning bullpen option en route to the team's World Series victory.

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Alex Cora doesn't buy that pitching in ninth is harder than seventh or eighth, even as Red Sox relievers struggle

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Alex Cora doesn't buy that pitching in ninth is harder than seventh or eighth, even as Red Sox relievers struggle

BOSTON -- It sure looks like the Red Sox have a ninth-inning problem, but Alex Cora doesn't see it that way.

One day after his bullpen coughed up yet another ninth-inning lead in a 4-3 loss to the Rangers, Cora expressed confidence in his core relievers and disputed the notion that pitching in the ninth is any different than the seventh or eighth.

He also admitted he can't explain why the team ERA is so much worse in the ninth (6.00) than the seventh (4.03) and eighth (3.49).

"It's one of those that a lot of people have their thoughts about the ninth inning, that those three outs are bigger than the first 24," Cora said. "There's others that feel there's people that are ready for that one. They can do it there. I don't know. I really don't. I just feel that we're trying to maximize our talent. Maximize our strength and match it up with them."

Does Cora believe the idea that the ninth is harder has merit?

"I don't," he said. "I really don't. I just think if you execute pitches you get people out. Yesterday, we didn't and we paid the price."

On Monday, Matt Barnes allowed two runs while trying to protect a 2-1 lead against Texas. The Red Sox forced extra innings before losing in 11 innings. Do the Red Sox need to acquire another arm?

"We're always looking for ways to improve," Cora said. "That's what the organization has done. I do feel that we've got to put ourselves in a situation that, yeah, if we do this we're going to be elite again. So, I think thinking ahead, yeah, it's great, it's always great because that's what we do. But we need to get this right first and go from there."

Cora expressed confidence in what has emerged as his core group: Brandon Workman, Barnes, Marcus Walden, and right-hander Heath Hembree. He hopes the impending return of left-hander Brian Johnson provides depth.

"I think we're still getting people out," Cora said. "That has been going on. You compare us to other bullpens, yeah the saves are not there, but we're still doing a good job. We're still matching up and finding matchups that are going to benefit us.​"

Now if they could just figure out the ninth inning . . .

 
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Do Red Sox need a closer? Rough ninth inning stats make compelling case

Do Red Sox need a closer? Rough ninth inning stats make compelling case

Dave Dombrowski's gamble that the Red Sox could succeed with a closer-by-committee doesn't appear to be paying off.

Boston's bullpen has already recorded 10 blown saves — four fewer than the league-leading New York Mets — and as NBC Sports Boston's John Tomase eloquently put it, every ninth inning "feels like a nightly dance with a chainsaw." Last year, even when it seemed like Craig Kimbrel went through shaky stretches, Boston blew a total of 20 saves.

Matt Barnes coughed up the latest Red Sox lead in the ninth inning Monday night against the Texas Rangers, and Ryan Brasier allowed Elvis Andrus to drive home the eventual game-winning run in the 11th. Brasier and Barnes have combined for seven of the team's 10 blown saves.

What's most striking is the disparity between how the bullpen performs in the middle innings compared to the ninth. Boston's core relievers -- Brasier, Matt Barnes, Brandon Workman and Marcus Walden -- have posted elite numbers in innings six through eight, but have completely collapsed in the ninth.

According to Barstool Sports' Jared Carrabis, the four relievers' combined ERA nearly doubles in the ninth inning. 

Manager Alex Cora has deflected accusations that the bullpen is too thin. In late May, Cora told WEEI "it doesn't feel (like we're an arm short) in the dugout or the clubhouse...We mix and match and we have guys that we trust. There are a few guys that have to step up." 

Overall, Boston's bullpen hasn't been bad, posting the tenth-best ERA in the majors (4.12). It has held opponents to a .230 batting average, fifth-lowest in baseball. 

But in the ninth inning, Boston's ERA balloons to 6.12 (28th in MLB), per Carrabis. It's clear that the mix-and-match approach for the ninth inning isn't working for Boston, and it has cost the Red Sox valuable ground in the AL East race.

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