Game 72 – Bullpen Lays Egg, Red Sox Lose 6-4.

So the Sox blew a 6-4 game against the Royals because Matt Barnes and Robbie Scott combined to throw 11 straight balls to load the bases. Eventually, Scott left a high fastball over the middle of the plate that Salvador Perez deposited over the left field fence for a go-ahead grand slam.

There are several layers to unpack here. John Farrell’s managing in of itself did not lose this game, but Robbie Scott should not have been put in a position to face Salvador Perez with the bases loaded. Scott is a LOOGY through and through. If you wanted a lefty to face Hosmer and Perez, Abad is your choice.

A second option here would be warming up Hembree in conjunction with Scott so he could come in and face Perez after Scott faced Hosmer. Then, the LOOGY would perform his designated duty and would be out so he would not be placed in a situation to fail.

The third option that is being talked by most is putting in Craig Kimbrel. After being used as a modern fireman throughout the year, Kimbrel hasn’t pitched before the 9th since June 6th despite there being several times where he could’ve been used. After that game, where Kimbrel struck out five batters in 1.1 innings, Farrell stated that “there’s a relunctance to continue to [throw Kimbrel for more than an inning].” That night, Kimbrel said that he “would prefer to throw one inning two or three nights in a row,” but backed up his manager’s aggressiveness with his usage by saying “I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do to help this team win.”

I’m sure, if asked, that Farrell would inform us that there were 0 outs in the 8th inning and that he did not want to throw Kimbrel for two innings. If that’s the case, it is a good thing that there isn’t a rule stating that you have to allow your closer to finish the game once he’s been thrown into a save situation. Kimbrel was needed more in the 8th against Perez than he would have been at the beginning of a 9th inning. I am aware that no manager would do this unless it was the postseason (and even then, they would let their closer finish the game), but it is infuriating when the only lethal weapon in the pen is available in a set of carefully defined situations, especially when he was WILDLY successful in such a role earlier in the year.

Aside from Kimbrel, Scott, and whoever the last man in the pen happens to be at any given time, the talent in this bullpen is clustered closely together. Over 60 innings, Barnes, Hembree, Kelly, and Abad are likely to put up similar ERA’s hovering from league average to slightly below. You could argue that Kelly (and even Barnes) have upside, but on the aggregate, these are comparable pitchers. To get the most out of these men, you have to play match-ups with them and pray the wind is blowing the right way that day. Given your lack of impact options with Carson Smith on rehab and Tyler Thornburg on the shelf, you have to unleash your best weapon when he is most needed and worry about piecing the end of the puzzle together at another time.

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