It’s been a glaring issue from the season-opener in Tampa Bay. The Boston Red Sox lack a solid bullpen with dependable arms who can be trusted every time they take the ball.
This issue came back to the forefront in the premier game of the Houston Astros series on Friday night. David Price had been lights out for six innings before running into trouble in the seventh. The Red Sox led 2-0 over Gerrit Cole when Price allowed a double to Alex Bregman, struck out Carlos Correa and then walked Tyler White.
The left-hander departed with one out in the seventh, and two men aboard. Manager Alex Cora went to Ryan Brasier, who had recently become a staple in a pretty mediocre Red Sox bullpen. However, the right-hander had been a little shaky lately, but Cora needed him to channel the reliever he had been when he was called up at the end of July.
It didn’t work out. First pitch to Yuli Gurriel was drilled to the gap for an RBI double and while he was able to get Josh Reddick to pop out to the catcher, he couldn’t put away Tony Kemp, who laced a two-run double to make it 3-2 Astros. Price was absolutely stellar, and instead gave up two earned runs thanks to Brasier’s inability to get out of the jam.
The Red Sox wound up tying the game, but then out comes Joe Kelly for the eighth. Arguably one of the most hittable pitchers who can throw 100 mph in the league, and he didn’t calm those nerves. The ex-starter gave up three runs in the eighth, and was the pitcher of record in the 6-3 Astros win.
The Red Sox President of Baseball Operations in Dave Dombrowski has been very consistent with his opinion that the Red Sox bullpen didn’t need to be bolstered, which is where the question arises: Is he watching the same team as the rest of us? This bullpen isn’t remotely close to okay. Among the playoff-contending teams in baseball, the only bullpen with less dependability than the Red Sox is the Milwaukee Brewers. Not even the Braves, who blew a 7-1 eighth inning lead against a less than stellar Red Sox lineup on Wednesday.
This bullpen needed something, and got nothing. Yes, the Red Sox weren’t in the best position to add elite level pitchers to their roster; but they still could’ve, and should’ve added somebody to their bullpen. Even a guy like Jeurys Familia would’ve been sufficient, as he’s posted a 2.66 ERA for the Oakland A’s, who only traded two mid-level prospects to get the fireballer.
It’s just sad, because this Red Sox team is so exciting to watch for seven innings on both sides of the game. Yet once the starter is pulled, there’s absolutely nothing to be excited about with this bullpen. There’s no Brad Hand, or Kelvin Herrera, or even a Ryan Madson. Having Heath Hembree be the most used reliever in the ‘pen is awful and inexcusable for a 97-win ballclub.
This will prove costly in October. The Red Sox need to find answers quickly, because close games do not favor this team.