I’m mad. And you should be mad, too. And this team better be furious.
That should have been a win. It was so close to being a fairly easy win against a pretty bad team. How close? A 99.4% win probability in the top of the 9th with a 5-2 lead, to be specific.
But instead, for what feels like the thirtieth time this season – which is somehow only two months old as of last night – the Red Sox blew a game and made a bad team look good. And they looked maddeningly pathetic in the process.
Something needs to change. The time for “its early” and “it’s May” is long gone. We’re a third of the way through this season now, it’ll be June on Saturday, and guess what? The Red Sox are still in third place in the division. They can’t get ahead of the Rays, who have almost no starting pitching, and the Yankees, who have more players on the Injured List than the rest of the division’s teams put together.
Like last year, the real weakness is the bullpen. The Sox got lucky last year; with a dominant starting rotation and an incredible offense backing them up, they were able to make it work with the shoddy bullpen they had. There was a stretch in the summer when the starting pitchers were going so deep into games that the bullpen barely had anything to do, and Cora was rationing out innings like red meat during World War II. But that doesn’t change the fact that Joe Kelly’s ERA was up and down every month, and no one thought he would make the postseason roster, let alone demolish the Dodgers. And Craig Kimbrel is so lucky the outfield saved him in the ALCS, after he spent the regular season with his BB/9 nearly quadrupled what it had been in 2016. No, in 2018, the bullpen got lucky.
But this year, despite having virtually the same starting rotation and lineup (and with the added bonuses of Michael Chavis and a much-improved Rafael Devers), this team is floundering and failing. And so this bullpen, which is somehow better AND worse than last year’s, cannot be bailed out by its clubhouse counterparts.
Ryan Brasier took that 0.6% chance of blowing this game, and he blew it, giving up a solo homer and then a 2-run homer. Newbie Travis Lakins followed, and the poor kid made it worse. He couldn’t throw a strike if the zone was the size of the Monstah. 16 of his 25 pitches were balls; he walked three of the eight batters he faced.
You might be surprised to hear that coming into last night, the Red Sox bullpen had the 4th-best ERA in all of baseball. But in two months of baseball, they also have nine blown saves. I never feel like the game is secure when any of the relievers take the mound, and with good reason. So for Cora to say postgame that the bullpen has been “outstanding” is an insult to the fans who’ve sat and watched them ruin game after game. Sox fans, more than most other fanbases, are devoted and informed, and we’re definitely not blind or stupid. Dave Dombrowski is going to have to clean out this bullpen and infuse it with some fresh blood. Letting it continue this way is not an option.
Let’s also not ignore the fact that the offense has a new, fun things where they just do not drive in runs! They went 3-for-15 with runners in scoring position, stranding 8 men on base. In one game against Houston last week, they left the bases loaded twice, but hit multiple solo home runs. They lost that game, too. Missing and wasting opportunities on the bases is just unacceptable from a team of this caliber, especially against the teams they’ve been playing.
To make matters worse, a Sox starter got screwed yet again. David Price, who wasn’t even allowed to pitch a full inning against the Astros this weekend, had a magnificent start last night. Despite a rain delay of over an hour, Price’s threw 6 shutout innings. He deserved a win, and instead, like the rest of us, he had to sit, helpless, and watch the game spiral down the toilet.
This team is better than this. We know that, because almost an identical version won the World Series last year. Maybe they won’t win 108 games this season (it would take a miracle of biblical proportions at this point) or go back-to-back in October. But to quote Mookie Betts earlier this season, this is “unacceptable.”
I’m not going to apologize for holding my team to a higher standard than the garbage they’ve been giving us for so much of this season. You’re not the Orioles. You’re not the Marlins, who, by the way, have won 8 of their last 11. You’re the goddamn Boston Red Sox, of Fenway Park in Title Town, USA. You’re the defending World Series champions. Play like it.
Photo: AP Photo/Charles Krupa