Red Sox lose their first game of the season to the Tigers and Sox fans learn a bit more about John Farrell
Red Sox have started the 2017 season in fine fashion. Game one featured an Andrew Benintendi three-run home run. In Game 2 after 11 1/2 innings of deadlocked baseball, a walk off three-run blast by Sandy Leon ended it 3 – 0. After the first two games on the season, the Sox are 2 – 0. No, no one expected a perfect season, but losing games the way they did in the first of a four game series against Detroit was inexcusable.
John Farrell started Steven Wright who pitched well but not great. Going 6 2/3 innings allowing 4 runs on 7 hits, walking 3 and striking our 4. Knuckleballer numbers are a little different, they need to be taken with a grain of salt. Two of runs came via the James McCann homer to left field. Thanks to the Tigers bringing in left field quite a bit allowed for the two run jack. After going down 4 – 0 to the Tigers, the Sox picked up 5 runs to go up 5 – 4. Can’t really complain too much about the new left field in Detroit as Panda hit his first home run of the season into the bullpen as well. As I mentioned in a previous article, Panda Power is real. Sox are up 5 – 4, keep that in mind. With the bottom of the 8th inning, Heath Hembree is brought in to pitch. After striking out Nick Castellanos and Miguel Cabrera, the wheels fell off slowly.
My general rule of thumb is that with relievers, you need to come in and do your job in 20 pitches or less. If you can’t get it done under 20 then the next guy needs to be ready to enter the game to either clean up your mess or finish up the job you failed to complete. Hembree threw 30 pitches and only 17 went for strikes. Not a great average. After the first two batters he’s at 15 pitches, 10 of which went for strikes. That means he’s got 5 pitches on the counter left before Farrell should make the move to the pen. That’s just my opinion. Hembree did just strike out Miggy. After walking Victor Martinez on 9 pitches, his count is up to 24. That’s already past the mark. After getting Justin Upton to start 1 – 2 in the count, Hembree proceeds to throw three straight balls and walk him as well.
Farrell finally decides that after walking two straight, Hembree has had enough. Gee thanks Coach, a little too late. Robbie Scott comes in which prompts Mikie Mahtook to enter as a pinch hitter for Tyler Collins. Classic case of bring in lefty followed by the opposing manager pinch hitting a righty. That Ausmus character is sly, just couldn’t pull a fast one by him. Mahtook takes Ross to left for an RBI double tying the game up at five a piece. What does Farrell do? Immediately brings in Joe Kelly. Kelly then walks McCann on 5 pitches. He then follows that up with a 7 pitch walk to JaCoby Jones walking in the winning run. Interesting take on the spelling there. Sox are now down 6 – 5. Kelly gets former Sox Jose Iglesias to ground out on two pitches but by then, the damage is done.
The question will remain, “Does Farrell have a good idea of the pen or he still just trying to figure it out?” Right now it’s clear that there is still uncertainty in the bullpen. Fault Farrell? Let’s review. Matt Barnes was unavailable, Carson Smith is injured, and Tyler Thornburg is injured. There are still major issues to be dealt with. Is this Farrell’s fault entirely? Not quite. The first mistake was letting Hembree pitch past the 3rd batter. It’s understood that managers want to let their guys go out there and try to get the last out themselves. Sometimes you just have to say, “today just isn’t gonna be that day.” Farrell blew today’s game. He should have read this game better. Barnes shouldn’t have to pitch every game for the Sox to get the W. Did Farrell not have enough faith in Craig Kimbrel to get the 4 out save?
The top of the 9th inning brought on it’s own struggles. With two runners in scoring position, Chris Young popped out and the Red Sox could not bring the tying run across instead lose 6 – 5 for their first loss on the season. Yes 2 – 1 isn’t bad to start the season but the Sox really should be 3 – 0. Let’s get back to Farrell. The 2016 World Series opened up a lot of eyes with managers using their closers earlier than expected to ensure that late game lead. After all, there’s no point to having a closer if you’re losing the game later on.
I want to chalk it up to Farrell wanting to rest Kimbrel. On the flipside, what if the Sox don’t even come close to winning the next three games? Sox fall to 2 – 4 when they could worst case be even at 3 – 3. Now with 2016 Cy Young Winner Rick Porcello and Chris Sale going up in games 5 and 6 on the season, I’m certain we won’t be falling to 2 – 4. This is only the third game of the season.
Moral of the story? The Sox pen needs to get it together and soon.
It’s completely unrealistic to rely strictly on Barnes and Kimbrel to save the day. Once the arms are healthy, the bullpen will be fantastic but until then, these mediocre, late game decisions to leave relievers in too long will lead to more blown one run games. Here’s to hoping that John Farrell remembers that before he was the Red Sox manager, he was the Red Sox pitching coach for four years. He should get Carl Willis into the swing of things because the first game against the Tigers should not have gotten away. Sox fans can only look forward to Eduardo Rodriguez’s first game of the 2017 season to try to get back in the win column.
Photo Credit – Carlos Osorio – AP Photo