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Andrew Bailey: ‘This game is what’s going to push me forward to next year’

10.03.12 at 12:36 am ET

NEW YORK — The job description for Andrew Bailey is fairly basic: Finish off victories when the Red Sox have a ninth-inning lead. But over the last five weeks, with the Sox’ season amidst a free fall, the opportunities for the pitcher to carry out that task have been few.

That, in turn, amplifies the dismay attendant upon his recent failures. His blown saves down the stretch have served as double-whammies: Not only do they rob the Sox of the rare moments of dignity provided by victories, but also leave a bilious residue that he now must carry into the offseason.

On Tuesday night in the Bronx, Bailey stepped to the mound for just his third save opportunity in the last two weeks. But for the second time in those three chances, he blew it.

Given a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the ninth inning in Yankee Stadium, Bailey gave up a leadoff single to Curtis Granderson and then left a 93 mph fastball on a 1-2 count down the middle to Raul Ibanez. The pitch was launched for a game-tying to deep right field. After a groundout, Bailey gave up a double to Derek Jeter, intentionally walked Nick Swisher and then walked Alex Rodriguez to load the bases with one out.

He was pulled in favor of Mark Melancon, who managed to escape the jam without further harm. Still, Melancon’s Houdini merely delayed the outcome — a 4-3 Red Sox loss to the Yankees — that was set in motion by Bailey’s struggles.

“I let the team down,” said Bailey. “There’s nothing fun about going out there, letting guys run around the bases and do all that. Unfortunately, we’ll have a long offseason, I’ll have a long offseason to think about that. You’ve got guys like [Dustin] Pedroia going out there, playing with broken hands, broken fingers, whatever he has, getting that big double, Jonny [Lester] throwing a hell of a ballgame, bullpen coming in and doing their job. I didn’t.”

Thus continued a stumble to the finish for the closer. After missing most of the year while recovering from thumb surgery on the doorstep of the season, he proved effective upon his return, holding opponents scoreless in 12 of his first 14 outings and working to a 3.09 ERA and going 5-for-5 in save opportunities after resuming the closer’s job on Aug. 24. However, in his last five appearances, he’s given up eight runs in 3 2/3 innings (19.64 ERA) while blowing two saves.

It’s not the finishing note for which he’d hoped. However, the closer insists that he will find motivation in his rough end to a rough season.

“No one likes losing. I’ve let the team down a couple times. It’s my fault. There’s no one else to blame. It’s a mixture of not getting ahead of guys, making bad pitches when I’ve got to put people away,” said Bailey. “There’s no reset button for me. For me, my numbers speak for themselves. Unfortunately, we have a long offseason. This game is what’s going to keep me pushing forward to next year. … These guys aren’t going out there just giving games away. Everybody fought today. I went out there and blew it. It doesn’t feel good. These last two weeks are definitely going to keep me motivated enough to do more than I ever have.”

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