Closing time: Andrew Bailey blows another save as Sox suffer walkoff loss to Tigers
|06.20.13 at 10:08 pm ET|
Two days ago, Red Sox manager John Farrell stated unequivocally that, despite his recent struggles, Andrew Bailey remained his closer. After Thursday’s 4-3 walkoff loss to the Tigers, however, Farrell will undoubtedly once again have to answer the question as to whether Bailey deserves ninth inning duties.
On Thursday, the Sox entrusted a 3-2, ninth-inning lead to Bailey. And the closer immediately proceeded to self-immolate, missing the strike zone with four of five fastballs en route to walking Victor Martinez, then leaving a 1-2 cutter too much over the plate to Jhonny Peralta, who crushed a two-run, walkoff homer.
Bailey has now given up homers in four of his last five outings. For the first time in the four games in which he’s blown saves, the Sox suffered a loss, this one of the crushing variety given how strong the performance of both starter John Lackey and the Sox lineup had been to position the team for an impressive road win in Detroit. With Bailey now having just a 67 percent conversion rate in his save opportunities — the worst among AL closers with at least five saves — the questions about his job security will amplify.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
— Bailey essentially gave up on his fastball in the ninth inning. After he walked Martinez on five pitches (all fastballs), he threw a fastball on just one of his four offerings to Peralta (a ball), resorting to his cutter on the other three pitches, including the one on which Peralta went deep for the win.
— Dustin Pedroia went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and five men left on base, the latest hiccup in a bit of a dry spell for the second baseman. In the week since the Red Sox’ 13-inning marathon with the Orioles June 13, a 5-4 loss, Pedroia is 2-for-21 with more strikeouts (four) than walks (three).
— After David Ortiz‘ home run in the fourth, Mike Napoli hit a ground ball deep in the shortstop hole. Jhonny Peralta came up with it and made a strong, accurate throw to get Napoli at first — by plenty. Replays showed Napoli didn’t run hard out of the box, and whether it was a mere lack of effort or something more — be it his hip condition or remnants of an illness that kept him out of three games late last week — it’s not good news for the first baseman, who has just two extra-base hits this month. He went 1-for-4 with a strikeout.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
— John Lackey turned in his second consecutive impressive outing, needing 98 pitches (64 strikes) to toss an efficient seven innings and strike out five against the team with the second highest runs per game in the AL. He allowed two runs on seven hits and a walk to lower his ERA on the season to 3.03 and register his sixth quality start in his last seven outings.
The 6-foot-6 right-hander was particularly sharp early — he set Miguel Cabrera down after back-to-back swings and misses to highlight the opening frame — and he needed 57 pitches in the first four innings, facing just two batters over the minimum in the process.
Lackey did, however, run into trouble in the fifth. With two outs, Austin Jackson‘s soft grounder to third was good for a single to load the bases. Torii Hunter followed by dropping a bloop into right to knot things at two. Lackey ended the Tigers’ lone rally by fanning Cabrera, again swinging.
The dangerous duo of Cabrera and Prince Fielder was a combined 2-for-6 with two strikeouts and three runners stranded.
— In contrast to his past two seasons, Ortiz has not enjoyed the same success against left-handers as right-handers — he started Thursday night with a .235/.292/.432 slash line against southpaws — but against the Tigers at Comerica Park in the opener of the teams’ four-game weekend set, he bucked that trend in a big way. The burly designated hitter went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBIs, both run-scoring base knocks coming off of lefties.
Ortiz swatted an 88 mph Jose Alvarez fastball to right field for a fourth-inning leadoff homer to get the scoring started, then had the eventual game-winning single in the eighth. He made Tigers reliever Phil Coke pay for walking Shane Victorino and Dustin Pedroia back-to-back to start the inning when he grounded a 1-0 fastball through the right side to plate Victorino and give the Sox a 3-2 lead.
— The baseball gods continued to look favorably upon Jose Iglesias, who got the start at shortstop over Stephen Drew. The red-hot shortstop-turned-utility-infielder walked during Alvarez’ bout of wildness in the third, then saw his fifth-inning line drive to right-center turn into the first triple of his major league career when Hunter misplayed it in right field. Iglesias came around to score when Jacoby Ellsbury lined a single to center one batter later.
— In true Red Sox fashion, the team knocked out Tigers starter Alvarez, a former Boston farmhand making his second big league start, after just five innings and 85 pitches. Twenty-seven of those pitches came in a scoreless third inning. Although no one came up with a big hit, Ryan Lavarnway and Will Middlebrooks worked deep counts before making outs, then Iglesias and Elssbury walked.
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