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Closing Time: Brandon Workman falters early as Red Sox fall to Cardinals

08.07.14 at 11:28 pm ET
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Brandon Workman generally has been presumed to be near the front of the line in terms of the Red Sox‘ prospects who are candidates for the 2015 rotation. Between his contributions in a pennant race and the postseason in 2013 and his strong early performance out of the bullpen and in the rotation in 2014, Workman had earned the trust of team officials and members of the coaching staff. He opened his big league career with eight straight starts of at least five innings and no more than three runs allowed, the longest such run at the start of a Red Sox pitcher’s career since World War II.

But those promising initial returns — the ones that relegated Felix Doubront to the bullpen and ultimately started him on a path to the end of his Red Sox career — have given way to less consistent outcomes of late.

On Thursday, in the Red Sox’ 5-2 loss to the Cardinals, Workman had an unspectacular outing of 5 1/3 innings in which he gave up four runs on six hits, including a double and solo homer. He walked two and punched out five. It marked the fifth straight outing in which Workman had allowed four or more runs, a stretch in which he has a 6.04 ERA.

Despite the four-run yield, Workman did get the game back under control after he permitted three runs on a leadoff walk and four hits in the first. He navigated through the next three innings without giving up another run, allowing the Sox to get back into the contest, before he permitted one last run (on a solo homer) in his fifth inning of work.

The ability to recover from a tough start suggests a kind of mound maturity, the ability to settle rather than to have a bad start unravel his outing completely. Nonetheless, whereas the early view of Workman was of a pitcher who was giving his team a chance to win, the more recent one has been of a pitcher who has had to work to give his team a chance to come back.

Perhaps it’s related to the fatigue of having pitched through October in 2013 — basically tacking on two more months to his season than he’d ever pitched before. Perhaps it’s just a hiccup from which Workman will recover down the stretch.

Nonetheless, at a time when pitchers like Joe KellyRubby De La Rosa and Anthony Ranaudo have impressed, it remains possible that Workman could fall behind that group in the starting pitcher pecking order.

For the Sox, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Workman has already shown the ability to be a reliable setup man in a playoff run. Still, for now, for the first time in the big leagues, Workman is failing to take advantage of an opportunity that is in front of him.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

Jackie Bradley Jr. went 0-for-3 with a strikeout. He’s now 0-for-27 to drop his season average to .216 with a .584 OPS.

— Left-hander Craig Breslow allowed a solo homer to Kolten Wong, the third straight game in which he’s given up a homer and the fourth straight in which he’s permitted a run. Breslow’s ERA is now 5.01. The six homers he’s yielded this year mark his highest allowance since he gave up nine with the A’s in 2010.

— The Sox were 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

Will Middlebrooks went 1-for-3 while collecting a double to right field against Adam Wainwright. The two-bagger was notable for two reasons. First, Middlebrooks delivered his extra-base hit to right field, offering a reminder of his ability to drive the ball to all fields. Secondly, it was Middlebrooks’ first extra-base hit against a right-handed pitcher since April 29. Since that contest, he’d been hitting .114/.244/.114 against righties.

Dustin Pedroia went 1-for-2 with a pair of walks, his first multi-walk game since June 13. In his last 12 games, Pedroia is now hitting .370/.408/.500.

Christian Vazquez had a run-scoring single with two outs against Wainwright. Though he later whiffed with a man on second, the catcher is now 7-for-18 (.389) with runners in scoring position in his brief exposure to the big leagues.

— For the second straight game, Xander Bogaerts slammed a double to left-center. For the second time in two months, he now has back-to-back games in which he’s collected extra-base hits.

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