I honestly just don’t know what to say. How can a team be so good and so bad at the same time? Against all odds, the Red Sox were able to get a good start from Clay Buchholz and actually take a 3-1 heading into the bottom of the 8th inning. Since Wednesday night’s game was shortened, the entire Sox bullpen had a day of rest and the only unavailable pitcher was Matt Barnes since he tossed 2+ innings on Tuesday. You would’ve thought that in a tight 8th inning, John Farrell would bring in his set up man Brad Ziegler. Seeing as though you acquired him due to his experience in the late innings, this would make the most sense. Once again John Farrell took the logical thing to do, thought of the exact opposite move, and did that instead.
Farrell’s choice was to bring in Junichi Tazawa. Yes, the same Junichi Tazawa who has now allowed 17 earned runs in his last 27.1 innings pitched. For those of you who are wondering, that’s a 5.60 ERA over his last 30 appearances. Just as everyone except John Farrell predicted, Tazawa came in and allowed 3 hits and 3 earned runs without even recording an out. Ziegler came in to try and clean up Tazawa’s mess, but was not able to stop the bleeding. If Ziegler comes in to start the inning, there’s no doubt in my mind that the Red Sox go into the 9th inning with the lead. Despite his appearance against Arizona this weekend, Ziegler is not a strikeout pitcher. He pitches to contact and is going to give up his fair share of hits. However, if he comes into a clean inning, it is more likely than not that he’ll get through it without giving up any runs. What we saw Thursday demonstrates why you can’t bring in a contact pitcher in pressure situations with runners on base. Ziegler’s fastball tops out at about 85 mph. This means that if he doesn't have pinpoint accuracy, the ball is going to get hit hard. This led him to walk in a run with the bases loaded because he was afraid to come into the zone.
It feels like at least once every week, John Farrell gives away a game that the Red Sox are in position to win. In each of their last 3 losses, the Sox have had the lead going into the 7th inning. This means that somewhere along the line, someone messed up. Don’t get me wrong, this Red Sox bullpen is pretty brutal. The problem here is that Farrell is not making the right moves with the pitchers that he has available. If Farrell puts Ziegler into the game and this happens to him, this entire article is about how the Sox need to figure out what they’re going to do about this bullpen. Instead, Farrell made yet another terrible decision sending all Red Sox fans into a state of outrage. Unless Dave Dombrowski is just plain stupid, he has to be seeing things the same way that we are. In this case, Farrell’s time in Boston is limited.
If Dombrowski is committed to the team winning this year, Farrell will not be making the trip to Tampa Bay. You can’t continue to keep losing winnable games because your manager is incompetent. You have a perfectly fine replacement earning a manager's salary serving as your bench coach. I wish WAR (Wins above replacement) was a stat for managers. I am absolutely positive that John Farrell’s would be a very large negative number. If Farrell finishes the season as the Sox manager, Dave Dombrowski needs to reevaluate his life.
As far as the players in this game, Clay Buchholz exceeded expectations going 6 innings while allowing just 1 earned run. It turns out that being moved to the bullpen and changing his release point have allowed him to become an effective pitcher again. Even after Steven Wright’s return, the Sox will have a solid spot starter going forward and that can be a valuable asset for this team. Sandy Leon went yard for the second straight game to tie the game at 1 in the early going. Leon has continued to hit all season since his call up, and if he can keep it up down the stretch I’m excited to see if he can lead the charge to the playoffs. This was a good all around day for the team after arriving at the hotel just 9 hours before game time. It’s sad that it had to be ruined by their dreadful manager and a reliever who can’t get outs anymore. The Sox send Rick Porcello to the mound on Friday. This is exactly who you want to see in a game that you need to win in order to get back on track. Porcello will be looking for his 17th win, and for the sake of John Farrell I hope he gets it. If the Sox start to skid, everyone is going to look at Farrell's mistake as the starting point for the team's misfortunes.