Barnes optimistic after finally faltering in 9th

May 16th, 2021

BOSTON -- elevated a fastball on the inside corner of the strike zone to Mike Trout, and he was ready to receive handshakes and hugs for his 10th save in as many opportunities this year.

But for the first time this season in a spot that mattered, Barnes had some misfortune. A bloop by Trout -- which had an exit velocity of 75.9 mph and an expected batting average of .110 -- fell into short right field for a single.

There went the 1-2-3 top of the ninth. Up next was the Angels’ other dangerous megastar, and Shohei Ohtani didn’t miss his chance to be the hero with two outs in the top of the ninth.

Ohtani lofted a first-pitch 96.6 mph fastball from Barnes for a two-run homer with a near-matching exit velocity (96.7 mph) that turned a one-run Boston lead into an eventual 6-5 Red Sox loss in the series finale.

It was the proverbial bloop and a blast -- a combo authored this time by two of the best players in baseball -- that sunk Barnes and the Red Sox on Sunday.

In this case, the bloop was the one that stung the most.

“Yeah, I mean, Trout, when it left his bat, I thought the game was over,” said Barnes. “I knew he wasn’t going to be camped under it, but I thought we were going to have somebody running right to it. But we didn't and that happens sometimes. It is what it is.”

It was the perfect storm for the Angels.

“I thought it had a chance and it did,” said Angels manager Joe Maddon. “They were playing big and no doubles. The second baseman was over [toward the middle of the infield]. So it was the perfect moment for us.”

And then Ohtani did what he did, hooking one down the line in right and pulling his gifted hands in just enough to keep it fair.

“I was looking at the ball and praying it was fair,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “That's all I was thinking."

The pitch that Barnes made to Ohtani would stay in the ballpark against most hitters. But Ohtani is in a special class, and Barnes knows it.

“I personally think he's the most physically gifted baseball player that we've ever seen,” Barnes said. “I don't know that you're ever going to see somebody who can throw 101 and hit the ball 600 feet. So, I mean, he's a special player. He's incredibly talented and hopefully he stays healthy and has a long career.”

Though Barnes is relatively new to the closing role, he has the demeanor and the mindset that should serve him well heading into his next outing.

“I don't consider my run over,” said Barnes. “I just gave up a couple runs today and lost the game. To be honest with you, I don’t know that I expected to go 100 percent [in save opportunities]. Obviously that would have been awesome, but a lot of things have to go right in this game for you to be 100 percent all the time. You know, go out there on Tuesday and if it’s a close game, get the ball again and then lock it down again.”

It was an entertaining weekend at Fenway in which the Red Sox took the first two games and were one out from a sweep.

They trailed 4-0 on Sunday and rallied for a four-spot to take the lead in the bottom of the fifth, as Rafael Devers smacked his 11th homer, a three-run shot to right on an 0-2 pitch.

That lead stood for 11 outs, including three from Phillips Valdez, three more from Josh Taylor, two from Adam Ottavino and three from Barnes.

Though the 12th out came too late, the Red Sox left Fenway with a 25-17 record and a 1 1/2-game lead over the Blue Jays in the American League East. A three-game showdown in Dunedin, Fla., with the Jays starts Tuesday night.

Barnes just hopes his team has the lead in the ninth so he gets the chance to wash away the taste of Sunday.