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Sox squander superb Sale start, lose in extras

@IanMBrowne
June 11, 2019

BOSTON -- The bullpen -- which doesn’t have a lockdown closer -- again became an issue for the Red Sox in an 11-inning, 4-3 loss to the Rangers on Monday night at Fenway Park. First, Matt Barnes couldn’t hold a 2-1 lead in the ninth. Instead, he gave up a

BOSTON -- The bullpen -- which doesn’t have a lockdown closer -- again became an issue for the Red Sox in an 11-inning, 4-3 loss to the Rangers on Monday night at Fenway Park.

First, Matt Barnes couldn’t hold a 2-1 lead in the ninth. Instead, he gave up a two-out, go-ahead single to Nomar Mazara.

Box score

Though the Red Sox swiftly came back to tie it on Brock Holt's RBI single with two outs in the bottom of the inning, there would be more bullpen issues later.

Ryan Brasier came on in the 11th and gave up a leadoff double to Danny Santana and then an RBI single to Elvis Andrus that wound up as the game-winning hit.

With the July 31 Trade Deadline less than two months away, there will be scrutiny on whether Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski will upgrade the ‘pen for his struggling team, which is 1-4 on the current homestand and 34-33 overall. The Sox trail the Rays by eight games in the American League East.

“Every part of baseball and a team -- bullpen, bats, starters, everybody -- goes through little ups and downs,” Brasier said. “I think we're just in a little rough patch right now. But every day coming in and trying to get out of it is big for us right now. Hopefully we can string some zeroes together on the back end and get back on track."

The Red Sox have spent the early portion of the season trying to get by without a set closer. Barnes, their best reliever, has been used in a variety of ways in the late innings.

In this one, he was asked to be a traditional closer.

Was that an adjustment?

“No, I just sucked tonight,” said Barnes. “Plain and simple.”

Of late, the righty has struggled, giving up at least one run in three of his last four outings. Barnes is 4-for-8 in save opportunities this season. In his last nine outings, he has a 9.82 ERA.

“I think he hasn’t been as sharp, obviously,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “We talked about it a few weeks ago, the way we were using him, using him against the middle of the lineup the whole time. We’ve been trying to give him a breather here and there, but he knows his job. He was in a situation here, three outs from winning the game, and we didn’t complete the job."

Brasier, who was projected to be the team’s other top reliever this season, has also been inconsistent.

"Made a couple pitches that they were able to get barrel on,” Brasier said. “Start any inning off with a double and you're kind of behind the 8 ball. Ground ball squeaked up the middle and they scored a run. So, one bad pitch and a good piece of hitting."

Baserunning confusion

The Red Sox came close to winning it in the ninth, moments after Holt’s equalizer. Marco Hernandez blooped one down the right-field line and it fell in front of Mazara. Holt tried to score all the way from first.

Third-base coach Andy Barkett put up the stop sign, but it might have been too late. Holt apparently didn’t see him and was tagged out by several feet to send the game to extra innings.

“The guy in right field, he’s got a good arm,” said Barkett. “I was trying to stay with him as long as I could and trying to make a decision and he kind of bobbled it at first and I read that.

“I knew it was going to be a late send if the ball kicked away from him or took a bad bounce of some sort. I threw my hands up, I really haven’t looked at the play in detail to say if I was late or not. I know he didn’t see me so that happened. I know he ran past me. He must have not seen me. Someone showed me an overhead view of when I threw my hands up, where he was. He just took his eye off me. I really don’t know. We had a miscommunication of some sort.”

Sale’s vintage effort again wasted

In what has become an all-too familiar theme for the Red Sox, Chris Sale pitches a gem and his team loses.

Coming off a complete-game shutout at Kansas City, Sale fired seven sparkling innings in this one, giving up three hits and no earned runs while walking one and striking out 10.

But the only run support he got was a two-run homer to left-center field by Andrew Benintendi in the bottom of the first. Sale’s 3.52 ERA is now the exact same as his run-support average.

More importantly, the Red Sox are somehow 4-10 when their ace starts.

Then again, Boston’s offense has struggled throughout the homestand.

“We’ve been talking about it for a while here,” said Cora. “We had a chance to add on throughout the game and we didn’t. It’s been the story of us the last month. We haven’t been able to put teams away offensively. We’ve got to do a better job.”

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.