Sox may give Barnes break from closing

August 25th, 2021

BOSTON -- For the second straight game at Fenway Park, the Red Sox's bullpen turned in what could best be described as a high-wire act.

And for the second straight game, they somehow managed to hang on for the win, this time by an 11-9 score over the Twins.

Though the victories were needed for a team that is trying to stay in position to make it to the postseason, there is a significant problem brewing in the bullpen.

The main issue is this: Closer is struggling mightily.

It stands to reason that manager Alex Cora might need to give Barnes at least a break from closing duties so he can regain the command that made him an All-Star in the first half of the season.

"We're concerned, yeah, we are," said Cora. "Obviously we're not going to pick on the guy, but we have to make adjustments, whatever it is. We keep talking about it."

Barnes, who has always been accountable, said he will understand whatever path Cora chooses to take.

"I'm going to leave that decision up to AC and [pitching coach Dave Bush]," said Barnes. "I'm going to be ready whenever that phone rings. We're going to continue to work. We're going to get this right. Make no mistake -- this is going to get fixed and I'm going to go back to being exactly what I was three weeks ago. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind about that.

"Whatever AC and Bushy want to do that they feel is the right decision for the team to help us win ballgames, I will be completely on board with. That is the No. 1 goal right now. I'll say it over and over."

bailed Barnes out on Monday with some stellar relief work and Travis Shaw belted a walk-off grand slam.

On Tuesday night, it was to the rescue. After Barnes opened the ninth by giving up a homer and two walks, Cora came out to get him after just 12 pitches.

Robles converted the save in 21 pitches, striking out two of the three batters he faced. It was the 11th save of the season for Robles, but first with Boston. Robles got those first 10 saves for the Twins -- the team the Red Sox acquired him from in July.

"Hansel came in and did an amazing job. His stuff was electric. He was throwing 99 [mph] from the get-go and he picked everybody up tonight," said Cora.

"I was just pumped up," Robles said. "I had adrenaline flowing and I was excited to get the job done. I was waiting for a moment like this and I'm glad it happened. Obviously, Matt is our closer. I knew that was his moment. I always get myself ready just in case because you never know."

While Robles put out the fire, Barnes was the one doing the most emphatic cheering from the dugout.

"In a situation like that, I can be pissed at myself later. I can be selfish and slam stuff and go back to my apartment and be pissed off and worry about all that nonsense later, but the most important thing in that moment is me being a good teammate to Robles," said Barnes. "He's coming in, he's trying to clean up my mess trying to help us win a ballgame and close that down for us. My sole job there is to cheer him on."

In August, Barnes has a 16.88 ERA, having allowed 10 earned runs in 5 1/3 innings covering nine outings.

"I don't know if you're going to find someone that's more frustrated than me right now," said Barnes. "I picked a bad time to start sucking, but it's about winning ballgames. Even with my struggles the last couple of nights, guys have come through in the clutch to pick me up and we won both ballgames, which I think is really important -- to make sure everybody understands that."

On Wednesday, Barnes will go back to the drawing board and keep trying to make the adjustments that will get him back on track.

"It's been a tough couple of weeks for me," said Barnes. "I was dealing with some mechanical stuff with the ball leaking back over the middle of the zone. I feel like I've actually fixed that. I feel like the ball has been coming out pretty good and been pretty true. Baseball's a funny game, man. Between yesterday and today, I thought I made some really good pitches."

Barnes is far from the only player who has struggled on a team that led the American League East by 4 1/2 games on July 5 and now trails by 6 1/2 games.

However, the Sox are two games ahead of the A's for the second Wild Card spot.

"I anticipate fully getting to the postseason with this squad. I'm going to make sure that I do my part, and that's the end of it, right? It's not going to stop now," said Barnes. "I'll work with Bushy, I'll work with AC, [Jason Varitek], Kevin Walker, the video guys, see if anything is going on. See if we can draw up something, find something. We're going to keep working. That's kind of the bottom line."