Bullpen hiccups prove costly for Red Sox

April 18th, 2016

BOSTON -- Clinging to a one-run lead late on Patriots' Day, Red Sox manager John Farrell went to his best bullpen arms in the eighth inning, and that was when the wheels fell off in an eventual 4-3 loss to the Blue Jays.

By the end of the frame, which started with Koji Uehara on the mound and ended with Craig Kimbrel, the lead had turned into a three-run deficit.

"That bullpen group knows that they're there to pick each other up in certain situations," Farrell said. "The highest-leverage inning was clearly the eighth, and hopefully we don't find ourselves in that spot too often."

A leadoff single to Kevin Pillar turned into a one-base error when third baseman Josh Rutledge, who made a great play on the ball ranging into foul territory, saw his throw kick off the glove of Travis Shaw at first, before rolling into the camera well. Uehara then allowed a free pass to pinch-hitter Justin Smoak who was pinch-run for by Darwin Barney.

With Michael Saunders at bat, catcher Christian Vazquez had a pitch elude his mitt and both runners moved into scoring position without an out recorded.

"There were some things that contributed inside the inning," said Farrell. "Josh is trying to make just an outstanding play and unfortunately it goes off the glove, and here you got a guy going to second base. Uncharacteristic for Vazquez to miss a ball. He was anticipating a bunt to bounce out and try to field the ball. It just put guys in scoring position."

Pillar scored the tying run on a groundout to the shifted Xander Bogaerts, who went to first with his throw, then Uehara followed with a hit by pitch and walk to load the bases before getting pulled from the game.

"It was probably just early morning, my body was probably not awake," Uehara explained. "I'll do my best tomorrow."

Farrell then summoned Kimbrel into a situation that he hadn't experienced since 2014. It looked to be the right move when the hard-throwing closer punched out Edwin Encarnacion on strikes, but he followed that with a walk to Troy Tulowitzki that put Toronto ahead.

Then came a nine-pitch battle with Russell Martin that was ultimately won by the Blue Jays' catcher who, after fouling off five pitches in the at-bat, stroked a two-run single into center field.

"You still have to attack," said Kimbrel of his mindset against Martin. "With three runners on, you don't want to lay one right down the middle -- he'll hit it as hard as he can. You still got to try and go after him and make a good pitch. It was unfortunate that I didn't do it."

The Sox did mount a comeback attempt in the ninth, pulling within a run after Shaw and Hanley Ramirez each drove in a run. But the pinch-hitting David Ortiz could not provide the final touches on the day, as he went down looking to end the game.