Some will blame the praying mantis in the dugout for fueling the Royals’ latest rally, an eight-run sixth inning on Sunday night, but the Red Sox bullpen helped, too.
Up 4-2 on surging Kansas City entering the sixth inning, Boston was in an okay, if precarious, position. They had the lead, they had bested Yordano Ventura, David Ortiz had hit a home run - the game had all the makings of a beautiful Sunday night at Fenway. But then, in the sixth, the bullpen gate started swinging and the Royals were circling the bases.
With the bases loaded, Salvador Perez clipped an infield hit off reliever Matt Barnes and made it 4-3. Then, Royals rookie Raul Mondesi, eager to cause problems, crashed a three-run triple to the deepest part of the stadium that he had desperately wanted to be an inside-the-park home run. John Farrell let Barnes hit a batter and give up another single (by now, the Royals had an 8-4 lead) before yanking him in favor of Robbie Ross. Ross gave up two more hits before the inning concluded, with Kansas City having scored eight runs and ruining the chances that Boston could gain any ground in the AL East.
For anyone who’d been watching, this was not weird.
Through 7 innings tonight the Red Sox bullpen has an August ERA of 5.65— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) August 29, 2016
40 earned runs in 63 2/3 IP
It’s no secret that the Red Sox bullpen has become the team’s soft underbelly. In a close race—Boston is separated from division-leading Toronto by two games and only one game up on the Orioles—one wrong pitch is enough to end the season.
Of course, no one knows that better than Jonathan Papelbon. The 35-year-old closer recently lost his job with the Nationals, and while he’s not the pitcher he was when he won a pair of World Series titles with the Red Sox, he would still be considered an improvement to the mess that is currently sitting in the bullpen waiting for the phone to ring. And the Red Sox know it.
Dombrowski on Papelbon "we did express some interest, but he has to decide what he wants to do. We are open, we did call, he has to decide"— MLB Network Radio (@MLBNetworkRadio) August 24, 2016
Or at least, they did know it. It’s a chore to acquire a player after the July trade deadline, so Boston would have to really think bringing in a guy who allowed 8 ER, 11 H, and 6 BB in 6.1 IP in the second half would be worth it. Dave Dombrowski had apparently felt like it was an idea worth discussing a few days ago, but already that plan may have begun to fade, according to CSN NE:
The bullpen could sorely use some reinforcements, but the difficulty of obtaining help at this time of year -- when players changing teams must first clear waivers -- is problematic.
Asked recently the odds of the Sox making a deal to bolster the team's relief group, an industry source responded: "Pretty slim.''
So, the Red Sox might just have to bite the bullet and hope this pen can turn things around in an insanely brief time period. Either that or go get a predatory insect of their own to kiss.