Game 142: Houston Astros at Red Sox (September 7, 2018)

Finally. This was a series I had been looking forward to for the better part of a month and while the sweep of the Braves was fun, now is when I consider the stretch run to really begin. This series has three games all with excellent pitching match ups and it started off with David Price going against Gerrit Cole. The Red Sox were riding high off of the road sweep in Atlanta punctuated by the comeback in the finale; the hope was that it would carry over to this opening game against an excellent Houston team.

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Unfortunately, the end result ended up being anti-climactic and it was the usual suspects who were to blame (more on that below although if you watched the game, you'll know exactly who I'm talking about). The Red Sox picked up the first run of the game in the bottom of the first inning when JD Martinez hit a sacrifice fly to drive in Mookie Betts. They picked up another in the fourth off of Xander Bogaerts' 20th home run of the season which made it 2-0. The way Price was cruising through the game, it seemed like that just might have been enough to hold off Houston. However, as they've done all season the Red Sox bullpen snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. First was Ryan Brasier (who has actually been the best Boston reliever over the last month) giving up an RBI double to Yuli Gurriel in the seventh. He then gave up a two-RBI double to Tony Kemp and all of a sudden the Astros had a 3-2 lead. In the bottom of the inning it was JD to the rescue when his single drove Jackie Bradley in to tie it. At that point it seemed as though Boston had seized the momentum from Houston and had it swinging their way, but unfortunately they couldn't do more than tie the game. The real bullpen implosion came in the eighth inning and lays solely at the feet of Joe Kelly. I don't know what's wrong with this guy but for his entire career here in Boston, he has never been able to put it all together for more than a short spurt here or there. He'll look great for a couple of weeks and then he'll be atrocious for a month. Then he'll look good again for a week, then terrible for a month, and the cycle will keep repeating. All you ever hear about is how hard he throws, but I've said for the last two seasons that he seems to have the most hittable 100 mph fastball in the league. And what good is throwing 99 or 100 mph if you have lousy control like Kelly? Back to the game, he loaded the bases with no outs and then completely fell on his face. First, Carlos Correa hit a sac fly to bring in a run and then Kelly uncorked a wild pitch to allow Jose Altuve in. At that point both my oldest daughter and I threw our hands up in disgust at what we were seeing. Kelly then served up an RBI single to Tyler White which made it 6-3 Houston. The damage was done and the collapse was complete. I don't care that he can throw hard, that he's "Jim Buchanan," or that he fought Tyler Austin in the first Yankees series back in the spring...Kelly is a bum and shouldn't sniff the postseason roster. Sadly, because the Sox and Dave Dombrowski have done such an atrocious job of building this bullpen over the last few seasons, Kelly is still a viable option among a whole host of lousy ones. That speaks more to how putrid the bullpen as a whole is. I've been saying it all season and I'll say it again: if this team makes an early exit in the postseason, it's going to be because of the bullpen. Mark my words. In today's modern era of postseason baseball where rotations get shortened, starters don't go as deep, and every pitch counts this bullpen will doom this team.

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I'm not going to go so far as to say this was the worst loss of the season, but it's one of them. It certainly might now be the most frustrating; this was a very winnable game that turned into a crushing loss. It also wasted an excellent performance from David Price who struck out ten, walked only two, and only gave up two runs on two hits in his 6.1 innings of work. And what does he have to show for it? A no decision and more resentment toward the bullpen. Brasier stumbled after looking so good the last month and Kelly...I've already said my piece above, but this guy just does not or can not get it. It's never going to get this point, he is who he is and the sooner the Red Sox can cut bait with him, the better. At the plate, the Sox were alright; Houston outhit them 10-8, but Boston had their chances. Certainly with two on and one out in the eighth, they should've gotten something going. It's time now to wash the bad taste of this loss away and move on to the next game. Saturday's tilt features another great pitching match up, this one between Eduardo Rodriguez and Charlie Morton. If they're true to form, the Red Sox should come storming back in the middle game to avenge losing the opener...I sure hope so, because another loss like this won't do much for instilling confidence as we march closer to October, that's for sure.