Matt Barnes

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Tomase: John Farrell explains why he went to Matt Barnes in eighth

John Tomase
August 22, 2017 - 12:11 am
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CLEVELAND -- John Farrell didn't necessarily want to turn to Matt Barnes in the eighth inning on Monday night with the Red Sox beating the Indians by a run. But his options were limited.

Addison Reed wasn't available after throwing twice in the previous three days. Farrell similarly wanted to avoid closer Craig Kimbrel and setup man Brandon Workman.

With switch hitter Francisco Lindor weaker from the left side and right-hander Austin Jackson due up second, Farrell was left with basically two options in relief of Joe Kelly, who had already retired four batters: Barnes and fellow right-hander Heath Hembree.

He chose Barnes because of experience. Red Sox fans gulped hard at the choice, and Farrell probably did, too.

It didn't work.

Barnes' mystifying road struggles once again struck. He walked Lindor, allowed a single to Jackson, and was lifted for Hembree, who surrendered the tying single before the Indians walked off Workman on Brock Holt's error in the ninth of a 5-4 victory.

"Addison Reed was not available tonight, and I was trying to stay away from Workman as well, given the workload the previous series, the stress to the pitches that they threw in the New York series, so we went to Barnes in the eighth," Farrell said. "Unfortunately, it didn't work out."

With 38 games remaining and the Red Sox pointed comfortably toward the playoffs, Farrell finds himself thinking big-picture. That means not forcing the issue with his relievers. He has already given Hembree a 10-day rest this month, and he has only asked Reed to pitch on back-to-back days once since he arrived at the trade deadline. He was particularly concerned with the 30 pressure-packed pitches Reed threw in Friday's win over the Yankees.

From here on out, Farrell's job isn't just winning, but taking a healthy team into the playoffs.

"That's all factored in," he said. "We do have a sense of urgency every day to close games out, but with nearly 40 games to go, there are still health concerns and injury potential that has to be brought into this. So that's where the decision on who was available tonight comes in."

That said, Barnes's struggles on the road have become impossible to ignore. He's got a 1.95 ERA at home with five times as many strikeouts (41) as walks (8). On the road, the ERA balloons to 5.35 and the strikeout-to-walk (25-to-19) is practically even.

"I'm well aware of the home-road splits, but on a night where if I use Kimbrel tonight, he's got the need for one, if not two days off -- that's why you need the contributions from everyone," Farrell said.

For his part, Barnes isn't sure why he struggles with his command away from Fenway.

"Honestly, if I could tell you what it is right now, it probably wouldn't be happening," he said. "The only thing I can say is we'll sit down, try to figure it out, work on it, move forward from there and keep plugging away at it. . . . That one's on me. I've got to be better in the eighth there getting the leadoff guy to at least be competitive, to at least make pitches to force him to get his way on."

Barnes refused to use fatigue as an excuse.

"I haven't talked to anybody about taking time off," he said. "I challenge you to find somebody who isn't tired. We've played 120 games and we're in the thick of things right now. This is the part where you kind of have to man up and find a way to get through it and still perform and finish the season strong."

With the Red Sox cruising to the postseason, the biggest concern is clearly shaping up to be how they'll bridge the seventh and eighth innings to Kimbrel.

Monday night reminded us that, for all the good the setup men have done this year, it's hard to feel much better than uneasy about their prospects come October.

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