The Red Sox were victorious Tuesday night in a high-scoring thriller, but Matt Barnes failed to convert a save for the second straight night as Hansel Robles saved the day for Boston.
“I think frustrated is probably a bit of an understatement,” said Barnes on Tuesday night. “It’s been a tough couple of weeks for me. 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 has been pretty true.”
Tuesday, the closer went out for a save opportunity. He served up a leadoff homer to make it 11-9 before walking the next two batters. Robles would manage to strike out the next three to capture his first save as a Sox.
The day before, on Monday versus the Rangers, he allowed two runs on four hits only notching one out, as Garrett Whitlock would relieve Barnes and save the day. The game would be sent to extras, and Boston walked it off in the 11th with Travis Shaw’s grand slam.
“We’re concerned,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “Yeah, we are. Obviously, we’re not going to pick on the guy but we have to make adjustments, whatever it is. We’ve been talking about it.”
Barnes has three losses and two blown saves issued to his name this month, but those stats can be quite flawed considering they don’t count games like Tuesday night.
“Baseball is a funny game man,” Barnes added. “Between yesterday and today I thought I made some really good pitches, minus the double that the guy hit yesterday and minus the two walks today obviously. But, the pitches that I made on the three singles yesterday and the homer today to Donaldson, it’s exactly where I’m trying to throw it. I don’t think any of those are bad pitches.”
The month of August has been a nightmare for the Connecticut native. He’s seen a career-best 2.21 ERA that he held to start the month dip all the way down to 3.91 in a matter of just exactly 20 days.
“The one to Donaldson tonight, I threw a curveball, and then I threw a fastball in the same slot above the zone and he hit it 400 and some off feet,” Barnes said. “It’s a frustrating game. I don’t know if you’re going to find somebody that’s more frustrated than me right now. We’re gonna keep grinding. Listen hey, the biggest takeaway from tonight obviously, Robles came in obviously and picked me up and picked the guys up. The offense was incredible tonight — those guys put a lot of incredible at-bats together. At the end of the day, it’s about winning ball games right now. Plain and simple. I picked a bad time to start sucking. It’s about winning ballgames. Even with my struggles the last couple of nights guys have come through in the clutch and picked me up and we won both ballgames, which I think is really important to make sure everybody understands that. So, I’m gonna keep grinding man. We got 30 some odd games left, little over a month before the postseason, I’m gonna keep working. It ain’t gonna stop now. I anticipate fully getting into the postseason with this squad. I’m making sure that I’m doing my part. And that’s the end of it, right? It’s not gonna stop now.”
Barnes says his role is to be a good teammate by cheering his colleagues on, instead of sitting in the back of the dugout even after a rough outing.
“In a situation like that,” said Barnes, “listen like, I could be pissed at myself later, I could be selfish and slam stuff or go back to my apartment and be pissed off worry about all that nonsense later. The most important thing in that moment is being a good teammate to Robles — plain and simple. He’s coming in, trying to clean up my mess, trying to help us win the ballgame and close that down for us, my sole job there is to cheer him on as loud as I can. Had nothing to do with my runners being on base, it’s about winning ballgames. And every ballgame that we win now helps us moving forward in trying to get back to the postseason. I thought it would’ve been incredibly selfish of myself to sit in the back while everybody’s up there cheering and (Robles) is trying to clean up my mess. I thought that the right thing to do was to be a good teammate and be on the top step cheering him on.”
Now, the Sox have an interesting decision to make. To go along with Barnes’ struggles, the team has seen a recent decline in performance too. With Boston barely in a playoff spot, compared to the beginning of July where they comfortably sat first place in the division, they can’t afford to continue to drop games because of Barnes. Although the team was able to win in the past two nights, consistently blowing saves is not something that will set a team up for success, as fans saw in 2019. They have also lost three games this month solely because of Barnes.
“I’m gonna leave that decision up to AC and Bush,” Barnes stated. “I’m gonna be ready whenever that phone rings. We’re gonna continue to work, we’re gonna get this right. Make no mistake — this is gonna get fixed and I’m gonna go back to being exactly what I was three weeks ago. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind about that. Whatever AC and Bush wanna 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.”
Barnes started attacking the zone more, and developed a strategy that served him well for the first four months of the season. As mentioned, he had a career-best 2.25 ERA at the very beginning of August and has recently seen his ERA drop just below his career mark.
“I’d be lying to you if I told you that it’s easy to stay the course right now when every quality pitch that I throw is getting hit,” Barnes said. “But, the percentages have to play themselves. I don’t know. I’ll sit down with Bushy and AC tomorrow and we’ll continue to work through it. It’s definitely frustrating, it’s definitely difficult to say the path or to stay the course when it doesn’t go your way. Anything is easy to buy into when it’s all going great and things are awesome. But, I’ve always been better when I’m in the zone. I mean, just plain and simple. I think the first four and a half months of this season were by far the best months of my career because of that. So while it might be frustrating and while I do think some good pitches are getting hits, I don’t know that changing my game plan completely because of four or five games out of 50 is necessarily the right answer. But, that’s a discussion to be had tomorrow.”
(Photo By Stuart Cahill/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)