Whatever mess the Red Sox bullpen gets itself into, there’s always Brandon Workman to clean it up.
On a night that should’ve been a smooth-sailing victory against the only-good-against-the-Red-Sox team from Canada, Workman had to bail out an underwhelming effort by newly-bestowed set-up man Josh Taylor and save the Red Sox from themselves.
Workman entered to protect a one-run lead with two on and one out in the eighth and struck out both Blue Jays batters he faced to end the threat, then went out and pitched the ninth inning after the offense gave him an insurance run.
It was a battle the whole way. Workman allowed a run in the ninth, but the Sox needed every one of his 45 pitches to close the door on a 5-4 win against the Toronto Blue Jays that kept them within three games of the second wild card spot with the trade deadline less than two weeks away.
The Sox remain a flawed team and one might wonder if there are too many holes to fix — or if it’s even worth trying to fix it.
But as shaky as the bullpen continues to be, Workman hasn’t lost a step.
While Marcus Walden and Matt Barnes lost some gas during a pair of horrific stretches to end the first half, Workman has arguably gotten better.
His fastball velocity has jumped 1-2 mph in the last month. His curveball has remained sharp. And he hasn’t allowed a home run since May 14.
Nothing about Josh Taylor signaled “set-up man” leading into the season, but the 26-year-old lefty has emerged as a favorite of manager Alex Cora lately. With the heart of the order (three right-handed hitters) all due up to start the eighth, Cora called on the lefty Taylor for the hold.
In his first opportunity to protect a tight lead in the eighth, Taylor gave up a solo homer to Lourdes Gurriel Jr., hit a batter and walked another to cut the Sox’ lead to 4-3 with only one out.
Cora was saving Workman for the ninth but needed him early. He had pitched on both Sunday and Monday, but had no trouble striking out Justin Smoak on a painted curveball and Freddy Galvis on another deuce, this time in the dirt to end the eighth inning.
Workman faded a bit in the ninth, walking the first two batters and allowing a run on a single by Gurriel Jr., but he reached back to finish the game on a season-high 45 pitches. It was the most pitches he’s thrown since throwing 46 pitches in his return from Tommy John surgery on May 4, 2017.
Eduardo Rodriguez has quietly put together a dominant stretch, and against some tough teams.
He had his changeup working last night as he held the Jays to just three hits over 6-⅓ innings, though two of them left the park. Both were hit by Toescar Hernandez, who turns into Babe Ruth when he faces the Red Sox, with 11 homers in 30 career games against them.
Still, Rodriguez has impressive numbers against the Yankees, Tigers, Dodgers and Jays in his last four starts: 23-⅔ innings, 23 strikeouts, 10 walks and a 2.28 ERA.
Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers continued carrying the team on their backs with another strong performance at the plate. They combined to go 5-for-10 with four RBIs. Devers hit his 18th homer of the season.
Workman now has five saves on the year.
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