Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell on Thursday night was preaching patience for Joel Hanrahan in the closer’s role, claiming that he needed time to work out the kinks from moving to the American League from the National league, and that he was confident Hanrahan would figure it out…
…but the dreaded vote of confidence is dreaded for a reason, because once it’s issued, you have precious little time to make your boss look good.
On Saturday afternoon, Hanrahan did not make his boss look good.
After getting shelled in his last two appearances, Hanrahan looked tentative, trying to guide his ball instead of just releasing it, and the results were predictable. Walking the only two batters he faced in the top of the ninth, the offseason pick up from Philadelphia gave way to Koji Uehara who got a key strike out to rescue the Red Sox…
…then Shane Victorino lined a sharp infield hit in the bottom of the 10th as Boston turned to small ball to beat the Tampa Bay Rays 2-1 at Fenway Park on Saturday afternoon.
A pitcher’s duel, the game was tied at 1-1 when Hanrahan came out of the bullpen to start the top of the ninth with a chance to get the Sox to their half of the inning with an opportunity to win, but two quick walks and Farrell yanked his closer for Uehara, who pitched his way out of the jam and laid some major skin on his teammates as he returned to the dugout following the third out.
The bottom of the ninth and top of the 10th passed quietly, then with one out in the bottom of the 10th, Jacoby Ellsbury singled to center off Brandon Gomes, then stole second and also took third as the throw from Rays’ catcher Jose Lobaton also found Centerfield. Victorino then hit a hard grounder into a five-man infield that second baseman Ben Zobrist made a diving stop on to his right, but was unable to make a throw home.
Hanrahan’s difficulties nearly wasted a superb pitching performance from Jon Lester, who gave up just one run on five hits, notching five whiffs and surrendering just one free pass in seven solid innings. His counterpart wasn’t too shabby either, David Price going six innings, allowing one run on a park job by Sox backup catcher David Ross while striking out eight.
Lester threw 100 pitches and stayed on the bench to start the 8th, giving way to Andrew Bailey who pitched a perfect inning before giving way to Hanrahan. Bailey and the excitable Uehara both gave good auditions for the closer’s role in the event Farrell wants to make a change and Junichi Tazawa took the win to improve his record to 2-0.
The teams meet again on Sunday afternoon with Alex Cobb taking the bump for the Rays and Clay Buchholz doing the honors for the Red Sox.
Despite their average record and showing any offensive prowess only in spurts, the Red Sox are winning with solid starting pitching and phenomenal work out of the pen, Hanrahan’s struggles notwithstanding…
…and with him already receiving the dreaded vote of confidence from Farrell, Hanrahan’s leash will be very short. Farrell has already shown his hand as he was prepared to go with Uehara if his big, hard throwing righty struggled, so the new Sox manager may have seen enough already.