BOSTON (CBS) -- Garrett Whitlock is the best -- and most important -- pitcher on the Red Sox staff. With a bullpen that can't seem to close out games, he'd probably be best served coming out to shut the door in not only the ninth, but also the eighth inning.
But Whitlock is currently being used as a starter, which is unfortunate. He's actually pretty good in that role, since he's a damn fine pitcher, but it all goes to waste when the Boston bullpen can't close down those solid performances.
That was the case Wednesday night. After Whitlock tossed five strong innings of two-run ball against the Angels, sitting down the first 13 batters he faced in order and striking out nine overall, the bullpen blew it for him. Twice. The end result was a 10-5 loss in 10 innings that dropped the Red Sox to a woeful 10-15 on the season.
Boston is now up to eight blown saves on the season, three more than the Blue Jays, White Sox and Brewers. The team is locking down just 38 percent of their save chances. The next-worst teams, the Mariners and the Royals, are at least closing out half of their save attempts.
Austin Davis blew a 3-2 Boston lead in the seventh on Wednesday night, allowing a solo shot by Anthony Rendon. After Xander Bogaerts put the Red Sox back on top in the bottom of the eighth with a moon shot, Hansel Robles walked a pair of batters in the top of the ninth, both of whom scored when Jake Diekman surrendered an RBI single to Jack Walsh.
If only there were a pitcher on the Boston staff who could give the team multiple innings of scoreless relief. The only reliable arm that can do that is Whitlock, who has proven capable of shutting down offenses for multiple innings. No other Red Sox reliever seems capable of doing that for multiple batters.
Yet Whitlock remains in the Boston rotation, and because he's a great pitcher, he's succeeding in that role. And it doesn't sound like Alex Cora will be changing that up anytime soon.
"It all depends how you see it. He gave us 15 outs," the manager said after Wednesday's defeat. "Everybody has to do their job at the end of the day. We cannot rely on one guy. We saw what he did last year, what he did early on. He's done an amazing job starting for us, too. He's not going to pitch every day. The other guys have to step up, and so far it's been inconsistent."
It doesn't help Cora or the bullpen that the Red Sox came into the season without a closer. Several have tried, but as the stats show, many have failed. Matt Barnes has not been the same since his All-Star nod (and contract extension) last season, and his four-run (three earned) 10th inning on Wednesday night ballooned his ERA to 8.64.
But Whitlock has now made three starts for Boston, and the Red Sox have ultimately lost them all. The first two losses had more with the offense's inability to score runs. Wednesday night obviously fell on the bullpen.
There doesn't seem to be any answers for the bullpen on the horizon, unless the Sox move Whitlock back to his reliever role. Connor Seabold has been nearly lights out for the Worcester Red Sox, sporting a 3-0 record, 1.63 ERA and .173 batting average against in his five starts in Triple-A, and could take Whitlock's spot in the starting five.
But it really doesn't matter what the Red Sox get out of their starters if the bullpen can't close things out. At some point, Cora won't have any other option than to move Whitlock back into the bullpen.
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