By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- The Red Sox are sending five players to the All-Star Game next week in Denver. Closer Matt Barnes will go as the representative for the Sox' bullpen, which may be the best in all of baseball.
With a 3.46 ERA (third in AL), 28 saves (most in AL), and 352 strikeouts (fourth), the Boston bullpen has been a big part of the team's 53-32 start to the season. And while the likes of Barnes and Adam Ottavino get the most attention in their high-profile roles at the end of ballgames, the rest of the group has performed at tremendous levels for quite some time.
Take, for instance, Josh Taylor.
Coming off what was essentially a lost season in 2020 -- he tested positive for COVID-19, started his season late, suffered shoulder tendinitis, and had a 9.82 ERA in 7.1 innings of work -- there weren't too many expectations thrust upon the lefty entering the 2021 season. So when he started the year with a 9.72 ERA, with opponents hitting .415 against him through his first nine appearances, it looked as though he was in for a similar story this year.
What he's done since then, though, has been nothing short of remarkable.
Taylor pitched a scoreless inning on Saturday in Oakland, his 25th consecutive appearance without allowing a run. Dating back to April 30, Taylor has (obviously) a 0.00 ERA with a 0.885 WHIP, 26 strikeouts, seven walks, and an opponents' batting average of .157. He's recorded 12 holds throughout those outings, 10 of which have come in Red Sox victories.
Josh Taylor, April 2-24
9 G, 8.1 IP, 9.72 ERA, 2.640 WHIP, 1.039 opponents' OPS
Josh Taylor, April 30-July 3
25 G, 20.1 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.885 WHIP, .429 opponents' OPS
"I can't say enough about Taylor," Ottavino told WBZ-TV's Dan Roche on Sunday. "I mean, the run he's on right now is pretty special. I feel like a lot of people aren't noticing that."
The reason for that may be twofold. For one, Taylor is a bit unassuming. He entered professional baseball without being drafted, moving through the Phillies and Diamondbacks organizations before landing with the Red Sox and making his MLB debut in 2019. He pitched well with the Red Sox that year, but the team was mediocre. Then Taylor had his setback in 2020, thus keeping him off many radars before this year.
The other reason may simply be the wealth of talent in the bullpen. Aside from the aforementioned Barnes and Ottavino, the Red Sox have gotten stellar seasons thus far out of Garrett Whitlock, Darwinzon Hernandez, and Hirokazu Sawamura. Whitlock -- whom the Red Sox scooped up in the Rule 5 draft from the Yankees -- has a 3-1 record, 1.54 ERA and 1.122 WHIP, with 43 strikeouts and 11 walks. Sawamura -- signed out of Japan for his first MLB season at age 33 -- is 4-0 with a 2.48 ERA and 1.316 WHIP, striking out 40 batters and walking 18.
Together, the Red Sox have 59 holds, tied for the most in Major League Baseball. That's obviously been a group effort, and Taylor has merely been one part of it.
But 25 straight scoreless outings is 25 straight scoreless outings. While it won't land Taylor an All-Star roster spot or anything of the sort, it is at the very least worth a little spotlight as the Red Sox head into the final week of pre-All-Star action with the best record in the American League.
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