The Red Sox bullpen has far and away been the biggest struggle of this team. Craig Kimbrel has been lights-out lately, which is a great sign. Ryan Brasier has come out of the shadows in 2018; putting up a mid 1.0 ERA in about 30 appearances since he got here. Bobby Poyner is looking more and more like a reliable lefty specialist every day and Brandon Workman has been very effective with a 2.33 ERA in 39 appearances. After those four guys, that’s when it gets scary.
Matt Barnes had pitched his way to a 2.25 ERA up to August 5th, but it would only go up from there. In the month of August, Barnes would pitch to a 9.64 ERA that would raise his season total to 3.39. Hitters were also hitting with an OPS over 1.000 against him. Not very encouraging considering the fact that he was looked upon as the 8th inning man for a little while. Then come Heath Hembree and Joe Kelly, two guys who are currently pitching their way out of the postseason roster.
After starting the season with a 1.73 ERA, Kelly has raised it up to 4.19. He put up a 8.31 ERA in June, only to put up an 8.38 in July. He had a much better August and attained a 1.42 ERA in 12.2 innings, with hitters only hitting with a .675 OPS against him. However, he went back to his old ways in September, pitching to an ERA over 8.0 again thus far. Heath Hembree, on the other hand, had only one good month. One. That’s it, and that was back in June. Besides that, his ERA has consistently been over 4.0 Not good. The bullpen certainly looks worrisome going into October. However, there is someone who is able to help out with this problem. An unlikely someone most would probably say.
Steven Wright Is That Man
Steven Wright pitched out of the bullpen several times this season before starting four games in the rotation. Through his first three starts his knuckleball was dancing, and he only gave up one run in 21 innings. After giving up ten runs to Seattle in his fourth start he went on to the DL with left knee inflammation. He would make a comeback at the beginning of September, and little did we know his role back on the team was much bigger than we thought. Steven Wright is now a late reliever for this bullpen.
First career save for win 103! 🙌 pic.twitter.com/AULtAvebss
— Boston Red Sox (@RedSox) September 16, 2018
Ever since Wright has returned, he’s had six appearances, pitching seven innings and not giving up a single run. He’s struck out six and only allowed five hits. It’s safe to say Wright’s knuckleball has been dancing. The only problem is that it could end up dancing too much for the Red Sox own good. Wright is what he is, a knuckleball pitcher. It’s nothing against Wright personally, it’s just the knuckleball in general. Just like Tim Wakefield at times would make you nervous.
The Wright Guy
I’m not worried that Wright will come into a game, give up a bunch of hard contact and get shelled. The problem is you can’t control exactly where a knuckleball is going to go. Him coming into a game for one inning gives off a little uneasy feeling for that reason. He may come in and walk a couple of guys if he’s wild. And those guys may be able to move up on the base paths with a pitch that the catcher can’t grab. The last thing you need is a runner on third coming home in a postseason game because of a knuckleball that ends up being a wild pitch.
I’m not saying that Wright shouldn’t be a part of this bullpen. I am a big Steven Wright fan, and I definitely think it’s an intriguing idea that’s worked so far. Besides his six walks, Wright has looked really good. He’s just going to have to avoid putting guys on base via the walk. If he’s able to do that, the Red Sox may have a lethal postseason weapon in their hands. A hero that you didn’t see coming.