Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Red Sox walk-off win shows why they won't blow division lead, but also why they're in big trouble for playoffs

Alex Reimer
August 29, 2018 - 11:15 am

The Red Sox completed two late-inning rallies against the Marlins Tuesday en route to their 91st victory of the season. It’s the kind of win that shows the resiliency of this club and why there shouldn’t be widespread concern about an epic collapse in the mold of 1978 or 2011. 

But it’s also the kind of win that probably won’t be possible in the playoffs. Matt Barnes allowed two home runs in the eighth inning, blowing a three-run lead. Boston followed with three runs in the bottom of the frame off erratic right-hander Tayron Guerrero, who couldn’t control his 100 mph fastball. In the ninth, Craig Kimbrel walked two straight batters and surrendered a run, allowing the lowly Marlins to tie up the game again. But the Red Sox followed up with the walk-off win, when Miami shortstop JT Riddle short-hopped his throw to first base on an Eduardo Nunez double play ball. 

Concern about the Red Sox’ bullpen has now shifted to outright panic. Barnes, who allowed one home run over the first four months of the season, has now given up four in August –– including three in his last two outings. The hard-throwing righty surrenders 6.4 hits and 4.6 walks per nine innings. Those are far too many baserunners for a reliable eighth-inning option.

There’s no certainty about the bridge to Kimbrel. Heath Hembree, who holds a 4.10 ERA, was tasked with cleaning up Barnes’ mess. The best bet might be Joe Kelly, who threw a perfect seventh inning Tuesday and owns a 1.54 ERA this month. But Kelly was facing the bottom of the Miami lineup, which must be taken into consideration when evaluating his performance against Barnes'.

Even more troublesome than the tenuous bridge to Kimbrel, however, are the closer’s own struggles. He was awful against the Marlins, giving up the go-ahead single to somebody named Magneuris Sierra. Kimbrel has only thrown four clean innings since June 22 and has allowed 26 hits and walks in 19.2 innings since July 2. That’s hardly dominant.

Other American League contenders have bullpen concerns as well. Indians closer Cody Allen has allowed 11 home runs this season, but Cleveland skipper Terry Francona can turn to Andrew Miller or Brad Hand if Allen falters in October. Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman is on the disabled list, but New York possess one of the deeper pens in baseball. Stud Astros reliever Chris Devenski is on his way back from injury, too.

The Red Sox have the best offense in baseball and have continually shown an ability to come back late. Tuesday was the latest example of that, although they did get help in the form of a wild pitch from Guerrero (made it 7-6) and the errant double play attempt. It’s unlikely their opponents will make those mistakes in October.

It sounds silly to be pessimistic about a team on pace for well over 100 wins that’s coming off another walk-off win. But that’s where we are with the Red Sox, whose ace is still on the DL and bullpen is in shambles.