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Indians give Red Sox a relief-pitching wake-up call

Rob Bradford
August 21, 2018 - 11:36 pm

If there was one true takeaway from these last two Red Sox' losses to the Indians it was this -- Alex Cora's bullpen has some catching up to do.

The image offered by Cleveland's relievers is one that the Sox have been striving to attain over the past few months. There is a blueprint of what each reliever is going to do when they are going to do and what the final outcome will likely be.

Adam Cimber. Andrew Miller. Brad Hand. Those were the guys sent out by Terry Francona this time to lock things down. And Monday night closer Cody Allen was thrown into the mix. It is a concoction that screams postseason advantage. Get to the sixth or seventh with a lead and you're on your way. At least that is sure how it feels.

It's the same roadblock potentially being put up by the Yankees (Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, David Robertson, Zach Britton), the Astros (Roberto Osuna, Ryan Pressly, Hector Rondon, Tony Sipp) and the A's (Fernando Rodney, Blake Treinen, Lou Trivino, Jeurys Familia).

Of these names helping anchor the Red Sox' chief competitors, seven of them weren't their current team a month ago. In other words, there has been a race to limit relief-pitching uncertainty, one which the Sox are falling behind in.

"The last few games we haven’t had the lead so we haven’t been able to use Ryan (Brasier) or Barnesy (Matt Barnes) in a situation like that," Cora said after the Red Sox' 6-3 loss to the Indians. "The same time we’re talking about using our guys a lot when we were ahead, well I know it sucks to say it but a three-game losing streak we’re going to other guys. ... We feel the bullpen is good. We know we have capable guys that they can get the job done and we’re comfortable with them."

It's not as if the Red Sox' bullpen is a lost cause. For August, this is a group that carries the ninth-best ERA in baseball, slightly better than even the 11th-best Indians. It's just finding that kind of certainty that the Indians seem to be rolling with these days.

The Red Sox have Craig Kimbrel, Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier locked in right now as their late-inning guys. But it sure would go a long way if they could sift through the talents of Joe Kelly, Heath Hembree, Brandon Workman and Tyler Thornburg to find out exactly who can do what and when. 

Dave Dombrowski now has 10 days to keep up with the proactive stance of his American League counterparts. Perhaps he will choose to ride with his guys, hoping that the certainty will click in when it counts the most. Or maybe the likes of Travis Lakins will pop up from Triple-A Pawtucket and pull a Brasier.

There is still time.

But while we wait the Indians are passing along a reminder of what you're going to need when October rolls around.