Posted June 21, 2013

Closer implosions galore as Jose Valverde, Andrew Bailey lose jobs

Andrew Bailey, Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, Jose Valverde
Andrew Bailey has been hit hard in his last week as Boston's closer. (Paul Sancya/AP)

Andrew Bailey has been hit hard in his last week as Boston’s closer, with four runs allowed in his last seven innings pitched. (Paul Sancya/AP)

It takes one to know one, it’s been said, so it was fitting that the Tigers would win a game the way they’ve lost nine already this year: Through the loss of a late-game lead.

A few hours after manager Jim Leyland installed Joaquin Benoit as his primary closer, with no word on when Jose Valverde, who has yielded 11 runs in 7 1/3 innings over the last three weeks, would pitch again — a déjà vu of their postseason last October — the Tigers won when Jhonny Peralta hit a two-run walkoff homer to beat Boston on Thursday night.

The Red Sox, meanwhile, have their own closing issues. Andrew Bailey has now blown three of his last five save opportunities and allowed seven runs in four innings. After the game, manager John Farrell, upon being asked whether he’d re-think Bailey as his ninth-inning man, told reporters, “I think so.”

That’s two closer demotions in one ballpark in one night. And guess what? These aren’t cellar dwellers, but a pair of division leaders. The Red Sox have the AL’s best record and a one-game lead over the Orioles in the East; the Tigers have a four-game lead over the Indians in the Central.

While this may be detrimental to the late-game enjoyment of baseball fans in Boston and Detroit this summer, this development could generate high entertainment for neutral observers. New offensive heroes will be christened; late-inning bathroom breaks will be risky; drama could perhaps persist into the postseason.

For now, Benoit appears to be an inspired choice for Detroit. With a 1.80 ERA, 10.5 K/9 and a stellar 1.00 WHIP, Benoit has been the Tigers’ best relief pitcher so far this year. Now, there are reasons to have a first-rate eighth-inning reliever, but lefthander Drew Smyly could be up to that task, given his 1.85 ERA in 43 2/3 innings. Though rookie Bruce Rodon wasn’t good in his first big-league cameo (three runs in 2 1/3 innings), he has the stuff to warrant another look.

When Boston had to fill its closing role earlier this year when Bailey was hurt, the Sox opted to move Junichi Tazawa to the ninth innings and keep Koji Uehara in the eighth — both have the stuff for either role, rendering the order unimportant. Uehara has a 2.10 ERA in 30 innings with a 6-to-1 K/BB ratio; Tazawa has a 2.51 ERA in 32 1/3 innings with a K/BB ratio that’s more than double Uehara’s outstanding rate at 12.7.

No matter the shuffled arrangement late in the games, both Boston and Detroit, barring a trade or inspired call-up, will suffer through some perilous innings after the manager has fetched the ball from his starter. It’ll be taxing on their starters, as they try to stay in the game and stave off that call to the bullpen, and it’ll be tense for those teams’ fans, but terrific for television and terrible for traffic — with no lead safe, everyone will be watching to the bitter end.

3 comments
Thallo
Thallo

Why was this under the tag "top 2 teams in the AL". Writers on the East Coast need to get over themselves. If you are paid to write about a sport it is your job to evaluate the entire league, not just the teams that you watch every night in your big market east coast cities. The A's are the best team in the AL right now, and don't say its a fluke, they have the best record in the AL over the last calender year by a landslide. The A's have the deepest, youngest starting rotation, the best 7-8-9 bullpen, and an offense with incredible depth and flexibility. The rangers are also a much better team then the Sox with a deeper offense and a pitching staff that will improve.

numcmusic
numcmusic

@Thallo The A's have the deepest rotation? Colon, Parker, Milone, Griffin, and Straily over Verlander, Scherzer, Fister, Sanchez, and Porcello? You folks on the West Coast need to evaluate the teams near the Great Lakes.

Best team in the American League right now? If you have to go back to last year to make your point, I'm afraid you've missed the mark. It's 2013. Your wins in 2012 don't count for this year. The two wins you got in the ALDS were the end of the season. 

I'll say it for you - "but you got your butts handed to you in the WS." Yup. You got your golf clubs handed to you. See you in October.

Robert27
Robert27

Bailey is just awful. Jonny Gomes bailed him out earlier this week after he gave up a game-tying two-run HR in the 9th. Bailey also gave a a ninth inning bomb a few days ago that was inconsequential because Boston had a 5 run lead. He's terrible; zero confidence in him right now.