And just like that, we’re right back to losing. Honestly, what is it going to take? I don’t even know what to say anymore. You know it’s dysfunctional when you’re happy to get away from your home park and on the road if that’s what it takes to win, but we lost now and there isn’t that much else we can do.
Bard lost again. He pitched seven innings and gave up five runs on six hits while walking four, balking one, and striking out only one. He threw ninety-six pitches, sixty of which were strikes. He threw only three types of pitches as usual; his two-seam got up to ninety-six miles per hour, while his four-seam got up to ninety-seven. His best pitch for strikes was the changeup, and his slider was decent enough.
He retired the Royals in order in the first, third, fourth, and sixth. He faced four batters in the fifth and five in the seventh, which is particularly noteworthy as one in which our lead was particularly at stake. With one out, two on, and a fielder’s choice in progress, a play at the plate prevented the Royals from tying it. Gonzalez’s throw home was on time and precise; he and Shoppach executed it perfectly, and Jeff Francoeur was out by a mile. One strikeout later, Bard was out of the inning. And the rest of the innings were either those during which the Royals scored or that in which Bard was replaced.
In the second, Middlebrooks doubled, becoming one of only two players in modern baseball to hit five extra-base hits in his first five games in the Majors (the other being Enos Slaughter in 1938) and scored on a single by Shoppach. Byrd was already on base after singling, so when Aviles walked it loaded the bases, and when Pedroia walked it brought home our second run of the day. Bard promptly relinquished our lead by giving up three runs in the same inning. We tied it up in the fourth when Aviles doubled and scored on a single by Pedroia. And we moved ahead in the fifth when Gonzalez doubled and scored when Sweeney grounded into a force out.
That was the last run we’d score all game. And after giving up two straight walks on ten pitches to begin the eighth, Albers replaced Bard in the eighth and gave up a three-run home run on the third pitch he fired. Just like that, we lost the game. Albers then secured the first two outs of the inning via the flyout as if the home run had never happened. Then he was replaced by Miller, who ended the inning with a strikeout.
Anyway, we lost, 6-4. Almost half of our hits were for extra bases. Our only two multi-hit performances belonged to Gonzalez and Byrd, who each hit a double. And to make matters worse, Middlebrooks had to leave in the second with a tight left hamstring. (Yes, you read right. The replacement now needs a replacement.)
We should never have lost this game. We had a one-run lead, and if Bard could hold onto it for three frames, then the bullpen should be expected to hold onto it as well. You can never afford to have a situation where you have to score a minimum amount of runs for a lead to be considered safe. The bullpen’s job isn’t to protect a minimum lead. The bullpen’s job is to protect a lead, period. This should not be wishful thinking. How many times do I have to write it before it somehow comes true?