BOSTON -- The Red Sox closed out Monday’s home opener the same way they finished off the Blue Jays on Friday night, and the same way you can expect to see much more of in the coming months: Andrew Bailey in the eighth; Joel Hanrahan in the ninth.
Bailey was particularly impressive, striking out two in a perfect inning. In three appearances this season, he has given up just one hit and fanned four. Red Sox manager John Farrell said Bailey, who missed most of last season with a freak thumb injury and was mostly ineffective in the final two months, is pitching with much more confidence and “an increase in stuff.”
“As his outings have continued to mount, the arm strength continues to build,” Farrell said after Boston’s 3-1 victory over the Orioles. “The one thing that we’re seeing is that swing and miss to fastballs up in the strike zone, which really was his calling card while he was with Oakland. A lot of strikes. Multiple pitches for strikes. To have really two closers out in that bullpen, it is a luxury.”
That other closer, Hanrahan, wasn’t as clean in getting his third save of the season. Staked to a 3-0 lead in the ninth, he gave up a solo homer to Adam Jones leading off the inning. After two quick outs, he allowed a double to J.J. Hardy to bring the tying run to the plate. Ryan Flaherty then popped out to third to end the game.
Hanrahan, who had “a little extra adrenaline running in from the bullpen” and called his Fenway debut an “awesome experience,” didn’t seem concerned about the hiccup.
“A three-run lead there, if I give up a run so be it,” he said. “We won the game, that’s what matters to me.”
Like Farrell, Hanrahan was impressed with what he saw from Bailey.
“He went out there and dominated today,” Hanrahan said. “The first three games he’s been out there he’s pitched pretty well. Everybody down there is pitching really well. We feel like we have seven guys that can step into any role and get people out.”
Indeed, the Red Sox bullpen has been impressive in the early going. In 20 2/3 innings, Sox relievers have a combined 3.92 ERA with 22 strikeouts and six walks.
“We’ve got seven closers down there,” Bailey said. “Any one of us can finish a ballgame, pitch whatever inning. That’s what makes us so good, so much versatility down there. If you need guys to come in with runners on, or whatever the situation, you’ve got a kitten litter full of them.”