BOSTON -- On many nights, the Red Sox have the better starting pitcher. They can certainly outslug anyone in baseball. They are stealing bases at an alarmingly successful rate. On Tuesday, playing against the best defensive team in the game, it was Boston that flashed the leather while the Baltimore Orioles committed three errors. And their closer has been virtually untouchable.
Essentially, the Red Sox are a team with many strengths, few flaws and little cause for legitimate concern.
Perhaps the one area of slight uncertainty is in the bullpen, where the roles ahead of Koji Uehara are a bit undefined and the men in some of those roles a bit up and down. On many nights, the bridge to the ninth has a make-it-up-as-you-go-along feel to it.
Junichi Tazawa appeared to be the lock setup man at one point. Rookie Brandon Workman had the look of a guy gaining manager John Farrell’s trust in late-game situations. However, Craig Breslow is now the man of the hour, and although Boston fell 3-2 to Baltimore on Tuesday, Breslow helped to solidify himself as the premier option ahead of, and if necessary in place of, Uehara.
The veteran Breslow entered a tie game in the eighth inning with runners on second and third and nobody out. It took him all of six pitches to retire Chris Davis, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis and elicit a roar from the fans on a night when there wasn’t all that much to roar about. Based on the intensity of the situation and the talent of the three hitters, the moment stood out. At least it did to most on hand. Others were not surprised.
“He’s been doing that all year. He’s been one of our top guys out of the pen,” catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. “Using him in every situation, we really use him a lot. That’s how he’s been all year and we didn’t expect anything different.”
Breslow is 3-0 with a 0.64 ERA over 28 appearances since July 9, nearly matching Uehara’s otherworldly numbers in the same span (4-1, 0.29 ERA). Breslow has a 0.93 mark between the eighth and ninth innings. Meanwhile, Workman has allowed runs in three of his last four outings and Tazawa has had his slight ups and downs.
Farrell does not have to designate any roles and stick to them like glue, but he has expressed a desire at times this season to have guys aware of where they will be slotted. For Breslow, it may not even matter.
“I’m not incredibly particular about the situation I go in,” he said. “I’d like to think I could be successful regardless of circumstances.”
Farrell, like Saltalamacchia, expressed a complete lack of shock.
“He has [been on a roll], and not just this year. You look at his career numbers, he’s had a very consistent, very solid career, this being no different,” Farrell said.
Uehara finally was scored upon one inning after Breslow performed his magic act, giving up the decisive run on a triple and a sacrifice fly to end his scoreless streak at 30 1/3 innings. Breslow said he was “pretty confident” that Uehara would start a new streak Wednesday. And the Sox are pretty confident that Breslow’s quiet run of dominance (quiet, that is, until the eighth inning Tuesday) helps solidify the bridge.