Aug. 13—After a year lost in the wilderness, Matt Barnes may finally be turning the corner.
The embattled Red Sox reliever came up big again on Friday against the New York Yankees, pitching a scoreless seventh with two strikeouts for the second straight night. Barnes was able to pitch around a single by DJ LeMahieu and a hit by pitch on Aaron Judge to strike out Anthony Rizzo and Josh Donaldson, giving his team a chance in the late innings.
That effort was soon rewarded when the Red Sox rallied in the bottom of the ninth to force extras, and not long after when Tommy Pham delivered a walk-off single to clinch the 3-2, 10-inning win.
Through the first half last season Barnes was an All-Star who'd just earned himself a two-year contract extension, but by August he'd completely fallen apart. He wasn't even included on Boston's initial playoff roster come October, and this spring he posted a hideous 7.94 ERA before going on the injured list with shoulder inflammation at the end of May.
But since coming back Barnes has looked more like his old self, and his fastball in particular has noticeably more life. He now has a 2.08 ERA through five games since returning, and if he can keep that up it would give Alex Cora a badly needed late inning arm to pair with Garrett Whitlock and John Schreiber.
"It's big, we're going to need him," said J.D. Martinez. "We haven't had him all year, so for him to come back and finally get his feet wet and feeling comfortable again, it's huge. He's an important piece to our success here."
Barnes wasn't the only one who enjoyed an eye-opening performance.
Martinez, who has been mired in a protracted slump over the past two months, drove in each of Boston's first two runs. He had an RBI single in the bottom of the fourth, and then trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth he tied the game with another RBI single to keep the Red Sox alive.
In addition, while it was far from his flashiest outings as a member of the Red Sox, Nathan Eovaldi also dug deep and gutted out a badly needed gem against one of the most dangerous lineups in baseball. With his fastball averaging only 94 mph the righty managed to hold the Yankees at bay, limiting New York to just two runs over six innings despite allowing eight hits and two walks while generating only one swing and miss on his four-seamer.
Much like most other pitchers in baseball, however, Eovaldi couldn't bottle up Aaron Judge.
In the top of the third inning the Yankees superstar smashed a towering solo home run over the Green Monster. Judge got hold of a 1-0 pitch up and in and crushed it 113.8 mph and 429 feet, giving him an incredible 46 home runs and 100 RBI on only Aug. 12.
"There's a few times I locate a pitch and the hitter hits it out, you just tip your cap to them," Eovaldi said. "He's having an outstanding year."
Meanwhile, Boston had no answer offensively for Domingo Germán. The Yankees starting pitcher limited the Red Sox to one run over six innings, benefiting from three double plays to cut short several potential rallies. Boston's run came after Alex Verdugo led off the fourth with a double and then came around to score on Martinez's RBI single, but a flyout by Eric Hosmer and a double play by Christian Arroyo ended the threat.
The Red Sox only had one other baserunner through the bottom of the eighth after that, but in the bottom of the ninth Xander Bogaerts and Verdugo each walked against Yankees closer Clay Holmes, setting up Martinez's game-tying knock. Garrett Whitlock slammed the door in the 10th, and then after Jaylin Davis moved Christian Arroyo to third and Reese McGuire reached on a bunt, Pham sent the fans home happy with a walk-off single to improve the Red Sox to 56-58 on the year.
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