Just as the Boston Red Sox were a strike away from winning their first game of the season, it all went away. The Tigers' catcher, Alex Avila, hit a walk-off home run in extra innings to keep the Red Sox losing streak in tact as they head to Toronto.
This had been the second blown opportunity in the game for Boston, as Alfredo Aceves blew his save opportunity in the ninth inning, which lead to extra innings with a score tied at 10-10. In the top of the 11th inning, Boston secured two more runs, but Mark Melancon had given up a walk-off home run to cost them the game when Detroit stepped up to bat.
This is the second consecutive season that the Red Sox have been swept in their opening series. They will now have a silent flight to Toronto with a morale similar to the climax of last season.
In heartbreaking fashion, the Red Sox bullpen cost them the first and third game of the series. Melancon and Aceves, the two key components of the bullpen, have pitched miserably in the first series of the season, leading to doubt about their effectiveness and the rest of the season.
Although it is truly unfair to vilify and give up on Bobby Valentine and Ben Cherington, as well as the rest of the team, for these early season struggles, the flaws of the team have been indicated quickly.
While Red Sox Nation cannot give up just yet, there is good reason to be concerned with the team this season. Although the lineup is one of the strongest in the league, the Red Sox bullpen has lost a lot of depth and strength with Jonathan Papelbon jumping to the Phillies and Daniel Bard being sent to the rotation.
What do you think about the Red Sox bullpen situation?
This series shows that the bullpen needs help and fast. The Red Sox can't solely rely on Aceves and Melancon to replace Papelbon or even Andrew Bailey in the closer's role. It almost seems inevitable at this point that Daniel Bard will be placed back into the bullpen sooner than later.
While it is against the wishes of Bard, who has shown much determination to start games, the team needs his late inning presence in the bullpen. Two of the first three games were blown because of the bullpen and Bard easily stabilizes it for the time being, bringing a reliable and dominant arm to the ninth inning.
Unless Boston goes out and makes several acquisitions, it seems more than likely that Bard will be placed as the closer and Aaron Cook or Michael Bowden will take over as the fifth man in the starting rotation.
There is no reason to panic and go into a frenzy in regards to Boston being a bad team and what not, because they are not. Yet, they do need to fix their bullpen and do it quickly. The offense and starting pitching can only do so much before the bullpen needs to step in and close out the late innings. As of now, Aceves and Melancon are not reliable to do this and need Bard to replace Andrew Bailey until he can return.
This series in Detroit should not cause panic, but immediate awareness in the fact that Bobby Valentine must fix his bullpen situation before it costs anymore games. Bard's rotation presence is easily replaced, but what he brings to the bullpen is essential.