Before each game the Texas Rangers’ relievers walk from the dugout or clubhouse to the bullpen, where they will sit and pass the time until their starting pitcher runs into trouble or runs out of pitches or both.
At some point of late, surely someone out there — or maybe more than one — has wondered when it will all begin to go wrong again. The same likely goes for the rest of the team.
As struggling players and teams are fond of saying, baseball gives them a chance at redeeming themselves the next day after a bad outing. Or, as has been the case with the Rangers’ relievers this season, another chance to have to seek redemption again.
The bullpen was be on the hook for another decision, good or bad Monday night, as the Rangers rallied late to force extra innings with the Boston Red Sox.
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The gut punches have kept coming this season for the Rangers’ reliever.
Andrew Benintendi blooped a two-run single just past a drawn-in infield in the 11th inning, and the bullpen took its league-leading 18th loss of the season as Boston prevailed 7-5.
The bullpen’s woes go deeper. The Rangers have blown as many saves (17) this season in 83 games as they did last season in 162. Their most consistent reliever, Keone Kela, can now be found on the 10-day disabled list.
The Rangers, meanwhile, continue their search for anyone who can get a save and any little boost that can keep the relievers’ spirits high.
“You just have to stay positive,” pitching coach Doug Brocail said. “With our words and our actions, we just stay positive, and keep pounding, ‘Hey, trust your stuff.’
“When something like that [a blown save] happens, everybody wants to know, ‘Why did he throw this? Why did he throw that?’ We’ll get an answer and move forward.”
Those answers are telling. If a reliever says he didn’t execute a pitch, at least his thought process was in the right place. That’s the answer Brocail wants to hear.
Other answers, though, tell him if there’s a confidence issue. The confidence players say they have in the bullpen, while it could be lagging, remains high.
“Guys who have been around a while have been through things before a lot worse than this,” catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. “This is really not that bad considering we’re still in it. Our bullpen is struggling, but there’s some good talent down there. Whenever they start clicking, I really believe we’re going to start doing some damage.”
The mixing and matching continued Monday with veteran Jason Grilli, who was acquired Sunday in a trade with Toronto after being designated for assignment last week. He made his debut in the eighth inning with a perfect frame.
At age 40 and in his 15th season, he can provide the kind of leadership and knowledge that an inexperienced bullpen doesn’t have. He’s fine to do that, too, but also wants to log meaningful innings.
“If you love and respect the game, you just pass along the love and respect, and that’s what I want to do with these young guys,” Grilli said. “I know what’s been going on here. I’m happy to pitch and fill in wherever. I just want to come in and help where I’m able.”
It appeared the bullpen wouldn’t play as large a role Monday after an error on Rougned Odor on a play that should have ended the sixth inning. Instead, Boston scored three unearned runs with two outs and nearly hung on.
But the Rangers scored single runs in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, including a home run by Mike Napoli on the first pitch in the ninth from All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel.
Carlos Gomez homered in the seventh, and Nomar Mazara had an RBI single in the eighth. Odor homered in the fourth.
Three Rangers relievers were credited with 4 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of Martin Perez before the Ernesto Frieri allowed the two runs in the 11th. Tony Barnette, pitching for the first time off the DL, allowed the three runners he inherited from Perez in the sixth to score.
And the bullpen found itself on the hook again. The result was the same as it seemingly always is.
Rangers vs. Red Sox
7:05 p.m. Tuesday, FSSW, ESPN