The Red Sox won their fifth straight game last night as they downed the White Sox 10-3 for the second night in a row on their turf. David Ortiz hit his fourth home run of the season. It came against a relatively tough lefty in John Danks. The Sox offense once again held up their end of the bargain, throwing up a crooked nine runs on a very cold night at U.S. Cellular Field. It should be noted that the grinders at the bottom of the lineup were truly the ones who deserve a pat on the back. In the sixth inning, the Red Sox plated five runs, due in large part to some timely hitting from the latter half of the order. Specifically, Darnell McDonald once again proved that he is a more-than-serviceable off of the bench option in the major leagues as he smacked a clutch two-out three-run double down the left field line. McDonald has not received consistent playing time, so his performance on Friday night (he also hit a garbage time home run) is excellent news for a Red Sox bench that lacks a heck of a ton of firepower.
Daniel Bard threw seven strong innings, allowing three runs–only two of which were earned. The tall righty only issued one free pass. In this league, you’re better off making hitters earn their way on base. A good hitter posts an average of .300. The majority of the time, the guy is going to record an out. I say play the odds, especially when you have the raw stuff of a Bard.
I am convicted flip-flopper. A month or two ago, I firmly advocated for Bard sticking in the rotation. In my defense, I had no way of knowing that Andrew Bailey would have his debut in a Red Sox uniform delayed by three months due to thumb surgery. Even after receiving that devastating news and watching Alfredo Aceves struggle in the opening series of the season against the Tigers, I still argued that Bard should remain in the rotation. Just this week, however, I am on record as saying that Bard needs to take it upon himself to volunteer to return to the bullpen. Mark Melancon, a guy I truly counted on to serve as trustworthy arm out of the bullpen, turned into a puddle and was demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket, further decimating a watered down Red Sox bullpen that is in desperate need of stability. So I’m as guilty of flipping and flopping as one could be.
Here is the bottom line: For now, the Red Sox will attempt to have their cake and eat it too. They want to win ballgames now, while doing what is best for its future, which is keeping Bard on the path of evolving into a quality, low-cost, under team control starting pitcher. As long as the former Tar Heel continues to put together quality starts and the bullpen doesn’t implode like it did a week ago today, both Bard and the Red Sox will be happy.
Ultimately, for the Sox to be considered a legitimate threat in the postseason, Bard has to be pitching well. In high leverage situations. Out of the bullpen.