Being a closer isn’t easy. There’s more money if you do the job well over a period of time. But there’s also more responsibility and far more scrutiny from the fans, media, and your teammates.
Close the game out and you’re doing your job, the same as everybody else. Blow the save and you’re the guy who cost your team the game. Just you.
Alfredo Aceves had been on a roll for the Red Sox, converting nine straight save chances since a few missteps earlier in the season. Along the way he had allowed two earned runs over 18.2 innings and struck out 19.
Then disaster struck Sunday afternoon. With the Sox up, 3-2, courtesy of Adrian Gonzalez’s blast in the seventh inning, Aceves allowed a two-run homer by Sean Rodriguez in the ninth.
There was no walk-off magic in the bottom of the inning this time and the Sox were on the sharp end of a 4-3 loss.
Aceves walked leadoff hitter Ben Zobrist on five pitches. After Luke Scott popped out, Aceves fell behind Rodriguez 3-and-1 and left a 93-m.p.h. fastball belt-high and right over the plate. Rodriguez sent it airmail to Lansdowne St.
Aceves refused to speak to reporters after the game, swiftly leaving the clubhouse. His catcher, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, was more accountable.
“The guy’s been automatic for us, so I didn’t expect it,” Saltalamacchia said. “It’s tough not to get a win, period. You get up by one and you got your closer in there and it’s part of the game. It happened to them last night, it happened to us tonight, and all we can do is focus on tomorrow.”
David Ortiz also came to the defense of Aceves.
“He’s been outstanding. But that happens. When you’re pitching out there, anything can happen,” Ortiz said. “That’s not what you want to do. But it happens. Hopefully his next outing he can come out and do what he’s been doing.”
One of the unwritten rules of the clubhouse is that pitchers have to take the heat after losses. Josh Beckett, for all his irascibility, never blows off the media. Jonathan Papelbon never did, either. Guys such as Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman were respected by their teammates for always being at their lockers even after their rare mistakes.
It’s not because the media needs a quote. It’s because professionals don’t leave it to somebody else to explain their mistakes. When you take a prominent role on a team, that’s part of the responsibility.
Aceves will learn that lesson, or somebody will explain that to him.
Meanhwhile . . .
• Ryan Sweeney said his pregame testing went fine and he expects to be activated on Monday. This is an occasion where the seven-day concussion DL made a lot of sense.
• Rays skipper Joe Maddon, who sparred with Bobby Valentine all weekend, took the high road after the game. “We know exactly how they feel,” he said, referencing the walk-off homer by Saltalamacchia on Saturday night. “It’s not a good feeling.”
• Valentine said he was encouraged by what he saw from Clay Buchholz, whose start was his best of the season.
• Counting Opening Day, the Sox have had six chances to get over .500. The losses have been by 1, 3, 2, 3, 3, and 1 runs.
“It’s a tough defeat. But our bullpen has been doing a great job the last month. It’s one of those things; you can’t get too frustrated with that,” Gonzalez said. “It’s not devastating. It’s tough, but it’s not devastating. We’ll come out tomorrow and try to win a game.”
Thanks to everybody for reading today. Back at it tomorrow afternoon.