OAKLAND — Jerome Holtzman, a sportswriter, meant well when he invented the save in 1960. He felt relief pitchers weren’t being properly credited for their work.
Here are 51 years later and managers are shackled to it as they use their bullpens. Their best relievers are usually closers and tradition dictates they must be used to get saves. The widespread belief is that the final three outs are the toughest to get.
In Daniel Bard, the Red Sox have a reliever who can be used any time without concern for statistics or ego. Today, for instance, it was the sixth inning. The Sox were up 4-1 but Clay Buchholz had loaded the bases with one out.
In came Bard. He needed six pitches to strike out Cliff Pennington and get Coco Crisp to pop to short. It led to a 5-3 victory, the fourth in the last five games for the 6-11 Sox.
“That was the game right there. You guys have heard me talk about it time and time again that the game can be won in the sixth or seventh. For me, that was it. He came in and stopped it,” Francona said.
I asked Bard what his title should be. If Jonathan Papelbon is the closer, what is he?
“Maybe you can call me the stopper,” he said.
Bard said he has spent some time on Fangraphs.com reading the work those guys have done on a stat called Shutdowns and Meltdowns. It’s a simple way to evaluate relievers.
“It’s just another way to look at things,” Bard said.
As for other stuff:
• Jed Williams continues to rake. Lowrie is 17 of 28 (.607) in the last eight games with five extra-base hits and 11 RBIs. Going back to last season, 28 of Lowrie’s 67 hits have been for extra bases.
It’s a crazy hot streak and Lowrie knows it’s not going to continue.
“I understand what’s going on,” he said after going 2 for 4 with a home run and two more RBIs. “I’m not naïve. … I’m just continuing to put my head down and prepare. The more you thinking about it, the more you’re just going to put pressure on every at-bat.”
• You know who’s a pro? Marco Scutaro. After sitting for four days he was 2 for 4 and made six plays at shortstop.
• The A’s left 15 men on base and were 3 for 15 with runners in scoring position. Thought that only happened to the Sox?
• Carl Crawford has hit safely in three straight. OK, so he’s 3 for 12. But his contact has been much better,
• Alfredo Aceves was packing for Pawtucket after the game. He’s headed down with Matt Albers on the way back.
• Catch this: The Sox are 4-2 when Jason Varitek starts and 2-9 with Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The team has a 2.50 ERA with the Captain and 7.14 with Salty.
The two of them are a grim 8 of 56 at the plate.
Here are two words for you: Ramon Hernandez, the Reds backup. Ben Badler of Baseball America Tweeted that the Red Sox should look into him and I think there’s some validity to that idea.
That’s it from Oakland. I’m off to catch a flight to Los Angeles. Thanks to everybody for reading today and all the comments.