DETROIT — Red Sox manager John Farrell demonstrated his faith in embattled closer Andrew Bailey on Thursday night by sending him out to protect a one-run lead in the bottom of the ninth inning against the Tigers.
Those days, temporarily at least, are over. Bailey didn’t get an out, walking Victor Martinez before Jhonny Peralta belted a home run to left field that sent the Sox to a crushing 4-3 loss.
The Red Sox clubhouse was pin-drop quiet after the game. They took a 3-2 lead in the eighth inning on a single by David Ortiz and were poised to win the opener of a four-game series between two division leaders.
John Lackey had pitched seven strong innings to that point. Farrell went to Koji Uehara and he retired the side in order in the bottom of the eighth. Bailey came out for the ninth inning. In two batters, the game was over.
“It’s hard, man,” Ortiz said. “But the hardest thing is to watch a guy like Bailey struggle. That guy has a lot of enthusiasm and he works hard. He goes out there with an attitude. It’s just hard to watch him like this.”
Bailey has blown three of his last five save chances, allowing seven runs on eight hits — four of them home runs — and five walks over four innings. Thirteen of the last 23 batters he has faced have reached base.
“Obviously he’s snake-bit right now,” said Farrell, who agreed with the idea that a new closer is needed, if only to give Bailey a chance to regain his form by pitching in a lesser role.
Sox officials spoke after the game to discuss their options and even Bailey seemed to understand what is coming.
“I haven’t talked to [Farrell] about that. If he feels that need is necessary, that’s his decision,” the righthander said. “I’ve got to go out there and get people out, that’s the bottom line. Whatever situation he wants that in is his call.
“I’ve had success in this league. I know how to get people out. I’ve got to get back to doing it.”
It was stunning how quickly Bailey unraveled this time. He walked Martinez on five pitches, missing badly four times.
“Any time there’s a save opportunity, it’s a cardinal rule. You can’t let the first guy reach base, let alone the tying run,” Bailey said. “Just not being myself out there.”
That has been a problem all season for Bailey. The first batter he faces has reached 11 of 24 times.
With Andrew Miller warming up, Bailey got ahead of Peralta 0-and-2. He threw a fastball high that Peralta took. The next pitch was supposed to be a cut fastball in the dirt.
It was left up and over the plate and Peralta didn’t miss it.
“I had him set up. I just didn’t execute the right pitch,” Bailey said.
Putting hitters away has become an issue for Bailey. He struck out 20 over 12.1 innings before going on the disabled list on April 29 with a biceps strain. In the 11 games since, Bailey has struck out 10 over 10 innings and seen his velocity dip.
“There’s peaks and valleys in this game with velocity and outings. Right now I’ve got a little but of both going, Bailey said.
Bailey says it’s not a physical issue.
“And yet the results are what they are,” Farrell said.
As to what happen now, it seems telling that Miller was the man warming up behind Bailey. Maybe he’ll get a shot at closing. Junichi Tazawa was the temporary closer for a few days earlier this season, although he never got a save chance. Koji Uehara could handle it, too.
A bigger question is whether the Sox will try to kick-start the trade market and get a closer that way. One way or another, moves are coming. Farrell made that clear.
“Yeah, I think so,” he said. “Whether that’s backing him out of that to get him some work to get untracked a little bit more.
“What the other internal options are … in fairness to Andrew and others down there late in the game, we’ll talk about that more internally to make a potential change.”