Just when the Red Sox were going on a fun little run. Just when it seemed like we could enjoy that last month of baseball, this happens.
There is nothing that so quickly pulls you back to the memories of earlier Red Sox losses as Bobby Valentine making a terrible decision and Alfredo Aceves blowing a save. Except, perhaps, for big first innings. But Tuesday we got the former scenario, with Aceves surrendering a 5-4 lead in the ninth on a HBP, walk, single, and SF, and just like that the frustration is back once again.
After the whole suspension saga, one might have thought we would be past this. Amongst relievers with 10 or more innings pitched for the Boston Red Sox this year, Alfredo Aceves ranks 10th of 11 in ERA, 9th of 11 in FIP and xFIP. He is not simply an ineffective closer indicative of a weak bullpen, one who would ideally be shifted to lower-leverage innings in a stronger unit. Alfredo Aceves has been a bad relief pitcher in an overall strong unit. This is a sign of improperly used resources. This is bad bullpen management. This is Bobby Valentine.
Now, Bobby would tell you--as he told the press after the game--that he had no choice. That Bailey and Padilla weren't available, so he had to go to Aceves not just for one inning, but for two. Of course, Junichi Tazawa was warming up behind Aceves in the ninth when the wheels started to come off, Clayton Mortensen just packed his bags for Pawtucket, and Craig Breslow (who has minimal splits and ~62 good innings in save situations, for the record) hasn't pitched in three days.
But Bobby went with Alfredo. He went with Alfredo because he wanted to reopen the closer issue after having clearly pulled Aceves from the role. He went with Aceves because 62 innings of bad closing are somehow preferable to 54 innings of good pitching.
It was such a bad ending that it actually serves to blunt the blow of another mediocre Buchholz start--one which started poorly and ended poorly despite an incredible middle. One which masks the good work done by the weakest lineup of the season and perhaps the decade against a pitcher like Jered Weaver.
If there's any positive to this, it's that the Bobby Valentine coffin which seemed to be pried open a few inches by the blockbuster trade and the Aceves suspension has hopefully been nailed back down. But that seemed shut for good a week ago, so who can even say?
Just when we thought we were out, they pull us right back in.