In his first major league start, Matt Barnes did a pretty good job of driving home exactly why the Red Sox had never given him a role in the rotation, allowing six runs to the Indians in an 8-2 loss.
If you've seen a Joe Kelly start this season, you've seen what Matt Barnes did today. Three scoreless innings. Three strong scoreless innings. The sort that make you wonder why everyone's so down on the kid. Then the lineup gets a second look at him, and it's all over. Not the shutout, but the game. After Francisco Lindor struck out to start the fourth, five straight Indians reached. If the big hit that broke things open--a two-run double off the bat of Lonnie Chisenhall--saw Hanley Ramirez do his best impression of a little league reject backing up to the warning track as the ball went hopelessly over his head, well, it was Barnes who gave up a hard hit ball to the wall.
By the time the fourth was finally over, the Indians had five runs to Boston's one, scored on a solo shot from Travis Shaw, who also produced the other Boston run by singling home Josh Rutledge in the ninth, and continues to intrigue with his bat. Barnes gave up another run on a solo shot to Carlos Santana in the fifth, which would prove his last inning of the game.
There was a moment during that Santana homer. Mookie Betts headed back, then slowed as he realized it was beyond reach, and ended up coming to a rest leaning on the bullpen wall, arms crossed, sharing some words with Robbie Ross Jr. It was a moment of defeat. Betts had just laid out to make a great grab in center to save Barnes more trouble, and there was the man on the mound, not even giving him a chance to do the same. That's all the better parts of the Red Sox outfield ask of their pitchers, but they don't get it.
That's not Matt Barnes' fault, honestly. After all, Barnes is a reliever. The Sox have been working him as a starter in Triple-A, but it's apparently towards an end of improving his performance out of the bullpen in the long term. That he was called up for this game was just a matter of circumstance, the fault of a stray ball in batting practice knocking Steven Wright out of action. Barnes is a bystander in all of this, and nothing more.
But whoever's at fault, it's a damn shame to watch a young player like Betts go all-in to save a hit in a 5-1 game, only to have the next ball hit in his direction sail over the wall to make it 6-1. Guys like Xander Bogaerts know it can be different. He, like Dustin Pedroia before him, was baptized with a championship. A World Series is a lot to ask for, obviously, but it would be nice to show him even just a competitive Red Sox team. One where that homer is the exception, and not the rule. Where a 6-1 deficit inspires a "just one of those nights" conversations rather than "same as always."