Tough loss for the Red Sox, and in the aftermath, the biggest issue we'll all be talking about aside from finding a seeing eye dog for umpire Larry Vanover is Bobby Valentine's decision to leave Daniel Bard in the game.
You know the deal by now. It was the top of the seventh inning in a 0-0 contest, and the bases were loaded with Rays. There were two outs. Bard already more than 100 pitches into his day was on the mound. Evan Longoria was at the plate. Matt Albers who's had success against Longoria in the past was ready in the pen.
And at this point, everyone thought Bard was done.
Everyone but Bobby Valentine.
He left Bard in, Bard walked Longoria and the winning run crossed the plate.
Final score: 1-0, Tampa.
That was the Fenway crowd reacting to Bobby V. after he eventually did remove Bard from the game. And believe me, I felt the same way. I don't think there's anyone who was watching that game who thought it was the right move to let Bard keep going. Afterwards, Valentine himself said it was a bad decision.
He should've taken him out!
We can all agree.
But before we move on, and write off Valentine's decision as the reason the Sox lost the game, it's probably worth bringing up last week.
I'm talking about Daniel Bard's first start. A 7-3 loss to the Blue Jays.
This time, it was the start of the sixth inning, and the Sox trailed 3-1. Bard kicked off the inning with a walk to Edwin Encarnacion. Then, he gave up an infield single to Brett Lawrie. So, it was first and second with no one out. Bard had thrown 96 pitches, and like this afternoon, he looked a little tired. Bobby Valentine came out and gave him the hook.
Bard was upset. Visibly upset.
I can't find the video online, because Bud Selig doesn't understand the Internet, but Bard was miffed enough over Valentine's decision that Orsillo and Remy were forced to comment on it. One of them said something along the lines of: "And Bard does NOT look happy out there! He's going to have to get used to the hook now that he's in the rotation. It's not something he ever experienced out of the bullpen."
So, what happened after Bard's exit last week?
Justin Thomas (nee Thompson) came in and walked Eric Thames, gave up a two-run single to JP Arencibia and then a sac fly to Colby Rasmus. Suddenly, it was 6-1, and five of the runs were Bard's. If he was upset before he left, you can only imagine how he felt after.
Anyway, today, unlike in his first start, Bard got the chance to work out of his own mess. It went just as miserably as it did when Valentine let the bullpen handle it, but in the long run, maybe it was worth Valentine giving Bard that chance.
After all, he's new to the starting game. He still needs to get a hold of that mentality. To understand what it's like when you run out of gas, and why sometimes a manager needs to give you the hook.
Now, maybe next time Valentine does remove Bard, and does so at a time when the hurler wants nothing more than to stay in the game and finish his own mess, he'll remember today, and understands why it's the right move.
Ultimately, how Bard feels about getting the hook shouldn't matter. The manager needs to make the decision that's best for the team. And today, Valentine didn't do that. But in the long run, maybe it's a learning experience for Bard.
One that will help him along the road to converting from reliever to reliable starter.