Bard saves Ramirez, Sox
Terry Francona and assistant general manager Jed Hoyer were holding court in the visiting manager’s office during the afternoon hours on Friday when the topic of flame-throwing rookie reliever Daniel Bard came up. Particularly, they talked about Bard’s usage.
Francona, ever mindful of not giving Bard too much too soon as was the case with Cla Meredith in 2005, had mainly been pitching the righty in situations where the Red Sox were losing by a couple of runs or up by a bunch.
“Jed Hoyer and I were talking today,” Francona said. “We’ve tried to bring him along. I said, ‘one of these days we’re going to get in an extra inning game and we’re going to have to put him in and we’re going to be glad.’ I didn’t know it would be tonight.”
That’s just the way baseball works. It was tonight. Jonathan Papelbon was unavailable. Ramon Ramirez gave up a game-tying homer to Ryan Howard with one out in the ninth. Francona really did not want to use Manny Delcarmen. Justin Masterson, Hideki Okajima and Takashi Saito had already been called on. So when the Red Sox had to pinch-hit for Saito in the top of the 13th, Bard started warming up.
By the time it was time for Bard to get on the mound, the Red Sox had taken a 5-2 lead. It was still a save situation, but at least one that provided some margin for error.
Bard opened the inning with a walk, but then struck out the next two. After belting Raul Ibanez on the hand with a pitch, he settled down and struck out Shane Victorino on a nasty breaking pitch to end the game. The kid with upper 90s to triple digit heat now has a Major League save to his credit.
“A lot of adrenaline, but I’ve closed games before – not at this level or that caliber of hitters,” said Bard. “You could see it with the fastballs I was leaving up. That’s just a little bit of extra adrenaline. Fortunately I was able to get enough of them down and throw the breaking ball for strikes when I needed to. That was enough to get me through.”
Bard credited closing out a 7-0 win against the Yankees on Tuesday night as a good ramp-up to Friday’s performance.
“I kind of got a taste of it a little bit the other night, the 7-0 game,” Bard said. “It was the Yankees, I came in with the lead in the ninth. That was kind of a taste of it and it prepared me a little bit for tonight.”
In Bard’s first 10 Major League outings, he has an 0.75 ERA, striking out 13 over 12 innings.
“I’ve learned a lot,” said Bard. “I’ve just learned you have to pitch down in the zone with all your pitches. I think I’ve done that a lot more consistently the last three or four outings.”
“He’s got a great arm,” said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. “Just a matter of him getting more pitches under his belt. His stuff is definitely really good.”
— Ian Browne