The Red Sox could have finished with one last shutout. Instead, they finished with familiar questions about which middle relievers they should trust in the playoffs.
Granted, yesterday’s game didn’t mean much — that much was clear from the starting pitcher on the mound and the names in the lineup — but given a chance to finish with more wins than last season, the Red Sox instead blew a late lead and lost 4-3 in their reular-season finale against the Astros at Fenway Park.
The Red Sox finished 93-69, exactly as they did last year, and now wait until Thursday to begin the Division Series against this very same Houston team.
Yesterday’s game was a testing ground as much as anything, with manager John Farrell looking to gather last-minute information before settling on a playoff roster.
“There was some intent there, design to that,” Farrell said. “There’s a number of different scenarios still fresh in my mind and all of ours.”
Brock Holt made a strong case with a two-hit afternoon, but a series of secondary relievers blew a three-run lead in the seventh inning.
Brandon Workman put the first two runners on base, and Fernando Abad allowed singles to three of the four batters he faced. Abad failed to cover first base on one hit, then allowed a game-tying single to the next batter, likely leaving himself on the extreme fringe of playoff consideration despite his strong season numbers.
Matt Barnes cleaned up the mess, but not before allowing a go-ahead sacrifice fly. Barnes’ 12⁄3 hitless innings with four strikeouts were the strongest relief performance of the day.
“I thought (yesterday) was somewhat of an indication of that, where there was a little bit more swing and miss to his fastball,” Farrell said. “I thought he had good life through the zone, but we’ve got — fortunately for us — a deep group there that we can, like I said, find the best combination.”
Robby Scott was also effective with a perfect fifth inning, in which he retired three straight left-handed hitters.
“That was a good outing on his part,” Farrell said, “but then you’ve got to look, what is their lineup going to look like as we saw in the first two, three ballgames of this series. And is there the flexibility to carry a one-hitter type specialist. All that is being brought into this.”
Devers finishes strong
With the division clinched, the Red Sox had none of their usual top six hitters in the lineup, and ace Chris Sale skipped his scheduled…