It sure appeared as though Bobby Valentine was more interested in proving a point than winning a ballgame on Tuesday night.
With a 5-4 lead after seven innings, Valentine sent Alfredo Aceves out to earn a two-inning save against the Angels. Aceves got through the eighth unscathed, but he lost the game on an RBI single and a sac fly in the ninth.
Aceves, of course, had just returned from a three-game, team-imposed suspension. He hadn’t pitched since Thursday, when he was left in to give up five runs in one-plus innings in a loss to the same Angels team.
Aceves pitched a one-two-three eighth inning tonight. Leaving him in to start the ninth was certainly defensible, but there should have been someone warming up behind him. Valentine didn’t bother getting anyone up until two men reached with one out. By then, it was too late; Aceves gave up a broken bat RBI single to Mike Trout and a game-ending sac fly to Torii Hunter.
If this were 1982, Valentine’s handling of Aceves may have been pretty typical. But the fact of the matter is that hardly anyone is sent out for two-inning saves these days. Aceves didn’t have one this year. In fact, there’s been exactly one two-inning save in a one- or two-run game all year; the Giants’ Jeremy Affeldt recorded it on June 4.
No, this was Valentine trying to show who’s boss. Aceves thinks he deserves to close, so Valentine made him go prove it by giving him a more difficult assignment than any closer is asked to handle these days. And Aceves probably would have handled it if not a fluke HBP — Erick Aybar reached to start the Angels’ rally because a curveball bounced off his back foot.
The Red Sox made it clear they’re trying to start over when they sent Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford packing last week. It’s time to finish the job and drop the axe on Valentine as well.