Garrett Whitlock erupted with emotion late Monday afternoon.
Whitlock had just induced a Jose Trevino groundout in the top of the 11th inning, keeping the extra-inning rubber match against the Rangers knotted at four apiece. First, Whitlock screamed inward with that emotion. Then, he turned to his Red Sox teammates in the dugout and urged them to finish the job.
Whitlock took care of his own business, completing 2⅔ crucial innings for the Sox. It helped them turn around what would have been yet another inexplicable defeat to a lesser opponent. Travis Shaw walked it off with a grand slam in that bottom of the frame, stamping an 8-4 win.
Emotion is a given under these circumstances. It’s what the Sox were looking for when they called a players’ only meeting Monday morning. They wanted energy. Granted, Whitlock’s given that the entire season, which is part of the reason why he has a 1.64 ERA in his first 35 MLB appearances.
“That was cool to see,” manager Alex Cora said. “It hasn’t been easy the last 14 days because he’s struggled against Tampa, he struggled against the Yankees. But you know, these ones are very important, too. They count, too. That’s a big-league team and every game counts. And for him to show emotion, that’s awesome. That’s great.”
Whitlock came into the game following yet another implosion from Matt Barnes in the ninth. A 3-1 lead suddenly became a tie ballgame.
With a runner on second and one out, Whitlock fanned Trevino. Whitlock then hit Yonny Hernandez, but responded by striking out Isiah Kiner-Falefa. Whitlock allowed an unearned run when Nathaniel Lowe slapped an RBI single on the ground through the left side in the 10th, but produced back-to-back strikeouts to end it.
“He was frustrated that he gave up that run,” said Nate Eovaldi, who chucked seven innings and yielded his own unearned run on four hits. “And it’s like, ‘Dude, you’re coming in with the runner on second base.’ He did an amazing job.
“All his pitches are really good. They’re all electric pitches. Fastball’s good. Changeup is really good. The slider is outstanding. I mean, he’s kind of learned those pitches on the fly this year.”
On the fly, indeed. Whitlock already had a fastball-changeup mix when he arrived with Boston, but had nothing going away from righthanded hitters. That’s when he and pitching coach Dave Bush decided to implement a slider, so Whitlock could create some inconsistent direction for the hitter. Keep them on their heels.
Whitlock tossed his slider 17 times on Monday, the most of any pitch, and got four swings and misses. (Also the most.) The fact that he could depend on a pitch he just learned the most of any in his arsenal says something about him.
The Red Sox have made it their mission to remind Whitlock how good his stuff is. In the words of Cora, Whitlock might have been a Rule 5 draft pick in December, but he’s not a Rule 5 guy. This is someone the Red Sox depend on.
And when the Sox called his name again Monday afternoon, he delivered.
“It was impressive,” Alex Verdugo said. “Very impressive. “Playing behind him, he’s been doing this all year. I don’t think he gets talked about enough. You know, from MLB or people like that. He’s having an unbelievable season, you know, definitely could be Rookie of the Year. He’s just been dominant, man.”