Slowly but surely, Red Sox reliever Josh Taylor has emerged as one of manager Alex Cora’s most trusted weapons out of the bullpen.
The latest instance of just how effective Taylor has been this season arose during the seventh inning of Monday night’s 2-1 victory over the Blue Jays at Fenway Park.
After getting 6 2/3 quality innings from Nathan Eovaldi, Cora turned to Taylor with one out to get in the top of the seventh and the potential tying run at third in the form of Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Working with a 1-0 lead to protect, the left-hander took advantage of a lefty-on-lefty matchup by getting Rowdy Tellez to fan on six pitches, punctuating the at-bat by making the Blue Jays first baseman look foolish on a 2-2, 88 mph slider at the bottom of the zone.
As he came back out for his next inning of work in the eighth, Taylor again did not waste much time, as he got Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to ground out to third base on the first pitch he saw before picking up two more swinging strikeouts against Cavan Biggio and Reese McGuire.
“J.T.’s been throwing the ball great,” Eovaldi said. “He comes in in that big situation right there. I got the double play ball, and he was able to leave Vlad over there at third base and he got Tellez. It was a huge situation right there to clean up that inning. And then he followed that up with another clean inning to bridge that gap to (Matt) Barnes.”
When all was said and done and the Red Sox walked off the Blue Jays, 2-1, Taylor only needed 15 pitches to get through 1 1/3 innings of relief in the process of picking up his eighth hold of the season.
“He’s been doing that for a long time,” Cora said of Taylor’s performance. “We felt that pocket belonged to him. He gets the lefty. … He had Tellez, and then we felt like he could get Gurriel in that spot. And with all the lefties coming up, it was a great spot for him.
“That’s the way we saw it before the game,” added Cora. “The way they constructed their lineup and their defensive alignment, so we felt that was a good pocket for him and he did an outstanding job.”
By retiring all four hitters he faced on Monday, Taylor extended his scoreless appearance streak to 18 consecutive games, which dates all the way back to April 30.
Over that dominating stretch, opponents are hitting a measly .149/.231/.170 off the 28-year-old hurler. He has struck out 18 batters and walked just four in his last 14 innings out of the bullpen.
Among 38 major-league left-handed relievers who have thrown at least 14 innings since April 30, Taylor ranks first in ERA (0.00), first in hits allowed (7), fifth in batting average against, sixth in on-base percentage against, third in slugging percentage against, fourth in weighted on-base average against (.193), seventh in strikeout percentage (34.6%), second in FIP (1.65), and seventh in xFIP (2.78), per FanGraphs.
The fact that Taylor has turned in solid performance after solid performance as of late is certainly encouraging considering how poorly of a start he got off to earlier this season.
Because of his recent run of success, the southpaw has lowered his ERA on the year from 9.72 — which is where it sat the morning of April 30 — all the way down to a respectable 3.63.
(Picture of Josh Taylor: Omar Rawlings/Getty Images)