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Brayan Bello’s recent start for the Red Sox was a complete success, even with a record performance

Brayan Bello’s recent start for the Red Sox was a complete success, even with a record performance
Brayan Bello’s recent start for the Red Sox was a complete success, even with a record performance

Red Sox pitcher Brayan Bello clenches his fist after taking Oakland’s JJ Bleday out of the game with a strikeout on Tuesday night at Fenway Park. Bello got the first 10 outs by strikeout, but still had a rough outing. Charles Krupa/Associated Press

BOSTON – Like everything in his 2024 season, Brayan Bello’s start on Tuesday was very chaotic.

At times, Bello has been dominant. Each of the first 10 outs he made against the Oakland A’s came by strikeout, a Red Sox franchise high since at least the beginning of the expansion era (1961). Only two others have accomplished that feat during that span: Philadelphia’s Aaron Nola in 2021 and the Texas Rangers’ Andrew Heaney in 2023. At one point, Bello struck out five hitters in a row and seven of nine.

“It makes me feel good,” Bello said of his strikeouts. “I worked really hard to get these results. Seeing what I accomplished today makes me feel good.”

But the start had a downside. Bello allowed five runs on nine hits in 5 1/3 innings in a 12-9 Red Sox victory. He threw two wild pitches and also had some tough hits, including a 457-foot, three-run home run. Despite plenty of run support, Bello didn’t make it through six innings, needing 105 pitches and allowing 11 baserunners.

His first nine batters he faced illustrated his up-and-down evening: strikeout, single, run-scoring double, wild pitch, strikeout, RBI single, strikeout, single, wild pitch, strikeout, walk.

In short, it was a perfect example of how Bello has pitched most of the season: at times dominant and nearly unhittable, but at times also lacking control and command. For someone whose every out came by strikeout until the fourth inning, the night ended with an increase in Bello’s ERA: from 5.19 to 5.40.

“You look up and see the strikeouts, but they threw some good shots (against him),” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “Anything he left in the zone, they hit hard. So I just have to keep working and be ready for (his next start) on Sunday.”

When Bello was good, he was very, very good. And when he was bad, he was terrible.

“I think overall it was a good day for me,” Bello said. “Yeah, the runs (allowed) are one thing. But I think I gave our team a really good chance to win. It was good to get those strikeouts, so I think today was a positive.”

The Red Sox have tried almost everything to get Bello back on track. At the end of the last home game, they moved up his next start by three days, giving him a bit of a mental break while also giving him a chance to address his inability to throw pitches in the strike zone.

There’s little doubt about the quality of his game, as evidenced by Tuesday’s strikeout total. But too often, Bello finds himself trailing and forced to throw the ball over the middle of the plate – with predictably poor results.

Bello did a better job of filling the strike zone on Tuesday, which was an obvious improvement. But too often, pitches in the zone were hit hard. This is where control comes in – he was getting strikes, but he wasn’t putting the pitches exactly where he wanted them in the zone.

Still, Bello was not discouraged after the game. He was pleased with the performance and viewed the start as progress. The start was his second consecutive win and the team’s record when he starts is now 10-6.

“I think the difference was, just like I said from the beginning — my shots all felt good,” he said. “I just really had to attack the zone, and I think today I attacked the zone and was more aggressive.”

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