By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — For a change, someone other than the Red Sox walked off with a win on Monday night.
The Cleveland Indians dealt Boston a tough 5-4 defeat at Progressive Field, winning the opener of a four-game set thanks to a throwing error by first baseman Brock Holt in the bottom of the ninth. But Boston blew the game long before Holt’s errant throw bounced off the glove of Rafael Devers.
The Red Sox were up 4-3 in the bottom of the eighth, but manager John Farrell went to Matt Barnes to hold onto the lead and not his recently acquired set-up man Addison Reed. Barnes is notorious for his struggles on the road, which continued on Monday night when the righty gave up a five-pitch walk and 2-0 single before being replaced by Heath Hembree. Things didn’t get any better from there, as Hembree surrendered an RBI single to Edwin Encarnacion to knot the game at 4-4. Luckily, Robby Scott punched out the next two batters to keep the damage at a minimum.
It was a rare off-night for the Boston bullpen, which Farrell has done a pretty good job managing throughout the season. But it’s fair to wonder why didn’t Farrell go to Reed, who was acquired from the Mets at the trade deadline for such situations, and instead turned to Barnes, who is clearly a different pitcher on the road than he is in the friendly confines of Fenway Park.
“Addison Reed was not available tonight, and [I] was trying to stay away from [Brandon Workman] as well, given the workload the previous series, the stress to the pitches that they threw in the New York series, so we went to Barnes in the eighth,” Farrell explained after the loss. “Unfortunately, it didn’t work out.
“We do have a sense of urgency every day to close games out, but with  games to go, there are still health concerns and injury potential that has to be brought into this. So that’s where the decision on who was available tonight come in,” added Farrell.
Reed threw just 12 pitches in Sunday’s 5-1 win over the Yankees, but Farrell was likely more worried about the 30 pitches he tossed in a marathon win over New York on Friday. Pitching three of four nights is taxing on any reliever, and it’s hard to fault Farrell for wanting to conserve Reed with six weeks left in the regular season. But holding onto a lead against the Indians, who is chasing Boston for the No. 2 spot in the American League standings, is the kind of scenario where you take that kind of chance, especially knowing the risk that goes with pitching Barnes in a tight rope situation on the road. It ended up biting Farrell in the backside.
To his credit, Barnes took all the blame for Monday’s defeat. But he’s at a loss for words when it comes to his struggles on the road, compared to his dominance inside Fenway Park.
“It sucks, honestly,” said Barnes, who now owns a 5.53 ERA on the road this season. “Close game late in the game when you put the leadoff guy on, and it tends to put you at an automatic disadvantage, especially to a guy who’s got speed and in the middle of the order and a close game. I’ve got to be better than that.”
With the game tied in the bottom of the ninth, Farrell ended up going to Workman anyways. He gave up a leadoff double to Brandon Guyer, who scored one batter later when Holt threw away Roberto Perez’s sacrifice bunt while trying to nail Guyer at third. Workman has been one of Boston’s more reliable arms out of the pen since being called up in mid-July, and Monday night was the first time he’s allowed a run (and unearned run at that) since July 20. It’s hard to argue with Farrell tossing Workman out there over closer Craig Kimbrel.
But with Barnes, he should know better.