BOSTON -- It doesn’t get much worse for a relief pitcher than it did for Mark Melancon on Tuesday night.
The Red Sox right-hander faced six batters in the eighth inning and did not retire any of them. Think that sounds bad? It gets worse.
He gave up four hits and walked two. Think that sounds terrible? It’s even worse. Of the four hits, three were home runs. And they weren’t cheap.
The first one was a monstrous three-run clout to right field that seemed to be targeting the famed Ted Williams red seat in the bleachers before falling maybe 10 or 15 rows short.
Former Boston third baseman Adrian Beltre went back-to-back, clubbing Melancon’s next pitch for a homer into the first row of the center-field bleachers. And after a walk, Nelson Cruz launched a two-run homer into the second row of the seats in center, finishing Melancon’s nightmarish outing.
Melancon became the eighth pitcher in the last 90 years to allow three home runs without recording an out, and the first Red Sox reliever to allow a homer in three straight appearances since Terry Adams in 2004, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Watching Melancon pitch this season has made it hard to believe that he was acquired from Houston for Jed Lowrie and Kyle Weiland with the possibility that he could replace Jonathan Papelbon as the Sox closer.
Melancon has appeared in four games for Boston and has given up at least a run in each game. He took the loss on Opening Day in Detroit, thanks to Alfredo Aceves’ blown save, and then blew a save of his own in the third and final game of the series on an 11th-inning walkoff homer by Alex Avila.
Melancon gave up a homer to Tampa Bay’s Ben Zobrist in completing one mop-up inning last Friday, then there was this meltdown against the Rangers.
He has pitched a total of two innings in four appearances. For the season, he has gotten six swings and misses and allowed five home runs. Last season, he allowed five homers in 74 1/3 innings; this season, he's let up five in two innings. His earned-run average zoomed to 49.50. His confidence has to be sub-zero.
“I have to believe it’s going to get better,” Melancon said bravely in the Sox clubhouse after he contributed to the 18-3 pasting Boston absorbed at the hands of the Rangers.
“Mentally I feel good. Physically I feel good. It’s close. I’ll figure it out. I’ve only had four outings, but it’s gotten out of hand pretty quickly,” said Melancon, a 27-year-old who has less than two years of major league service time with the Yankees, Astros and now the Red Sox.
Boston manager Bobby Valentine felt badly for Melancon, but also hinted that the pitcher may have to start figuring things out in the minors.
“He’s very concerned. I’m very concerned, obviously,” Valentine said. “He’s not getting the swings and misses. It seems like he’s searching right now. And so are we. It’s tough when you don’t pitch on a regular basis. He threw a bullpen earlier today with (pitching coach) Bob (McClure) trying to work something out. I guess it wasn’t the right thing.”
Valentine was asked if an option to the minors might be in Melancon’s short-term future.
“At this time you have to consider everything,” Valentine said.