After Sunday's depressing loss, Red Sox Nation returned to an activity which it had avoided for the past month-or-so: complaining about the closer.
There's no doubt that Alfredo Aceves backed into this role, likely receiving the nod after Andrew Bailey's injury as a way to make amends for keeping him out of the rotation. Aceves had never exactly been closer stuff before, after all. His ability was not to pitch one shutout inning, but to throw three without letting the game get away, utilizing ground balls to avoid the big inning.
Jonathan Papelbon he was not.
That being said, however, since he took over the role, Aceves has shown us a different side of himself. Asked to only pitch one or, at the most two innings, Aceves' fastball has been on average two miles per hour faster than last year, at times reaching up to 97. Ever since giving up three runs before recording his first out this year, Aceves has been fantastic, striking out more than a batter an inning and converting 11-of-12 save chances before Sunday.
So what happened against the Rays? Perhaps it's just a matter of Aceves not having pitched in a few days? Or maybe it's just a bad day. The sort that happens to any reliever. While Aceves' season as a whole does look a bit ugly with his 4.76 ERA, he's shown his ability to provide lockdown innings most nights. His two meltdowns are more dramatic than the ones experienced by most closers, with the eight earned runs he allowed against the Tigers and Yankees in two games without recording an out, but as far as his ability to convert saves is concerned, he's given us plenty of reason for optimism ever since that first series of the year.
So let's not go calling for Alfredo Aceves' head just yet. Every loss is more painful than usual these days with the Red Sox, particularly given how they've been dancing around .500, but Alfredo Aceves is responsible for all of two runs in one game--part of a month where his ERA remains a paltry 2.37. He's earned more leeway than this.