Brennan Bernardino's incredible journey
"Un lanzamiento a la vez."
It's the phrase Brennan Bernardino has had inscribed on his glove since hearing the words from a pitching coach in the Mexican League two years ago.
"That stuck with me," he said on the 'Baseball Isn't Boring' podcast. "That’s how I have to live my life. That’s how I have to play baseball, everything. Just take care of what is right in front of you. That mentality clicked. That mentality of winning this pitch."
Tuesday night, he won some pretty important pitches ... again.
In among the discomfort of another Red Sox loss - this one coming in the form of a 6-4 defeat at the hands of the Rangers Tuesday night - resided another eye-opening moment for one of the Sox' best success stories of the 2023 season.
With runners on first and second, nobody out and the Red Sox clinging to a one-run lead in the fifth inning, Bernardino was called on to face American League MVP candidate Corey Seager. The lefty did what he has been doing.
Bernardino struck out Seager.
To top things off, the lefty proceeded to get another middle-of-the-order hitter, Nathaniel Lowe, to hit into an inning-ending double play, helping make starter Tanner Houck's final line a bit more palatable. (Of the 29 runners Bernardino has inherited this season, just four have scored.)
Why did the moment matter? Because it highlighted a somewhat hidden trend which shouldn't be ignored. Bernardino has become the guy you want on the mound in a big moment, particularly when it comes to the best of the best.
Randy Arozarena. Matt Chapman. Freddie Freeman. Paul Goldschmidt. Ian Happ. Bryce Harper. Josh Jung. Francisco Lindor. Brandon Lowe. Josh Lowe.
Jeff McNeil. Whit Merrifield. Matt Olson. Brent Rooker. Jose Siri. Marcus Semien. And Seager.
What do they all have in common? They have all been stuck out by Bernardino, going a combined 0-for-24.
This has evolved into something much more than a coincidence.
"You know what felt pretty good, and I did go down after it, but it was a big ‘that was a W right there’, it was actually facing the Braves," remembered Bernardino, who was selected off waivers from Seattle on April 16. "I didn’t have my stuff that day. It was really cold in Boston and it was hot in Atlanta and I couldn’t get a grip. Bases loaded and I faced Matt Olson and I struck him out without feeling great. It was one of those grinder days. When I got him out in a big moment, I was like, ‘Let’s go!’
"I’m trying to battle. When I’m pitching the one thing on my mind is I feel like a warrior. It’s mano a mano, me versus him. Mentally, I got to feel like I have you beat. I’m going to beat you. I’m in attack mode and I’m going to get you. I’m sure the hitter feels the same way, but I have to believe I got you. If it doesn’t work out it’s the next guy."
So, where will this lead the 31-year-old? In the short term, it has cemented him as one of the Red Sox' building blocks for 2024. But who knows? Maybe there is something else, something bigger. Bernardino has dared to dream.
But for now, the current reality is plenty good enough for one of Chaim Bloom's best 2023 finds.
"My goal has always been to be a big league starter, and not that a big league closer," he said. "Most pitchers, we’re all the same. Nobody is like ‘I want to be a middle relief or long relief.’ Everybody is like, ‘I want to be that ace or that lockdown closer.’ I’m just trying to pitch that way to get one pitch at a time and out at a time and everything will take care of itself."
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