BOSTON -- Matt Albers was looking like the missing piece to the puzzle in the first half of the 2011 season, working admirably out of the bullpen and eventually earning the seventh-inning role, a job that was supposed to be held by Bobby Jenks.
Albers struck out 34 batters over 35 1/3 innings with a 2.55 ERA in the first half, but something's been off since.
His strikeout numbers are still there, and so is his velocity, which touched 96 mph in Friday's 10-0 loss to the Rangers. But Albers allowed three runs in an inning of work, serving up his fourth homer since the All-Star break and raising his second half ERA to 8.41.
"He's just had a bad, tough time," manager Terry Francona said. "There's been times he's been behind in the count and paid the price, and there's times he's made mistakes over the middle of the plate. When he's good, he's working ahead and allowing that two-seamer to come through the zone with some life, the occasional breaking ball. Right now, it's elevated a little bit -- and it's getting hit."
Albers has allowed at least one run in eight of his last 12 appearances, as he's seen his role change from a late-inning setup man to a blow-out mop-up guy.
"Physically, he's fine," Francona said. "Sometimes, for whatever reason, you go through ruts or things don't go well. ... If you look up at the end of the year and his ERA is a little higher because he had that one stretch, that doesn't necessarily mean he can't be that guy again that he's been for most of the year."
Jason Mastrodonato is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.