Aceves, Melancon again fail Red Sox in end

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Aceves, Melancon again fail Red Sox in end

DETROIT -- On Thursday, when the Red Sox bullpen couldn't preserve a tie game in the bottom of the ninth, it seemed like a crushing blow.

In retrospect, that was a mere inconvenience.

Welcome to full-blown panic.

What happened Friday, by comparison, was only mildly annoying and nothing compared to what happened Sunday when the Sox first blew a three-run lead in the ninth, then, two innings later, surrendered a two-run cushion, resulting in an improbable 13-12 loss to the Detroit Tigers and amounting to a second walkoff defeat in the span of just
over 72 hours.

"It just comes down to making good pitches," shrugged Mark Melancon, who gave up a two-strike, two-out, two-run homer to Alex Avila for the winning margin. "And I didn't do that. They're obviously a good team, but we needed to get that one today. And that's on my shoulders.

"It's still only three games, I understand that. But today can't happen."

Melancon has now absorbed two late-inning losses in his first three games with the Red Sox.

Passed over for the vacant closer's role after Andrew Bailey went down with thumb surgery, Melancon came in to close the game out in the 11th after the chosen closer, Alfredo Aceves, needed just seven pitches to blow a three-run lead in the ninth.

"What can I tell you?" asked Aceves. "There's nothing we can do. But forget about that, man. We've got a lot of games to play and a lot of things to do."

One of the things on the to-do list is re-evaluating the roles in the bullpen, which failed the Red Sox so spectacularly twice in the first series of the season.

After first insisting that he was proud of his team from rallying from a 4-0 first-inning deficit and commending them for a "great job, great job," manager Bobby Valentine acknowledged that there's an ongoing evaluation.

"We're trying to figure out what to do," said Valentine. "We'll keep it a work in progress. We're three (games) into this thing."

So far, however, the journey has been rockier than could have ever been imagined.

The offense, which managed just two runs in the first 18 innings, got untracked in a big way Sunday, erupting for 12 runs on 18 hits. After spotting the Tigers a 5-2 lead after two, the Sox erupted for five runs. They then twice broke ties: one in the sixth on a two-run homer from Adrian Gonzalez, and then, in the 11th, when they scratched
out two runs.

Neither time, however, could the bullpen make the leads stand.

"We're trying to figure out what to do," said Valentine. "We'll keep it a work in progress. We're three (games) into this thing."

Asked if Daniel Bard, slated to make the first start of his major league career Tuesday in Toronto, might be an option to close, Valentine said: "Might be."

But not long after, he indicated that both Melancon and Aceves would "still go out there."

Aceves was philosophical in the face of defeat, attempting to put the losses behind him as quickly as possible.

"It's one series," he said. "The first one. Even the Yankees (are struggling). It's a game. It's what happens. Sometimes they hit it and sometimes they don't.

"Forget about Detroit."

Melancon, meanwhile, was more contrite and contemplative.

"I need to stay aggressive and not let these affect me and keep going," said Melancon.

The reliever then paused and offered a hint at the difficulty of overcoming the first series.

"If," added Melancon, "I can ever sleep."

Blakely: This could be the start of something big for Celtics

Blakely: This could be the start of something big for Celtics

BOSTON -- Prior to this year, the Celtics hadn't been to the Eastern Conference finals since 2012. That trip served as a curtain call of sorts for the last great C's dynasty.
 
But this one, which ended with Cleveland's emphatic 135-102 Game 5 victory Thursday at TD Garden, is very different.
 
Rather than closing another chapter in the Celtics' longstanding legacy of greatness, it could serve as the beginning of a new narrative in the franchise's steady growth.
 
"For us to be in the Eastern Conference finals after the first year of this team really being together, adding additions like Al Horford and Gerald Green . . . I can go down the list of guys that we needed to learn to play with, and for us to talk about where we wanted to be and actually make it, it's a big-time accomplishment," said Avery Bradley.
 
Boston has been among the younger teams in the NBA, with the 31-year-old Green being the oldest player on the roster.
 
But what the Celtics lacked in experience, they made up for with great effort.
 
"The great thing about this is the experience," Bradley said. "We were able to go to the Eastern Conference finals, learned a lot about being in this position, and I feel like it's going to help us for next year."
 
But as we all know, the Celtics will look to strengthen themsevles this offseason, which means there's a very good chance they'll have a different look when they gather again in the fall.
 
How different is anyone's guess.
 
"It's difficult every year whenever you don't have guys back," said coach Brad Stevens. "I think you share a bond (over the course of a season)."
 
Stevens and this group have been together for eight months. Eight months of struggles, successes, frustrating defeats and euphoric victories that brought them to the conference finals, which is where their season came to an end.
 
But as disappointed as the players and coaches are inow, there's definite excitement about this franchise in the very near future.
 
Boston has the No. 1 overall pick in next month's draft, with all indications -- for now -- pointing to Washington's Markelle Fultz as their choice.
 
And their top first-round pick from a year ago, Jaylen Brown, seemed to steadily improve as the season progressed. It was one of the few times in his life where minutes weren't just handed to him, which he admits was a learning experience unlike anything he had ever had, yet he adjusted and played better as the year went along.

"I've had ups, I've had downs, I've had opportunities, I've had mistakes," said Brown. "So I've been learning and growing and improving all year and I'm going to continue growing and improving and prove people wrong, prove doubters wrong."
 
Having the season end the way it did has indeed left a bad taste in the mouths of many Celtics.
 
"I can use it as fuel," Brown said, adding: "I want to get back to the same place I'm at now."
 
Bradley, who was on the 2012 team that lost to the Miami Heat in the conference finals, knows the Celtics are going to do whatever they feel is necessary to give them the best chance at competing for a title.
 
"It's out of our control as players," Bradley said. "We had a great year together. If guys are here, if guys aren't, we all wish the best for each other.

"But I do feel this is a special group. We all gave our heart every single night, played as hard as we could. I respect all my teammates, and I really appreciated playing with all the guys I had a chance to play with this year; a special group."